The Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) Base Williamtown has agreed to sell its retired F/A-18 Classic Hornet aircraft to training company Air USA.

The US-based air combat training company will receive 46 aircraft, which will be used to provide a range of training services to the US Air Force (USAF).

Prior to delivery, the Hornets will be repaired, or serviced and prepared, at RAAF Base Williamtown. This is expected to take approximately three to four years.

The RAAF Classic Hornet fleet will be gradually replaced by the fifth-generation combat capability F-35A Joint Strike Fighter aircraft.

This deal will provide employment opportunities for workers in the New South Wales Hunter region of Australia.

Australian Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price said: “The work to prepare these aircraft and components for sale will provide 24 direct industry jobs while RAAF transitions from the Classic Hornet to the F‑35 Joint Strike Fighter.

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“This highlights the strong performance of the region’s defence industry in servicing and maintaining the Classic Hornets over the past 30 years.

“Apart from the jobs directly supported by the work at RAAF Base Williamtown, more defence industry jobs are expected to be created across Australia through repair and overhaul work on aircraft servicing components.”

Under the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter programme, the RAAF has plans to procure up to 72 F-35As.

Out of the total fighter jets on order, 20 have been delivered so far. The 72 aircraft will be shared by three operational squadrons at RAAF bases Williamtown and Tindal, and a training squadron at Williamtown.

In December last year, the RAAF accepted the delivery of seven F-35A fighter aircraft as the latest delivery.