It’s almost time to say farewell to the General Dynamics F-111, which is affectionately nicknamed the Pig in Australia and the Aardvark in America.
The Royal Australian Air Force formally retires the F-111C fleet next Thursday. With the US Air Force F-111Fs and EF-111G Ravens retired since 1997, the story of this long-range strike fighter will be complete.
The F-111 emerged after perhaps the most controversial weapons contract award in history. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara overruled the recommendation of his military evaluators, which overwhelmingly favored Boeing’s riskier approach, and gave the contract to General Dynamics. McNamara’s private decision triggered several years of congressional investigations. Meanwhile, his decision to force the US Air Force and US Navy to buy a common airframe proved at least as controversial, with the Navy finally allowed to drop out of the program in 1968 and paving the way for the F-14. The F-111′s reputation remained stained by its acquisition legacy until it proved its worth in Operation El Dorado Canyon on April 14, 1986, when the US Air Force bombed five Libyan bases.
I was lucky enough to witness the RAAF’s F-111Cs perform the famous dump-and-burn trick at the Singapore air show in February. I also saw a couple of F-111Cs flying over RAAF Amberley in May. Yesterday, the RAAF posted a video tribute to the Pig on its YouTube channel, which I’ve embedded below (note strange audio editing error at 1:19 mark).
Meantime, feel free to post your thoughts, memories and comments about the F-111 here today.