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General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark: The Interdictor & Tactical Attack Fighter of USAF (United States Air Force)

The General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark was the American made medium range Interdictor as well as a tactical attack aircraft that fulfilled many of the following mission roles.

  • Strategic nuclear bomber
  • Aerial reconnaissance
  • Electronic Warfare Aircraft

General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark was developed back in the early 1960s and entered the service of USAF back in 1967 and later one of its models F-111C entered the service of Royal Australian Air Force back in 1973.

General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark is the aircraft that propelled the world of aviation into many new technologies related to the manufacturing of aircraft. Among these new technologies, there were the following.

  • Variable sweep wings
  • Afterburning turbofan engines
  • An automated terrain-following radar system




During its initial developmental phases, the General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark suffered many problems and the aircraft failed to achieve its roles as the carrier-based aircraft to serve the role of naval interceptor after the F-111B was never developed properly.

By the time it was 1999; USAF retired its fleet of General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark and replaced its roles with the F-15E Strike Eagle and B-1B Lancer.  As for RAAF, they retired their fleet of General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark back in 2010.

Need for an aircraft like General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark:-

Back in the May of 1960 a U-2 incident occurred during which a U-2 Spyplane suffered a strike from USSR and the US government was left shocked at this. not only did the US and USSR relations worsen by this strike, the US also got concerned that Soviet’s had developed the Air-to-Surface missiles capable of shooting at a height of about 60000 feet, which was more than any US aircraft could achieve at the time. This left the USAF’s SAC plans for sending their B-47 and the RAF’s Bomber command to send their V Bomber formations to USSR very susceptible.

TFX (Tactical Fighter Experiment):-

By the time it was 1961, USAF and US Navy were in need of a new interceptor aircraft and at the same time, Robert McNamara was given the position of Secretary of Defense. Navy and Air Force were in need of a supersonic fighter with a two-seat and twin-engine design that would have the variable geometry wings. McNamara green-lighted the study of this aircraft that was named the TFX (Tactical Fighter Experiment); a combined aircraft design study for the navy and air force.

Contract signed by General Dynamics and First Flights:-

In September of 1961, a basic set of the new aircraft’s requirements for TFX were developed and the USAF was tasked with the development of this new aircraft. Companies like General Dynamics, Boeing, McDonnell, Republic, North American and Lockheed all received the proposal. The final proposal accepted pout of these companies was of General Dynamics because of their design being similar for both the USAF and US navy’s version. The contract was ultimately signed by General Dynamics back in December of 1962.

The two models were named as F-111A for the USAF and the F-111B for the US navy. The F-111A had its maiden flight back on December 21st, 1964 while the F-111B had its maiden flight on May 18th, 1965.

The historical significance of General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark’s design:-

The General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark happens to be the first aircraft with the variable geometry wings and this design feature was used to produce many of the similar wing aircraft like the following.

  • Sukhoi Su-17 “Fitter”
  • Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23 “Flogger”
  • Tupolev Tu-22M “Backfire”
  • Sukhoi Su-24 “Fencer”
  • Tupolev Tu-160 “Blackjack”
  • Rockwell B-1 Lancer bomber
  • Panavia Tornado

The aircraft that shared the most similarity with the F-111 was the Sukhoi Su-24. As for the model of F-111 designated as F-111B, it was taken over by another aircraft with the same variable-geometry design named Grumman F-14 Tomcat.

Powerplant:-

In the base production of the General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark, it was fitted for power with twin Pratt & Whitney TF30-P-111 turbofan engines each of which would generate a thrust of 25100lbs. this much power would allow for the General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark to fly at a top speed of about 1650 mph for a maximum range of about 4200 miles. The aircraft’s maximum service ceiling was 66000 feet which it would achieve with a climb rate of 26000 feet per minute.

Armaments:-

The standard armament configuration of the General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark would see the aircraft being fitted with a single 20mm M61 Vulcan cannon internally. As for the mission-specific ordnance, it would be as follows.

  • GBU-12 Laser-guided bomb
  • GBU-10 Laser-guided bomb
  • GBU-15 Bomb
  • AGM-142; the air-to-surface missile
  • AIM-9 Sidewinder; the air-to-air missile
  • AGM-84 HARM Anti-=Radar and anti-radiation missile
  • Conventional drop bombs

Service in Vietnam War and Harrowing Nickname:-

Back in July of 1967, the USAF received the delivery of their first 6 General Dynamics F-111 Aardvarks which were then sent to the service in the Vietnam War in March of 1968. During that campaign, 3 of them were lost due to the internal problem of the aircraft instead of the enemy strikes.

The aircraft went back for service in Southeast Asia in 1972 where it helped with operations like Operation linebacker and operation Linebacker II to carry out the aerial offensive strikes against the North Vietnamese Forces. The aircraft earned the harrowing nickname from its enemies; “Whispering Death”.

Service with Royal Australian Air Force as F-111 ‘Pig’:-

The RAAF ordered for the delivery of 24 of the F-1`11 under the designation F-111C for replacing their older fleet of the English Electric Canberra for the tactical strike and bombing missions. The General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark was known at RAAF as the F-111 Pig due to the aircraft having a long nose as well as the terrain-following radar system. It could also be because of the name Aardvark which is also translated as Earth-Pig.

Retirement and Replacement:-

The General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark served the USAF well until the late 1990s. The aircraft in its all variant forms was retired until 1998 and the replacement aircraft to serve its roles were as follows.

  • F-15E Strike Eagle for carrying the precision strike roles
  • B-1B Lancer for carrying out Supersonic bomber missions

As for the F-111C fleet in service of the RAAF, it was retired back in December 2010.

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