Skip to comments.Was the Navy’s F-111 Really That Bad?
Posted on 08/23/2018 7:24:05 AM PDT by sukhoi-30mki
The controversy swirling around the F-35 joint strike fighter echoes previous battles fought over aircraft tasked with serving more than one master. Perhaps the central question in todays debate is whether a single airplane designed to perform many missions adequately is a better and truly more affordable choice than several airplanes, each designed to perform a single mission flawlessly. In 1968, the Navy had an unequivocal answer: No. But were they right?
In the early 1960s both the Navy and the Air Force were shopping for new combat aircraft. The Navy needed a carrier-based interceptor capable of engaging Soviet bombers hundreds of miles away, before they could launch long-range anti-ship missiles; the Air Force required a supersonic, ground-hugging penetrator that could duck in under enemy radar and dodge surface-to-air missiles.
Traditionally, each service developed its own aircraft to meet its specific requirements. But in early 1961, newly appointed Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara came up with a scheme to save millions of dollars by using a common airframe for the two very different missions. He was determined to check the escalating costs of ever-more-sophisticated weapons systems. The result was a warplane that neither service particularly wanted, one branded by critics as a flying Edsel. Former test pilot George Marrett remembers it simply as the worst aircraft I had ever flown.
Read more at https://www.airspacemag.com/military-aviation/13_sep2018-cancelled-f111b-1-180969916/#vdR22KjjbPjHFcmX.99
(Excerpt) Read more at airspacemag.com ...
The F-111B was designed to defend the fleet, but only one landed aboard an aircraft carrier, the Coral Sea, in 1968, after the program was cancelled. (USS Coral Sea CVA-43 Association)
And that was the problem. It was okay.
Well, if nothing else, the Aussies sure liked them.
The F-111 was supposed to be the do everything fighter for all the services, but didn't do any one thing in a superior manner.
The F-35 scares me because it too is trying to be the everything fighter also. I pray it is not another F-111.
Werent F111s used as wild weasels? I remember them at Ellsworth.
Yeah, good ol’ Bob McNamara, he sure got a lot done in his time...
I was flying a T-38, and taxied/took off behind an F-111D at Cannon AFB. The trust of that aircraft was impressive. It shook my T-38 like it was made of balsa wood.
Only smart move LBJ made, pushing the little mac off on the World Bank.
I noticed beginning around 2000, dear old bob began rewriting the history of the Vietnam War to make him seem like an observer of what had gone on.
“Well, if nothing else, the Aussies sure liked them.”
Did the Aussies ever have any carriers to land and launch these planes?
As I recall it was F-111’s that Reagan ordered to bomb Khadafi. France wouldn’t allow American warplanes to fly over French airspace so they were sent from England around France and into the Med to Libya.
I don’t remember why carrier based aircraft weren’t used from the Mediterranean.
Well the ‘F’ variant performed ok over Libya. So wasn’t all that bad.
Give us an 80s classic....
Sigue Sigue Sputnik - Love Missile F1-11
Libya had some serious anti-aircraft defenses back then. The Air Force was better at penetration raids. It also makes quite a statement when you can fly in from somewhere completely out of reach to your enemy's military, drop your bombs, then fly home again.
The F-111B Navy version didn’t really need an onboard anchor anyway. The extra weight and the toss overboard by the pilot when landing was the final straw.
The F-111 series were bleeding edge technology back then. Engineers were challenged to adapt the airframe design to various configurations for use by our Air Force and Navy, as well as variants versions sold to different countries. For the most part, the engineering was excellent. But there were trade-offs that were impossible without modification of the basic structure and flight parameters.
The F-111 was a good plane. Not a flying Edsel as many would have you believe.
Thanks for the refresher. That makes sense.
Those F-111 pilots did an amazing job. I think they were cramped up in the cockpits for something like 20 hours.
By the time Reagan was in office, the “B-111” (USAF had long since modified them away from their original FB-111 and never really used them their “pure fighter” mode) had been worked through its failures (since nothing else was available, they had to use what they had “make it good enough.”
Independent of the FB-111 USAF-USN problems, its fire control radar, fire control electronics, and the supposed common missile all took forever to get right. F-4, F-15, F-16, F-14 (Tomcat) eventually got the combat packages started by the F-102, F-106, FB-111 (etc) together many, many years later.
French opposition against forced them to fly from England, out around Spain through the Strait south of Gibraltar, then over the Libya. By the 1980’s, they could not fly from Navy carriers with USAF pilots who knew the airplane and its systems and its weapons, and the USN pilots who did know carrier landing and who were practiced enough to do it could not fly and operate FB-111’s weapons and plane.
Someone said they weren’t carrier based. They were Air Force.
Well the F variant performed ok over Libya. So wasnt all that bad.
Their performance was better than just “ok”.
Thanks! I believe the F111 was TF-30 powered as well as the F-14. For the life of me, I don’t know why Pratt never pursued a follow on or upgrade ( FADEC ) to the TF-30, some say the F-100 would have been to wimpy for the carrier landing punishment. A more robust F-100 might have been the ticket. I am reading the article now. It is interesting how the “B” did pave the way for the F-14. The Navy wanted redundancy aka 2 engines, 2 tails and tandem seating. The overall config’s are pretty close, at that point Grumman knew what not to do to keep the Navy happy.
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