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  • 82 Wing
    • 1SQN (Strike, Maritime Strike) (RAAF Amberley)
      • 18 Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet
    • 6SQN (Strike, Maritime Strike, Electronic Warfare, Conversion Training) (RAAF Amberley)
      • 12 Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet, 6 EA-18G Growler
    • 4SQN (Forward Air Control) (RAAF Williamtown)
      • 4 Pilatus PC-9/A
    • 1SQN (Strike, Electronic Warfare) (RAAF Amberley)
      • 15 General Dynamics F-111C
      • 8 General Dynamics/Grumman EF-111C Raven
    • 6SQN (Strike, Conversion Training, Reconnaissance) (RAAF Amberley)
      • 15 General Dynamics F-111G
      • 5 General Dynamics F-111C
      • 4 General Dynamics RF-111C
    • Forward Air Control Development Unit (RAAF Williamtown)
      • 4 Pilatus PC-9/A
  • 81 Wing
    • 30SQN (Air Superiority, Strike, Close Support, SEAD, Reconnaissance) (RAAF Williamtown)
      • 16 General Dynamics F-16C Fighting Falcon
      • 2 General Dynamics F-16D Fighting Falcon
    • 75SQN (Air Superiority, Strike, Close Support, Maritime Strike) (RAAF Tindal)
      • 16 General Dynamics F-16C Fighting Falcon
      • 2 General Dynamics F-16D Fighting Falcon
    • 77SQN (Air Superiority, Strike, Close Support, Maritime Strike) (RAAF Williamtown)
      • 16 General Dynamics F-16C Fighting Falcon
      • 2 General Dynamics F-16D Fighting Falcon
    • 78SQN (Air Superiority, Interdiction, Strike, Close Support) (RAAF Pearce)
      • 16 General Dynamics F-16C Fighting Falcon
      • 2 General Dynamics F-16D Fighting Falcon
    • 84SQN (Air Superiority, Interdiction, Strike, Close Support) (RAAF Ohakea)
      • 16 General Dynamics F-16C Fighting Falcon
      • 2 General Dynamics F-16D Fighting Falcon
  • 78 Wing
    • 2 Operational Conversion Unit (2OCU) (RAAF Williamtown)
      • 15 General Dynamics F-16D Fighting Falcon
      • 5 General Dynamics F-16C Fighting Falcon
  • 84 Wing
    • 33SQN (Air Refueling and Strategic Transport) (RAAF Amberley)
      • 5 Airbus KC-30 MRTT
      • 20 Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker
  • 82 Wing
    • 3SQN
      • 18 Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor
    • 78SQN
      • 18 Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor
    • 80SQN
      • 18 Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor
  • 81 Wing
    • 1SQN
      • 10 Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornet
      • 8 Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet
    • 75SQN
      • 10 Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornet
      • 8 Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet
    • 77SQN
      • 10 Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornet
      • 8 Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet
    • 82SQN
      • 10 Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornet
      • 8 Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet
    • 6SQN
      • 10 Boeing EA-18G Growler

F/A-18F Super HornetEdit

The RAAF's current strike, reconnaissance, and defence suppression aircraft is the Super Hornet. The RAAF operates two versions of the Super Hornet, the F/A-18F Super Hornet, and the EA-18G Growler. They entered service in 2009 as replacements for the F-111C/G. The RAAF operates 36 Super Hornets in total. 30 are the standard F/A-18F Super Hornet, and 6 are EA-18G Growlers.

The Super Hornets and Growlers are strictly off-the-shelf. There are no modifications for Australian service. The reason for this was the minimisation of cost and acquisition risk. This meant that the RAAF received its Super Hornets quickly.

For the Super Hornet, the RAAF purchased US Navy weapons not otherwise used by the RAAF such as the AIM-9X Sidewinder. 1 Squadron operates 18 F/A-18F strike aircraft. 6 Squadron operates 12 F/A-18F strike aircraft as trainers and backup aircraft, and 6 EA-18G Growlers for defence suppression. Conversion training is not done by 2OCU (which is the conversion unit for the Legacy Hornets) due to the differences between the F/A-18A+ and the F/A-18F.

