Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The F-111 Aardvark

Next up is the F-111 Aardvark that was constructed by General Dynamics.

The F-111 came about because of a need for low level penetration aircraft by the US Air Force.  With the shooting down of the U-2, it was discovered that high altitude alone wasn't enough to keep our aircraft safe.  It was discovered that if an aircraft can fly low enough, it can get lost in the ground clutter.
The F-111 featured a number of firsts.  It was the first aircraft to have variable sweep wings.  During the 50's, it was discovered that at higher speeds an aircraft with delta wings are better.  The problem is that delta wing aircraft do not perform well at lower speeds.  The solution to that problem was an aircraft that could have both configurations.  The F-111 was unique at the time because it could have variable sweeps (most swing wing planes could either be fully straight or fully swept but nothing in between).
Another first was the use of automated terrain following radar.  The pilot could set an altitude and the plane would do the rest.  There were some problems with that at first as sometimes the plane would follow the terrain too close and it would cause nauseousness in the pilots.
The F-111 also had a variant that was going to be used by the Navy but that never came to be (although some characteristics would find their way to the Tomcat).  It's first flight was in 1964 and introduction to service was in 1967.  The F-111 would be retired from service by the 90's though.

The F-111 was also used by the Australian Air Force.

No comments: