RAAF F-111s go to museums and a review of RAAF flightgear

October 2012 saw the Australian Federal Government finally release the eagerly awaited for preferred recipients for the remaining of the once tip of the spear RAAF strike force – the F-111 fleet.

Since December 2010 when the F-111 37year old fleet was retired from active service, museums and heritage organisations across Australia have been eager to acquire a slice of the RAAF’s history, providing they can meet the necessary OHS and stringent conditions placed on display which can include glass wall panels to keep people away from the aircraft as seen already at RAAF Point Cook Museum.

Various other demil processed have to be done to meet the required US military enforced display status, such as removal and destruction of the TF-30 engines due to concerns that Iran could acquire the engines for the F-14 Tomcats which still fly.

Sadly for all Pig fans, most of the RAAF’s F-111 fleet was buried underground in November 2011 near Amberley, in a large scale operation which saw RAAF F-111G (former SAC FB-111A Nuclear bomber then USAF F-111G strike bombers) and RAAF RF/F-111C airframes forever buried.

They were buried effectively as “waste” due to defence treaty conditions and costs/hazards associated with storing such a large number of the F-111s.

Over the last 2years a very public campaign driven by many aviation museums across Australia to see more F-111s be preserved and saved was started and the Federal Government relented eventually and approved so far, 6 airframes for public museums and others to go to RAAF bases.

At RAAF Amberley on the weekend of October 14 2012 on display was a unique event, where the public was allowed to view 3 of these refurbished Pigs basking in glorious warm southern QLD sunshine for one last time before they go their separate ways…..

The appointments of 6 airframes to the public museums will mean the public can see up close across Australia now a variety of different F-111s.

The aircraft which have been allocated for museums are reported as A8-109, A8-113, A8-129, A8-134, A8-147 and A8-148.

The successful organisations which were given an F-111 to display include:

  • Aviation Historical Society of the Northern Territory, NT
  • Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome Heritage Aviation Association, NSW
  • Fighter World, NSW
  • Historical Aircraft Restoration Society, NSW
  • Queensland Air Museum, QLD
  • South Australian Aviation Museum, SA
  • The Australian Flying Corps and Royal Australian Air Force Association – WA Division Inc WA – is reported to be given an F-111 crew capsule/module for display.

So far the RAAF has kept a few F-111s for their air bases with Point Cook displaying an F-111C and F-111G, Amberley has a F-111C and RF-111C on display, while Wagga Wagga has an F-111C and Edinburgh has an F-111C allocated these 2 Pigs are not yet publicly displayed.

Some of the preserved aircraft have in last 2yrs been repainted in their original 1973 South East Asia camouflage scheme of Dark Green, Medium Green, Tan and Black with full high vis colour markings, while others are retained in their overall gunship grey scheme from service and one was repainted in a special ARDU test/trial scheme.

The airframes which have been loaned to the aviation museums and historical organisations are expected to be delivered from early 2013 once all the display conditions can be met which will include controlling people access to the cockpit, housing the aircraft in a completely enclosed building or display area and preventing unauthorised access to specific wing areas and the internal weapon bay.

(All F-111s photos above credit to Chris Jamesson)

The RAAF F-111 crews used over the 37years, a variety of flightgear but in a general view, the equipment didnt change too much just improved versions.

When acquired by the RAAF in 1973 the crews were using HGU-2A/P flight helmets with Type P oxygen masks. Crews wore CWu-27/P nomex flight suits and  under arm LPU-10s. (I own this rare HGU-2A/P in 1970 RAAF taped colours and was allowed special access to the 6 Sqn Life Support to take the rare setup photo shown further below)

By the 1980s the HGU-26/P flight helmet came into use and the Secumar LPU was issued.

By the 1990s Green and grey P type oxygen mask combinations were seen and the introduction of the HGU-55/P flight helmet was implemented. The HGU-55/P was low viz and less weight than  a HGU-26/P helmet. (below is seen the HGU-55/P on left with the HGU-2A/P on right for a comparison of 30years of flight gear development.

By the time retirement came in December 2010, the HGU-55/P and P type oxygen mask was still in mainstream use by 6 Sqn.

The final tribute goes to the men and women who flew and maintained this superb strike machine for 37years. On the last day of flying Dec 3 2010 – RAAF aircrew from the first F-111 operations in 1973 posed alongside the last flight crews who had gathered at RAAF Amberley. The RAAF aircrew wore CWu-27/P style flight suits with RAAF patches.The “Pig Tales” was a unique event and one never to be repeated on such a scale with so much emotion.

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