Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sunday Fail : F-111B

While the F-111 has had a successful career as a bomber for the US and Australian Air Forces it was also supposed to be an interceptor for the US Navy. The TFX (Tactical Fighter Experimental) programme in the early 1960s was supposed to combine the Air Force's need for a tactical fighter bomber with the Navy's need for an interceptor.

To try and please everyone is very difficult as we all know, especially as both services did not really want to share a programme. Requirements changed also, originally the Navy wanted a large interceptor but later maneuverability became "important" again after early experience in the Vietnam War showed that dogfighting was not yet relegated to the history books. But the F-111B, which was the Navy's version, was a large and rather sluggish plane.

The F-111B was overweight by some margin and this added to it's poor performance. It was noticeably inferior to the F-4 Phantom an aircraft it was supposed to be superior to and replace. By the late 1960s everyone had given up trying to make the F-111 the plane the Navy needed. The US Navy instead went for a new design... the F-14 Tomcat, which turned out quite well...

The F-111 for the USAF proved to be a solid tactical strike aircraft with strategic bombing and electronic warfare versions also developed. The F-111 was finally retired from US service in the 1990s and will leave Australian service later this year. Only 7 of the F-111B were built and were retired by the end of the 1960s.

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