Recently, there has been new progress in the discussion of the West’s aid to Ukraine’s new fighter jets. After many NATO countries are “almost certain” to provide F-16 fighter jets to the Ukrainian Air Force, the Australian Financial Review recently reported that Australia, the United States, and Ukraine are discussing the use of 41 fighter jets.
A decommissioned Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet was sent to Ukraine instead of being disposed of as originally planned. The newspaper quoted Robert Porter, an Australian security expert who provided consulting services to the Zelenskiy authorities, as saying that the United States has an “open attitude” towards providing F/A-18 fighter jets to the Ukrainian Air Force and that handover negotiations are underway. Protocols and implementations have not yet been finalised.
Overseas Western media generally believe that once 41 F/A-18 “Hornet” fighter jets join the Ukrainian army, the restricted air rights of the Russian Air Force in Ukraine will become precarious and may even lose air supremacy in some airspace.
Especially in the key defence areas where the Ukrainian air defence system is densely concentrated, it will become extremely difficult for the strategic bombers of the Russian Aerospace Forces to continue to easily bomb Kiev, Vinnitsa, Dnipro, Khmelnytsky, and other states in central and western Ukraine.
After the Ukrainian Air Force guarantees partial air supremacy, it may turn the defence into an offence and attack targets on the Russian mainland. There is no doubt that the US’s “borrowing flowers to offer Buddha” has brought greater uncertainty to the situation of the Russia-Ukraine conflict because the United States played this “dangerous hole card”, which means that more second-hand equipment from Western countries will be transferred to Ukraine through this transfer mode.
At present, the Australian Air Force has decommissioned all 41 F/A-18 “Hornet” fighter jets. These “second-hand fighter jets” are kept in the hangar of the Royal Air Force Base in William Town, north of Newcastle, Australia.
The Australian government has not yet determined how to deal with these F/A-18 fighter jets. Two options have been discussed before, either sending them to the “aircraft graveyard” for complete destruction, or selling them to RAVN Aerospace, an American air “imaginary enemy” contractor , as a target drone or a simulated “imaginary enemy” for “secondary use”.
In recent years, the U.S. Air Force’s imaginary enemy missions have been increasingly outsourced to defence outsourcing service companies such as RAVN Aerospace. According to the Australian Air Force, most of the F/A-18 fighters in this batch are in good condition and can continue to fly after a small amount of maintenance. A small number of them are too damaged to be worth repairing, but the specific number is still unknown.
Currently, the Australian Air Force currently has 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets and 12 EA-18G Growlers in service and is expected to remain in service for many years to come. These two models are very different from the retired F/A-18A/B models, which can be said to be completely reborn. In the future, these decommissioned F/A-18A/B fighters will be replaced by newly ordered 72 F-35 fighters.