Australia — Last major exercise for Australia’s F-111s

As the end of the F-111 era draws to a close the long-range strike air­craft are still flex­ing their mus­cle as they take part in their final Exer­cise Pitch Black.

Four F-111s from No. 6 Squadron RAAF Amber­ley, Qld are tak­ing part in the exer­cise which com­menced on 16 July.

After 37 years, the icon­ic F-111s are the longest cur­rent serv­ing air­craft in the Roy­al Aus­tralian Air Force’s fleet.

Wing Com­mad­er Mic­ka Gray, Com­mand­ing Offi­cer No. 6 Squadron, said the F-111 has been very suc­cess­ful for a very long time.

The F-111 was an air­craft ahead of its time. It was one of the first twin-engine swing-wing air­craft and has enor­mous flex­i­bil­i­ty for range and endurance”.

It is affec­tion­ate­ly known as the ‘Pig’ for its abil­i­ty to hunt at night with its nose in the weeds, thanks to its ter­rain-fol­low­ing radar.

No. 6 Squadron has a long and proud his­to­ry,” Wing Com­man­der Gray said. “I am sure the end of 2010 will be an emo­tion­al time for many peo­ple when we say good­bye to the Pig. But for now we have F-111s to pre­pare, fly and fight”.

The F-111 arrived at Amber­ley in 1973 and No. 6 Squadron has now flown the for­mi­da­ble strike jet for near­ly four decades.

The F-111 is just a mag­nif­i­cent air­craft. I first flew it 22 years ago as a young fel­la and I’ve flown a lot of hours in it. It touch­es you just to be part of the F-111 com­mu­ni­ty whether you are fly­ing it, main­tain­ing it or sup­port­ing it”.

The F-111 can strike day or night in any weath­er. Its Pave Tack tar­get­ing sys­tem can locate tar­gets at night and in bad weath­er and pro­vides laser des­ig­na­tion for laser-guid­ed weapons. The radar warn­ing sys­tem detects incom­ing radar emis­sions and alerts the crew to poten­tial sur­face or air attacks.

The F-111 remains a vital com­po­nent of Australia’s air com­bat capa­bil­i­ty in con­cert with the F/A-18 Clas­sic and Super Hor­nets.

Exer­cise Pitch Black is a three week mul­ti-nation­al air com­bat exer­cise, con­duct­ed in the North­ern Ter­ri­to­ry.

PB10 is the largest RAAF Field Train­ing Exer­cise for 2010 and involves a com­bi­na­tion of day and night fly­ing from RAAF bases at Dar­win and Tin­dal.

The exer­cise involves par­tic­i­pants from the Aus­tralian Army and ele­ments of the Sin­ga­pore, New Zealand and Thai­land air forces par­tic­i­pat­ing in the task­ing, plan­ning and exe­cu­tion of Offen­sive Counter Air and Offen­sive Air Sup­port oper­a­tions in a coali­tion envi­ron­ment.

The F-111s will return to Dar­win for Exer­cis­es Kakadu and Sin­ga­roo lat­er next month. The ven­er­a­ble air­craft will be duly farewelled from ser­vice at the end of the year.

Media Note:
New F-111 vision from Exer­cise Pitch Black and inter­views with the Com­mand­ing Offi­cer and a main­te­nance tech­ni­cian from No.6 Squadron will be fed to the Par­lia­ment House Press Gallery.

Media Con­tact:
Exer­cise Pitch Black Pub­lic Infor­ma­tion Cell: 1800 301 885

Press release
Min­is­te­r­i­al Sup­port and Pub­lic Affairs,
Depart­ment of Defence,
Can­ber­ra, Aus­tralia