The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) was the last operator of the General Dynamics F-111 which they nicknamed the “Pig“. The F-111 was a highly sophisticated swing wing interdictor, tactical strike bomber and reconnaissance aircraft with a crew of 2 that was capable of flying at a top speed of Mach 2.5, operating in all-weather conditions day or night, carrying a vast weapons payload and flying at extremely low altitude just above the earths terrain (it was equipped with terrain following guidance systems)! It was truly a beast and the name “Pig” was a term of endearment and never a reflection on its true performance or capability. They liked to get down low and dirty! The F-111 was a much-loved aircraft by its crews. To see it fly at air shows and the like was always a special moment for an aviation buff too.
Sadly since 2010 “Pigs” no longer fly in Australia, but I was pleased to see one of the few remaining aircraft this week at it’s very new home in Hawaii. Within the Pearl Harbour World War Two National Memorial site and US Navy base on Ford Island is the excellent Pacific Aviation Museum (established in 2006) and within their historic Hangar 79 (an old seaplane hangar that still has bullet holes in the windows from the Japanese attack on December 7th, 1941) resides their newest acquisition an ex-RAAF F-111C (serial number A8-130). The aircraft was presented to the museum by my Government.
Only about 1/3 of the original RAAF airframes were allocated to museums (mostly in Australia) so this was quite a generous gift by them. 23 airframes had to be destroyed due to an agreement with the US Government in relation to the sophisticated and sensitive nature of the electronics etc. on board. The F-111 was an old aircraft (first operated by the RAAF in 1973) but the belly of the beast had state of the art electronics and weapons systems that were deemed highly secretive and had to be destroyed as a result. A sad end for a mighty aircraft.
Despite the fate of many of the ex-RAAF F-111’s it is great to see some of them on show and this particular one in Hawaii is in fantastic condition. The condition of the aircraft is a great tribute to the RAAF crews in Queensland back at home who painted them up and got them ready for display in all the various museums the F-111’s were allocated to. I for one am happy that the “Pig” gets to live on and be enjoyed by people from around the world for many years to come!