Australia, the United States and Ukraine are considering sending 41 Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18 Hornet fighters to Kyiv to fulfill part of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s request for fighter jets rather than scrapping them as planned.
Sources have told The Australian Financial Review that the United States, which has recently authorized other Western allies to supply Ukraine with advanced fighter jets, including US-made F-16s, welcomes the idea of giving away the F/A-18 to Ukraine.
Washington’s approval is needed because it owns the intellectual property for the fighters that have been retired by the RAAF and are to be replaced by the F-35s, of which Australia has ordered 72.
The retired F/A-18s sit in a hangar at the RAAF base in Williamtown, just outside Newcastle. Unless they are shipped to Ukraine, they will be scrapped or sold to a private sector aviation company, RAVN Aerospace, to be used in the United States as “enemies” for the training of military aviators.
Robert Potter, an Australian security expert advising the Ukrainian government, confirmed that negotiations were taking place, but no concrete deal has yet been finalized.
The plans are noted to be in good shape and can be operational within four months and used to help repel the Russian invasion. Ukrainian pilots and ground crews could quickly get up to speed in operating the Hornets with the Ukrainian-language training manuals to be produced.
“Australia has a large stockpile of retired aircraft that are otherwise scheduled for destruction.
“There are multiple formal approvals required to finalize an acquisition of these aircraft, but it is likely an idea whose time has come.”
Another source close to the talks agreed that there was no point in destroying perfectly good plans that he said could be operational in four months and used to help repel the Russian invasion.
Australian Financial Review