For more than four decades, the F-111 Aardvark, a swing-wing attack aircraft, served the US and Australian Air Forces with an impressive record of combat missions.
Although its recognition has been overlooked, experts consider it the “ F-35 of its time” due to its pioneering ability and its participation in more than 4,000 missions. We will explore the conception of the F-111 and its enduring legacy in the military arena.
The F-111 Aardvark is a little-known attack aircraft but one that has left a remarkable legacy in the US and Australian Air Forces. Its nickname, “Aardvark” (aardvark in English), is due to its distinctive long nose and its ability to follow the terrain at low altitudes.
Throughout the 20th century, the US Aardvarks fleet took part in more than 4,000 combat missions, leading some experts to compare this platform to the modern F-35.
The F-111 Aardvark: A swing-wing attack aircraft
The F-111 Aardvark was noted for being a swing-wing attack aircraft. This unique design allowed it to adapt to different flight conditions and maneuver at supersonic speeds or at low speeds. Its low-altitude ground-following capabilities made it an effective platform for surprise attacks and evasion of enemy defenses.
The F-111 Aardvark in action: Over 4,000 combat missions
The F-111 Aardvark has left an impressive legacy through its more than 4,000 combat missions. This aircraft took part in military operations for decades, proving its worth on the battlefield. Its long-distance attack capability and versatility made it an indispensable tool for the US and Australian Air Forces.
Although more modern aircraft have been developed, the F-111 Aardvark stands out as a pioneering platform and precursor to the F-35. His participation in numerous combat missions places him in a prominent place in military history.
The historical context and development of the F-111 Aardvark
The conception of the F-111 Aardvark dates back to an incident in 1960 when an American reconnaissance plane was shot down over Soviet territory. This event increased Cold War tensions and revealed the need for a platform capable of penetrating Soviet air defenses at high speed and at low altitudes.
In response to this threat, the US Air Force focused on developing a long-range attack and intercepting aircraft. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara ordered collaboration between the Air Force and the Navy, which led to the development of the Tactical Fighter Experimental, a precursor to the F-111 Aardvark.
The development of the F-111 Aardvark
Development of the F-111 Aardvark was carried out by the General Dynamics manufacturing company . Two prototypes were created during the process: the F-111A and the F-111B. Both variants featured twin-engine and two-seater characteristics and were powered by two Pratt & Whitney TF30 after-burning turbofan engines.
These prototypes became the basis for developing the F-111 Aardvark, the first aircraft to use an after-burning turbofan engine. This innovation allowed him to fly at high speed without the need for tankers. In 1966, the F-111 set a low-altitude supersonic flight record, covering approximately 172 miles at less than 1,000 feet altitude.