General Dynamics F-111
1964
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General Dynamics F-111

The General Dynamics F-111 resulted from the Tactical Fighter Experimental (TFX) project of 1961, in which an attempt was made to create a swing-wing fighter for several roles for the US Navy and US Air Force. After edging out a Boeing design, General Dynamics teamed up with Grumman so that the latter firm, an experienced builder of carrier-based aircraft, could build the F-111 variant seen as early as 1961 as a replacement for the US Navy F-4 Phantom. The first USAF General Dynamics F-111A flew on 21 December 1964 and the first US Navy Grumman F-111B went aloft on 18 May 1965. Although its variable-geometry configuration was the principal advancement found in the F-111, the swing-wing worked perfectly from the outset. But the F-111B proved too heavy and in other ways unsuited to carrier-deck operations and was cancelled in May 1968 after only nine airframes had been delivered.

In addition to 17 F-111As for development work, 141 went to Tactical Air Command, with first deliveries to the 474th Tactical Fighter Wing at Nellis AFB, Nevada beginning in 1968. These were powered by two 8392kg afterburning thrust Pratt & Whitney TF30-P-3 turbofans. In March 1968, six F-111As of the wing's 428th Tactical Fighter Squadron under Colonel Ivan H. Dethman were rushed to Takhli, Thailand, to begin combat operations against North Vietnam. The first three aircraft launched on the first three missions vanished for ever, although the detachment later flew 55 missions successfully. The USAF discovered, as a prisoner of war from this deployment would later confirm, that a tailplane problem caused uncontrollable pitch-up and roll. This failure in the flying control system caused the aircraft to break up in flight without North Vietnamese assistance! A separate fatique problem caused wing spar cracks and, in 1969, resulted in the loss of an F-111A when its wing was torn off. In 1969, the entire fleet of 300 aircraft was grounded while an exhaustive structural review programme remedied these problems.

FB-111

The Strategic Air Command's FB-111A, operating with two wings, is a very long-range variant powered by two 9230kg afterburning thrust Pratt & Whitney TF30-P-7 turbofans, with modified inlets, long-span wing, and provision for nuclear or thermonuclear weapons or up to 50 340kg HE bombs; 76 FB-111As were built.

The EF-111A, officially named Raven but called 'Electric Fox', is a Grumman conversion of the airframe, resulting in a dedicated tactical jamming system and electronic warfare aircraft. Painted off-white and distinguished by a large fincap radome housing receiver antennae, the EF-111A flew in production form on 28 June 1981 and entered service with a USAF unit in England in 1984.

Twenty-four F-111C 'Aardvarks', the informal nickname for all fighter-bomber variants were delivered to Australia in 1973 after lengthy delays. The F-111C differs from the F-111A model in having a longer-span wing and stronger landing gear. Four F-111Cs have been converted to the reconnaissance role and the remainder, like many USAF 'Aardvarks', are being equipped with Pave Tack pods for laser acquisition of ground targets.

The F-111D, F-111E and F-111F are variants of what has become a highly specialised long-range strike aircraft ideal as a counter to the Soviet Sukhoi Su-24 and as a means of hitting targets in eastern Europe from the British Isles. These variants are located respectively at Cannon AFB, New Mexico, RAF Upper Heyford and RAF Lakenheath, England. Production amounted to 96 F-111D, 94 F-111Es and 106 F-111Fs.

The F-111H was a proposed strategic bomber once perceived as an ideal interim step for the 1980s when it appeared that the Rockwell B-1 had been cancelled. The F-111K was the intended version for the UK's Royal Air Force. Neither was built, and total production amounted to 562 airplanes.

The F-111 crew sits side-by-side, the pilot (aircraft commander) routinely referring to his weapons systems officer as a YOT ('you over there'). Both are enclosed in a capsule which separates from the aircraft in an emergency, a proven escape system which obviates the need for ejection seats. When F-111s returned to North Vietnam in 1972, this two-man, terrain-hugging attack system proved eminently successful, a success repeated during the 1986 raid on Tripoli by F-111Fs flying from RAF Lakenheath. F-111s will remain part of the NATO commitment for years to come, though some will be replaced around 1990 by the McDonnell Douglas F-15E Eagle.

General Dynamics F-111


Specification 
 CREW2
 ENGINE2 x P+W TF-30-P-3, 82.3kN
 WEIGHTS
    Take-off weight41500 kg91492 lb
    Empty weight20943 kg46172 lb
 DIMENSIONS
    Wingspan9.7-19.2 m32 ft 10 in - 63 ft 0 in
    Length22.4 m74 ft 6 in
    Height5.2 m17 ft 1 in
 PERFORMANCE
    Max. speed2650 km/h1647 mph
    Ceiling18000 m59050 ft
    Range w/max.fuel5100 km3169 miles

3-View 
General Dynamics F-111A three-view drawing (1000 x 688)

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