ABOUT half of RAAF Base Amberley’s F-111s will be consigned to the scrapheap when they are decommissioned in December this year.
And even more of the long-serving jets – which have become Ipswich icons for nearly 40 years – could be destroyed if museums or other groups can’t cough up $1 million.
While Ipswich City Council has applied to have a retired F-111 for display, it will not spend that much money on the jet, leading to fears the aircraft could be lost to the city forever.
The jets will be replaced by a squadron of 26 F/A-18 Super Hornets, which are due to arrive by the end of this month.
The Australian Defence Force yesterday confirmed it has released a tender calling for businesses to destroy 13 of the RAAF’s G-model F-111s.
A spokesman said no decision had been made regarding the 15 remaining F-111 C-models.
They said because the aircraft were subject to International Traffic in Arms Regulations, there are strict guidelines as to how the planes can be transferred or even destroyed.
“The transfer of these items to non-government organisations requires the consent of the United States Government,” the spokesman said.
“This is unlikely to be obtained unless the aircraft are demilitarised and rendered inoperable, essentially reducing the aircraft to a shell.
“Costs to demilitarise the aircraft to United States Government requirements may exceed $1,000,000 per aircraft.”
Prospective recipients would also have to pay transport and insurance fees, on top of arranging a facility to display the aircraft.
Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale said he expected one F-111 to be kept at RAAF Base Amberley, but said council had applied to the Defence Force for the city to display one of its own.
He said council would not spend $1 million in ratepayer’s money on securing a jet, but hoped an arrangement could be struck so the city could secure an F-111 at a reasonable price.
“We’ve been the home of the F-111s ever since they arrived in Australia – it would be a real blow if we missed out on having one for Ipswich,” Cr Pisasale.
“It would be great to have one on display near Queens Park or another suitable location, I think it would serve as a great reminder of our past and be an attraction for people.”
RAAF Association Ipswich branch secretary Chris Bohr said that at the very least one F-111 should be kept undercover at RAAF Base Amberley.
Comment is being sought from the Defence Force and the State Government as to whether they will help Ipswich City Council obtain one of the jets for less than $1 million.
The F-111s were first introduced to RAAF in 1973.
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.