F-111Edit

The General Dynamics F-111 is the most important aircraft in the Australian Defence Force. With the force of accompanying tankers, it provides a vital deterrent capability. It entered service in 1973 with 24 F-111Cs. The F-111 force has changed significantly. The first big change was the acquisition of Pave Tack and reconnaissance pods for the F-111s in the 1980s. In 1993, the RAAF decided to activate a full second squadron, and 15 F-111Gs were purchased from the United States. During the late 1990s, the F-111 force underwent a massive change. The fleet was put through an avionics upgrade, given F110 engines, and extra weapons. The avionics upgrade included GPS, ring laser gyros, an upgraded Pave Tack pod, glass cockpit, the APQ-164 radar (based on the APG-66 used in the F/A-18 Hornet), and new electronic warfare equipment The first AUP (Avionics Upgrade Program) F-111C flew in 1998. 8 EF-111A Ravens were purchased and converted to a similar standard to the remainder of the F-111C fleet. The EF-111C Ravens are popularly known as Magpies. Life-of-type airframe components were acquired. Components that appear to be troublesome are replaced at depot level during routine maintenance as they are identified. The RAAF F-111 force can be stretched out to 2025.

F-16 Fighting FalconEdit

The General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon is the most numerous aircraft in the RAAF inventory. It serves as the RAAF's basic tactical fighter and fulfills a range of roles from interdiction through close air support to suppression of enemy air defences. The RAAF's F-16s were assembled by ASTA, with parts sourced from General Dynamics and several Australian companies.

The F-16 was selected in 1982 as the replacement for the venerable Dassault Mirage IIIO which had served Australia since 1964. The F-16 was chosen because of its proven reputation, lower cost, and high level of Australian industrial participation. Although the RAAF primarily evaluated the F-16A/B and the F-16C/D Block 25, the RAAF ordered the F-16C/D Block 30, and subsequently ordered Block 40 and 50. The RAAF ordered 88 F-16Cs and 27 F-16Ds, for a total of 115. Five more were ordered from the US production line as attrition replacements in 1995. Of the 120 aircraft procured by the RAAF, nine were produced in the United States, and 111 were assembled by ASTA. The RAAF F-16 program was a Foreign Military Sales program, therefore all RAAF F-16s have a USAF serial number. They are also allocated Australian serial numbers in the range A21. F-16Cs have a two digit sequential serial number (A21-1 to A21-88), while F-16Ds have a sequential serial number prefixed by a one (A21-101 to A21-127)

The RAAF chose the General Electric F110 engine inspite of its lack of commonality with the existing F-15 Eagles (though it is used in the RAAF's F-15E Strike Eagles). A major modification was provision to use the AGM-84 Harpoon, then used by the RAAF's Orions and F-111s. RAAF F-16s are also equipped with a relatively simple bolt-on refueling probe enabling the aircraft to use probe-drogue equipped tankers.

RAAF F-16 missions include:

  • Air Superiority
  • Interdiction
  • Strike
  • Maritime Strike
  • Close Air Support
  • Reconnaissance
  • Defence Suppression

The first four aircraft, 2 F-16Cs and 2 F-16Ds, all Block 25 aircraft, were delivered in 1986. They served with 2OCU for a year before going to ARDU where they have remained. These aircraft were entirely US built and served as pattern aircraft for ASTA. They have been with ARDU for thirteen years and have are highly modified for their testing role.

The first Australian-assembled Block 30 F-16C/D aircraft were delivered in 1987. Block 30 F-16s were originally delivered to ARDU, 2 Operational Conversion Unit, and 75 Squadron. Currently, Block 30 F-16s serve only with ARDU and 2OCU, and no longer serve with fighting units. Of the 18 Block 30 F-16s produced, four have been lost. Production of the Block 30 ended in 1988, switching over to the Block 40.

