Fighter flies over town

CONTACTS in the right places can help, especially when those contacts have the say on where an RAAF F111 fighter/bomber can fly on Vietnam Veteran's Day.

Former RAAF Squadron Leader Pilot Don Stewart, a member of the Warwick branch of the Veterans Support and Advocacy Service Australia (VSASA), has again used his influence to arrange an F111 to fly past the cenotaph at 11am on Tuesday, August 18, to signal the start of the Vietnam Veteran's Day Memorial Service.

Now retired after a lifetime of service in the RAAF as a pilot, Mr Stewart said the F111 is currently the backbone of the RAAF providing at full strength more than 50 per cent of the air strike capability in the existing fighter fleet.

“Although there are plans to replace the F111 in the next five to 10 years, many experts believe it's the best option for air defence Australia has, or will have for many years to come,” Mr Stewart said.

“The plane has been in operation in Australia since 1972/73 and has undergone several upgrades during those years and although we have never tested it in war-like situations, the Americans have and it has performed beautifully.

“A few years ago, we had an F111 fly over Warwick on Vietnam Veteran's Day and plenty of people heard it, even if they didn't see it.

“This year, the F111 will fly from south to north over Palmerin Street, do a big left turn over the racecourse and return past the cenotaph following Fitzroy Street before heading back to Amberley.”

Mr Stewart said the US Air Force successfully flew early model F111s during the Vietnam War and most Australian soldiers serving there were familiar with them and their capabilities to support troops on the ground.

Vietnam Veteran's Day is held on the anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan which was fought by D Company, 6th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment (6RAR).

Mr Stewart said he had asked for a flight of helicopters to fly past but the request has to date, not been confirmed. His parting words in relation to the helicopters were “watch this space”.

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