Royal Australian Air Force’s F/A-18A Hornets were recently taking part in Exercise Pitch Black in the Northern Territory, Australia. I had the chance to document a couple of the RAAF’s 77 SQN Hornets as they prepared to rejoin the battle.

With multiple missions running day and night over the three week exercise, the crews working the Hornets have been kept on their feet, but I was allowed just enough time to capture a few rather moody detail images of these aircraft that form the back bone of the RAAF’s fighter jet fleet.

With around 70 of the F/A-18A/B Hornets in service with the RAAF it is difficult to believe that these aircraft will only be with us for a few more years, with their retirement expected around 2018.

Shortly after these shots were taken A21-49 (with the special green 77SQN scheme) and A21-31 were blasting out of RAAF Base Darwin with the afterburners lit. No doubt a few minutes later going supersonic over a 15000 square mile exercise area as blue air along with F-16s from the United States Air Force and the Royal Thai Air Force as well as Republic of Singapore Air Force F-15s and the RAAF’s Super Hornets. All supported by a mix of RAAF and international refuelers and AEW&C aircraft.

RAAF A21-49 at RAAF Base Darwin

Preparation …

RAAF A21-49 at RAAF Base Darwin

Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation Pod (ACMI Pod)


RAAF Hornet at RAAF Base Darwin

Riveted. (Yes we know they are screws Sid)


A21-49 at RAAF Base Darwin




Slender angle.


A21-31 being readied to rejoin the battle.

RAAF A21-49

The Hornets lines are distinctive.

RAAF F/A-18A Hornet 77SQN A21-48

RAAF F/A-18A Hornet 77SQN A21-48

F/A18A at RAAF Base Darwin

Classic Lines on A21-31


Moments after I took the above shots, the opportunity came to ‘feel the noise’ from the edge of the runway as these two Hornets joined around 40 0ther aircraft for the morning sortie against the red air. I do love some close proximity full noise take offs!

RAAF A21-31 taking off from RAAF Base Darwin

A21-31 … preparations completed … gear transitioning as she screams into the Northern Territory sky.


RAAF A21-49 taking off from RAAF Base Darwin

Fires lit as A21-49 launches for the morning sortie.


You can see more of the runway action in our other Pitch Black articles …

Mass Launch Airside

Or catch up on Mark’s excellent article on how to capture fast jets and stars in the same frame …

Per Ardua Ad Astra


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