ASTA produced 46 Block 40 aircraft and five attrition replacements were produced by General Dynamics. This makes the Block 40 the second most numerous RAAF variant. The Block 40 was produced between 1988 and 1991. Block 40 F-16s were delivered to 2OCU, 75SQN, 78SQN and 84SQN. All of these units retain the Block 40, however 2OCU no longer operates the F-16C Block 40, however almost half of 2OCU's F-16D strength consists of Block 40 aircraft. With the Block 40 aircraft, the RAAF began procurement of LANTIRN for the F-16.

The most numerous RAAF F-16 variant (by one aircraft) is the Block 50 which began production in 1991. 47 aircraft were produced in all, and it serves with more squadrons than any other variant. Unlike standard Block 50 F-16s, the RAAF's are equipped with the Block 40 holographic HUD. It serves with 2OCU, 30SQN, 75SQN, and 77SQN, and each unit is provided with two aircraft. Like most export Block 50 F-16s, the RAAF's Block 50 F-16s use LANTIRN, but like USAF Block 50 F-16s, the RAAF's also use the ASQ-213 HARM Targeting System (HTS).

The final RAAF F-16 was an F-16C Block 50. It was delivered to 77 Squadron on the 8th of August 1993.

The current F-16 forceEdit

  • ARDU operates the oldest F-16s in Australia, in the form of 4 US-made Block 25 F-15s and the first Australian-made Block 30 F-16C. In spite of their age, these are probably the most advanced F-16s in the fleet, reflecting their testing role.
  • 2OCU's F-16 force is the most diverse, reflecting its training role. It operates 15 F-16Ds consisting of 8 Block 30, 5 Block 40, and 2 Block 50. It has 5 Block 30 F-16Cs.
  • 78SQN and 84SQN are Block 40-only units. Their taskings reflect a preference for interdiction, strike, and air superiority. 78 Squadron have used their F-16s in combat during the 1991 Gulf War. They flew several hundred sorties, mostly against Iraqi ground forces in Kuwait.
  • 30SQN and 77SQN operate the Block 50 F-16. 30SQN's aircraft are believed to be of the Block 50D configuration with the HARM Targeting System. The unit is tasked with defence suppression and reconnaissance. 77SQN is tasked for strike and air superiority. Both units are based on RAAF Williamtown.
  • 75SQN is the odd-man out, being a mixed-Block 40/Block 50 unit. It has 9 Block 40 single-seaters, 7 Block 50 single-seaters, and 2 Block 50 dual-seaters. Its taskings include air superiority, maritime strike, and close air support.

The FutureEdit

The RAAF's F-16s are undergoing major upgrades. The F-16 force has been problematic due to the lack of commonality between (and inside) units. To this end, ASTA and Hawker deHavilland Australia have been contracted to carry out the Australian Fighting Falcon Commonality Upgrade Programme, or AFCU Programme. This program will bring the RAAF's entire F-16 force up to a standard slightly better than the Block 50. This upgrade will include Conformal Fuel Tanks. They are being equipped with full-glass cockpits dervied from the F-16 ACE programme, an On-Board Oxygen Generation System (OBOGS), the AN/APG-80 radar, an advanced electronic warfare system, the JHMCS helmet. Unlike other advanced Block 50/52 F-16s, Australian F-16Ds won't receive the dorsal spine. The reason for this is that aircraft with this spine are normally tasked with deep strike missions which are performed by the RAAF's F-15E Strike Eagles. New weapons will include the SDB, JASSM,and JSOW. The upgrade program will allow the entire fleet to use JDAMs.

KC-135 StratotankerEdit

During the early 1990s, the RAAF and the Government became increasingly aware of a vast tanker gap in the ADF. During the 1980s, the RAAF had purchased and converted four Boeing 707 airliners into tankers. The Marshall Defence Ministry ordered 20 KC-135E Stratotankers in 1993. Apart from the ftting of Flight Refueling Limited (FRL) MK32B wing refueling pods, the aircraft were standard KC-135E Stratotankers.

