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PICTURE: First flight for Australian Super Hornet

Boeing has conducted the first flight of an Australian F/A-18F Super Hornet in the USA.

The aircraft, which was unveiled on 8 July, took off from Lambert International Airport in St Louis, Missouri, on its inaugural flight, which lasted just over 1h.

Canberra, the first export customer, is acquiring 24 two-seat Super Hornets under an A$6 billion ($4.9 billion) deal. The aircraft will be delivered at a rate of around one a month, allowing the Royal Australian Air Force to set up its first operational Super Hornet squadron in March-April 2010.

 First flight of Australian F/A-18E/F
© Richard Rao/Boeing

The fighters will serve as an interim capability between the retirement of the RAAF's General Dynamics F-111 bombers next year, and the induction of new Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters around 2015.

While Australia is unlikely to order additional F/A-18s, it could convert 12 of the Super Hornets that it has ordered into E/A-18G Growlers. Australia is also conducting mid-life upgrades for its legacy F/A-18A/B Hornets.

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