Shelter for Strike Element Hornets

Shelter from the Middle Eastern sun is providing much-needed respite for F/A-18 Hornet maintainers deployed to Operation Okra.
A 4K Hangar – so named because it covers a surface area of 4000 square feet – was constructed at Australia’s main air operating base in the Middle East Region this year.
With flightline temperatures routinely exceeding 50 degrees Celsius during the summer, the hangar provides a climate-controlled facility that can accommodate a single Hornet.
This allows maintenance personnel to perform thorough servicing and repair work, according to Strike Element Senior Engineering Officer, Squadron Leader Aleisha Broadhead.
“The hangar is an excellent facility, and there were a lot of people who put time in to getting this up and ready,” Squadron Leader Broadhead said.
“Even though the weather has cooled down here somewhat, it’s fantastic because it gets the maintainers out of the heat and out of the sun.”
The hangar’s construction was undertaken by the Joint Task Force 633 Combat Support Unit, and Airfield Engineers from No. 65 Squadron.
It is an existing off-the-shelf design that includes a folding ‘door’, and an aluminium mat for flooring, providing a semi-rigid pavement whilst the Hornet is being serviced.
An example of the work conducted inside the hangar is servicing of the Hornet’s landing gear, which begins with maintainers using jacks to lift the 10.4 tonne empty weight of the aircraft off the hangar floor.
Originally designed to endure the stresses of aircraft carrier landings with the United States Navy, the Hornet has benefited from a robust construction compared to its fighter stablemates.
Routine checks and servicing however is required to ensure each Australian Hornet remains battle-ready in the Middle East.
The hangar provides the workforce with a more comfortable working environment, and removes the distractions of a busy flightline, allowing them to concentrate on the job at hand.
“The maintenance workforce works extremely hard – 12 hour shifts, covering 24 hours per day, six days a week,” Squadron Leader Broadhead said.
“There is a significant amount of experience with keeping these jets in the air.”
“We have a myriad of people, from those who have worked on Hornets for their whole careers, some others who have come from other aircraft types and they bring a wealth of experience as well.”
The oldest Australian Hornet in the Middle East Region was accepted by the RAAF in November 1985.
Under Operation Okra, the Hornets with Air Task Group 630’s Strike Element will routinely fly missions of up to nine hours to the skies of Syria and Iraq.
They are relied upon to deliver precision air strikes against Daesh ground targets, supporting the ground campaign by Iraqi Security Forces.
“There is no doubt that the jets are performing excellently over here,” Squadron Leader Broadhead said.
 “The Hornets have been operating for up to 30 years now, so we are very used to working with them.”
 “We speak with our aircrew all of the time and they are really impressed and happy with our performance.”

Article by Flight Lieutenant Eamon Hamilton