Page for School Students
14 November, 2002
F-111 is a two seat fighter bomber that was built in the United
States of America by General Dynamics in the 1960s and 1970s.
It is crewed by a Pilot who sits in the left seat, and a Navigator
(sometimes known as a 'Weapon Systems Officer' WSO) who sits
in the right seat. Although nearly all
F-111s were flown by the United States Air Force (USAF), F-111s
are now only flown by the
Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).
F-111, nicknamed 'Aardvark or Switchblade' in America or 'The
Pig' in Australia had a troubled introduction into military
service due to a number of reasons. The design began in
1958 to a USAF requirement, but soon became a compromise between
the requirements for a long-range missile fighter for the United
States Navy (USN); for a tactical fighter-bomber which could
operate from short fields for the USAF Tactical Air Command
(TAC), and for a medium range nuclear bomber for the USAF Strategic
Air Command (SAC). Additionally, the Royal Australian
Air Force (RAAF) and the British Royal Air Force (RAF) had different
requirements for their own versions of the F-111.
F-111A First Flight 21
December 1964 GD photo
first F-111 flew on 21 December 1964. Although over 1000 were
originally planned for the USAF, USN, RAF and RAAF, only 562
were eventually built.
Design The development process was long and difficult,
and was plagued by a number of component failures, including
the tail pivot, wing pivot and ejection handles. It was
not totally unexpected that there would be teething problems
because the prototype F-111s had quite a few revolutionary design
the wings are designed to 'sweep' from a full forward position
which enables the F-111 to land at relatively slow speeds, to
a full aft position which reduces drag and enables the F-111
to fly to a maximum speed of 2.5 times the speed of sound (Mach
2.5) at high altitude.
by far, the most significant feature of the F-111 was the fitment
of the 'Terrain Following Radar' (TFR) system, which enables
the aeroplane to fly without pilot input at settings between
200 feet to 1000 feet above the earth's surface day or night
and in poor weather. The advantage of this system is that
the aeroplane can be flown automatically below the radar coverage
of defending surface to air missile (SAM) systems for a longer
period than other attack aircraft.
the early 1980's the USAF modified the F-111F with the addition
of the Pave Tack system. The Pave Tack is a podded infra-red
laser target identification, designation and tracking system
which enables the guiding of modern laser guided weapons (LGBs)
to a pinpoint target. This system is called a 'force multiplier'
as only a few Pave Tack equipped F-111 with precision guided
munitions can do the job of many non-precision aircraft.
In the mid-1980's the RAAF modified it's F-111C to take the
Pave Tack system.
There were a number of F-111 variants built over the last four
decades. The original F-111 was known as the TFX, standing
for 'Tactical Fighter Experimental'. After General Dynamics
won the contract
to build the F-111, the first two versions were the pre-production
referred to as the YF-111A) and the F-111B which was jointly
built with Grumman for the USN. Within a few years, the
version which Australia had ordered was renamed the F-111C as
the requirements were diverging substantially from those of
the USAF TAC F-111A. Likewise, the ill fated RAF version
was different to the TAC,
SAC, USN and RAAF variants, and was called the F-111K, however
the RAF order was cancelled before the first F-111K was completed.
The RAAF was also very interested in strategic and tactical
reconnaissance, and were very interested in obtaining suitably
modified F-111 aircraft. USAF TAC also had a reconnaissance
requirement, but the planned RF-111A and later the RF-111D were
cancelled. The RAAF then went alone with GD to produce
four RF-111C which still fly today. The USAF SAC version was
soon a second USAF TAC version, the F-111D, with advanced digital
computers was being considered, however there were delays in
it's production which caused further F-111s of the earlier design
to be ordered. These additional F-111s had a slight modification
to the engine inlets and were designated the F-111E.
The final production version was the F-111F which were built
up until 1974.
then, some of the original F-111A
were modified to perform the electronic combat role (jamming)
and were redesignated the
EF-111A. A part of the Arms Reduction Treaties between
the Soviet Union and USA, the SAC FB-111A were decommissioned,
and some were de-modified and designated the F-111G to be used
as F-111 conversion training aeroplanes by the USAF. In
the mid- 1990's the Australian Government was offered some of
the F-111G. 15 F-111G were subsequently purchased for the RAAF,
although they were not used as 'trainers'.
the years, there were a number of proposed upgrades for the
SAC FB-111A, including the FB-111B, FB-111C and FB-111H--but
none of these were constructed.
Operations USAF F-111 aircraft saw combat in Vietnam
in 1968 and against targets in Vietnam and Laos between 1972-74.
The next operation was the Libyan Raid against Kadafi in on
the night of 15/16 April 1986. USAF F-111Es, F-111Fs and EF-111As
then were used in the Gulf War of 1991--Operations DESERT SHIELD
and DESERT STORM. Much of the black and white infra-red
video shown on CNN was actually F-111F Pave Tack video, although
it was credited to the short range F-117 Stealth Fighter at
the time. It was later revealed in Australian Parliament
that the United States had requested RAAF F-111C to operate
along-side USAF F-111 aircraft, but the Australian Government
declined the request, and provided Navy warships instead.
Australian F-111s have never seen combat, although during the
crisis in East Timor in 1999, RF-111C flew a number of reconnaissance
missions in support of the Australian commanded INTERFET operation.
Since F-111 operations commenced in 1964, there has been a total
of 115 contractor, USAF and RAAF aircrew killed in accidents
or combat. Although the number seems high, the F-111 is
generally regarded to be one of the safest combat aircraft built,
especially with respect to the environment it was planned to
fight in. The RAAF has lost seven F-111 since 1977 in
accidents, although three crews were able to eject safely from
damaged aircraft. A memorial listing the names of the
115 lost aircrew was built in the mid-1990s at Clovis, New Mexico
in the United States. See
of the RAAF F-111 The F-111 has a significant range
when compared to other fighter-bomber aircraft of the same era,
such as the F-4 Phantom, and modern aircraft such as the F-18
Hornet, GR4 Tornado or Eurofighter. The
F-111 is utilised by the RAAF to fill the 'Precision Strike'
role, which is the attack of high value targets within an enemies
homeland. High value targets would include enemy command
headquarters, communications facilities, radars and enemy combat
aircraft whilst on the ground. Other roles for the RAAF
F-111 force include 'Maritime Strike', which is the attack of
an enemies naval forces, and 'Battlefield Interdiction' which
is the co-ordinated attack with the Army against an enemies
army in the field. It should be noted that Australia currently
has no enemy, and hopefully will not again.
Future The last USAF F-111 flew to the 'Desert Boneyard'
Aircraft Maintenance And Regeneration Center (sic),
AMARC, Davis Monthan AFB in September 1996, followed
by the last EF-111A in May 1998. Since that time the RAAF
became the only operator of the F-111. The F-111 remains the
corner stone of the Australia's Defence Policy as outlined in
the White Paper of 2001. With continuing upgrades to Electronic
Warfare and weapons systems, the
F-111 is expected to serve Australia until at least 2015 and
possibly 2020, 52 years after the first F-111C flew in 1968.
to fly the F-111? If you are an Australian
citizen, have good school results, are medically and mentally
fit and enjoy hard work, you can apply to join the Royal Australian
Air Force as either a Pilot or Navigator. Go to the Australian
Defence Force Recruiting page for more information. www.defencejobs.gov.au
information on this 'F-111 Page for School Students' is free
for distribution, but an acknowledgment to F-111.net
www.F-111.net is requested.
Keywords: RAAF USAF
F-111 F111 F-111C F111C Aircraft