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General Dynamics F-111

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SEPTEMBER 06, 1996










Two-seat variable geometry multipurpose fighter.


Following a detailed evaluation of design proposals submitted by General Dynamics and Boeing, the US Department of Defense announced 24 November 1962 that General Dynamics had been selected prime contractor for development of the F-111 tactical fighter (known originally by the designation TFX), with Grumman Aircraft as an associate. An initial contract was placed for 23 aircraft (18 F-111As for the USAF, five F-111Bs for the US Navy). Since then further orders have been placed, including 24 F-111Cs (similar to F-111As) for the Royal Australian Air Force, and reconnaissance and strategic bomber versions for the USAF.


EF-111A: ECM jamming version. Converted from F-111As by Grumman.

F-111A: USAF two-seat tactical fighter-bomber, with slightly longer nose than the F-111B to accommodate different electronic equipment and TF30-P-3 engines.

F-111B: US Navy version, intended originally for carrier-based fleet defence duties with armament of six Hughes AIM-54 Phoenix air-to-air missiles. Greater wing span and area than F-111A. Powered initially by TF30-P-1 turbofan engines.

F-111C: Strike aircraft. Outwardly similar to F-111B, with Pratt & Whitney TF30-P-3 engines, Mk 1 avionics, cockpit ejection module and eight underwing attachments for stores.

F-111D: Similar to F-111A, but with more advanced Mk II avionics system, offering improvements in navigation and air-to-air as well as air-to-surface weapon delivery.

F-111E: Superseded F-111A from 160th aircraft. Modifed air intakes to permit removal of flight restrictions above Mach 2.2 and 18,300 m (60,000 ft).

F-111F: Fighter-bomber. Generally similar to the F-111D, but with an avionics system that combines the best features of the F-111E and FB-111A systems, to provide effective tactical avionics at the lowest possible cost. Fitted with the more powerful TF3-P100 turbofan engines, producing 25 per cent more thrust than the basic TF30.

F-111G: Converted FB-111A for dual nuclear/conventional bombing.

F-111K: See YF-111A.

FB-111A: Two-seat strategic bomber version for USAF Strategic Air Command. Requirement for 210 announced by US Secretary of Defense 10 December 1965, to replace B-52C/F versions of the Stratofortress and B-58A Hustler. Initial contract for 64 signed Spring 1967, however, the order was increased to 76 aircraft.

RF-111A: Two-seat reconnaissance version of F-111A for USAF. Cameras, radar and infra-red sensors in fuselage weapon bay operate through optical windows and radomes on the outboard sides of the reconnaissance pallet. First flight was made 17 December 1967.

RF-111C: Strike reconnaissance aircraft of Royal Australian Air Force.

YF-111A: Strike/reconnaissance fighters completed prior to cancellation of the UK government order for 50 aircraft, under the designation F-111K were assigned to the USAF for research and test evaluation purposes.


Northrop Grumman/Lockheed Fort Worth: EF-111A upgrade.

Rockwell: Pacer Strike and RAAF upgrades. See separate entry in USA section.

Rockwell Australia: F-111 Pacer Strike upgrades. See separate entry in Australia section.


Versions of the F-111 are in service with the armed forces of Australia (36) and USA (147).


The following description applies to the F-111A except where otherwise indicated:


Cantilever shoulder wing. Wing section of NACA 63 series, with conventional washout. Sweepback of outer wing portions variable in flight or on the ground from 16Ý to 72Ý 30'.


Airbrake/lift dumpers above wing operate as spoilers for lateral control at low speeds. Full-span variable camber leading-edge slats and full-span double-slotted trailing-edge flaps. General Electric flight control system. All-moving horizontal surfaces operate both differentially and symmetrically to provide aileron and elevator functions. Two long narrow ventral stabilising fins.


Wing actuating jacks by Jarry Hydraulics. Five-spar wing structure with stressed and sculptured skin panels, each made in one piece between leading- and trailing-edge sections, from root to tip. Leading- and trailing-edge sections of honeycomb sandwich. The fuselage is a semi-monocoque structure mainly of aluminium alloy, with honeycomb sandwich skin. Some steel and titanium. Main structural member is a T-section keel, under the arms of which the engines are hung. The tail unit is of conventional cantilever sweptback surfaces, utilising honeycomb sandwich skin panels, except for tailplane tips and central area of fin on each side.


Hydraulically retractable tricycle type. Single wheel on each main leg. Twin-wheel nose unit retracts forward. Main gear is a triangulated structure with hinged legs which are almost horizontal when the gear is extended. During retraction, the legs pivot downward, the wheels tilt to lie almost flat against them, and the whole gear rotates forward so that the wheels are stowed side by side in fuselage between engine air intake ducts. Low-pressure tyres on mainwheels, size 47-18 in (42-13 in on F-111C and FB-111A). Disc brakes, with anti-skid system. Main landing gear door, in bottom of fuselage, hinges down to act as speed brake in flight.


