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The F-111 Could Go In Low And Fast Because Of What Was In That Long Nose

Have You Ever Wondered How the TFR on the Aardvark Worked? Wonder No More.

Official US Air Force Photograph

Super scary at first…super effective though too.

When the General Dynamics F-111A went into United States Air Force (USAF) initial operational service in 1967 they were capable of doing things and going places other bombers could only dream about. A large part of the jet’s capability came from its revolutionary terrain following radar (TFR) system which would allow the jet to go in low and fast. Of course the Aardvark (the F-111 never received an official name but Aardvark stuck) also had other revolutionary characteristics (like the first operational swing wings), but the training film we’re highlighting in this piece does an exceptionally good job of explaining how the TFR system did its critically important job. Thanks to YouTuber Jeff Quitney for uploading the video

The first use of the F-111 in combat was during the Vietnam War. In March of 1968 a detachment of six F-111As were sent to Southeast Asia under the Combat Lancer program. Three of the six aircraft were lost during just over a month in-country. It was later determined that a design fault in the horizontal stabilizer had caused the losses, which delayed the full operational use of the jet until 1971. In 1972 the F-111 returned to Southeast Asia and racked up 4,000 combat sorties with only six losses directly attributable to enemy action.

Official US Air Force Photograph

Throughout the remainder of the Vark’s service life there were few military operations in which it was not a key player. When in 1986 it became necessary to strike Libya the F-111 was the only jet capable of pulling off the long range precision strikes needed to execute the Air Force’s tasking for Operation El Dorado Canyon. During the Operation Desert Storm in 1991 the F-111Fs that dropped 80% of the laser-guided bombs were developed from those A models that had first worn Air Force colors twenty years earlier. But after Desert Storm the F-111s didn’t stick around for long. Just five years later the Air Force retired their last bomber Varks and the dedicated electronic attack EF-111 Spark Varks another couple of years after that.

Three F-111F Varks and a single EF-111 Spark Vark flying together somewhere hot and sandy. Official US Air Force Photograph.

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Written by Bill Walton

Bill Walton

Bill Walton is a life-long aviation enthusiast and expert in aircraft recognition. As a teenager Bill helped his engineer father build an award-winning T-18 homebuilt airplane in their Wisconsin basement. Bill is a freelance writer, an avid sailor, engineer, announcer, husband, father, uncle, mentor, coach, and Navy veteran. Bill lives north of Houston TX with his wife and son under the approach path to KDWH runway 17R, which means they get to look up at a lot of airplanes. A very good thing.