The F-111A first
flew in December 1964.
The F-111 was a multipurpose tactical
fighter bomber capable of supersonic speeds.
The aircraft was one of the most 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.
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.
emergencies, both crew members remained in the cockpit and an explosive
cutting cord separated the cockpit module from the aircraft.
descended by parachute.
The ejected module included a small portion of
the wing fairing to stabilize it during aircraft separation.
cushioned impact and help keep the module afloat in water. The module
could be released at any speed or altitude, even under water.
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.
fuel only, the plane had a range of more than 2,500 nautical miles
External fuel tanks could be carried on the pylons
under the wings and jettisoned if necessary.
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
Should any of the system's circuits fail, the aircraft
automatically initiated a climb.