A8-142, journeys through the countryside of NSW on the Newell Highway to the aircraft's final home at RAAF Base Wagga.
A8-142, journeys through the countryside of NSW on the Newell Highway to the aircraft's final home at RAAF Base Wagga. LACW Kylie Gibson

New home for veteran RAAF jet

AFTER years of dedicated RAAF service in Amberley-based 1 Squadron, F-111 A8-142 has moved to a permanent home in Wagga Wagga.

Now in the role of gate guardian, A8-142 was restored after it was initially designated to be dumped at Amberley.

Instead, it now sits alongside three other historic RAAF aircraft, welcoming visitors and personnel to the base at Wagga.

The F-111 is now part of a display of RAAF jet airpower over the years, starting with the first jet fighter to enter Australian service, the Gloster Meteor F8.

NEW HOME: The Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Leo Davies, AO, CSC unveils a plaque commemorating the F-111 (A8-142) on display at the front gate at RAAF Base Wagga.
NEW HOME: The Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Leo Davies, AO, CSC unveils a plaque commemorating the F-111 (A8-142) on display at the front gate at RAAF Base Wagga. FSGT Kev Berriman

The other aircraft in the display are two examples of Australian-built aircraft, a CAC CA-27 Sabre jet fighter and a CAC Mirage IIIO.

A8-142 spent four months in the Static Display Aircraft Support Section, to ensure it looked perfect for its new role.

Director of Air Force Heritage, Group Capt David Richardson, said the unveiling of the F-111 was the first major activity for the Air Force History and Heritage Branch.

"People ask me why RAAF Base Wagga has such an impressive line-up of static display aircraft,” he said.

"My answer is really quite simple: all of the aircraft displayed here represent the ever- escalating challenges facing Air Force's technical workforce, which has received its basic training here for 70 years.

"The first F-111C modified through the avionics upgrade program in Australia was airframe A8-142, so it's entirely appropriate it sits here in Wagga Wagga to show the ultimate capability of the fleet, as achieved and sustained by Air Force.”

Air Marshall John Harvey (retd), who flew F-111s early in his career, said A8-142 was in such good condition it looked like it could fly tomorrow.

"The most amazing memory I have of the F-111s was flying at night, at low level, with the aircraft in fully automatic mode. I remember going over a hill and looking at the black night drop into a wall of fog. Suddenly, 'boof', we went into the fog with our hands off the controls. The F-111 was an amazing aircraft,” he said.

Making its first flight on December 18, 1968, A8-142 eventually arrived in Australia to join the RAAF on October 1, 1973.

Throughout its career, the aircraft flew with both 1 and 6 Squadrons, including a trip to the USA, where it took part in Exercise Red Flag in 2002.

At this time, the RAAF F-111s performed flawlessly, setting a record of 100% serviceability throughout the exercise.

This was a testament to the abilities of the Amberley ground crews who travelled with the aircraft, working to maintain them in flying order at all times.

During service with the RAAF, A8-142 was the first F-111 to undergo the Avionics Upgrade Program that maintained the bomber's deterrent role into the 21st century.

The upgrades were completed in 1995, with the aeroplane returning to the skies for a test flight on February 27, 1996.

Famous for their "dump and burn” routine, A8-142 was a star at the 2007 Avalon Air Show.

A8-142's last flight was on November 2, 2009, after clocking 7352.5 flying hours.

From there, it was assigned to the Amberley dump, where it was rediscovered before being prepared for its final move to Wagga in late 2011.

As if to prove it was determined to make its mark on history, the convoy carrying it south was forced to turn back in March 2012 due to major flooding, eventually completing the trip on June 14, 2012.

Like all RAAF F-111s, it wore a number of paint jobs over the years, and is now represented in South-East Asia camouflage.



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