An Air Force squadron now operating one of the most technologically advance fighter aircraft in the world today, the EA-18G ‘Growler’ Electronic Attack aircraft, is one of the oldest squadrons, with its origins flying biplanes on the Western Front in World War I.
With the formation of four combat squadrons to serve on the Western Front and in Palestine during World War I, the need to supply these units with aircrew and mechanics led eventually to the formation of No 6 Squadron (Scout Training) Australian Flying Corps.
In February 1918, collocated with 5 Squadron at Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire the squadron trained Australian fighter pilots prior to their deployment to the Western Front.
Various aircraft types included the Avro504, Sopwith Pup, SE5a and Sopwith Camel.
World War II
At the outbreak of World War II, No 6 Squadron flew anti-submarine and general reconnaissance patrols off the east coast of Australia, then deployed with its Hudson Bombers Milne Bay, New Guinea, to provide reconnaissance and bomber support in defence of the Australian garrison. During the Japanese invasion of Milne Bay, No 6 Squadron crews flew constant bombing and strafing missions against troop positions, landing barges and ships.
These attacks, which complemented those of two Air Force Kittyhawk squadrons, were particularly damaging and resulted in considerable losses to the enemy.
Based at Port Moresby, the Hudsons also dropped vital supplies to Australian troops fighting their way along the infamous Kokoda Trail.
Equipped with Lincoln bombers in 1948, 6 Squadron provided aircrew training for Nos 1 and 2 Squadron through the 1950s. During this period, the Lincolns also participated in the British atomic bomb tests at Maralinga, before being replaced with Canberra jet bombers.
From 1970, No 6 Squadron operated F-4E Phantoms leased from the US Air Force, eventually replaced by the F-111s in 1973.
No 6 Squadron took on responsibility for F-111 conversion training, and late in 1979, also received the first of four reconnaissance conversions of the type, re-designated RF-111C.
From 1982 until 1987, No 6 Squadron’s Survey Flight also operated leased Learjet aircraft, and deployed to locations including Biak, Butterworth, Vanuatu and Fiji.
From October 2008, No 6 Squadron became the sole operator of the F-111, with No 1 Squadron preparing for the introduction of the F/A-18F Super Hornet.
Finally, in December 2010, the F-111 fleet was retired, and No 6 Squadron re-equipped with the F/A-18F, Super Hornet known in Australian Service as the ‘Rhino’.
Electronic Attack Future
No 6 Squadron began a new era in combat operations, replacing its traditional aircrew trainin role, with the EA-19G ‘Growler’ fighter.
Australia now has its full complement of 12 ‘Growlers’, carrying jamming systems as well as missiles designed to inflict maximum damage on an enemy’s radar and communications systems.
When the ‘Growlers’ achieve full operational capability, 6 Squadron will have a capability unique in the RAAF Order of Battle.