The purchase was instantly condemned by the media and opposition, and was almost derailed due to Marshall's misunderstanding of the political landscape (he thought defence was geniunely bi-partisan). The service record of the KC-135 Stratotankers since then has been excellent, and the aircraft are now reengined, and have undergone the Pacer-CRAG program. The RAAF believes the aircraft can continue until 2040, however the aircraft are scheduled to be replaced by the Airbus KC-30 MRTT.


F-111 05 c raaf

An F-111C, the RAAF's premier strike aircraft

800px-Australian F-111s

F-111s at Red Flag

F111-14

F-111 performing its famous "Dump and Burn"

800px-RAAF Super Hornet Amberley

RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornet

Growler

RAAF Super Hornet in flight

Fa-18f-super-hornet-australia

The first RAAF Super Hornet at its unveiling. It is armed with Paveway bombs and JDAMs

Fleet Air Arm UnitsEdit

Carrier UnitsEdit

  • 808 Squadron (VFA-808), RAN (HMAS Albatross)
    • 12 Boeing F/A-18A+ Hornet
  • 805 Squadron (VFA-805), RAN (HMAS Fremantle)
    • 12 Boeing F/A-18A+ Hornet
  • 809 Squadron (VFA-809), RAN (HMAS Albatross)
    • 12 Boeing F/A-18A+ Hornet
  • 815 Squadron (VFA-815), RAN (HMAS Fremantle)
    • 12 Boeing F/A-18A+ Hornet
  • 810 Squadron (HS-810), RAN (HMAS Albatross, Detachment at HMAS Fremantle)
    • 10 Sikorsky S-70B-9 Seahawk
    • 2 Sikorsky S-70B-2 Seahawk
  • 814 Squadron (VS-814), RAN (HMAS Albatross, HMAS Fremantle)
    • 16 CAC/Grumman AS-2T Turbo Tracker
  • 811 Squadron (VAW-811), RAN (HMAS Albatross, HMAS Fremantle)
    • 10 CAC/Grumman E-1T Turbo Tracer
  • 819 Squadron (VRC-819), RAN (HMAS Albatross, HMAS Fremantle)
    • 10 CAC/Grumman C-1T Turbo Trader
  • 808 Squadron (VFA-808), RAN (HMAS Albatross)
    • 12 Douglas A-4G Skyhawk
  • 805 Squadron (VFA-805), RAN (HMAS Fremantle)
    • 12 Douglas A-4G Skyhawk

A-4G SkyhawkEdit

The A-4G Skyhawk served the RAN between 1967 and 1984 on three carriers, Melbourne, Australia, and Vengeance. They also served with the RAAF in ground attack alongside the A-4K Skyhawk between 1988 and 1991. Eight A-4G Skyhawks were purchased in 1967 to replace the De Havilland Sea Venom on HMAS Melbourne. Two TA-4G trainers were procured to support them. In 1971, a further eight A-4G and two TA-4G were purchased.

Unlike American Skyhawks, the Australian Skyhawks had a fleet defence role, armed with Sidewinder missiles. Melbourne would generally embark four Skyhawks. The remainder would operate from HMAS Albatross. The TA-4G was not well-balanced enough to operate from Melbourne. They participated in a number of exercises over the next eleven years, and one third of the force were lost in crashes. The root cause of these crashes was the age and unreliability of the Melbourne, and the fact that it was really too small for an aircraft like the Skyhawk.

After the retirement of HMAS Melbourne in 1982, the surviving Skyhawks were moved back to land to await replacement. The RAN decided on a new conventional carrier, the Spanish designed BSAC 220. Various aircraft were considered for it, including the F/A-18 Hornet, the Super Etendard, and the A-7 Corsair. Eventually, the Hayden government went for a domestic option. The Government Aircraft Factory proposed a comprehensive upgrade of the Skyhawks. The upgrade was to involve the existing 10 A-4Gs plus another 30 A-4Fs from United States storage.

