Skip to comments.F-111B - a victim of the air war over Vietnam
Posted on 12/08/2010 12:19:05 AM PST by sukhoi-30mki
F-111B - a victim of the air war over Vietnam
By Greg Waldron on December 8, 2010
The retirement of Australia's F-111Cs last week ended the long story of a successful, and iconic, long range bomber. Many forget, however, that US Navy's version of the aircraft, the F-111B, was a failure.
The F-111B was big like the F-111C, though it had a stubbier nose to make carrier landings easier. Conceived as pure fighter (the naval version of the Tactical Fighter Experimental) in the early sixties, it would not need a gun. The F-111B's AWG-9 pulse doppler radar and Phoenix missiles (120lb warhead, 100 mile + range) would ensure that nothing could get near it - ever.
The air war over Southeast Asia, however, ended all hope for the F-111B. In that war nimble (and cheap) Migs and their guns proved a serious problem for big American fighters and their advanced missiles - which, to be fair, often failed to work properly in the humid and hot combat conditions. The best performing US fighter of the war was probably the old F-8 Crusader with super manoeuvrability, ample power, and four 20mm cannons.
Extensive trials showed the F-111B's manoeuvrability to be inferior to that of the F-4 Phantom, the plane it was designed to replace on carrier decks. It proved to be yet another peacetime weapons system condemned by the unforgiving realities of war.
The F-14 Tomcat was eventually adopted as the premiere carrier fighter, reigning on carrier decks for three decades, before finally being retired in 2006.
Video of F-111B trials
F14 = Same engines as F111 - Just a purpose designed airframe
JSF = another cookie cutter aircraft using 1 engine fromm the F-22 development. ( And not the best part )
Another of McNamara’s gifts to the US military.
Any time, Baby.
Amen to that. One of his other gifts was the DDG of that era. In heavy seas a DDG had problems keeping up with the carriers it was supposed to protect.
Ask Ghaddafi what he thinks of the FB-111’s
The goes on and on:
- Scrapped Naval list for ships & aircraft,
- Replaced service numbers with Social Security numbers,
- Imposed F-111, DDG, M-16 and missiles that failed,
- Forced common uniform buying down to underwear & socks,
and the biggest sin of all,
- Stopped manufacture of Kiwi Marine Brown shoe polish!
That is definitely McNamara "best and the brightest" "thinking"; much along the same lines as not needing conventional forces since we'd have plenty of ICBMs. Leave it to an academic to be theoretically correct and in reality dead wrong.
Missile technology and ROE did not support the missileer concept. The previous design was for a straight wing loitering aircraft that would simply fire the Phoenix missiles from afar and never engage in close combat. Vietnam experience killed that.
In fact, the F-14’s capability as a fighter was greatly limited by the design requirement to carry six Phoenix missiles.
The trouble in a sense is that no distinction is made between a fighter and an interceptor. The F-14 was an interceptor that could be forced into a fighter role.
Hitler thought the ME-262 should have been a bomber too.
Clueless people should leave engineering to the engineers.
... which was why one of the F-111's nicknames was the "Flying Edsel" after one of McNamara's gifts to Ford Motor.
The F-14 was designed to operate w/ the GE 110 engine. The P & W TF-30 (which the military had lots of thank to the F-111) was foisted upon the US Navy by politics. The TF-20 was a true POS!
I mean TF-30.
He wouldn't have any opinion about the FB-111s, because he was only visited by F-111Fs.
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That was also the thinking behind the F-4 Phantom II. It didn't have an internal gun either, only an optional external gun pod. Then the 366 TFW "The Gunfighters" showed how effective and necessary a gun was in Vietnam. (See How the Gunfighers Got Their Name) After that, the later models of the F-4 had an internal gun.
The F-111 did in fact have a gun, at least the USAF versions did. It was the good old M61A1 that could optionally be mounted in the weapons bay in place of one of the weapons bay doors. Ironically, even though the 366th TFW later flew the F-111F, then the F-111A, (and continued to be known as "The Gunfighters,") they never used the gun in combat. It was later dropped altogether from all F-111s.
Fast forward about 50 years, and today's F-35B and F-35C (the STOVL and Naval variants) do not have an internal gun, only an optional extertnal gun pod. The USAF F-35A does have an internal gun. History repeats itself?
In a former life I did a seven month Med Cruise on the USS Inchon(LPH-12), last of the LPH class. It was a McNamara special, built of the hull, boilers and elevator of the former USS Boxer. Around the 15 kt range, one could always know how fast we were going based on how much it vibrated. The more vib the faster we were going.
Ah yes the nugget killer, followed by it’s brother the Harrier, smaller nugget killer.
Those were not the B version.
The F-111 was another McNamara brain fart. It was to force the Navy and Air Force to use the same airplane for missions that couldn’t have been foreseen. Had many advanced features, all of which proved of no help in Vietnam.
That pic was taken on the flight deck of the USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) in July, 1968.
As one of the (roughly) 23 AIRPAC LSOs crowding the platform during that memorable event, I can testify the the Navy version of McNamara’s Folly was a pig! To wit:
1. It was too big, too heavy and waaaaaay underpowered.
2. The Jet Blast Deflectors could not be raised on launch because the back pressure would blow out the afterburners.
3. Because of the JBD/burner blowout issue, only the port catapult could be used to launch the F-111. The resulting wind (and heat) howling down the flight deck was incredible!
4. The TF-30 took a long time to spool up and the F-111 required almost military power to trap at high gross landing weights — in fact, on one memorable approach, when called by the LSO for power, the pilot responded that he was at military power already. The LSO’s immediate response was “Burner! Burner! Burner! Waveoff! Waveoff! Waveoff!” That wave off was perhaps the most spectacular wave off I ever witnessed! There were a lot of “puckers” on that one!
HSAT, the F-111 did pave the way for the F-14 Tomcat. My SiL, a former Tomcat driver, will tell you today that it was the best fighter/interceptor ever built. Too bad that Grumman shot the Navy such a high price when asked what it would cost to resume F-14 production. F-18 is a good fighter, but my fighter pilot FRiends swear that the Tomcat is better all-around.
Carrier Qualifying the F-111B was a very costly exercise in futility, but it was one exciting evolution!
Thanks for the memories!
He gave me a COMPLETE (but not classified!) run through of all its avionics, flight controls, engine specs and airframe. I tested him too, he could have told me anything. Well, he was spot on each time. He was assigned to the team in Australia that worked on the aircraft.
I very much disagree with you. The F-111A in Vietnam proved very useful using it's cutting edge Texas Instruments APQ-110 Terrain Following Radar in night/adverse weather low level attacks on suspected truck parks.
Do you mean the suspected truck parks that gave no secondaries when bombed?
True at the beginning but some guys added them in the field until the Pentagon saw the error of it’s ways and adopted a pod for it.
The Navy was in parternership with the AF to develop the engine which went into the F-15, with a Navy version slated for the F-14. The F-14 was slated to fly its test flights, basically, with the TF-30 with the expectation that the new engine would be available for about the 17th bird, IIRC.
But Pratt's progress in developing the new engine did not live up to its billing, and the Navy dropped out of the program. There was, IIRC, one attempt to test the AF P&W engine in the F-14, with unsatisfactory results. One problem being that the idle thrust of the engine was unmanageably high. Even with the TF-30 the F-14A was a successful design, at least in terms of combat capability. Maintainability was an issue, tho.
And when the GE F-101 DFE (derivitive fighter engine) was tested in the F-14 the improvement was incredible. Not only in performance, but especially in operability - the first Navy pilot to fly it balked at conducting the tests as recommended by Grumman, and wanted to be more conservative since the suggested test would have produced a double engine stall in the TF-30s. In production, the 101 DFE was redesignated the F-110. But that was painfully late (mid-1980s) in a program that needed that over a decade sooner.
By all accounts the F-14 airframe capabilities were such that it could hold its own with the F-15 even with the clunky old TF-30; there is no telling how much more of a market there would have been for the plane if its propulsion had been in the F-110's class from the start. Apropos the F-111B, the test pilot whose demo flight was credited with selling the F-14 to the Shah of Iran - saving Grumman's bacon in the process - was asked if he had flown the F111B, and how he liked it. He said the F-111B was a fine airplane - as long as you didn't get in it thinking it was a fighter!
Thank You for the background. Tailhook ‘91 killed the F-14 and A-6 Community.
YES! Them's the ones!
McNamara wanted the Navy to get out of the air superiority business. He thought that “fighters” on carriers should do one thing: fleet air defense against Soviet bombers. So the B was basically a much faster F6D Missileer. Navy jocks insisted that Vietnam was proof that fighters still need to be able to dogfight. And they were right.
At least the F-35 is starting out with a gun pod ready for deployment!