Two Pratt & Whitney TF30-P-3 turbofan engines, each giving 82.3 kN (18,500 lb st) with afterburning. Fuel tanks in wings and fuselage. Pressure fuelling point in port side of fuselage, forward of engine air intake. Gravity refuelling filler/in-flight refuelling receptacle in top of fuselage aft of cockpit. Hamilton Standard hydromechanical air intake system with movable shock-cone.


Crew of two side by side in air conditioned and pressurised cabin. Portion of canopy over each seat is hinged on aircraft centreline and opens upward. Zero-speed, zero-altitude (including underwater) emergency escape module developed by McDonnell Douglas Corporation and utilising a 178 kN (40,000 lb st) Rocket Power Inc rocket motor. Emergency procedure calls for both crew members to remain in capsule cabin section, which is propelled away from aircraft by rocket motor and lowered to ground by parachute. Airbags cushion impact and form flotation gear in water. Entire capsule forms survival shelter.


Tactical fighter versions carry one M61 multibarrel 20 mm gun or two 750 lb bombs in internal weapon bay. External stores are carried on four attachments under each wing. The two inboard pylons on each side pivot as the wings sweep back, to keep the stores parallel with the fuselage. The two outboard pylons on each wing are jettisonable and non-swivelling.



Wing span:

F-111A, F-111D, F-111E, F-111F:

spread 19.20 m (63 ft 0 in)

fully swept 9.74 m (31 ft 11{2/5} in)

F-111B, F-111C, FB-111A:

spread 21.34 m (70 ft 0 in)

fully swept 10.34 m (33 ft 11 in)

Wing chord at root 2.11 m (6 ft 11 in)

Length overall:

F-111A, F-111C, F-111D, F-111E, F-111F,

FB-111A 22.40 m (73 ft 6 in)

Height overall:

F-111A, F-111C, F-111D, F-111E, F-111F,

FB-111A 5.22 m (17 ft 1{2/5} in)



Weight empty 20,943 kg (46,172 lb)

Max T-O weight 41,500 kg (91,500 lb)



Max speed at height Mach 2.2

Mach speed at S/L Mach 1.2

Service ceiling over 15,500 m (51,000 ft)

T-O and landing run under 915 m (3,000 ft)

Range with max internal

fuel over 2,750 n miles (5,093 km; 3,165 miles)


F-111 Overview

The F-111 was a multipurpose tactical fighter bomber capable of supersonic speeds. The aircraft was one of the more controversial aircraft ever to fly, yet it achieved one of the safest operational records of any aircraft in USAF history and became a highly effective all-weather interdiction aircraft. As a result of a poorly thought-out development specification, both the Navy and Air Force had become committed, much against their will, to a civilian-inspired "Tactical Fighter Experimental" (TFX) program. This called for developing a single aircraft-the F-111-to fulfill a Navy fleet-defense interceptor requirement and an Air Force supersonic strike aircraft requirement. In retrospect, this was impossible to achieve, especially since planners placed priority upon the Air Force requirement, and then tried to tailor this heavy landplane to the constraints of carrier-based naval operations. The naval aircraft, the F-111B, was never placed in production. The Air Force aircraft, which was produced in a variety of models, including the F-111A, F-11D, F-11E, and F-11F, as well as an FB-111A strategic bomber version, had numerous problems, and only the F-111F actually fulfilled the original TFX design specification. This was less the fault of General Dynamics than of the civilian planners in the Pentagon whose "cost effective" inclinations ironically produced the major aeronautical fiasco of the 1960s-and a costly one at that.

The early F-111As had extremely bad engine problems, suffering from compressor surge and stalls. NASA pilots and engineers wrung out the airplane in an attempt to solve its problems, studying the engine inlet dynamics of the plane to determine the nature of inlet pressure fluctuations that led to compressor surge and stall. Eventually, as a result of NASA, Air Force, and General Dynamics studies, the engine problems were solved by a major inlet redesign.


The F-111 could operate from tree-top level to altitudes above 60,000 feet (18,200 meters). The F-111 had variable-sweep wings that allow the pilot to fly from slow approach speeds to supersonic velocity at sea level and more than twice the speed of sound at higher altitudes. Wings angle from 16 degrees (full forward) to 72.5 degrees (full aft). Full-forward wings gave the most surface area and maximum lift for short takeoff and landing. The F-111 needed no drag chute or reserve thrust to slow down after landing.

The two crew members sat side-by-side in an air-conditioned, pressurized cockpit module that served as an emergency escape vehicle and as a survival shelter on land or water. In emergencies, both crew members remained in the cockpit and an explosive cutting cord separated the cockpit module from the aircraft. The module descended by parachute. The ejected module included a small portion of the wing fairing to stabilize it during aircraft separation. Airbags cushioned impact and help keep the module afloat in water. The module could be released at any speed or altitude, even under water. For underwater escape, the airbags raised the module to the surface after it has been severed from the plane.

The aircraft's wings and much of the fuselage behind the crew module contained fuel tanks. Using internal fuel only, the plane had a range of more than 2,500 nautical miles (4,000 kilometers). External fuel tanks could be carried on the pylons under the wings and jettisoned if necessary.

