General Dynamics F-111 General
Aircraft
General Dynamics F-111
Type
Long-range bomber
Crew
2
Unit Cost
US$ 9.8 million
Main User
United States Flag USA - Air Force
Number Built
554
Click here for all pictures of the F-111 currently available
General Dynamics F-111 Program Milestones
Maiden Flight
December 21, 1964
Production Start
Unknown
Introduction
July 18, 1967
Retired
1998 (USAF)


General Dynamics F-111 Aircraft Dimensions
Wing Span
63 feet 0 inch (19.2 m)
Length
73 feet 6 inch (22.40 m)
Height
17 feet 2 inch (5.22 m)
Wing Area
525 square feet

General Dynamics F-111 Weights
Empty Weight
47,481 lb (21,537 kg)
Loaded
82,843 lb (37,577 kg)
Maximum Take-off Weight
98,979 lb (44,896 kg)

General Dynamics F-111 Powerplants
2 x Pratt & Whitney TF30-P-100 turbofan engines
Dry Thrust
17,900 lbf
Afterburner
25,100 lbf

General Dynamics F-111 Radius & Performance
Combat Radius
1,160 nm (2,140 km)
Ferry Radius
2,800 nm (5,190 km)
Service Ceiling
56,650 ft (17,270 km)
Maximum Speed - Sea Level
Mach 2.5 (1,650 mph)
Maximum Rate of Climb
25,890 ft/min (131.5 m/s)
Thrust to weight
0.61
Lift-to-drag ratio
15.8



F-111 Operators
Australia Air Force
United States Flag United States (United States Air Force / Navy)


Cockpit of the F-111
General Dynamics F-111

The General Dynamics F-111 "Aardvark" is probably one of the most controversial aircraft ever built and has some distinct characteristics. The aircraft is a medium-range strategic bomber, reconnaissance, and tactical strike aircraft designed in the early 1960s. After more than 30 years of service the fleet of F-111's was retired by the United States Air Force back in 1998.

The F-111 pioneered several technologies for production military aircraft and includes variable geometry wings, afterburning turbofan engines, and terrain following radar for low-level, high-speed flight. Its interesting design has been highly influential for later aircraft designs and some of these features have since become commonplace. However, the F-111 suffered a variety of development problems while at the same several of its intended roles failed to materialize.

Since its retirement in the 1990s, the aircraft has been effectively replaced by the McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagles for medium-range precision strike missions, while the supersonic bomber role has been assumed by the Rockwell B-1B Lancer. The only remaining air force to deploy the "Aardvark" is that of Australia with recent decisions safeguarding its operation until 2010 after which it will be replaced by 24 McDonnell Douglas F/A-18F Super Hornets.


Australia Air Force General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark
Australia Air Force General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark
Australia Air Force General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark


F-111 Design

As mentioned earlier, the F-111 features variable geometry wings, an internal weapons bay and a cockpit with side by side seating. Furthermore, the aircraft is equipped with an escape crew capsule and is capable of carrying a wide range of weapons.

Armament

Although the General Dynamics F-111 was conceived as a multi-role fighter jet, the aircraft became a long-range attack aircraft which was primarily armed with air-to-surface ordnance.

Canon: All tactical combat versions are capable of carrying a single M61 Vulcan 20 mm cannon with a verly large (2,084 round) ammunition tank, coverdy ban eyelid shutter when not in use. Although the canon was carried by some USAF aircraft, it was never actually used in combat and later even removed.

Bombs: The bombs bay can alternatively hold two conventional bombs, usually consisting of the Mk 117 type of nominal 750 lb weight, although weapons of up to the Mk 118 (3,000 lb) were cleared.

Nuclear weapons: All F-111 models except the EF-111A and the Australian F-111C were equipped to carry various free-fall nuclear weapons. The FB-111A was a dedicated nuclear bomber for most of its life, and carried a wide range of nuclear weapons. Furthermore, the FB-111A could carry one or two AGM-69 SRAM nuclear missiles in its weapons bay and up to four SRAMs on external wing pylons.

