Australia’s Defunct F-111 Bomber Fleet Buried in the Swanbank Landfill

raaf-f-111-buried-swanbank-landfill-queensland (All images by Thiess, low res screenshots via YouTube)

November 2011 was a rough month for aviation enthusiasts in Australia. Over the course of four days from the 21st to the 24th, the Royal Australian Air Force elected to bury 23 of its retired F-111 strike jets that hadn’t been selected for preservation. This article details their final mission – via low loader to the Swanbank landfill outside Ipswich, Queensland.


Thiess Services spokesman Darren Willson said the RAAF first contacted the waste management company regarding some “sensitive bits of equipment they wanted to get rid of. Then it came to light a few months later that it was the F-111s.” (See full video below).


Of 43 General Dynamics F-111C and G variants delivered to Australia by the United States over the decades, eight crashed and a handful have been preserved on bases and in museums. The remaining 23 were earmarked for disposal to honour the terms of the original contract and ensure that any sensitive parts didn’t fall into the wrong hands.


After months of planning, the stripped out hulks of Australia’s once awesome low-level, medium bombers were trucked into the Swanbank landfill. The RAAF had considered scrapping the airframes but decided that burial would be cheaper than recycling, though certainly less environmentally friendly.


Devoid of wings, tails and other components, the buried aircraft were little more than gaunt, empty shells. Neatly stacked side-by-side in interlocking rows, pits were dug to accommodate the planes’ still-extended undercarriages. The space between each F-111 hulk was then infilled with earth and rubbish.


To many enthusiasts and military historians, it was an undignified end for the mighty bomber fondly known as ‘the Pig’. As more debris is piled on top, the abandoned aircraft hulks will be compacted down.


The Swanbank landfill was selected due to its waste management expertise and ability to handle and process highly sensitive materials. For security reasons the Pigs’ location will be recorded and GPS coordinates noted (unlike the Lockheed Have Blue technology demonstrators).

As Thiess’ Alex Smith reported: “the disposal is much more than just a simple burial. the airframes will eventually be deep beneath the landscape and a permanent record of their precise location will ensure they are never disturbed.”

Super Hornets beware, should the F-35 ever land in Australia…

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About the author: Tom





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