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Aviation museum getting F-111C Aardvark from Australia

By William Cole

LAST UPDATED: 6:03 p.m. HST, Sep 4, 2013

An F-111C Aardvark strike aircraft, courtesy of the Royal Australian Air Force, is headed to the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor as the museum's 45th airplane.

The jet isn't exactly winging its way to Hawaii -- the F-111 is in pieces. The wings, fuselage and nose cone are expected to be delivered to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Thursday via an Australian C-17 cargo carrier, an official said.

A gift from Australia, the jet -- nicknamed the "pig" because of its ability to get down low -- is one of seven being released to civilian institutions, the only one being gifted outright, and the only one being given outside Australia, according to the museum.

The Australian Broadcasting Corp. said in a news story that the F-111 heading to Hawaii was the last to be retired by the country. The variable geometry wing aircraft was dismantled and loaded into a C-17 for the flight to Honolulu, the news agency said.

"This is an important acquisition for us," museum Executive Director Ken DeHoff said in a release. "We honor aviation history in the Pacific as part of our museum mission, so to receive this from the Royal Australian Air Force is particularly significant. We'll give it a final resting place that recognizes RAAF and Australia as the allies and aviation leaders they are in the Pacific region."

The F-111C was Australia's principal strike aircraft from 1973 through 2010, the museum said.

The aircraft was the first production airplane with a variable sweep wing, and with wings fully swept back, the F-111 could fly more than 2.2 times the speed of sound at high altitudes. 

In U.S. service, the F-111 conducted night strikes against North Vietnamese targets in 1972.

In 1986, the F-111F was used during the raid on Libya.

According to Lockheed Martin, in January of 1991, the F-111 was used in the initial bombing raids during Operation Desert Storm, with a total of 110 F-111s participating in nearly 5,000 sorties in the Gulf War. 

Although the F-111 was unofficially referred to as the Aardvark, it did not officially receive the name until it was retired from U.S. service in 1996, the Air Force said.

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