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Pigs in space!
Aussie action
Aussie inaction

Pigs do fly!

Norman and Sharon Long report on the Royal Australian Air Force's Amberley Air Show 2008, 4-5 October 2008

The Royal Australian Air Force rotates its air shows between bases and this year it was RAAF Amberley's turn, much to the delight of all those who have come to love seeing the F-111 do its thing. 2008's show was held over two days of warm humid weather and offered aircraft enthusiasts warbirds, historic aircraft and visiting foreign types on display as well as the Air Force's latest toys. Personnel coped well with the job of providing outstanding services for all - indeed it was also reported that during the show on Saturday a woman gave birth (a boy) on the base! Due to the weather, ambulance and medical staff had to treat many people fainting in the tropical heat.

Past & present
Temora Aviation Museum sent a selection of its aircraft including the Canberra, Hudson, Vampire and Meteor, which all put on spirited performances illustrating the very close relationship Temora has with the RAAF. TAM is returning a former Sabre to flight, which should materialise in 2009.
Static stars

Amberley is located near the town of Ipswich in Queensland within easy reach of the state capital Brisbane. History states that during the 1850s James Collett, a farmer from England, named the three-hundred hectare dairy farm 'Amberley' after his home town in west Sussex. In 1938 the land was purchased by the Australian Government for the first permanent RAAF base in the state that became operational in 1940. 24 Squadron, initially equipped with De Havilland Moth Minors and Wirraways, later received Hudson Bombers, which in 1941 deployed to Rabaul in New Guinea as hostilities began - Amberley then became an important aircraft assembly location with a huge American presence. Following the cessation of hostilities it became a base for the RAAF's 82 Bomber Wing, flying Lincoln Bombers.

Today Amberley is still home to 82 Wing, now operating the F-111; these are to be replaced from 2010 with the F/A-18F Super Hornet. The base also is home to 36 Squadron, which operates four C-17As, and in 2009 33 Squadron will reform here, eventually receiving a total of five new KC-30B tanker/transport aircraft.

1 and 6 Squadrons operate two marks of F-111, the 'C and RF-111C; F-111Gs were retired from service in 2007. Just before the airshow, the first Australian F-111 that rolled off the production line in the USA became the only F-111 to fly continuously in the world for forty years! First airborne on 13 July 1968, A8-126 initially flew in the US before being moved to Australia in 1973 following much controversy during a troubled development before the type was finally ready for operations. A8-126 was also the very first to be modified to RF-111C reconnaissance standard by General Dynamics in 1979, with Pavetack upgrades in the 1980s enabling the type to carry Paveway laser guided bombs and the Harpoon Anti Shipping Missile.

Affectionately known as the 'Pig' in Australian service, the F-111 remains the longest ranging and fastest combat aircraft in the region, able to operate effectively in all types of weather, by day or by night in its strike or recon modes. Being world famous for its spectacular airshow ''dump and burn" routine where fuel is ignited in the wake of its afterburners at the rate of forty-four gallons of fuel every second, this demonstration thrilled the large Amberley crowd of 95,000.

Despite being far more capable now than it was when initially acquired, the 'Pig' is running out of time and is to be retired during November 2010. Crews will begin flying the F/A-18F Super Hornet, bringing about the end of an era - Avalon Airshow in Melbourne in March 2009 will most likely be the last time we will see the F-111 displayed before a large audience, a sad day indeed to all 'Pig' lovers 'Down Under' and the world over.

Elsewhere Amberley had much to enjoy with all of the RAAF's major assets on display. Singapore Air Force F-16s were on deployment and although not flown in the airshow they attracted a large gathering in the static display. USAF presence consisted of PACAF C-17A, KC-135R and C-130, supplemented by a pair of F-15C Eagles.

Scattered around the restoration hangar area were a Mirage III and Canberra airframe, both looking a little sad and in need of fresh paint.

Tucked away in a hangar was a Douglas A-20 Havoc 'Hell n Pelican', restored from pieces recovered in New Guinea and held at Amberley until such time as Papua New Guinea can provide a suitable museum building for it. This was completed at the same time as the Boston held by the RAAF museum aircraft at Point Cook in Victoria.


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