F-111 Features

Wingspan: 63 ft. spread; 31 ft. 11.5 in. swept
Length: 73 ft. 6 in.
Weight: 45,700 lb. empty; 92,500 lb. fully loaded
Top Speed: 1,650 mph (Mach 2.5)
Combat Range: 2,925 miles
Armament: Two 750 lb. conventional or nuclear bombs, or 20 mm multi-barrel cannon in internal bay, and up to 25,000 lb. of bombs, rockets, missiles or fuel tanks on four under-wing pylons.
Crew: Two (Pilot and Weapon Systems Officer)

Despite its seemingly unflattering nickname, the innovative F-111 was fast and versatile and elusive to enemy radar.

As the world’s first ‘swing-wing’ aircraft, the F-111’s wings could be adjusted in flight from sticking straight out from the fuselage to a sleek swept back position. Extended wings allowed the F-111 to take off and land on runways as short as 2,000 feet, and when in flight the swept wing configuration allowed the aircraft to achieve supersonic speeds up to Mach 2.5.

Terrain-following radar inside the aircraft’s nose cone allowed it to fly at low altitudes, avoiding detection by radar, even in poor weather and at night. This ability to hunt in the dark with its elongated nose close to the ground led to the “Aardvark” moniker.

This low-level strike aircraft first saw combat with the US Air Force in 1968 over the skies of Southeast Asia, but was quickly withdrawn after a series of crashes. On its return to Vietnam several years later, the North Vietnamese described the deadly aircraft as “Whispering Death.” Aardvarks flew more than 4,000 missions in Vietnam while suffering only six combat losses.

More than two decades later, F-111s based at RAF Upper Heyford, Oxfordshire, and RAF Lakenheath, Suffolk, were deployed to the Persian Gulf to take part in Operation Desert Storm. They flew 2,500 sorties, dropped nearly 80% of the war’s laser-guided bombs, and destroyed more than 1,500 Iraqi tanks and armored vehicles.

The F-111 on display at the Museum took part in 19 combat missions during the Gulf War. It was built in 1969 and began service based at Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico. In late 1982 it was flown to the UK and returned to familiar Aardvark territory – RAF Upper Heyford, Oxfordshire – where it was operated by Tactical Fighter Squadrons.

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