You are currently viewing Why the Aardvark Was A Technical Wonder

Why the Aardvark Was A Technical Wonder

The USAF received its first F-111 in 1967. In March, the jet entered the action. Then the issues began.

F-111: The 1964 F-111 Aardvark introduced several innovations. The name “Aardvark” references terrain-following software.

The supersonic, medium-range, multirole Aardvark served the US Air Force (USAF) for 30 years (and the Royal Australian Air Force for four decades of service).

The initial blueprints planned for a USAF variant (the A-variant) and a US Navy variant; however, only USAF employed the Aardvark (the B-variant). Before going into production, the B-variant was scrapped. The A-variant, however, entered production and service, bringing technologies that are now common in military aircraft.

The F-111 was the first sweep-wing plane. Top Gun popularised sweep-wing variants for the F-14 Tomcat, although the F-111 invented them. Sweep-wing aircraft can change shape mid-flight by moving forward and back. The result is an aircraft that can use straight-wing flight (excellent maneuverability at low speeds) or swept-wing flight (supersonic speed), depending on the mission profile. The F-111’s wing could move 16–72.5 degrees.

Even though the sweep-wing design was popular in pop culture, it was never used as a standard in aeronautical design. The B-1 Lancer, Panavia Tornado, and various Soviet/Russian fighters and bombers have sweep wings.

New aircraft now have terrain-following guidance systems and turbofan engines with afterburners, like the F-111. Instead of an ejection seat, the Aardvark’s escape capsule also failed. Unlike most fighters and bombers, the escape capsule took both pilots and the cockpit with it when it left the plane.

When it originally debuted, the F-111 introduced various new technologies, but it resembled an existing airframe: the A-6 Intruder. The F-111 would mimic the A-6’s pilot sitting layout, which put the two operators side by side instead of one in front of the other. Like the A-6, the F-111 could operate in any weather. Like the A-6, the F-111 flew low and bombed targets. The A-6 was slow, but the F-111 was supersonic.

The F-111 started poorly but performed admirably for four decades.

The USAF received its first F-111 in 1967. In March, the jet entered the action while at the end of the month, two F-111s crashed. The debris was never found, and the causes of the crashes were unknown.

The next month, a third F-111 crashed, revealing the culprit: a hydraulic control valve rod for the horizontal stabilizer led the aircraft to pitch uncontrollably, forcing the airframe the pilot could not recover from into a flight attitude. The Aardvark was flawed, and The fleet was grounded and inspected. Forty-two other F-111s had the same design issue. The Aardvark fleet would not be used again for three years until Operation Linebacker II in 1971.

The North Vietnamese started nicknaming the Aardvark “Whispering Death” because it helped the US military effort despite joining the fight late.

The F-111 would also be crucial in the 1991 First Gulf War.

Leave a Reply