25 July 2010

Australian F-111 Bombers To Soon Be Retired

Royal Australian Air Force F-111 bombers, nicknamed the "Flying Pigs", are participating in one last exercise before the venerable aircraft are retired after 37 years of service.
The long-range F-111 bomber was nicknamed for its ability to "hunt at night with its nose in the weeds" thanks to terrain-following radar that let it sweep in on targets at a low level.

The iconic swing-wing aircraft was ordered for the RAAF in the 1960s because they could carry nuclear weapons and had the range to bomb Jakarta at a time when Indonesia was seen as a serious threat. As it turned out, the Australian F-111s (there are 17 left in the RAAF) played a key strategic deterrent role but they never flew in wartime.

They are the RAAF's longest current serving aircraft and four of them from No 6 Squadron at RAAF Amberley, in Queensland, are taking part in exercise "Pitch Black" over the Northern Territory. The three-week, day and night, air combat exercise involves aircraft from Singapore, New Zealand and Thailand.

While a series of crashes before development problems were ironed out blackened the aircraft's name in public eyes, No 6 squadron commander Micka Gray said the F-111 was an aircraft ahead of its time.

"It was one of the first twin-engine swing-wing aircraft and has enormous flexibility of range and endurance," Wing Commander Gray said.

"I am sure the end of 2010 will be an emotional time for many people when we say goodbye to the Pig. But for now we have F-111s to prepare, fly and fight."

The F-111s arrived at Amberley in 1973.

"The F-111 is just a magnificent aircraft," Wing Commander Gray said. "I first flew it 22 years ago as a young fellow and I've flown a lot of hours in it. It touches you just to be part of the F-111 community, whether you are flying it, maintaining it or supporting it."

The F-111 can carry out long-range operations by day or night and can locate targets at night and in bad weather. It carries laser-guided weapons and came with a sophisticated warning system to detect an enemy's radar emissions and alert the crew to surface or air attacks.

The F-111 is being replaced immediately by the RAAF's new Super Hornet fighter bombers and, ultimately, by the 100 multi-role Joint Strike Fighters the RAAF plans to buy.

By: Shelldrake

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