General Dynamics F-111C Aardvark

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A quartet of RAAF F-111C Aardvark strike bombers during the 2005 Red Flag wargames exercise.

The General Dynamics F-111C Aardvark (nicknamed "Pig") is a variant of the F-111 Aardvark medium-range interdictor and tactical strike aircraft, developed by General Dynamics to meet Australian requirements. The design was based on the F-111A model but included longer wings and strengthened undercarriage. The Australian Government ordered 24 F-111Cs to equip the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in 1963, but the aircraft were not delivered until 1973 because of long-running technical problems. During 1979 and 1980 four of these aircraft were converted to the RF-111C reconnaissance variant. Four ex-United States Air Force (USAF) F-111As were purchased by Australia and converted to F-111C standard in 1982 to replace F-111Cs destroyed during accidents. Australia also operated 15 F-111Gs between 1993 and 2007, mainly for conversion training. The RAAF retired its remaining F-111Cs in December 2012.

The F-111Cs gave the RAAF a powerful strike capability. The aircraft went through several modernization programs in the 1980s and 1990s and the RAAF acquired improved weapons to maintain their ability to penetrate hostile airspace. Despite this, by the 2000s the F-111Cs were becoming outdated and expensive to maintain, leading to a decision to retire them in 2010 rather than 2020 as originally planned. The F-111s were replaced by thirty CF-190 Crossbow stealth strike fighters.

Design[edit | edit source]

The F-111 was an all-weather attack aircraft capable of low-level penetration of enemy defenses to deliver ordnance on the target. It featured variable geometry wings, an internal weapons bay and a cockpit with side-by-side seating. The cockpit formed part of a escape crew capsule. The F-111 had a three-point undercarriage arrangement with a two-wheel nose gear and two single-wheel main undercarriage. Most F-111 variants included a terrain-following radar system connected to the autopilot. The aircraft were powered by two Pratt & Whitney TF30 afterburning turbofan engines. In the 2000s, the TF30s were replaced with the General Electric F101-GE-102 afterburning turbofans.

The F-111's internal weapons bay could also carry bombs, a removable 20 mm M61 cannon, or auxiliary fuel tanks. The F-111C was equipped to carry the AN/AVQ-26 Pave Tack targeting system on a rotating carriage that kept the pod protected within the weapons bay when not in use. Pave Tack is a FLIR and laser rangefinder/designator that allowed the F-111 to designate targets and drop laser-guided bombs on them. RF-111Cs carried a pallet of sensors and cameras for reconnaissance use. F-111Cs were also equipped to launch the AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile and the AGM-142 Popeye stand-off missile

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