The upgraded aircraft (which retain the designation A-4G) have zero-timed airframe, an APG-67 radar, new navigation systems including GPS, and INS with ring-laser gyros, helmet-mounted sights, and the ability to use laser-guided bombs, Maverick, AIM-9M Sidewinder, Penguin and Harpoon missiles. Later they acquired the ability to use the Rafael Derby missile.

S-2 TrackerEdit

The S-2 Tracker entered RAN service in 1967 as a replacement for the Fairey Gannet. They have operated from HMAS Melbourne, HMAS Australia, and HMAS Vengeance, as well as from the land bases of HMAS Albatross, RAAF Pearce, and HMAS Fremantle in the training and coastal patrol roles. The RAN has operated 55 Trackers (and variants). The RAN has lost only one Tracker in flight, although 10 were destroyed by arson in 1976. 14 S-2E Trackers were ordered introduced in 1967. Six S-2 Trackers were ordered in 1976 (the order was increased to 16 after the hangar fire). These were frequently embarked on Melbourne, and provided an excellent ASW capability. Although they appeared to be less advanced than the Fairey Gannets they replaced (the Tracker for instance has piston engines rather than the turboprops of the Gannet), its electronics were better. To provide extra aircraft for a two carrier Navy, nine more S-2G Trackers were ordered in 1980.

The new aircraft carriers heralded other changed. The Fleet Air Arm was to have it's first (and Australia's first) airborne early warning capability. Carrier on board delivery aircraft were to be acquired as well. The RAN wanted the Lockheed S-3 Viking and the Grumman E-2C Hawkeye. Both aircraft had cost issues, and the E-2C was regarded as too large for the French-designed carriers.

The Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation offered converted Trackers, Tracers and Traders to fulfill the RAN's requirements. Their conversion was to be the first Turbo Tracker, powered by Garrett TPE331 turboprop engines. The first aicraft, a C-1T Turbo Trader flew in 1982. The aircraft had an updated cockpit, and new avionics but was otherwise a standard C-1 Trader. The first Tracker flew in 1983.

The RAN's E-1T Turbo Tracer was to be radically different from the US Navy's Tracers. It was intended to be fitted with a Thorn-EMI Skymaster radar, and two new consoles for the fighter controllers. The E-1T disposed of the Tracer's old radome, using instead the same radome as in the Tracker. The E-1T Turbo Tracer first flew in 1985.

The Turbo Traders and Turbo Trackers are also used as tankers.

Conversion were carried out rapidly with the base airframes being acquired from the RAN's existing stock, or from the US Navy. The first Traders and Trackers entered fleet service in 1986. The Turbo Tracer entered service in 1989 after protracted testing. The entire fleet was upgraded with new navigation and communications equipment during the mid nineties.

Between 1999 and 2002, the RAN upgraded its Turbo Tracker fleet with equipment similar to that in the AP-3C Orion. They are now among the most advanced anti-submarine aircraft in the world.

Aircraft InventoryEdit

  • 64 Boeing F/A-18A+/B+ Hornet
    • 56 Boeing F/A-18A+ Hornet
    • 8 Boeing F/A-18B+ Hornet
  • 28 CAC/Grumman AS-2T Turbo Tracker
    • 24 CAC/Grumman AS-2T Turbo Tracker
    • 4 CAC/Grumman TAS-2T Turbo Tracker
  • 10 CAC/Grumman C-1T Turbo Trader
  • 10 CAC/Grumman E-1T Turbo Tracer
  • 38 Sikorsky S-70B-2 Seahawk
  • 44 Sikorsky S-70B-9 Seahawk
  • 6 Westland Sea King ASaC Mk.57
  • 10 Sikorsky S-70A-44 Black Hawk
  • 10 Westland Sea King Mk 50A
  • 3 Agusta A190E Power
  • 12 Aerospatiale AS 350BA Squirrel
  • 1 Fokker F27 Friendship Laser Airborne Depth Sounder1

1Not part of the Fleet Air Arm, located for convience.

