A TA-4G Skyhawk fighter jet was formally presented to the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Fleet Air Arm Museum by the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) in a ceremony on 19th September.
The Fleet Air Arm Museum is dedicated to telling the story of naval aviation in Australia and the Skyhawk, as a symbol of the era when the RAN flew jets at sea, is a valuable addition to the Museum’s collection.
The Skyhawk was introduced into RAN service in 1967 when the Department of Defence recognised that, without fighter protection, the RAN would be unable to meet its commitments to Australian forces overseas.
The RAN purchased eight A-4G Skyhawk jet fighters and two TA-4Gs as training aircraft in July 1967, and a second order in 1971 doubled the fleet numbers.
The introduction of the Skyhawks greatly enhanced RAN aviation capabilities. It was capable of carrying its own weight in fuel and stores and ‘buddy’ refuelling by other Skyhawks. In 1971, the Skyhawk set an endurance record by flying 3379 kilometres from HMAS Albatross to Fremantle in four and half hours.
The fleet was withdrawn from service in 1984 following the decommissioning of the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne and subsequently sold to the RNZAF, which undertook to return one aircraft to Australia for heritage purposes after decommissioning.
Skyhawk No. N13-154911 served with the 724 Squadron from 1967 until 1984, so was returning to familiar ground when it arrived back at HMAS Albatross aboard a Royal Australian Air Force C-17 in 2012.
The New Zealand maintenance team then put in long hours reassembling the aircraft before the next refurbishment stage which was involved repainting the aircraft with 724 Squadron livery in preparation for public display.
Museum Director and Senior Curator, Mr Terry Hetherington said the Skyhawk would play a vital role in telling the Fleet Air Arm Story.
“The purchase of the Skyhawks took the Fleet Air Arm into the supersonic age and we very much appreciate this gift from the New Zealand air force and the opportunity to display the Skyhawk in our collection as a symbol of those exciting times.”
Imagery is available on the Royal Australian Navy Media Library at http://images.navy.gov.au/S20131485.