3SQN RAAF F/A-18A Hornet “Cobra”
This model represents F/A-18A A21-8, the first Hornet to be delivered to a RAAF combat squadron.
In August 1985, 2 Operational Conversion Unit (2OCU) commenced training Hornet pilots using the first four F/A-18B two-seater Hornets to be delivered to the RAAF (A21-101, A21-102, A21-103 and A21-104). A year later, 3 Squadron was the first combat squadron to be equipped with the single seat F/A-18A Hornet, accepting delivery of A21-8 and A21-9 on the 29th of August, 1986.
A21-8 became the aircraft of WGCDR B. J. S. Mouatt, 3 Squadron’s CO, and featured in a number of publicity photos. These early photos show a very clean aircraft with the standard national insignia plus the squadron emblems of the southern cross on the tail and fuselage flash with fleur de lis. The former squadron emblem dates back to the 3 Sqn Kittyhawks and Mustangs operating over Italy during World War II and the latter dates back to 3 SQN operations in France during World War I.
The decal sheet instructions state that in November 1986 the aircraft had acquired a cobra head nose-art in grey. This was re-applied as a shorter version, in black and grey, in August 1987. The final version , with the lips now painted, red was on the aircraft in November 1987. There are a number of photos of the aircraft at this time in (Wilson, S., “Phantom, Hornet and Skyhawk in Australian Service, Aerospace Publications, 1993), again looking very clean, and http://www.adf-gallery.com.au/gallery/Hornet-A21-8 includes a couple of colour photos.
A search of the internet reveals another photo (https://www.facebook.com/HistoricAustralianAircraft/posts/a-nice-little-article-on-fighter-worlds-mirage-iiid-a3-102-enjoy-the-read/605201019562587/) with the red lips dated 30th November, 1985, which obviously contradicts the decal instructions.
From photographic evidence on the internet, the aircraft has been sporting 75 Sqn low-viz markings from 2008 (at the latest).
Over its service life, a number of RAAF Hornets have had artwork applied, usually commemorating an anniversary or other milestone. Two other aircraft have had unique markings added:
* “Daphne de Dual” – Dating back to when they operated Dassault Mirage IIIOs, 77 Sqn has christened their two-seater aircraft “Daphne de Dual”. They continued the tradition by adding the nose art to, firstly, F/A-18B A21-106 (crashed 10/05/’92 with the loss of FLGOFF Robert Jepsen and DSTO scientist Michael Howlett) and then F/A-18B A21-105.
* Top Hat and Cane – In May 1990, 75 Sqn CO WGCDR Ross Fox’s aircraft, A21-29, had a Top Hat and Cane painted on the vertical tails. The Top Hat and Cane dates back to when 75 Sqn flew F-86 Sabres. The Top Hat and Cane has been maintained on A21-29 ever since.
However, to my knowledge, A21-8 is the only example of personalised markings on a RAAF Hornet.
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8 additional images. Click to enlarge.