Australia, the United States, and Ukraine are discussing sending 41 Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) F/A-18 Hornets to Kyiv rather than sending them to the scrapheap as planned, the Australian Financial Review reported on Tuesday, citing sources.
The US is “favourably disposed” to the idea of gifting Ukraine the F/A-18s, the report reads, as Washington owns the intellectual property on the jets that have been retired by the RAAF and which are being replaced by F-35s, of which Australia has ordered 72.
Unless sent to Ukraine, the retired F/A-18s will either be scrapped or sold to a private sector aviation company, RAVN Aerospace, to use in the US as ‘enemies’ for military aviators to train against. Robert Potter, an Australian security expert advising the Ukrainian government, confirmed negotiations were underway, but a specific deal is yet to be finalised.
A separate source close to the discussions told the Australian FInancial Review it made no sense to destroy perfectly good aircraft that “could be operational within four months and used to help repel the Russian invasion.”
“Ukrainian pilots and ground crew could be quickly brought up to speed to operate the Hornets with Ukrainian language training manuals to be produced,” the newspaper reports.
Hornets flying around could be used to intercept and shoot down enemy missiles.
To prevent the risk of escalation, Australians (and the Americans) are expected to make clear that the Hornets could only fly within Ukrainian airspace, warning if they were used to bomb Russia, the allies would stop maintaining the aircraft, effectively grounding them.