A spectacular 'dump and burn' by the General Dynamics F-111 forms one of the highlights of this year's Asian Aerospace flying display.

The manoeuvre by the big fighter-bomber of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) involves dumping fuel from the normal jettison outlet between the two engine nozzles and igniting it with the afterburners.

The resulting plume of flame - sometimes longer than the aircraft itself - consumes fuel at a rate of 1t per minute. Far from being a just a stunt, it was once thought to have potential for decoying enemy IR-homing missiles.

The RAAF is the world's only remaining operator of the F-111, officially known as the Aardvark, but universally known in RAAF circles as the Pig, thanks to its long snout and 'propensity for rooting around in the dirt'.

Australia acquired an initial batch of 24 F-111Cs, augmenting these with four ex-USAF F-111As upgraded to the same standards in 1982. Finally, following the type's retirement from USAF service, Australia picked up 16 F-111Gs, and 12 further airframes were purchased for spares recovery and ground training.

Eight Aussie 'Pigs' have been lost in accidents, and about 28 remain in service with Nos 1 and 6 Squadrons, providing the RAAF with its long-range strike capability. In the longer term, Australia is acquiring 100 JSFs.

The F-111 has been plagued by fatigue problems, and incurs massive support costs. The RAAF now plans to withdraw the type from service earlier than was originally planned.

Although the aircraft still has formidable performance characteristics, and dramatically upgraded avionics, there are concerns about its survivability, and planned stand-off capabilities using the AGM-142 have been slow to reach fruition.

The type will be retired as soon as long-range attack capabilities can be added to the Boeing F/A-18A Hornet and AP-3C Orion, by integrating JDAM and JASSM respectively, and by purchasing sufficient tankers for the F/A-18As to have a credible long-range role.


Source: Flight Daily News