Currently Australia is deploying F/A-18E/F Super Hornets to the UAE to fight in Iraq. Obviously the UAE (and Iraq) is a very long way from Australia and well beyond the typical range of one of these aircraft.
On TV they literally showed the Australian Prime Minister waving goodbye while the jets took off and flew into the distance, which for some reason seemed odd and made me wonder about how fighter jets are typically ferried to a distant war.
I kind of assumed they were loaded onto an aircraft carrier and shipped there, but Australia doesn't have an aircraft carrier so obviously this isn't the case.
I assume they must therefore fly, but:
- Do they fly hop to hop within their usual range refuelling at each stop? Where would these stops be? I assume they can't just refuel at a civilian airport in an arbitrary country and would have to be an air force base belonging to a close ally.
- Do they fly continuously with aerial refuelling? Does the tanker need to make hops to refuel?
- Do they swap their weapons for extended fuel tanks which provide enough range to fly continuously to the UAE?
- Are they actually shipped via regular military cargo ship and the "departure" on TV just for show?
- If they do fly continuously, it seems like flying non-stop for ~13 hours in a cramped fighter pilot cockpit would be unreasonable (even commercial pilots take shifts), or would they fly supersonic and perhaps reduce this to 5 or 6 hours?
Answers don't necessarily have to be Australia -> UAE specific, I'd also be interested to know how the US deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan for example and if the process is consistent or depends on the aircraft and location.