YouTube - F-111 Aardvark
2- 25,100 lbs ea.
75 ft. 8 in.
1- 20 mm
The F-111 Aardvark, built by General Dynamics, was the world's first swing wing production aircraft. It was conceived by its builders as a fighter for use by both the U.S.A.F. and the U.S.N.
While the aircraft was being developed, a number of problems were discovered with the navalized aircraft, which the U.S. Navy felt would be too time consuming and costly to overcome. Thereafter development of the aircraft proceeded solely to U. S. Air Force specifications.
Although it retained it's "F" for fighter designation, the resultant aircraft, which first flew in December of 1964, became the world's fastest strategic bomber. The aircraft employed the first all-weather ground following radar system. It was proven in combat in Desert Storm, Libya and Vietnam.
A unique feature of the F-111 Aardvark was its ejection pod. The pod was originally stipulated by the Navy, but it was retained by the Air Force. The aircraft crew were seated within an air conditioned, pressurized module. They had no need for ejection seats or pressurized flight suits. The module was activated by an "eject' handle on the aircraft's center console. A rocket motor propelled the module in its entirety from the aircraft until it was clear. Parachutes opened for its descent to the ground. It was possible to eject from ground level, or under water. Flotation bags were fitted to the watertight and airtight module for water landings.
The model A was deployed in October of 1967. After some initial problems were resolved, the aircraft had a relative trouble-free record.
On January 17, 1991, F-111 Aardvark aircraft flew the first of many sorties of Desert Storm. In addition to bombing missions, specially equipped EF-111A Raven aircraft flew electronics counter measure (ECM) missions, primarily as radar jammers. Using precision guided ordnance, F-111 bombers took out reinforced bunkers by day and enemy armor by night.
The F-111 Aardvark had a wide flight envelope, using its swing wings for relatively slow speeds when extended, to high supersonic speeds when the wings are folded back. Its mission was to deliver nuclear or conventional ordnance from low altitude. Additional mission roles included the support of ground forces, reconnaissance, and strategic bombing.
Much of the fuselage of the F-111 Aardvark and the wings were devoted to holding a total of 34,494 lbs. of internal fuel. That, plus an additional 16,416 lbs. of fuel carried in external tanks gave it a long range without refueling. The external fuel tanks could be jettisoned, if necessary. Its internal weapons bay could hold bombs or additional fuel. The aircraft's weapons nearest its fuselage pivoted as the wings swept back, keeping them parallel to the fuselage. Although the outer pylons were fixed in place, they could be jettisoned if needed to improve aerodynamics at higher speeds.
The F-111 model B was intended for the U.S. Navy. Its primary role would have been as a carrier based fleet defense fighter.
The F-111 model C was exported to the Royal Australian Air Force. Australia was the only country that purchased the aircraft, outside of the United States.
The F-111 Aardvark model D was fitted with new engines which produced more thrust than their predecessors. Its engine air intakes were moved away from the fuselage by about four inches. This was to lessen the intake of turbulent air coming from the aircraft's fuselage that was known to cause engine stalls. An all glass cockpit was added, including digitally computer controlled avionics. These early systems had reliability issues which were never fully resolved. The model D was deployed to the 27th Tactical Fighter Wing at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, U.S.A.
Of interest is that the F-111 Aardvark model E was introduced before the model D due to avionics reliability issues. It had modified engine air intakes to improve supersonic flight performance. The majority of F-111 model E aircraft served with the 20th Fighter Wing based at RAF Upper Heyford, England, in support of NATO.
The F-111 model F was fitted with more powerful, efficient engines, developing 35 percent additional thrust over previous models. The final model F was delivered to the U.S.A.F. in November of 1976. It went on to be deployed with RAF Lakenheath's 48th Fighter Wing. The model F was proven in combat in Libya in 1986.
Although the F-111 was retired from the USAF in 1996, it continued to operate in the Australian Air Force through 2010.
Of a total of 563 F-111 Aardvark aircraft, 77 were lost while totaling over a million hours of flight. That makes them the safest "Century Series" aircraft produced, and one of the aircraft with the best safety records in the history of the U.S.A.F.
The great looking F-111 Aardvark built by Frank Selby features swing wings, has an open wingspan of 101 in., a length of 117 in., and weighs about 52 lbs. Power comes from a pair of jet turbine engines producing 28 lbf. thrust each.