Friday, September 30, 2011

Australia: F-111s to retire to museums

Loved at air shows, Australia's retired F-111s, dubbed 'pigs' for their capabilities, will now be pensioned off to museums.

Defence Materiel Minister Jason Clare announced on Friday the government would make seven of the iconic jet fighters available to Australian aircraft museums or other historical organisations, after almost four decades of frontline service.

The F-111s were retired in December last year, prompting strong interest by museums, keen to display them around the country.

"I've met with museum operators around the country and I understand how important it is that as many Australians as possible have access to this piece of Australia's aviation history," Mr Clare said.

The aircraft will be lent to museums so the Department of Defence can continue to manage the risk of hazardous material in the aircraft like asbestos and will be subject to a number of conditions to ensure the safe preservation of the aircraft.

The F-111s will have be be housed in a completely enclosed facility and limited to supervised public access to the wheel well and weapons bays.

Any organisation displaying the aircraft will be subject to the approval of the US, where the F-111s were built.

Interested organisations will be asked to respond to a request for offer to be released by Defence this year.

Six F-111s will also be preserved at RAAF bases across the nation.

Mr Clare said the jets were known as pigs because of their ability to hunt and night and fly low in the weeds thanks to their terrain-following radar.

"They were perhaps best known for their fiery dump-and-burn exhibitions at air shows around Australia," he said.

"They could fly at two-and-a-half times the speed of sound and when they retired were still one of the fastest strike aircraft in the world."

http://news.smh.com.au

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