Australia to sell 46 F/A-18 Hornet to private military contractor

Ryan Fletcher

The Australian Ministry of Defense announced its intention to sell 46 F/A-18 Hornets to the private company US Air over the next three to four years. They will serve to support the training of the United States Air Force pilots.

As it already received 20 of the 72 Lockheed Martin F-35A it ordered, the Royal Australian Air Force is progressively retiring its fleet of F/A-18 Classic Hornet fighter jets. 25 of the 40-year-old aircraft were already purchased by Canada, out of which 18 should be modernized and integrated into the air force, and 7 would be cannibalized for parts. 

On March 5, 2020, Melissa Price, Australian Minister for Defense Industry, announced that 46 retired F/A-18 Classic Hornet aircraft would be prepared to be delivered to USA Air. The amount of that contract has not been disclosed. As a reference, Canada had spent $500 million for the 25 aircraft along with spares and support equipment back in January 2019.

USA Air is one of the seven private contractors of the USAF whose role is to provide realistic training to pilots. In October 2019, the Pentagon awarded $6.4 billion in contracts known as adversary air services (ADAIR). 

The panel of companies offers a diversified fleet of aircraft, ranging from Soviet fighter jets to European trainers. For example, the company Air USA already operates at least three Mikoyan MiG-29s bought from Kyrgyzstan. Meanwhile, ATAC and Draken have respectively acquired 63 French and 24 Spanish Dassault Mirage F1 fighter jets.

The private fleet will address the ever-increasing demand for training that internal Aggressor Squadrons cannot keep up with. Additionally, the US Air Force announced in May 2019, that it would reactivate its own 65th Aggressor Squadron and, for the first time since the aircraft entered service, it will use eleven F-35A Lightning II as aggressors. The plane’s software coupled with radar reflectors could become a perfect replica of other aircraft that USAF pilots may face on the battlefield.


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