Tag Archives: Luftwaffe Tornado

The latest Hornet buzz

The McDonnell Douglas/Northrop and now currently Boeing-produced F/A-18 Hornet series have been around since 1974, making it a 46-year-old platform.

The Northrop YF-17/pre-production F-18. U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archive 428-GX-K-118818. Photographed by PH2 James C. Brown

Originally pitched to the Air Force to replace their fleet of F-4 Phantoms and A-7 Corsairs, a job that went to the F-16, the Navy chose the YF-17 runner-up as the fast mover to replace their own A-4 Skyhawk and remaining F-4s (as well as the A-6 Intruder and A-7 once the A-12 program tanked in the 1980s). Entering preproduction in 1978 and gaining IOC in the early 1980s, the zippy F-18A/B single-seat and C/D twin-seaters held down the last days of the Cold War for the Navy and Marine Corps then went on to see combat in the original Gulf War, over Bosnia, and in the post-9/11 sandbox excursions.

Likewise, Northrop dropped its export F-20 Tigershark, an updated F-5E with new avionics and combat systems, in favor of selling the F-18 overseas and found success with Australia, Canada, Finland, Kuwait, Malaysia, Spain, and Switzerland– pretty successful for a carrier aircraft!

The 2015 CF-18 Hornet Demonstration Aircraft unveiled at a ceremony held at 3 Wing Bagotville in Saguenay, Québec on 27 March 2015. Image: LS Alex Roy, Atelier d’imagerie Bagotville BN01-2015-0186-005

With the U.S. Navy (and someday the Marines) shedding the F-18C/D model in favor of the altogether larger and more capable F-18E/F Super Hornet and putting the EA-6B Prowler in the boneyard in favor of the EA-18G Growler variant, other countries that have Baby Hornet experience have been looking at the Super Hornet to upgrade as well. For instance, Kuwait ordered 22 F/A-18Es and 6 F/A-18Fs to replace their older F-18C/Ds while Australia has picked up 24 F/A-18Fs for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) to replace their aging F-111s, while F-35s will be replacing the F-18Cs.

Retired Ozzy F-18s coming home

Speaking of Australia, it was just announced that workers at RAAF Base Williamtown will service and prepare up to 46 retired F/A-18 Classic Hornet aircraft that will be sold to air combat training company Air USA.

Caption: Flying Officer Chris Baker from RAAF No. 3 Squadron, prepares his F/A-18C jet for takeoff at the start of a night mission out of RAAF Base Darwin. NATO Exercise Pitch Black 2008 (PB08)  

The Classic Hornet aircraft will be used to provide training services to the United States Air Force and will be prepared over the next three to four years.

Minister for Defence Industry, the Hon Melissa Price MP, said the work will provide employment certainty for workers in the NSW Hunter region.

“The work to prepare these aircraft and components for sale will provide 24 direct industry jobs while Air Force transitions from the Classic Hornet to the F‑35 Joint Strike Fighter,” Minister Price said.

Meanwhile in Germany…

The West German Luftwaffe in the 1970s was one of a quartet of forces to include the West German Navy’s Marineflieger, the British Royal Air Force and the Italian Aeronautica Militare to go all in for a variant of the Panavia Tornado swing-wing strike fighter. While the Marineflieger is now helicopter-only, the RAF has retired their Tornados and the Italians are in the process of doing the same, Berlin is still fielding the old bird, which left production more than 20 years ago.

Note German Great War ace Max Immelmann on the tail.

This amounts to some 85 Tornado IDS strike planes and 28 Tornado ECR SEAD/EW aircraft. While perhaps the most logical replacement would be more Eurofighter Typhoons, of which the Luftwaffe is already fielding 140, it now looks like the Tornados will be replaced with a mix of 78 to 90 Tranche 3 Typhoons, 30 FA-18E/F Super Hornets and 15 EA-18G Growlers.

As noted by Forbes, the Hornets and Growlers will be acquired because Eurofighter does not currently have B-61 nuclear bomb-certified (drawn from NATO stocks) Typhoons or a SEAD variant of the same available any time soon.

Last flights, from Dublin to Virginia Beach

A few platforms with a decidedly long life are fading away this week with others being on their last legs.

The Republic of Ireland in 1972 picked up nine French-built Cessna 172 variants which have proved solid workhorses in the past 47 years. The Reims Rocket FR172H were originally intended for border patrol during “The Troubles” and could be fitted with a pair of Matra rocket pods under each wing.

Using a Rolls-Royce built, fuel-injected, Continental IO-360D 210 hp engine with a constant-speed propeller, the Reims (Cessna) FR.172 Rocket got its name from the fact it could carry twin 12x37mm Matra pods, as above. No. 207 Irish Air Corps, seen taxiing in at Casement Aerodrome Baldonnel Circa 1980. Via Flickr 

Over the course of 63,578 hours clocked up (7k hours per airframe), they fulfilled various roles besides border surveillance including “explosive escorts, cash escorts, in-shore maritime surveillance, target towing, bog surveys, wildlife surveys, general transportation flights, and even one air ambulance mission.”

They will be replaced by a trio of (unarmed) Pilatus PC-12NG Spectres.

Meanwhile, as noted by Naval Air Forces Atlantic, the last Navy F/A-18C Hornet, aircraft number 300, made its official final active-duty flight at Naval Air Station Oceana, Oct. 2.

“Assigned to the Navy’s East Coast Fleet Replacement Squadron, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 at Cecil Field, Florida, aircraft number 300 completed its first Navy acceptance check flight Oct. 14, 1988. Lt. Andrew Jalali, who piloted the Hornet for its final flight was also born in 1988.

The aircraft has remained with the Gladiators for its entire 31-years of service. The aircraft took off from NAS Oceana accompanied by three F/A-18F Super Hornets for a one-and-a-half-hour flight and return to Oceana where it will be officially stricken from the inventory, stripped of all its usable parts and be scrapped.”

The last Navy F/A-18C Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 made its official final active-duty flight at Naval Air Station Oct 2. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nikita Custer)

Notably, the Marines still fly the type while overseas allies such as Canada, Switzerland, Australia, Finland, Spain, Malaysia, and Kuwait also keep the older Hornets around.

Meanwhile, in semi-related news, the “Rhino” looks short-listed to be adopted by the Germans to replace their increasingly aged Panavia Tornados. Then-West Germany went with the swing-wing Cold War classic in 1974 to replace the scary dangerous F-104 Starfighter for both ground strike/air defense by the Luftwaffe and maritime strike in the Baltic by the Bundesmarine’s Marinefliegerkommando.

How about some of that old school 1970s Tornado goodness?

Today, just 90~ active Tornados are left of the original 359 picked up by Bonn and are slated to be phased out by 2025. The RAF has already put the type out to pasture while the Italians are not far behind.

Apparently, it is the Super Hornet’s easy likelihood of being able to quickly be cleared to carry NATO-pooled B61 tactical nukes– a mission currently dedicated to the German Tornados– that gave it the upper hand over the Eurofighter Typhoon and others.

Germany currently uses the Typhoon for air superiority tasks and Quick Reaction Alert duties.