Last Flight of No 6 Squadron Super Hornets

Traditional fire hose salute for a Super Hornet returning from flight

Six F/A-18F Super Hornets and their crews from one of the Air Force’s top fighter squadrons have made their final flight together, as the squadron begins transition to the EA-18G ‘Growler’ Airborne Electronic Warfare aircraft.

So, for a short time at least, the famous ‘Boomerang’ tail flash of 6 Squadron will not be seen on Super Hornets in the skies over Ipswich.

The squadron is now training in the United States to fly the ‘Growler’ and will begin ferrying them home to Amberley early 2017.

Their Super Hornets will transfer to 1 Squadron at Amberley as part of the Air Force’s transition plan.

The farewell flight took the six Super Hornet jets south from Amberley towards the Evans Head weapons range, before flying at low level along the coast in the vicinity of Coolangatta, Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast to Double Island, before returning to Amberley in formation and performing the famous ‘Initial and Pitch’ fighter approach, before landing.

Pilots and Air Combat Officers from Amberley are already learning to operate the Growler Electronic Warfare (EW) jets with the US Navy, at Whidbey Island in Washington State and some of the first crews to graduate are now working as instructors at the base.

The RAAF is buying twelve Growlers, which are highly modified Super Hornet airframes, and when they are in full operational service early next decade, Australia will have the only tactical Airborne Electronic Attack Capability in the world outside the US.

In RAAF service it will work with other Australian Defence Force assets, such as the Navy’s new Air Warfare Destroyers and Army’s combat units to identify, jam and if necessary, destroy enemy radar and communications systems.

It is said that they are able to jam mobile telephone signals, to prevent remote detonation of Improvised Explosive Devices, such as those used by the Taliban in Afghanistan and Daesh in Iraq and Syria.

“Our team in the United States is ever expanding with multiple aircrew and maintenance technicians now training with the US Navy,” said Air Commodore Mike Kitcher, Director General of Capability Planning at Air Force Headquarters in Canberra.

All 12 Growlers and squadron personnel will be at Amberley by mid-2017 ready for operational development workup.

“We are on track to declare an Initial Operational Capability (IOC) as planned in mid 2018,” said Air Commodore Kitcher.

No 6 Squadron was formed in the United Kingdom during World War I and later served with distinction as a bomber squadron in New Guinea during World War II, flying Lockheed Hudsons. Post-war, 6 Squadron re-equipped with the Avro Lincoln heavy bomber at Amberley and has been based in south-east Queensland ever since.

The squadron entered the jet age with the introduction of the Australian-built Canberra bomber and has subsequently flown the McDonnell F-4E Phantom and the F-111C, before converting to the Super Hornet in 2011.