The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has received three King Air 350 aircraft from the army, as an interim replacement for the aging DHC-4 Caribou, which will retire in 2009.

Developed by Hawker Pacific, the King Air 350 is equipped with turboprop engines, modern avionics and a glass cockpit.

The RAAF’s No. 38 Squadron will fly the aircraft, which had been formerly under the service of army’s No. 173 Air Surveillance Squadron.

RAAF Chief Air Marshall Mark Binskin said the King Air was a far more advanced aircraft than the 1950s-era Caribou, being able to cruise at more than three times the altitude, twice the speed and twice the range.

“It is ideally suited for moving people quickly across northern Australia and throughout the region,” he said.

“The new fleet of King Air can provide a degree of efficiency and reliability which we have struggled to achieve with our fleet of aging Caribous.

“At the same time, the 38 Squadron King Air pilots and technicians will also gain useful experience working on a modern aircraft type, allowing them to more efficiently transfer to other parts of the RAAF fleet,” he said.

Another five brand new King Air aircraft will join the three King Air 350s in the first half of 2010.

A new light tactical fixed-wing transport aircraft will be selected under project AIR 8000 phase two to replace the interim arrangement.