Get your free Canberra bomber here! Conditions apply
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Get your free Canberra bomber here! Conditions apply

The Department of Defence is giving away two nuclear capable bombers which, at one time, would have cost the equivalent of hundreds of millions of dollars to buy.

And, wait for it, they'll even throw in a Neptune anti-submarine aircraft for free.

Canberra A84-235 after restoration work at Wagga Wagga in 2011.

Canberra A84-235 after restoration work at Wagga Wagga in 2011. Credit:

Needless to say, the offer is not without a catch or two that means the aircraft won't be able to be used for nefarious purposes.

The two Canberra bombers, yes it was named after our fair city, and the Neptune aren't exactly going concerns. They are also very dated technology and well beyond repair or restoration.

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Classified as "heritage aircraft", all three are currently up for tender through the Directorate of Air Heritage and the successful "bidders" will have to write very long essays on why they want them.
"Written expressions of interest are invited from Australian historical organisations to to obtain these aircraft `as is, where is, and with faults' the tender advertisement states.

"To be competitive to receive an aircraft, a historical organisation will be required to have the engineering capability and experience to retrieve an aircraft, have proven hazardous material handling capabilities and experience, an experienced workforce and insurance to indemnify the Commonwealth while retrieving the aircraft."

It goes on to state that no financial assistance to remove, relocate or restore the planes would be available from the Commonwealth and that ownership would be by "a deed of gift".

Officially known as "the English Electric Canberra" and intended to replace the Mosquito, the "wooden wonder" of WWII fame, the design was named after our national capital to make it more attractive to the Australian Government of the day.

We didn't actually buy many Canberras from Britain. Like the Sabre after it, Canberras were built in this country with 48 produced here between 1953 and 1958.

One of the two planes currently on offer, A84 -203 - is the third off the Australian production line. It is at Amberley in Queensland.

The other is A84 - 226 which is located at Wagga Wagga.

Like the F-111, Canberras were able to carry atomic weapons even though this country has never had any.

Despite having a design which dated back to the final days of World War Two the Canberra proved to be an enduring success story. It marked one of the few occasions where the British sold war materials to the United States. Two are still being used by an American company for high altitude mapping work.

According to the RAAF, Canberras from No 2 Squadron became the first Australian jet bombers to perform a combat sortie in September 1958 when an attack against guerillas in Northern Malaya was carried out.

"Nine years later, the squadron was sent to Vietnam as part of Australia's large commitment to the Vietnam War, remaining there until June 1971, and in the meantime achieving an enviable record flying what was by then regarded by many as an obsolete bomber," the web page says.

"Operating as part of the US Air Force's 35th Tactical Fighter Wing, No 2 Squadron's Canberras flew just six per cent of the Wing's sorties but inflicted 16 per cent of the damage. Overall, 11,963 sorties were flown in Vietnam, 76,389 bombs dropped and two aircraft lost."

The Canberra's RAAF career officially ended on 30 June 1982.

The only airworthy example left in Australia is at the Temora Aviation Museum a couple of hours drive north west of Canberra.

That plane was restored during the noughties and I suspect many of the parts off the two Canberras now being advertised were used.