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General Dynamics F-111E Aardvark 68-0009


Originally known as the TFX (Tactical Fighter "X"), the F-111 was conceived to meet a U.S. Air Force requirement for a new tactical fighter-bomber. In 1960 the Department of Defense combined the USAF's requirement with a Navy need for a new air superiority fighter. The F-111 was a long-range, all-weather strike aircraft capable of navigating at low level to reach targets.

The USAF's F-111A first flew in December 1964, and the first production models were delivered to the USAF in 1967. Meanwhile, the Navy's F-111B program was canceled. In all, 566 F-111s of all series were built; 94 were production F-111Es. Although the F-111 was unofficially referred to as the Aardvark, it did not receive the name officially until it was retired on July 27, 1996.

An interesting feature of the aircraft was its variable-geometry wings. The F-111's wings are straight for takeoffs, landings or slow speed flight; by sweeping its wings rearward, it can exceed twice the speed of sound (Mach 2). The aircraft featured side-by-side seating for a pilot and weapons systems officer.

In the spring of 1968 the USAF operationally tested the F-111A in Southeast Asia with mixed success. In 1972, after correcting early problems, the USAF returned the F-111A to Southeast Asia for Operation Linebacker II, where it conducted very effective night strikes against North Vietnamese targets.

The F-111E was an improved version of the F-111A.

TECHNICAL NOTES
Crew
Two
Engines
Two Pratt & Whitney TF30-P3 turbofans; 18,500 lbs. thrust each in afterburner
Wingspan
63 feet (extended); 31 feet, 11.5 inches (swept)
Length
73 feet, 5.5 inches
Height
17 feet, 6 inches
Weight
46,172 pounds (empty); 98,850 pounds (max.)
Speed
1,453 mph / Mach 2.5 (max.); 470 mph (cruise)
Range
3,165 miles (with external fuel tanks)
Service Ceiling
61,000 feet
Armament
One 20mm M61A1 Vulcan rotary cannon with 2,000 rounds of ammunition;
up to 30,000 pounds of conventional or nuclear ordnance (internal and external)

AIRCRAFT HISTORY

The Fort Worth Aviation Museum’s F-111E was Air Force serial number 68-0009. It was constructed by General Dynamics (c/n A1-178, E-19) here in Fort Worth, Texas. It is there where it received it’s nickname “Balls 9” as the Air Force serial number depicts zeros and a “9.” It was accepted by the Air Force on November 10, 1969. It was first assigned to the 27th Tactical Fighter Wing, Tactical Air Command, at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico. It was then assigned to the 20th Tactical Fighter Wing "Gamblers,” US Air Forces Europe, beginning in January 1971. It carried the tail code "UH" as it was based at RAF Upper Heyford, Great Britain, for just over 21 years. During this time, the aircraft was seen in the markings of the 77th Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS) and possibly the 79th TFS.

After retirement, “Balls 9” was transferred to AMARC as FV0093 on May 11, 1992, for storage. It remained in “the Boneyard” in Tucson, Arizona, until 2003. A museum in Connecticut acquired it but soon went out of business and “Balls 9” languished until 2007. The Fort Worth Aviation Museum discovered the aircraft in a salvage yard. With help from the B-36 Peacemaker Museum this aircraft was brought home to Fort Worth in 2008.

References

UNIT INSIGNIA
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70th TFS

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79th TFS

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20th FW

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27th TFW
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USAF Europe
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Tactical Air Command



HISTORICAL PHOTOS
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April 1988

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July 1976