76SQNs mission is to "graduate aircrew who will succeed in follow-on fast jet operational conversion courses and to provide air support for ADF operational training". The unit also has a maintenance mission which is to "maintain our fleet of Hawk aircraft and develop technicians to achieve 76SQN flying operations".
76 Squadron achieves these missions through its Training Flight and Operations (Ops) Flight. Training flight conduct three Introductory Fighter Courses (IFC) every year with graduates moving on to 2OCU or 6SQN for Classic Hornet or Super Hornet operational conversions. If students are not placed on a conversion course directly following graduation from IFC, they can stay within 76SQN as part of Ops flight and undertake fleet support missions for Navy, close air support missions for Army and also provide support for other Air Force units both from Williamtown and deployed on exercises.
The Hawk 127 is used to train future fighter pilots and Air Combat Officers (ACOs) who will, upon graduation, convert onto F/A-18 A/B Classic Hornet’s or F/A-18 F/G Super Hornets.
As a training unit, 76SQN does not undertake operational missions; however, throughout 2011 the squadron has undertaken many deployments and exercises in support of the wider ADF.
76SQN was formed on 14th March 1942 in Archerfield, QLD equipped with Curtis P40E Kittyhawk aircraft and deployed to Milne Bay to confront the advancing Japanese. During the battle, 76SQN Kittyhawks flew bombing and strafing operations in support of the desperate Australian diggers who were slowly but inexorably being pushed back towards the RAAF airstrips.
Following Milne Bay, 76SQN withdrew to Australia and re-grouped at Potshot, WA in 1943, and while there, the unit lost SQNLDR ‘Bluey’ Truscott, one of its most colourful officers and the RAAF’s second highest scoring ace pilot when he was killed in a flying accident.
Having been equipped with new Kittyhawks, 76SQN returned to combat at Goodenough Island north of New Guinea in May. After moving around to several Pacific Island bases, the unit was sent to Labuan for its final wartime deployment supporting the invasion of Borneo.
76 Squadrons World War II Battle Honors are:
New Britain 1943
New Britain 1943
Dutch New Guinea 1944
Following the war, 76SQN replaced Kittyhawks with Mustangs and deployed to Japan for duty with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force before returning to Australia in 1948 to convert from Mustangs to Vampire jet fighters. Now equipped with Vampires, 76SQN deployed to Malta in 1952 to join NATO forces. In 1960, 76SQN returned to Australia and was based in Williamtown, NSW where it began operating Australian-built Sabres for 6 years before transitioning into Mirage fighters in 1966.
In 1989, the Mirage’s were replaced with Macchi’s and the unit transitioned from a fighter unit to a training unit for future Hornet pilots as well as operating specially equipped PC-9 aircraft in forward air control operations until this role was passed to 77SQN.
The BAE Hawk 127 replaced the Macchi as the introductory fighter platform in 2001 and is still operated today.