Pigs Fly No More

Though it would be difficult to find an aircraft with a past more fraught with political interference, the General Dynamics F-111 overcame all to render decades of service to NATO air forces, from Cold War stand-off strike capability to surgical missions into the modern era of asymmetrical conflict, the F-111's unique combination of near-fighter speed and maneuver capability, bomber payload delivery, and nose-to-the-earth terrain-hugging radar effectiveness providing a mission effectiveness and flexibility that remains difficult to equal.

Some combination of aircraft will have to, however...for with the formal retirement of the Royal Australian Air Force's strike fleet, all F-111s are retired.

Known to it's US crews (fondly) as the Aardvark (reportedly for it's pronounced snout), to the RAAF it was a contraction of aardvark's literal translation, 'earth pig'--simply, the Pig.

An RAAF pilot with the second-most flight hours in type, squadron leader Steve Clarke with some 3400, was a pilot for the Pigs' final sortie. The type leader, Captain Brad Insley (United States Air Force, retired) was present for the final flight and got one last Pig ride, as well: in the cockpit of an F-111 he had flown to Vietnam in 1972, as it was towed to permanent static display.

With it's distinctive cockpit pod and variable-geometry 'swing wings,' the F-11, like the Navy's F-14, was an obvious artifact of it's era...and it may be that era has passed. Not without challenge, however, or trial. All of us still alive and free owe some measure of gratitude for the fact to Pigs that flew--and the men who made that so.