Sensor pod: The F-111C and F-111F were equipped to carry the AN/AVQ-26 Pave Tack targeting system on a rotating carriage that kept the pod protected within the weapons bay when not in use. Pave Tack is a FLIR and laser rangefinder/designator that allows the F-111 to designate and drop laser-guided bombs.

Reconnaissance pallet: Australian RF-111Cs carry a package of reconnaissance sensors and cameras for tactical recce missions. It contains two video cameras, a Honeywell AN/AAD-5 infrared linescan (recorded on video or film), a Fairchild KA-56E low-altitude and KA-93A4 high-altitude panoramic cameras, and a pair of CAI KS-87C split vertical cameras. It can also record photographs of the attack radar's display.

Missiles: The F-111B was intended to be capable of carrying two AIM-54 Phoenix air-to-air missiles in the bay. General Dynamics proposed an arrangement that would allow two AIM-9 Sidewinders to be carried on a trapeze mounting in the bay (at the expense of the M61 cannon), along with a single (usually nuclear) bomb. This was not adopted, with the USAF and RAAF opting for the cannon instead. The AIM-7 Sparrow or AIM-4 Falcon, standard on the F-4 Phantom II, was never fitted, though later F-111 models had radars equipped to guide the Sparrow.


F-111 Variants

F-111A

The F-111A was the initial production version of the F-111. It had TF30-P-3 engines with 12,000 lbf (53 kN) dry and 18,500 lbf (82 kN) afterburning thrust and "Triple Plow I" variable intakes, providing a maximum speed of Mach 2.2 (1,450 mph / 2,300 km/h) at altitude.

 
F-111B
The F-111B was to be a fleet air defense (FAD) fighter for the U.S. Navy, fulfilling a long-standing naval requirement for a fighter capable of carrying heavy, long-range missiles to defend carriers and their battle groups from Soviet bombers and fighter-bombers equipped with anti-ship missiles.
 
F-111C
The F-111C was an export version for Australia, combining F-111A/E avionics with the long-span wings and heavier landing gear originally designed for the F-111B. Twenty-four were originally ordered in 1963, although development delays and structural problems kept them from entering service until 1973.
 
F-111D

The F-111D was an upgraded F-111A equipped with newer Mark II avionics, more powerful engines, improved intake geometry, and an early glass cockpit. First ordered in 1967, extensive development problems delayed service entry until 1974, and only 96 were built.

 
F-111E

The F-111E was a simplified, interim model ordered after the prolonged teething troubles of the F-111D. It used the -D's Triple Plow 2 intakes and more powerful TF30-P-3 engines, but retained the -A's Mark I avionics.

 
F-111F

The F-111F was the final F-111 variant produced for Tactical Air Command, with more modern and advanced Mark IIB avionics that were more capable than the F-111E and much more reliable than the F-111D. A total of 106 were produced between 1971 and 1976. The aircraft were initially assigned to the 366 TFW at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho. In 1977, the F-111Fs were reassigned to the 48 TFW based at RAF Lakenheath in the United Kingdom, with some assigned to the 57th Fighter Weapons Wing at Nellis AFB.

 
FB-111A/F-111G

The FB-111A was a strategic bomber version of the F-111 developed as an interim aircraft for the Strategic Air Command to replace the elegant but troublesome supersonic B-58 Hustler and early models of the B-52 Stratofortress. The planned replacement program, the Advanced Manned Strategic Aircraft, was proceeding slowly, and the Air Force was concerned that fatigue failures in the B-52 fleet would leave the strategic bomber fleet dangerously under strength. Although 263 airframes were planned originally, the total was finally cut to just 76. The first production aircraft was delivered in 1968. The FB-111A never had an official popular name, but it was commonly called the "Switchblade."

 
F-111K
The British government cancelled the BAC TSR-2 in 1965, citing the lower costs of the TFX and ordered 50 F-111K aircraft in 1967. The F-111K was based on the F-111A, modified for British equipment and weapons. This included weapons bay changes, compatibility with the Martel anti-shipping missile, the addition of a retractable refuelling probe and the use of FB-111A landing gear for a higher gross take off weight.