PROBABLY the greatest gift given to Ipswich will be spread around Australia for generations to enjoy.
Six retired F-111 fighter jets will be loaned to aircraft museums and historical organisations across the country.
As a sure sign they came from a different time, they all come with an ashtray and thermos holder in the cockpit as a standard feature.
Minister for Defence Materiel Jason Clare was at RAAF Base Amberley yesterday to announce the recipients of the lovingly restored aircraft.
One is going to the Northern Territory, three to New South Wales, one to South Australia and one to the Queensland Air Museum at Caloundra.
"The iconic F-111s were the front line of the Australian Defence Force for almost four decades," Mr Clare said.
"They were perhaps best known for their fiery dump and burn exhibitions at air shows around Australia. They could fly at two and a half times the speed of sound and when they retired were still one of the fastest strike aircraft in the world."
One of the two F-111s at the Aviation Heritage Centre at RAAF Base Amberley has been allocated to be displayed at the base's gates.
Group Captains John Ward, Mike Smith and Geoff Harland were on hand yesterday.
All three flew the F-111 and clearly the memory hasn't faded for any of them, including Group Captain Ward, now retired.
"It was absolutely magnificent; the sport of kings and I can't believe they paid me for it."
Group Captain Harland is the officer in charge of 82 Wing, the home of the F-111's replacement, the F/A-18 Superhornet.
He said each of the restored aircraft had a story, especially the 109 that came to Australia full of bullet holes after flying with the Americans in the Vietnam War.
"The Australians called it The Pig because it was always down in the dirt. There is a lot of affection, mystique and folklore about it," Group Captain Harland said.
"Taking it across the Pacific was always fantastic and flying low-level around Australia at speed with the terrain-following radar and doing it at night with the anti-collision beacons on the wing tips flashing off the trees, the first time you do that is just 'wow'.
"I'm enjoying flying the Superhornet and the Joint Strike Fighter will be a brilliant aircraft; it's what we need for the future. The Superhornet is what we need now."