Royal Australian Air Force Retires Its F-111 Fleet


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Royal Australian Air Force Retires Its F-111 Fleet

By Eddy Metcalf

December 3, 2010 - The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) retires its F-111 strike fighters effective today after 43 years of service. Developed in the 1960s and first entering service in 1967, the United States Air Force (USAF) variants were officially retired by 1998. The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) was the last operator of the F-111.  

The F-111 pioneered several technologies for production military aircraft including variable-sweep wings, afterburning turbofan engines, and automated terrain following radar for low-level, high-speed flight.  

Its design was influential, being reflected in later Soviet aircraft such as the Sukhoi Su-24 and some of its advanced features have since become commonplace.

During its inception, however, the F-111 suffered a variety of development problems, and several of its intended roles, such as naval interception through the F-111B, failed to materialize. In USAF service the F-111 has been effectively replaced by the F-15E Strike Eagle for medium-range precision strike missions, while the supersonic bomber role has been assumed by the B-1B Lancer. In 2007, the Australian Government decided to replace the RAAF's 21 F-111s in 2010 with 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets.

As prime contractor for more than 14 years through-life support activities since 1996, Boeing Defense Australia has designed, developed and delivered technologies and modifications to improve the operational effectiveness of the F-111 fleet from its facilities at RAAF Base Amberley. These upgrades included aircraft overhauls conducted under the F-111 Weapons System Business Unit (WSBU) contract. 

Awarded to Boeing in 2001, the WSBU contract was the largest contract awarded by the Commonwealth of Australia at the time and covered all major upgrades to the fleet's airframe, avionics and weapons systems. 

Including providing airframe maintenance from R1 (basic level) through R5 (deeper level), providing system analysis, design, modification and testing designing and integrating software and hardware to support the AGM-142 missile, the longest range air-to-ground missile available within the Australian Defense Force modifying radar warnings.


Additional programs and facilities that Boeing has operated in support of the fleet include a fuel tank repair program, a coldproof load test facility, an F-111 ground test team, and a wing recovery program. "Throughout Boeing's long association with the F-111, we've forged strong relationships with the RAAF, our supplier partners and the local Ipswich community," said John Duddy, vice president and managing director, Boeing Defense Australia.

"Over the years, hundreds of Boeing employees have played a vital role in maintaining the operational effectiveness of the F-111 fleet and some, like me, have an even longer history with the platform after working on them during our time in the RAAF," said Ian Gabriel, F-111 program manager, Boeing Defense Australia. "On behalf of all Boeing personnel who supported the aircraft, it has been a privilege to have played a part in the rich military history of the F-111."


"This could not have been achieved without the consistency and commitment of the Boeing personnel who have worked on the platform, and I thank them all. As the F-111 retires and we enter a new generation of Australian air defense through the F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, Boeing looks forward to continuing to work with the RAAF to help protect Australia and its people." 

Boeing Defense Australia, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Boeing Company and a business unit of Boeing Defense, Space & Security, is a leading Australian aerospace enterprise. With a world-class team of more than 1,500 employees at 14 locations throughout Australia and two international sites, Boeing Defense Australia supports some of the largest and most complex defense projects in Australia.


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