General Dynamics F-111

TYPE: Long range strategie and tactical strike aircraft

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: United States of America

POWERPLANTS: F-111F - Two 111.7kN (25,100lb) with afterburning Pratt & Whitney TF30-P-100 turbofans.

PERFORMANCE: F-111F - Max speed Mach 2.5 or 2655km/h (1433kt), cruising speed at high altitude 920km/h (495kt). Range with internal fuel over 4705km (2540nm).

WEIGHTS: F-111F - Operating empty 21,537kg (47,480lb), max takeoff 45,360kg (100,000lb).

DIMENSIONS: Wing span fully extended 19.20m (63ft 0in), wing span fully swept 9.74m (31ft 11 in), length 22.40m (73ft 6in), height 5.22m (17ft 1in). Wing area with wings spread 48.8m2 (525.0sq ft), wing area with wings swept 61.6m2 (657.1sq ft).

ACCOMMODATION: Pilot & W50/navigator side by side.

ARMAMENT: F-111F - Max weapons load of 14,228kg (31,500lb) including laser guided GBU-12, GBU-10 & GBU-24 bombs, electro optically guided GBU-15 bombs, conventional bombs, and AIM-9s.

OPERATORS: Australia, USA.

HISTORY: Highly controversial and expensive at the time of its birth, the F-111 (nicknamed Aardvark) has evolved into perhaps the world's most capable medium range strike bomber.

The F-111 was conceived in the early 1960s as the TFX, a misguided attempt by the US Defense Department, under Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, to combine into a single aircraft the US Air Force's requirement for a new fighter bomber and the US Navy's need for a new air defence fighter. First flight was on December 21 1964. The USN's overweight F-111B interceptor was cancelled in 1968.

The Air Force's F-111 showed considerably more promise. The F-111 was the first operational aircraft to feature swing wings and afterburning turbofans, while in a clean configuration it could cruise supersonically without afterburner. Other design features include a small internal bomb bay, a cockpit escape capsule and terrain following radar. Initially problems persisted with the complex swing wing mechanism and air inlets, but these were eventually resolved.

USAF F-111 models comprise the initial production F-111 A, the F-111E with revised air inlets, the F-111D with digital avionics (a first for a tactical fighter), the F-111F with more powerful engines and improved analog avionics, and the nuclear FB-111 strategic bomber (with longer span wings and strengthened undercarriage). In the early 1990s the FB-111s had their nuclear role removed, becoming the F-111G. Only the F-111F (with upgraded digital avionics and Pave Tack pod in the bomb bay for autonomous laser guided bomb launching) and the EF-111 (described separately) survived in USAF service in 1996.

Australia operates 22 F-111Cs which combine the engines and avionics of the F-111A with the FB-111 B's heavier undercarriage and longer span wings. Four have been modified as RF-111C reconnaissance aircraft, with a similar equipment fit in the bomb bay as in the USN's F-14 TARP pod. These aircraft are undergoing a comprehensive avionics upgrade program and are unique in their ability to carry HARM and Harpoon. An additional 15 ex USAF F-111Gs delivered from 1993 will help to extend the RAAF F-111 fleet life to 2015.


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