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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.