Retirement of the Pigs

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Retirement of the Pigs

Postby xerubus on Thu Nov 25, 2010 7:14 pm

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Today (23/11) I was privileged to attend 6 SQN at the RAAF Base Amberley to photograph the F-111 for the final time prior to their retirement on the 3rd December. After 37 years serving the Air Force, the F-111's are now sadly destined for the scrap heap.

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Whilst the Federal Government is currently seeking buyers to turn 21 aircraft into scrap metal, four of the F-111s will become permanent displays at locations around the country.

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Wing Commander Michael 'Micka' Gray commented that "One will go down to the Air Force museum at Point Cook, the home of the Air Force and one to Adelaide to RAAF Base Edinburgh, which is our research and development unit where they do all the testing of new aircraft."

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The two remaining aircraft will be on display at RAAF Base Amberley outside of Brisbane.

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These unmistakable aircraft are affectionately known as 'Pigs' for their ability to hunt at night with their nose in the weeds thanks to the terrain-following radar. With numerous airframe, engine, weapons and avionics upgrades, the F-111 remains the fastest and longest ranging combat aircraft in the Asia-Pacific.

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Wing Commander Micka Gray said "It's an incredibly significant aircraft. I've flown it for 22 years but there's people that've flown it for 15, 20 years before me. So you know four decades of service for Australia has been a great buy". "The aircraft was ahead of its time in the '60s. It was an ambitious buy back then but one that's been proven right" he said.

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Wing Commander Alan Curr was among the first pilots to fly the aircraft in the 70s. On 24th August 1979 "I ejected out of one in New Zealand in 1979 which was quite remarkable in that we ejected off the runway. We had double engine failure on take-off due to water ingestion. We couldn't stop because the runway was so flooded and the airplane was just hydroplaning down the runway so there was no option but to pull the handle."

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Wing Commander Alan Curr: "Because I had such a long association it is very nostalgic for me and pretty sad actually because the airplane is a remarkable beast. As everybody knows it looks gorgeous in the air. It had huge capabilities and it's only going out of service because it was just getting too hard to maintain. It's an old airframe. So its day is here."

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"I could watch it all day. It's just amazing, especially when you line up on the end of the runway with another aircraft alongside you and watch the power of those engines as it takes off. It's just great." - Wing Commander Micka Gray

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The 3rd of December will mark the last time the F-111s will take to the skies. A final farewell flypast will be conducted over the towns and cities of South East Queensland, Northern NSW and Brisbane where the aircraft have traditionally conducted training missions over the years.

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The Air Force is in the process of obtaining 24 Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets by 2011 to ensure Australia's air combat capability edge is maintained until the full introduction into service of the F-35 Lightning Joint Strike Fighter.

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Wing Commander Alan Curr: "Oh yes they're the Super Hornets. That's the replacement for the F-111 and they're here doing their business, yeah."

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The Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18F Super Hornet will give Australia an upgraded air combat capability for both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions until the full introduction into service of the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). Twenty-four Super Hornets will replace the F-111s at Nos 1 and 6 Squadrons at RAAF Base Amberley from 2010.

I hope you enjoyed the shots and info.

Cheers...

Mark
http://www.markcrossphotography.com - A camera, glass, and some light.
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Re: Retirement of the Pigs

Postby chrisk on Thu Nov 25, 2010 7:52 pm

what a brilliant thread. love the pics and the story. the mono's in particular are eye catching.
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Re: Retirement of the Pigs

Postby xerubus on Thu Nov 25, 2010 9:30 pm

Thanks Rooz... glad you enjoyed :cheers:
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Re: Retirement of the Pigs

Postby surenj on Thu Nov 25, 2010 9:52 pm

Mark, These are exceptional!

Love that head on mono! :bowdown:

How many other photogs were there?
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Re: Retirement of the Pigs

Postby aim54x on Thu Nov 25, 2010 11:12 pm

It is sad to see the F-111's headed for the scrap heap....they truly are an amazing aircraft. It seems like the last western swing wing aircraft in service will be the Panavia Tornado..and i would imagine its days are numbered as well.

Great info and images!
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Re: Retirement of the Pigs

Postby xerubus on Fri Nov 26, 2010 7:30 am

Cheers guys.. Glad you enjoyed.

surenj.... around 40 photogs I'm guessing and an array of news/video/radio folk... some from overseas, but most from interstate.
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Re: Retirement of the Pigs

Postby gstark on Fri Nov 26, 2010 8:54 am

Mark,

A great series of images and story.

Thanks for sharing.
g.
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Re: Retirement of the Pigs

Postby Willy wombat on Fri Nov 26, 2010 10:49 am

loved this series!
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Re: Retirement of the Pigs

Postby dviv on Fri Nov 26, 2010 11:55 am

Great pics and words. A good friend of mine (jet mechanic) worked on them up in Townsville and has now been moved over to the super hornets - He was pretty sad to see them go. Apparently they are great to work on (although getting long in the tooth - as you mention)

Thanks for sharing :cheers:
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Retirement of the Pigs

Postby Wink on Fri Nov 26, 2010 12:04 pm

Great series!
I love the 2 photos from dead front on.

I watched a TV program that suggested the Raptor will be the last of the super fighters given production costs and the changing ways wars are fought.

The F1-11's do bombing runs down here every so often and they're amazing to watch. They're here and gone again before you know what's happened.

We're currently decommissioning the Leopard tanks after the change over to the Abrams. I'm hoping to be able to photograph the 2 refurbished display units, but I don't fancy my chances.
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Re: Retirement of the Pigs

Postby Alex on Fri Nov 26, 2010 12:11 pm

Great story and images, Mark.

Thanks for sharing!

Alex
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Re: Retirement of the Pigs

Postby xerubus on Fri Nov 26, 2010 1:25 pm

Thanks all :cheers:

For those of you in Sydney:

---snip---
Up to two Royal Australian Air Force F-111s from No. 6 Squadron at RAAF Base Amberley will fly overhead RAAF Base Richmond and Sydney Harbour as part of a routine training mission. This is likely to be the last opportunity to see an F-111 in those areas before the fleet’s retirement in December 2010.

WHERE: The F-111s will conduct training approaches at RAAF Richmond Airfield and Sydney airport and fly over Sydney Harbour before continuing on their mission.

The aircraft will fly at a relatively slow, majestic speed to allow photography and video of this iconic aircraft at an altitude not below 1000 feet (300m)

The aircraft will not be conducting a dump and burn or display manoeuvres.

Aircraft will depart the Richmond area between 1:25 – 1:55pm for Sydney Harbour via Gladesville Bridge or Sydney airport subject to Air Traffic clearance

Expected time over the Harbour is between 1:30 – 2:00pm

WHEN: Monday 29 November 2010
---snip---
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Re: Retirement of the Pigs

Postby biggerry on Fri Nov 26, 2010 10:51 pm

Cracking stuff and good story, great to see our tax money going somewhere useful ;)
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