Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR November 2010 Contents 40 | Asia Pacific Defence Reporter
occurred, and even well preserved examples in the US and Australia had
limited life spans.
Although having never gone to war in RAAF service, the F-111 has provided
a strategic deterrent and potent weapon within the nation’s inventory. One
might argue that this platform was unmatched in the region in capability
and lethality for a considerable period. Whilst invited by Coalition Forces
to participate in the invasion of Iraq (Operation Slipper), the request was
turned down due to the shear logistics of supporting the airframe and its
limited modern self-protection capabilities.
Unique to the RAAF, is the sensor and camera equipped RF model, or
reconnaissance version, which retains a strike capability. This was used
operationally only once, to conduct a reconnaissance mission over East
Timor in 1999 to support the United Nations International Stabilisation
Force INTERFET. Deployed around the clock, armed and ready to scramble
at a moment’s notice, the F-111s were also in northern Australia to provide
support if required during the turbulent and early days of the East Timor
intervention. A unique role of the RAAF F-111s was that of Maritime Strike,
for which it could carry four AGM-84C Harpoon Missiles. Systematic
upgrades to the electronic warfare systems and the introduction of new
weapons capabilities have occurred throughout the life of the aircraft,
however, this has begun to lag in terms of survivability and ability within
the modern regional threat environment. Combined with this, the F-111
has become extremely labour and cost intensive. One of the many
reasons given for the aircraft’s retirement is the average of 180 hours of
maintenance required for every flight hour.
Initially 24 airframes were purchased for the RAAF, with attrition frames
purchased over time to replace those lost in training accidents and to assist
with sustaining the life of the fleet. The Australian designated F-111C is an
export version, combining the designs of the F-111A with longer F-111B
wings and strengthened FB-111A landing gear.
PIGS WITHOUT WINGS
The future of the RAAF’s F-111s will see a small number of them become
gate guards or static displays across the nation. The more recently acquired
G models will as likely be reduced to scrap material with one possible
exception. These 14 aircraft are known as the Boneyard Wranglers, which
are ex USAF airframes, having come out of desert storage.
Initially, it is envisaged that four aircraft will be preserved, though
selected airframes may be released for sale for static displays. Current
plans will see one G Model to be preserved at the Air Force Museum
located in Point Cook Victoria with other C designation F-111s to be
displayed at RAAF Base Edinburgh in South Australia and
the remaining two at RAAF Base Amberley by early 2011.
Overall, viewed as a bridging fighter, the replacement
Super Hornet fleet is set to provide a modern fast jet
deterrent combined with the upgraded Classic F/A-18
A/B HUG already in service. Of the RAAF Super bugs,
up to twelve will be wired for, but not initially fitted
with, supporting equipment to convert them to the
electronic warfare version known as the EA-18G Growler.
The modern Super Hornet fleet will pave the way for
introduction of the F-35A Lightning II of which the RAAF
is expected to acquire up to 100. It is interesting to note
that both the Super Hornet and the Lightning II do not
have the existing range or ordnance load of the F-111 .
A special relationship exists between the Australian
public and the F-111. Annually it has participated in
events in which it performs its spectacular dump-and-burn. A dump-and-
burn is a release of fuel after which the liquid is intentionally ignited using
the aircrafts afterburner, producing a spectacular flame. The last public
opportunity to witness a dump-and-burn is scheduled for the 3 December
2010, when the RAAF F-111s take to the skies for the last time. An official
ceremony known as ‘Pig Tales’ will be held at RAAF Base Amberley,
Queensland, home of the F-111 in early December of this year to farewell
an ugly, yet potent tool in the national war chest. APDR
on its way to Point Cook
F-111 pre-flight checks.
F-111 dump and burn
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