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The General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark is a retired supersonic, medium-range, multirole combat aircraft. Production variants of the F-111 had roles that included ground attack (e.g. interdiction), strategic bombing (including nuclear weapons capabilities), reconnaissance and electronic warfare. Developed in the 1960s by General Dynamics, the F-111 entered service in 1967 with the United States Air Force (USAF). The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) also ordered the type and began operating the F-111C variant 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.
A fighter variant, the F-111B, was not accepted for production. The F-111B was intended to perform aircraft carrier-based roles with the US Navy, including long-range interception.
USAF F-111s were retired during the 1990s with the F-111Fs in 1996 and EF-111s in 1998. The F-111 was 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 name Aardvark was derived from perceived similarities of the aircraft to the animal of the same name: a long nose and low-level, terrain-following capabilities.
The May 1960 U-2 incident, in which an American CIA U-2 reconnaissance plane was shot down over the USSR, stunned the United States government. Besides greatly damaging US–Soviet relations, the incident showed that the Soviet Union had developed a surface-to-air missile that could reach aircraft above 60,000 feet (18,000 meters).
By 1960, SAC had begun moving to low-level penetration, which greatly reduced radar detection distances. At the time, SAMs were ineffective against low-flying aircraft, and interceptor aircraft had less of a speed advantage at low altitudes. 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 farther 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.
Length: 73 ft 6 in (22.40 m)
Wingspan: 63 ft (19 m)
Swept wingspan: 32 ft (9.8 m) swept
Height: 17 ft 1.5 in (5.220 m)
Wing area: 657.4 sq ft (61.07 m2) spread, 525 sq ft (48.8 m2) swept
Aspect ratio: 7.56 spread
Airfoil: root: NACA 64-210.68; tip: NACA 64-209.80
Empty weight: 47,200 lb (21,410 kg)
Gross weight: 82,800 lb (37,557 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 100,000 lb (45,359 kg)
Zero-lift drag coefficient: 0.0186
Zero-lift drag coefficient area: 9.36 sq ft (0.87 m2)
Aspect ratio: spread:
Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney TF30-P-100 afterburning turbofan engines, 17,900 lbf (80 kN) thrust each dry, 25,100 lbf (112 kN) with afterburner
Maximum speed: 1,434 kn (1,650 mph, 2,656 km/h) at altitude
795 kn (915 mph; 1,472 km/h) / Mach 1.2 at sea level
Maximum speed: Mach 2.5
Range: 3,210 nmi (3,690 mi, 5,940 km)
Ferry range: 3,210 nmi (3,690 mi, 5,940 km) with external drop tanks
Service ceiling: 66,000 ft (20,000 m)
g limits: +7.33
Rate of climb: 25,890 ft/min (131.5 m/s)
Wing loading: 126 lb/sq ft (620 kg/m2) spread
158 lb/sq ft (771 kg/m2) wings swept
Guns: 1× 20 mm (0.787 in) M61A1 Vulcan 6-barreled Gatling cannon in weapons bay (seldom fitted)
Hardpoints: 9 in total (8× under-wing, 1× under-fuselage between engines) plus 2 attach points in weapons bay with a capacity of 31,500 lb (14,300 kg), with provisions to carry combinations of:
AGM-69 SRAM thermonuclear air-to-surface missile (FB-111A only)
AGM-130 stand-off bomb
Free-fall general-purpose bombs including Mk 82 (500 lb/227 kg), Mk 83 (1,000 lb/454 kg), Mk 84 (2,000 lb/907 kg), and Mk 117 (750 lb/340 kg)
BLU-109 (2,000 lb/907 kg) hardened penetration bomb
Paveway laser-guided bombs, including 2,000 lb (907 kg) GBU-10, 500 lb (227 kg) GBU-12, and 4,800 lb (2,200 kg) GBU-28 penetration bomb
BLU-107 Durandal runway-cratering bomb
GBU-15 electro-optical bomb
B61 or B43 nuclear bombs
GMR and TFR
#F111 #short #combataircraft
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