RAAF pilot on a high with his super new Hornet

TRAPPED into the cockpit of Australia's newest fighter jet while soaring across mountain peaks in California's Yosemite National Park and east over Sierra Nevada, pilot John Haly is putting the $100 million-plus Super Hornet to the test. The Australian Defence Force's controversial purchase of 24 Super Hornets as successors to an ageing fleet of F-111s has given Squadron Leader Haly, a boy from Brisbane who grew up near the bay never contemplating a supersonic career, a mission to understand the fighter's strengths and weaknesses.
So far, so good, according to the 30-year-old, who reckons envious friends in the Royal Australian Air Force will be "blown away" by the Super Hornet's capabilities when they get the opportunity to fly it.
If Haly has any disappointments, they revolve around strict adherence to a speed limit of a mere 1200km/h to spare the homes of the US civilians beneath the flightpath.
"Where we fly in the US we can't fly supersonic as readily as we can in Australia because if we do we'll bust out the farmers' windows," he told The Australian yesterday.
"This airplane is just going to blow the minds of people who don't know what it can do. Tactically it's brilliant. It's like night and day compared with what we could do with the original Hornet."
For the next two years leading up to the delivery of the Super Hornet, Haly will fly regular sorties from Lemoore, a US Navy base between Los Angeles and San Francisco, to hone his skills and instruct American and Australian pilots.
Flights over the Florida Keys, the Gulf of Mexico and Mount Whitney, California's highest peak, are part of the learning curve. The benefit for Australian defence chiefs in having Haly at Lemoore comes from his corporate knowledge and skill. And for Haly, it's a career highlight.
"I've been lucky enough to be in a position to set all this in motion and be the first guy on the ground to get a lot of experience," he said.
When Defence Minister Brendan Nelson trumpeted the decision in March to shell out a total of $6 billion for the Super Hornet package, several retired RAAF veterans were astounded.
The recriminations were loud and severe and they came from top-ranking former officers such as retired air commodore Ted Bushell and retired air vice-marshal Peter Criss.
Bushell said there was "not a hopping hope in hell" the Super Hornet would maintain Australia's air superiority in the region for the next decade, while Criss disparaged the jet fighter, which is crammed with advanced radar and stealth equipment, as a "superdog or superbug".
They were damning criticisms, but there was no turning back for either Nelson, who was accused by the federal Opposition of fashioning a costly election-year fix, or the top military brass who had backed the Super Hornet.
The F/A-18F Block 2 Super Hornets were bought to maintain Australia's aerial shield between the retirement of the F-111s in 2010 and the arrival of the Joint Strike Fighter a few years later.
Air Commodore Geoff Brown said the criticisms of the Super Hornet were unjustified.
"These are really good guys, but you're often stuck in the technology of the last aircraft you flew," Brown said yesterday.
"I don't think they have had access to the information about these ones that we have. The F-111 is approaching 40 years old. It ... has nowhere near the capabilities this aircraft has got."



I remember the F-22 being an F-111 replacement but i dont think our nation wants to export it yet, Until next decade or later.
Parsecboy said:
I remember the F-22 being an F-111 replacement but i dont think our nation wants to export it yet, Until next decade or later.
F-111 interdictor
F-22 air superiority fighter with extremely limited/ non-existent a/g capability.

It's a one-trick pony that costs the earth. I don't think there are that many people who would want to buy it- especially not until all the kinks are worked out, which- if past performances are anything to go by- will take that decade or two you're talking about. Possibly the crowd with more money than sense might be interested at some point (i.e. Japan, Saudi Arabia) and the people who already get the US to pay for a sizable chunk of their defence spending (Israel) but most sensible people know that their cash is better spent elsewhere.

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