  • 40 Douglas A-4 Skyhawk
    • 32 Douglas A-4G Skyhawk
    • 8 Douglas TA-4G Skyhawk

Fleet Air Arm DeploymentEdit

Cruisers carry two S-70B-2 Seahawks. Frigates and destroyers carry one or two S-70B-2 Seahawks or S-70B-9 Seahawks. Voyager class destroyers carry 5 S-70B-2 Seahawks or S-70B-9 Seahawks. S-70A-44 Black Hawk and Westland Sea Kings are generally land based, but are routinely deployed to HMAS Success, Endurance, and Sirius for Vertical Replenishment operations. They can also be deployed to the RAN's Amphibious ships.

The aircraft carriers HMAS Australia, and HMAS Vengeance each carry 24 F/A-18A+ Hornets, 6 S-70B-2 Seahawks, 6 AS-2T Turbo Trackers, and 4 E-1T Turbo Tracers. When the ships were originally acquired (Australia: 1978, Vengeance: 1980), they operated 12 F-8 Crusaders, 10 A-4G Skyhawks, 6 S-2G Trackers, 4 Sea Kings and 2 Wessex.

The AS-2T Trackers have upgraded with equipment similar to that used on the RAAF's AP-3C Orions.

The RAN's Hornet force carries out the following missions:

  • Fleet air defence
  • Maritime strike
  • Close air support
  • Land strike
  • Air defence training (for the Army and Navy)

Two squadrons are deployed, 1 Squadron on HMAS Australia is home based at HMAS Albartoss, the other in HMAS Vengeance based at HMAS Fremantle. The third squadron is a training/replacement squadron and is home based at HMAS Albatross.

S-70B-2 Seahawks are used for anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, search and rescue, vertical replenishment, boarding party support, and plane guard (on aircraft carriers). They are being replaced by S-70B-9 Seahawks. Both types serve side-by-side in the squadrons. There are three operational squadrons, an aircraft carrier squadron based at HMAS Albatross (with a detachment at HMAS Fremantle), and two surface combatant squadrons (one on each coast). A single training squadron at HMAS Albatross provides conversion and crew training.

E-1T Turbo Tracers used for airborne early warning on the aircraft carriers, and C-1T Turbo Traders are used for carrier onboard delivery and inflight refueling. The S-70A-44 Black Hawk is replacing the Sea King Mk.50 in the vertical replinshment role. The single remaining VERTREP Sea King squadron also does conversion training for AEW Sea Kings. Conversion training for the S-70A-44 is done by 725 Squadron (who also train Seahawk crews)

The RAN's AS 350BA Squirrel helicopters are used in the naval helicopter training role, and are based mostly at HMAS Albatross, though some are based at RAAF Fairbairn with the Defence Force Helicopter School. The Agusta A109E Power supports the Squirrel in 732SQN.

The Fleet Air Arm has two main bases, in line with the Two Ocean Navy Policy. HMAS Albatross (Naval Air Station East) in New South Wales supports units based at HMAS Kuttabul (Fleet Base East) in Sydney, New South Wales, most notably it is the land base for the air group of HMAS Australia. HMAS Albatross is also the Fleet Air Arm's headquarters, and training base. HMAS Fremantle in Western Australia supports the units based at HMAS Stirling (Fleet Base West) (most notably the air group of HMAS Vengeance). RAAF Pearce, and RAAF Williamtown also perform a training function for the RAN through the training of RAN fast jet pilots by 79SQN RAAF, 76SQN RAAF, and 2OCU RAAF.

Fleet Air Arm AircraftEdit

F/A-18 HornetEdit

Given the RAAF's selection of the F/A-18 and the RAN's commitment to conventional aircraft carriers, it was a foregone conclusion that the RAN would operate the F/A-18 Hornet. For financial and production reasons, the RAN didn't receive its first Hornet until 1987. The first batch were all intended for training purposes. Unlike the RAAF, all RAN Hornets were assembled in Australia. The RAN's Hornets were assembed by ASTA in Victoria, and apart from the landing system and the nose gear, they are the same as the RAAF's Hornets. The first RAN Hornet flew on 2 March 1987.

