From November 21 to 23, 2011, 23 Australian F-111s were buried at the Swanbank landfill site outside of Ipswich, Queensland

In the early 1960s, the US Air Force realized that radar-guided surface-to-air missiles such as the Soviet SA-2 could hit slow high-altitude bombers. So they came up with a new idea that was to build a bomber that could reach supersonic speeds at low altitudes, avoiding the range of the radar. At the same time, the US Navy was also in need of an interceptor equipped with air-to-air missiles to destroy the Soviet bomber from afar.

Secretary of Defense at the time, Robert McNamara decided that the Air Force and Navy would only need one aircraft that could meet those requirements, and the two were forced to cooperate with each other to launch a new aircraft program.

RAAF F-111
RAAF F-111

In 1962, General Dynamics won the competition. When the first blueprint was published, the aircraft was assigned the designation “F”, which was intended for fighters, due to its smaller size than the US Air Force’s strategic bombers.

The F-111 was fitted with two TF30 afterburning turbofan engines. The aircraft had a large payload, could carry 14 tons of bombs, and had enough fuel to fly a maximum range of 5,600 km.

One of the challenges facing designers when building the F-111 was that they needed an aircraft that could fly at very high speeds but also take off and land on a short runway.

The aircraft has a special design, with variable geometry wings, to suit the requirements of use. It could spread to take off on a short runway, and flying at low altitude. When it was necessary to accelerate to fly at high altitude, its wings transformed into swept wings.

Australia purchased second-hand F-111C and F-111G Fighter-bombers from the United States between 1973-1992. In the period 2007-2010, these aircraft were gradually decommissioned and replaced with the F/A-18F Super Hornets.

Australia’s burying of its former F-111 veterans was a pity. In fact while no one wanted to see the veterans of the RAAF come to such an end, it was a requirement of Australian military arrangement with the US that they be securely disposed of.

Gregg Gray, former Senior Noncommissioned Officer (SNCO), US Air Force, explained: “The fuselages were constructed out of bonded panels, and that bonding used asbestos, this is why it was deemed prudent to bury them.” “So, it was decided to bury them to take away the possibility of exposure to asbestos.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here