(All images by Philippe Colin, reproduced with permission)
On the south side of the vast AMARG facility at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, known as the Boneyard, rests a small collection of dilapidated F-18 Hornets whose faded paintwork tells of the famous military units to which they once belonged – including the United States Navy Fighter Weapons School (NFWS), better known as Topgun.
Unlike standard fleet jets, these early F/A-18A and B model Hornets are painted in a variety of colour schemes to simulate enemy aircraft, from desert brown and green to the pale blue and grey camouflage adopted by Russian-built jets.
Some even boast the Soviet red star insignia on their tail fins, much like the black-painted F-5 Tiger IIs in the movie Top Gun, which served as fictional MiG-28s.
Unlike other retired F-18s, which languish under protective coatings at the Boneyard in a bid to preserve their systems, this gaggle of old Hornets appears somewhat neglected, stripped for parts and dumped on wooden trestles beneath the harsh desert sun.
The faded airframes reflect a variety of ‘Aggressor Squadrons’, from former NFWS ‘Topgun’ jets of Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada, to the adversary training units VFC-12 and VFC-13, based at NAS Oceania in Virginia Beach and Fallon respectively.
Now superseded by more updated Hornet models, these surplus hulks, once piloted by Topgun instructors against America’s best naval aviators in a bid to train them in air combat maneuvering and dogfighting tactics, have long since flown their last mission.
Keep Reading – check out more abandoned aircraft here.