During 1986, RAN pilots began to undertake Hornet training in the United States, and with 2OCU. With less than five years of carrier service, and a few months of RAAF service, the Hornet acquisition was risky for the RAN. The RAN decided that training and the assignment of more experienced pilots to the first Hornet squadron would reduce the risk.

In late 1987, the RAN accepted its first operational Hornets. Carrier work ups began as soon as conversion were completed. HMAS Australia embarked its first operational Hornet squadron in 1989, VFA-808. The western fighter squadron, VFA-805 was next to become operation, embarking on HMAS Vengeance in August 1990 just as Iraqi troops entered Kuwait.

During 1989, the two attack squadrons, VA-809 and VA-815 began to receive Hornets. The RAN decided to use a different process. It disbanded VA-809, and reformed it as a Hornet squadron, while transferring all A-7 Corsairs to VA-815. VFA-809 stood up in July 1990, and shortly after receiving their aircraft, they embarked on HMAS Australia, and sailed to the Persian Gulf. Most of their work up was completed near Diego Garcia, and some of it in the Gulf. The reformed VFA-815 stood up in May 1991, completing the introduction of the F/A-18 Hornet to the Royal Australian Navy.

Like the RAAF's Hornets, the RAN's Hornets have seen combat, but unlike the RAAF's Hornets, the RAN's Hornets have seen air-to-air combat, shooting down three Iraqi aircraft in the Gulf War. The RAN hasn't lost a single F/A-18 Hornet. This has been attributed to conprehensive training, and the cautious introduction process. The RAN's Hornets are undergoing the Hornet Upgrade Program, in parallel with RAAF Hornets. The RAN's Hornets are expected to serve until 2020. They are the Navy's most potent weapon.

F-8 CrusaderEdit

Delays in acquisition of the F/A-18 Hornet forced the RAN to seek an interim fighter. The only possibility which was quick and cheap was the F-8J Crusader. 40 F-8 Crusaders were acquired from Davis Monthan Air Force Base in the US. They served well between 1979 and 1989. The RAN had a mixed experience with the Crusader. Pilots (especially experienced pilots) liked the Crusader's flying qualities and roomy cockpit. In air combat exercises against RAN Skyhawks, and RAAF Mirages, Phantoms, and F-111s the Crusader gave a good account of itself. Against RAAF Eagles and Hornets, the Crusader's age showed. The RAN lost seven Crusaders at sea, mostly in landing accidents. In these accidents, three pilots were killed. The Crusader gave only average availability, and was far less relaible than the Skyhawk or Corsair II. Compared to the Hornet, the Crusader was a 'hangar-queen'. These problems were (correctly) attributed to the age. In US service during the Vietnam War, the Crusader displayed great reliability.

Crusader training with VT-724 ended in 1986 in order to make way for the F/A-18 Hornet. VF-808 was the first operational Crusader squadron to disband, which it did in 1987. Its aircraft and some of its pilots going to VF-805 (which temporarily filled the role of Navy Fighter Squadron-East in addition to its normal role as VF-W). HMAS Australia put its Crusaders ashore permanently in 1988. VF-805 disbanded in 1988. Crusader operations transferred to the new (and temporary) VF-818N on HMAS Vengeance, which operated its F-8Js until mid-1990. HMAS Vengeance put its Crusaders ashore on 21 July 1990.

The F-8J Crusader was retired from active-RAN service in 1990. The Crusader had ceased to be a front-line US aircraft before it entered RAN service, and some of its technology was actually older than that in the recently-retired Mirage IIIO. Accordingly, no consideration was given to the idea of transferring the Crusaders to the Air Force. There were several other flights, mostly ferry flights. The last flight of an F-8 Crusader in Australia (from Nowra to Woomera) took place on February 6, 1991.

