“It’s quite an historic day from an Air Force perspective particularly for the guys who’ve worked on the F-111… to see the last one just about to depart.”
– Wing Commander Clive Wells, Royal Australian Air Force, as the final F-111 leaves for the Pacific Air Museum, September 4th, 2013
Gone from our inventory for several months, and stricken from the RAAF roster for several years, the F-111 Aardvark strike aircraft will be making an encore performance this fall, thanks to two new builds still in the work shed. The first version from Hobby Master, slated for an August fly-in, is based upon a Royal Australian Air Force F-111C that took part in the “RAAF Farewell”, a swan song to the inimitable Aardvark performed by No. 82 Wing, during December 2010 (HA3017).
In 2007, the Australian government decided to retire all of its F-111s by 2010, and acquire 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets as an interim replacement, pending the arrival of the F-35 Lightning JSF then under development. The F-111 fleet was considered to be at risk due to fatigue issues, and too expensive to operate as each aircraft required 180 hours of maintenance for every hour of flying time. No. 82 Wing began re-equipping with the Super Hornet in 2010, and the last F-111s were retired on December 3rd that year. FACDU was combined with the RAAF Special Tactics Project in July 2009 to form No. 4 Squadron. The following year, No. 82 Wing became home to No. 5 Flight, which was responsible for training personnel to operate the RAAF’s two IAI Heron unmanned aerial vehicles based at Kandahar in Afghanistan. The Air Force acquired a third Heron in 2011, based in Australia and operated by No. 5 Flight. As of that year, the F-35 was not expected to enter Australian service until 2018. The RAAF hoped to be able to sell off its Super Hornets “with very low kilometres on the clock” by 2020, but this would depend on delivery of the replacement F-35s. In April 2013, No. 5 Flight was transferred from No. 82 Wing to Surveillance and Response Group’s No. 92 Wing. The following month, the Federal government announced plans to purchase twelve Boeing EA-18G Growlers to supplement the Super Hornet fleet. No. 6 Squadron is expected to begin taking delivery of the Growlers in 2017, at which point its Super Hornets will be transferred to No. 1 Squadron.