The F-111 could carry conventional as well as nuclear weapons. It could carry up to two bombs or additional fuel in the internal weapons bay. External ordnance included combinations of bombs, missiles and fuel tanks. The loads nearest the fuselage on each side pivoted as the wings swept back, keeping ordnance parallel to the fuselage. Outer pylons did not move but could be jettisoned for high-speed flight.

The avionics systems included communications, navigation, terrain following, target acquisition and attack, and suppression of enemy air defense systems. A radar bombing system was used for precise delivery of weapons on targets during night or bad weather.

The F-111's automatic terrain-following radar system flew the craft at a constant altitude following the Earth's contours. It allowed the aircraft to fly in valleys and over mountains, day or night, regardless of weather conditions. Should any of the system's circuits fail, the aircraft automatically initiated a climb.



The F-111A first flew in December 1964. The first operational aircraft was delivered in October 1967 to Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. A models were used for tactical bombing in Southeast Asia.

Developed for the U.S. Navy, the F-111B was canceled before its production. F-111C's are flown by the Royal Australian Air Force.

The F-111D has improved avionics with better navigation, air-to-air weapon delivery systems, and newer turbofan engines. The F-111D's were flown by the 27th Fighter Wing, Cannon Air Force Base, N.M.

The F-111E model had modified air intakes to improve the engine's performance at speeds above Mach 2.2. Most F-111Es served with the 20th Fighter Wing, Royal Air Force Station Upper Heyford, England, to support NATO. F-111E's were deployed to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, and were used in Operation Desert Storm. In the early morning of Jan. 17, 1991, the F-111 went into combat again in the initial bombing raids of Operation Desert Storm. More than 100 F-111 aircraft of different versions joined the first strikes against Iraq both as bombers and radar jammers.

The F-111F had improved turbofan engines give F-111F models 35 percent more thrust than previous F-111A and E engines. The avionics systems of the F model combine features of the F-111D and E. The last F model was delivered to the Air Force in November 1976. The F models were modified to carry the Pave Tack system in their weapons bays. This system provides an improved capability to acquire, track and designate ground targets at night for delivery of laser, infrared and electro-optically guided weapons. The F-111F was proven in combat over Libya in 1986 and again over Iraq in 1991. Although F-111F's flew primarily at night during Operation Desert Storm, aircrews flew a particularly notable daytime mission using the Guided Bomb Unit (GBU-15) to seal the oil pipeline manifold sabotaged by Iraq, allowing the oil to flow into the Persian Gulf.

As a result of the Air Force decision to retire the F-111 weapon system, the 27th Fighter Wing's 74 F-111E/F aircraft began retiring in late 1995 and were replaced with 54 F-16C/D aircraft. All F-111s in the Air Force inventory have been retired to the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz. The center, popularly know as the boneyard, was home to all the remaining F-111E and F models by October 1996.


Seventy-six were built as FB-111s and saw service with the Strategic Air Command until 1990 when they were converted to F-111Gs and assigned to Tactical Air Command. The F-111G was assigned to the 27th Fighter Wing at Cannon Air Force Base and was used in a training role only. The conversion made minor avionics updates and strengthened the aircraft to allow its use in a more dynamic role as a fighter aircraft.

EF-111A Raven

Development of the EF-111A Raven began in January 1975 when the Air Force contracted with Grumman Aerospace to modify two F-111As to serve as electronic warfare platforms. The F-111Ēs high speed, long range, substantial payload and reasonable cost made it the ideal candidate to protect allied tactical forces against enemy radar defenses.


When converting the aircraft to its new electronic warfare role, the primary modification was the ALQ-99 jamming system, N/ALQ-137 self-protection system, and an AN/ALR-62 terminal threat warning system. To accommodate the 6,000 pounds of new electronics, Grumman added a narrow, 16-foot long canoe-shaped radome under the fuselage and a din-tip pod mounted on top of the vertical stabilizer.


Grummanís EF-111A prototypes staged their first flights in 1977. After two years of testing the Air Force gave the contractor the go-ahead to convert 42 F-111As into the EF-111 configuration. The modifications cost approximately $25 million per aircraft, and the total cost of the program was $1.5 billion. The first production EF-111 was delivered to the 388th Tactical Electronic Squadron at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, in November 1981 and the aircraft became fully operational in 1983.

The Avionics Modernization Program (AMP) included the installation of 10 new subsystems including a doppler radar and internal navigation system. The modification, installed in all 42 EF-111s, was completed in 1994. Prompted by a series of crashes attributable to the failure of the F-111ís original analog flight control system, the installation of Digital Flight Control System begann in 1990 and was completed in 1997.

The last squadron of EF-111s remaining in service, at Cannon AFB, NM, peformed the Suppression of Enemy Air Defense [SEAD] mission. DOD decided to retire the EF-111A jammer and replace it with a new Air Force system, the high speed anti-radiation missile (HARM) targeting system on the F-16C, and the existing Navy electronic warfare aircraft, the EA-6B. Recognizing that too few EA-6B aircraft may be available to meet both Air Force and Navy needs, DOD retained these 12 EF-111s in the active inventory through 1998, when additional upgraded EA-6Bs became available.

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