The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has officially retired the F/A-18A/B Classic Hornet after more than three decades of service.

A farewell ceremony was held at RAAF Base Williamtown and was attended by Air Force aviators and other industry partners, besides several other dignitaries.

Australia Chief of Air Force (CAF) Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld said that the Classic Hornets provided a great capability to the country’s air power.

Hupfeld said: “The Hornet’s first operational deployment was in November 2001 to May 2002 under Operation Slipper, following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks.

“The Australian Government agreed to deploy F/A-18A/Bs to protect the major United States Air Force air base on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, which was being used to stage operations in Afghanistan.”

The fifth-generation combat capability F-35A Joint Strike Fighters are replacing the ageing F/A-18A/B Classic Hornets.

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By GlobalData

The replacement is being carried out as part of the $17bn AIR 6000 Phase 2A/B programme, under which Australia seeks to purchase 72 F-35s.

The No 75 Squadron operating from RAAF Base Tindal in the Northern Territory was the last unit to fly the F/A-18A/B Hornets.

The unit will changeover to the F-35A aircraft from next year.

Hupfeld added: “It is quite fitting that in Air Force’s Centenary year we say goodbye to the Classic Hornet, a fighter jet that has been an integral part of Australia’s defence capability for more than three decades.

“As the time of the Classic Hornet draws to a close after nearly 408,000 total flying hours, it’s time to for the transition to the advanced lethality, survivability, and supportability delivered by the F-35A Lightning II.”

In March 2020, RAAF’s Base Williamtown agreed to sell its retired F/A-18 Classic Hornet jets to training company ‘Air USA’.