In 2014 the Royal Australian Air Force will celebrate the centenary of the first flight of an Australian military aircraft, the Bristol Military Biplane, commonly known as a Bristol Boxkite.
Prior to the establishment of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in 1921, the Australian Flying Corps (AFC) was responsible for operating military aircraft throughout the country. The AFC made its home at Point Cook in Victoria in 1913, after the Federal Government approved the establishment of the Central Flying School (CFS) in 1912 and purchased five aircraft.
One of the CFS’s first instructors, Lieutenant Eric Harrison, made Australian military history when he took a Bristol Boxkite for a flight at the aviation school on 1 March 1914. This historic moment is recognised as the starting point of military flying in Australia.
Developed in the United Kingdom in 1910 by the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company, the Bristol Boxkite was first flown on 29 July that year. Considered to be a state-of-the-art aeroplane for its time, it was also one of the most successful military training aircraft.
Painstakingly constructed, this Bristol Boxkite replica aircraft is expected to be one of the major drawcards at the Centenary of Military Aviation Air Show, starting today at the RAAF Museum Point Cook.
The Bristol Boxkite was instrumental in the evolution of military aviation in Australia. It was the first military aeroplane flown in this country, and in 1915, it also became the first official military aircraft to be built on our shores, constructed by the CFS at Point Cook and used to train the nation’s first military pilots.
Over the next 100 years, military aviation went on to become a vital part of the Australian Defence Force. During the First World War, 800 officers and 2,840 men served in the AFC. In World War II, Australian aircrew fought throughout the world including Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, over the North Atlantic, the Indian and Pacific Oceans, India and Asia.
By the end of 1944, the RAAF consisted of more than 182,000 personnel and 6,200 aircraft in 61 squadrons. By 1945, Australia had the fourth-largest air force in the world.
Today, the RAAF employs some 14,000 men and women, supported by 4,000 Air Force Reservists and 800 civilian public servants, at numerous offices and 11 major bases across Australia and has operated F/A-18 Hornet fighter aircraft since 1984.
Struck by The Perth Mint from 1oz of 99.9% pure silver, no more than 5,000 of these 2014 100 Years of Australian Military Aviation commemorative coins will be released. The reverse of the coin depicts a representation of a Bristol aeroplane propeller with a military Boxkite flying under the propeller blade and an F/A-18 Hornet fighter aircraft soaring above the blade.
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Image of F/A 18F courtesy of Australian Defence Force. Image of Boxkite courtesy of James Kightly.