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Aussies get last batch of Super Hornets. More to follow?


Boeing announced Friday that it has completed delivery of its last batch of F/A-18F Super Hornets to the Royal Australian Air Force, on budget and "ahead of contract schedule," in the company's words. The Aussies were evidently pleased, per Boeing's announcement:

The arrival at the base was marked by the four new Super Hornets joining 16 other RAAF F/A-18Fs for a dramatic 20-aircraft flyover.

"The Super Hornet provides a major advancement in capability for the RAAF and the entire Australian Defence Force," said RAAF Group Capt. Steve Roberton, Officer Commanding 82 Wing. "The F/A-18F employs the world’s most advanced combat radar, ensuring our forces have a clear advantage in both technology and capability, whether conducting air, ground or maritime operations. "The Super Hornet's ability to collect and seamlessly distribute information to our other platforms is proving to be invaluable as a true force multiplier," Roberton added.

"Boeing made a commitment to the Royal Australian Air Force, and to the citizens and government of Australia, promising that these advanced Super Hornets would be ready to join the RAAF fleet on time and on budget," said Dennis Muilenburg, president and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security. "The men and women of Boeing are incredibly proud to have delivered on that promise."

"The joint efforts between Australia's Defence Materiel Organisation, the Royal Australian Air Force, the U.S. Navy and the Hornet Industry Team have been absolutely paramount in the success of this program," said Carolyn Nichols, Australian Super Hornet program manager for Boeing. "With that success, these Super Hornets, and the advanced capabilities they deliver, are now ready to meet Australia's defense requirements today and into the future."

The Australian government announced plans in March 2007 to acquire 24 advanced Block II versions of the F model Super Hornet, which features a two-person cockpit. The first five RAAF Super Hornets arrived at Amberley on March 26, 2010. Today's ceremony marks the fifth and final contracted RAAF Super Hornet delivery.

Did you catch that bit about the Super Hornet's ability to "collect and seamlessly distribute information to our other platforms" -- remind you of anything? It certainly sounds like the kind of game-changing advantage the Aussies are supposed to get from their F-35 Lightning IIs someday, though it could be years before they can stage a 20-aircraft flyover with those. Boeing's announcement does not mention the F-35 or its standing sales pitch -- that it can give you a very nice fighter today if you're tired of waiting for the super fighter of tomorrow -- but that's clearly just beneath the surface here.

With this order complete and the Aussies happy, it might not be a surprise to see more rumbling in the press Down Under from analysts and politicians about whether Australia should continue as a member of Club F-35, given the relative success of the stopgap Super Hornets.

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