From Controversy to Cutting Edge
A history of the F-111 in Australian Service (2nd ed)
By Mark Lax
Published by Big Sky Publishing
RRP $39.99 in hard cover | ISBN 9781922615176
This book was first published more than a decade ago. It traces the history of the acquisition and service life of the fleet of F-111 fighter bombers which began entering service with the RAAF in 1973.
The story begins with the decision of the Menzies government in 1963 approving the acquisition of what the press at the time described as a ‘paper aeroplane’.
While design was proceeding in the US, no aeroplanes had been built.
I can’t help but feel there’s a familiar resonance to those words in contemporary reporting of current Australian Defence acquisition projects.
Lax has certainly not flinched from detailing the political controversy that surrounded the F-111’s acquisition, the technical problems that almost engulfed it, and the subsequent dramas, such as cost blow outs, that swirled around it.
His thorough research and understanding that Defence projects are political as well as technical minefields is an important element of this book.
Menzies predicted the aircraft would last until at least the late 1970s. As it turned out, he was wrong by some decades.
The F-111s were finally withdrawn from service in December 2010.
In this second edition, Lax details the disposal strategy for the squadron. There were of course only two options because of sell-on restrictions: permanent loan to military museums or complete destruction.
I’m sure military aviation enthusiasts will find much to admire in this book.