A long, long time ago, back when dinosaurs ruled the Earth...
Okay, so it wasn't that long ago. But it was in the last quarter of the last century, '75 to be precise, Yours Truly was preparing to join the mightiest aerial force to ever bomb an enemy back into the Stone Age. Yup, the United States Air Force.
The Air Force that killed MiGs and still had a Strategic Air Command.
Yeah, those guys.
I was asked what I wanted to do in the Air Force. As I had not the eyesight to actually fly the great beasts of the air, I was resolved to work on them. I wished to become an aircraft maintainer. (Have I mentioned from time to time that I'm not always the "sharpest knife in the drawer"?)
At the time there were two maintenance jobs that my recruiter figured I'd be good at, both involved weapons control systems. One job was to maintain the F-4 Phantom II (the one I eventually picked), the other was on the F-111 "Aardvark" (not it's official name, for it never had one).
I chose the F-4 due to there being more duty stations available. At the time, the F-111 lived in only two places, Plattsburgh AFB, New York and RAF Lakenheath in the United Kingdom. Oh, I was sorely tempted at the mention of the UK. Then my recruiter mentioned that they deployed a lot. After he explained "deploy" to me (for I was young and green in the ways of the military in those days) I decided to go Phantoms. What would be the point of being stationed in England if one was never actually, you know, in England.
But since that day I have had a soft spot for the Aardvark. So here she is.
|F-111 of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF)|
From Wikipedia -
The General Dynamics F-111 "Aardvark" was a medium-range interdictor and tactical strike aircraft that also filled the roles of strategic bomber, reconnaissance, and electronic warfare in its various versions. Developed in the 1960s by General Dynamics, it first entered service in 1967 with the United States Air Force. The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) also ordered the type and began operating F-111Cs in 1973.
The F-111 pioneered several technologies for production aircraft, including variable-sweep wings, afterburning turbofan engines, and automated terrain-following radar for low-level, high-speed flight. Its design influenced later variable-sweep wing aircraft, and some of its advanced features have since become commonplace. The F-111 suffered a variety of problems during initial development and several of its intended roles, such as naval interception, with the F-111B, failed to materialize.
USAF F-111 variants were retired in the 1990s, with the F-111Fs in 1996 and EF-111s in 1998. The F-111 has been replaced in USAF service by the F-15E Strike Eagle for medium-range precision strike missions, while the supersonic bomber role has been assumed by the B-1B Lancer. The RAAF was the last operator of the F-111, with its aircraft serving until December 2010.
The U-2 incident of May 1960, in which an American CIA U-2 spy plane was shot down over the USSR, stunned the United States government. Besides greatly damaging Soviet relations, the incident showed that Russia had developed a surface-to-air missile that could reach aircraft above 60,000 feet. The United States Air Force Strategic Air Command (SAC) and the RAF Bomber Command's plans to send subsonic, high-altitude B-47 and V bomber formations into the USSR were now much less viable. By 1960, SAC had begun moving to low-level penetration. This greatly reduces radar detection distances; and, at that time, SAMs were ineffective against low-flying aircraft, and interceptor aircraft did not have as large a speed advantage at low-level. The Air Force's Tactical Air Command (TAC) was largely concerned with the fighter-bomber and deep strike/interdiction roles. TAC was in the process of receiving its latest design, the Republic F-105 Thunderchief, which was designed to deliver nuclear weapons fast and far, but required long runways. A simpler variable geometry wing configuration with the pivot points further out from the aircraft's centerline was reported by NASA in 1958, which made swing wings viable. This led Air Force leaders to encourage its use. In June 1960, the USAF issued specification SOR 183 for a long-range interdiction/strike aircraft able to penetrate Soviet air defenses at very low altitudes and high speeds. The specification also called for the aircraft to operate from short, unprepared airstrips.
In the 1950s the United States Navy sought a long-range, high-endurance interceptor aircraft to protect its carrier battle groups against long-range anti-ship missiles launched from Soviet jet bombers and submarines. The Navy needed a fleet air defense (FAD) fighter with a more powerful radar, and longer range missiles than the F-4 Phantom II to intercept both enemy bombers and missiles. Seeking a FAD fighter, the Navy started with the subsonic, straight-winged aircraft, the Douglas F6D Missileer in 1957. The Missileer was designed to carry six long-range missiles and loiter for five hours, but would be defenseless after firing its missiles. The program was canceled in December 1960. The Navy had tried variable geometry wings with the XF10F Jaguar, but abandoned it in the early 1950s. It was NASA's simplification which made the variable geometry wings practical. By 1960, increases in aircraft weights required improved high-lift devices, such as variable geometry wings. Variable geometry offered high speeds, and maneuverability with heavier payloads, long range, and the ability to takeoff and land in shorter distances.
|11-Ship Formation of Aardvarks|
|F-111 On Deck|
|RAAF 6 Squadron F-111 Fuel Dump|
(Often mistaken for afterburner, see next photo)
|RAF Lakenheath Bird, Actually in 'Burner|
(i.e. not dumping fuel)
|EF-111A "Raven" Flying in Operation Deny Flight|
|Great Shot of an Aussie 'Vark|
|F-111F and EF-111A in Formation|
|Above the Clouds|
|So yeah, this could have been me!|