Classic Hornets mark end of an era with coastal flypast on December 11

Australia's next generation of fighter pilots returning home to Williamtown from Townsville on December 4, 2019 after completing Exercise High Sierra 19. The exercise is the last three weeks of the F/A-18A/B Classic Hornet operational conversion course. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
Australia's next generation of fighter pilots returning home to Williamtown from Townsville on December 4, 2019 after completing Exercise High Sierra 19. The exercise is the last three weeks of the F/A-18A/B Classic Hornet operational conversion course. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Up to 10 F/A-18A/B Classic Hornets from No. 2 Operational Conversion Unit (2OCU) at RAAF Base Williamtown will conduct their final flight under the unit's banner on Wednesday.

The historic flight acknowledges the conclusion of Classic Hornet pilot conversion training, marking the end of an era.

The aircraft will fly along the coast of Port Stephens and Newcastle.

Commanding Officer Number 2OCU, Wing Commander Scott Woodland, said that the unit's final Classic Hornet mission is a fitting tribute to this significant milestone in Air Force history.

"2OCU's critical role in preparing generations of Classic Hornet fighter aircrew with the skills and competency to engage in fighter combat has laid the very foundations of RAAF Air Power capability since the introduction of the platform in 1985," Wing Commander Woodland said.

"Operational conversion has been at the cornerstone of the strength of the Classic Hornet platform's contribution - taking graduate Hawk 127 Lead-in Fighter pilots and testing and challenging them under the most gruelling of conditions and toughest air combat scenarios.

"The result has been the delivery of highly trained, focused personnel to front line squadrons, performing with excellence at home and abroad on operations in Defence of our national interests."

Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Picture: Jonathan Carroll

The future of fast-jet aircrew training at 2OCU is now focussed on supporting fifth-generation capabilities, with the arrival and operational sustainment of the F-35A Lightning II.

"We welcome the commencement of the next phase of pilot conversion training for the F-35A," Wing Commander Woodland said.

"This represents a fundamental shift for 2OCU; one which we are fully equipped and ready to continue to deliver a superior war-fighting capability - supported by highly professional, highly skilled aircrew - performing with strength and focus when called upon by government," he said.

The RAAF F/A-18A/B Classic Hornet platform is planned to be withdrawn from service in December 2021 with the RAAF's fleet of Classic Hornets currently being replaced by the F-35A Lighting II.

December 11 schedule: 

11.30am Aircraft will depart RAAF Base Williamtown and track north off the Tomaree coast.

The Hornets will then form up in a Number 2 formation and fly over:

12pm Port Stephens (Tomaree, Soldiers Point, Medowie)

12.04pm Williamtown

12.05pm Newcastle (Harbour, CBD, Merewether, Redhead)

12.07pm Redhead Beach

12.13pm Williamtown

The aircraft will then conduct a low-level coastal run north to Sugarloaf Point and back again to Nobbys Beach, before breaking into pairs for low level initial and pitch recovery to land, about 12.25pm.