Australian War Memorial to add RF-111C to its collection

written by australianaviation.com.au | April 20, 2018

A Royal Australian Air Force F-111 A8-134 performs its signature "Dump and Burn" during its dramatic aerial display at the Australian International Airshow 2009, at Avalon. (Defence)
RF-111C A8-134 performs a “dump and burn” during the 2009 Avalon Airshow. (Defence)

The Australian War Memorial is to add a reconnaissance-configured Royal Australian Air Force RF-111C to its collection by mid-2019.
RF-111C A8-134 is the “sole surviving RF-111C that participated in missions over East Timor and has the greatest operational provenance of the preserved Australian F-111 fleet,” the Australian War Memorial said on Friday.
The aircraft is currently held by the South Australian Aviation Museum in Port Adelaide, which in turn will receive another ex-RAAF F-111C, A8-132, as a replacement for the RF-111C.
A8-134 served with both 1 and 6 Squadrons in the RAAF from 1973 until its retirement on December 3 2010, and was one of four RAAF F-111s modified to the reconnaissance RF-111C configuration, which involved fitting cameras mounted in a special pallet carried in the aircraft’s bomb bay.
An RAAF F-111 A8-134 takes off at RAAF Base Amberley. (Defence)
RF-111C A8-134 lands at RAAF Base Amberley. (Defence)

“This RF-111C aircraft is a major piece of Australian aviation history, which will one day be an invaluable addition to the Memorial’s displays,” Australian War Memorial Assistant Director Major General Brian Dawson (Rtd) said in a statement.
“It will be a powerful visual demonstration to visitors of the important work of the men and women of the RAAF who supported and flew the RF-111C aircraft in theatres like East Timor and the F-111 fleet more broadly over nearly 40 years.
“I offer my thanks to the South Australian Aviation Museum for its assistance with the transfer.”
A file image of RAAF F-111C A8-134 being transported by road from RAAF Base Amberley in Queensland to the Australian Aviation Museum (SAAM) in South Australia. (Defence)
A8-134 being transported by road from RAAF Base Amberley to the South Australian Aviation Museum (SAAM) in Port Adelaide. (Defence)

Despite being in service for 37 years as Australia’s principal strike and reconnaissance aircraft, from 1973 until 2010, the F-111 was only used once operationally, when RF-111Cs performed reconnaissance flights over East Timor in late October and early November 1999.
“In June 1999, civil unrest broke out in East Timor,” recalls the February 2010 issue of the Air Power Development Centre’s Pathfinder newsletter.
“When militia gangs later threatened United Nations staff and Australian nationals as well as the East Timorese, Australian peacekeeping troops were inserted under Operation SPITFIRE. With tensions building, six aircraft (both F-111s and RF-111s) from Nos 1 and 6 Squadrons deployed to RAAF Tindal if called upon.
“When INTERFET forces arrived in Dili on 20 September, the situation on the ground was volatile. Requests for RF-111 overflights of East Timor were initially refused by the Indonesian Air Commander, but after Indonesian forces withdrew in late October overflights were permitted. RF111 missions began on 5 November and continued until four days later.
“These flights over East Timor were the only operational employment of the RAAF F-111 fleet.”
A 1989 image of an F-111 loaded with 48 Mk82 500lb low drag bombs. (Defence) Date/ time 15Nov89
An 1989 image of a A8-134 loaded with no fewer than 48 Mk82 500lb low drag bombs. (Defence)

Meanwhile on Saturday the South Australian Aviation Museum (SAAM) announced it had secured F-111C A8-132 as a replacement for A8-134.
“SAAM has agreed to an F-111 swap so that our existing loaned aircraft A8-134 will go to the Australian War Memorial and be replaced by A8-132, presently at RAAF Base Edinburgh,” the Museum announced via Facebook.
“We regard this as a win-win. The AWM gets an RF-111C aircraft that was active in the East Timor theatre, and we get an F-111C with a long and distinguished South Australian provenance of weapons trials with ARDU at Edinburgh. We are also delighted to further strengthen our existing cordial and cooperative relationships with the AWM and RAAF Heritage.”
Ex ARDU F-111C A8-132 is currently in storage at RAAF Base Edinburgh. (Defence)

A8-132 is another historically significant ex-RAAF F-111C as it was instrumented for flight test duties and long saw service with the Aircraft Research and Development Unit (ARDU), based out of Edinburgh, north of Adelaide. A8-132 also served as the prototype aircraft for the F-111C’s AUP digital avionics upgrade program.
In all 13 retired RAAF F-111 aircraft were preserved, with six presented to Australian aviation museums on long-term loans. Others are on display or stored at RAAF Bases Amberley and Wagga Wagga and the RAAF Museum at Point Cook, while A8-130 was gifted to the Pacific Aviation Museum in Hawaii.

VIDEO: The F-111 in action as shown on the RAAF’s YouTube channel.
The original version of this story has been updated to reflect the news that the South Australian Aviation Museum has received another F-111 in place of the RF-111C.

14 Comments

  • Josh James

    says:

    Good to see 134 heading to the AWM but it’s sad for the SAAM to see one of its star attractions going. Hopefully they’ll be able to snag a classic Hornet in its place, especially since many of them have dropped weapons in anger during their sterling service.

  • jasonp

    says:

    It’d be great if the SAAM could get one of the two ARDU Hornets

  • Nigel Daw

    says:

    How about SAAM getting A8-132 from Edinburgh which would then give the general public greater access. In due course A21-32 and or A21-101 to SAAM would be good as they both served at ARDU.

  • Chris

    says:

    jasonj & Josh James,
    I’m on the same page.
    I reckon we’ll see SAAM furbished with a Hornet of sorts.
    A good thing too, in my opinion.

  • Paul

    says:

    The first classic that Australia received would be nice!

  • John

    says:

    Pity the AWM doesn’t have space to display 1/2 the stuff it has.. They really need another campus that is open to the public for their large items like Duxford is for the IWM. IMHO it would be better to leave it where it is , at least people get to see it now.
    And it’s a odd change of mind to now to acquire a F-111, They knocked it back first time round because the F-111 saw no real operational service… 4 days of overflights for ET is pushing it ..
    They also turned down a Sea King which saw far more “operational service’ than the F-111..

  • Allan

    says:

    An awesome addition to the war memorial, Generations to come will be able to view an iconic piece of Australian military history.

  • Peter Ferrari

    says:

    Excellent ,one of the best jets ,should be at our war memorial.

  • Jasonp

    says:

    Apparently A8-132 which is currently at Amberley will be transferred to the SAAM. This is appropriate considering 132’s long period of testing at Edinburgh.

  • Doug bell

    says:

    There will always be discussions about where and how ex military hardware should go. This F111 will be a natural fit for AWM. Perhaps one of the Orion’s should stay in South Australia as they are withdrawn from service. This would be a far more appropriate memorial to have in SA.

  • Gary

    says:

    Re the AWM, let’s have a look at what is proposed in the $5M upgrade proposed. You can also go to the Treloar Annex in Canberra to view the items that currently cannot fit in the AWM; however, only in September each year.

  • Gary

    says:

    All – Oops make that $500M not $5M upgrade.

  • Nigel Daw

    says:

    SAAM has the Orion A9-756 and it was announced today they are to receive the F-111 A8-132.

  • Paul

    says:

    I wonder if 134 will return to battleship grey? Did 126, which is also an R and at Amberley, go to Timor? It is original grey and could swap for 134. I see in another article that 132 will go to SAAM.

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