Some of the aircraft were sold as spares to the French Navy, twelve remain in Australia as museum pieces and gate guards. The rest were either scrapped or transferred to the RAAF for training and evaluation purposes. These included testing the effects of weapons on aircraft structures, targets on air weapons ranges, instructional airframes, fire-fighting training.

The RAN operated 32 F-8J Crusaders, and 8 TF-8A Crusaders.

A-7 Corsair IIEdit

For the first few years of their service, the A-4G Skyhawk served as the attack aircraft of the Australia class aircraft carriers, but a new attack aircraft was being considered, with the options Vought A-7E Corsair II, and the Dassault Super Etendard.

The French believed that the RAN had promised to purchase the Super Etendard, however the RAN felt it could purchase whatever it felt necessary. This led to the first controversy associated with the carriers when the French Government and Dassault sued the Australian Government for breach of contract after the RAN chose the Vought A-7 Corsair. The Australian Government won the case and the Corsair purchase went ahead with the aircraft entering service in 1984. A total of 38 A-7 Corsairs were acquired, including 6 TA-7C trainers.

Unlike the F-8, the RAN had an excellent experience with the A-7 Corsair, finding it highly reliable, easy to fly, and extremely effective. In joint operations, the A-7 proved a far better attack aircraft than the Mirage IIIO, and more suited to close support than the F-111C. The Corsairs also served as tankers.

The process of retiring the Corsair began in 1988 with the disbanding on VA-809. East coast Corsair operations were taken up by an enlarged VA-815.

The RAN retired its Corsair IIs in 1991. They were operated by the Air Force for four years. After 1995, some of the Corsairs were put on display, several were put into storage in Woomera. These were subsequently sold to Thailand. In eleven years of operation, not one Corsair was lost. Two Australian Corsairs are in flying condition, one with the Royal Australian Navy Historical Flight

A-4G SkyhawkEdit

The A-4G Skyhawk served the RAN between 1967 and 1984 on three carriers, Melbourne, Australia, and Vengeance. They also served with the RAAF in ground attack alongside the A-4K Skyhawk between 1988 and 1991. Eight A-4G Skyhawks were purchased in 1967 to replace the De Havilland Sea Venom on HMAS Melbourne. Two TA-4G trainers were procured to support them. In 1971, a further eight A-4G and two TA-4G were purchased. Finally in 1978, the RAN purchased a third batch of Skyhawks in the same proportion (8 A-4G, 2 TA-4G) to serve on the new Australia class aircraft carriers.

Unlike American Skyhawks, the Australian Skyhawks had a fleet defence role, armed with Sidewinder missiles. Melbourne would generally embark four Skyhawks. The remainder would operate from HMAS Albatross. The TA-4G was too small to operate from Melbourne. They participated in a number of exercises over the next eleven years, and one third of the force were lost in crashes. The root cause of these crashes was the age and unreliability of the Melbourne, and the fact that it was really too small for an aircraft like the Skyhawk.

The Skyhawk was to serve as an interim attack aircraft on the RAN's French-designed Australia class aircraft carriers. The introduction of the new Australia class carriers produced an immediate drop in the accident rate. The longer more powerful catapults of the new carriers, and their larger landing spaces produced more safety.

On Australia and Vengeance, the A-4 Skyhawk lost its fleet defence role, and could concentrate on its intended role of ground attack. Skyhawks served on HMAS Australia for five years, and on HMAS Vengeance for three years. After this, they were replaced by A-7E Corsair II. After this, the surviving twenty Skyhawks (sixteen A-4G, four TA-4G) were placed in storage while a buyer was sought. None came forward, but no buyer came forward. In 1988 they were turned over to the RAAF, and used to equip an ex-RNZAF squadron which (after New Zealand joining the Commonwealth of Australia) found itself a part of the Royal Australian Air Force. The Skyhawks served with the RAAF (alongside fourteen A-4K Skyhawks from New Zealand) for three years and was replaced by the A-7E Corsair II (again). There are currently four G-model Skyhawks flying in Australia, two with the RAN Historic Flight. One TA-4K is flying in New Zealand.

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