13 July 1968: The first production General Dynamics FB-111A supersonic strategic bomber successfully completed a 30-minute maiden flight at Carswell Air Force Base, Fort Worth, Texas. The FB-111A differed from the F-111A fighter bomber with the substitution of a larger wing, originally designed for the F-111B, giving the bomber a 7 foot (2.134 meter) increase in wingspan. The landing gear was strengthened, the bomb bay enlarged and it had more powerful engines.
In addition to a prototype which was converted from the last production F-111A, General Dynamics built 76 FB-111As.
The airplane’s very long nose earned the nickname “Aardvark,” but this did not become official until 1996.
67-0159 was delivered to the U.S. Air Force 4 September 1968 and assigned to the Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, California. (The first six production airplanes were used for flight testing.)
67-0159 was later converted to the F-111G configuration. In 1980 it was sent to the Sacramento Air Logistics Center to test weapons modifications and received a spectacular white and orange paint scheme. It was retired in 1990.
67-0159 is in the collection of the National Museum of the United States Air Force. It is on loan and now on display at the Aerospace Museum of California, Sacramento, California.
The General Dynamics FB-111A is a two-place twin-engine strategic bomber with variable sweep wings, assigned to the Strategic Air Command. It is 73 feet, 6 inches (22.403 meters) long. The wingspan varies from a maximum 70 feet (21.336 meters) with 16° sweep to a minimum 33 feet, 11 inches (10.338 meters) when swept to 72.5°. Overall height is 17 feet, 1.4 inches (5.217 meters). Normal maximum takeoff weight is 114,300 pounds (51,846 kilograms) or 119,243 pounds (54,088 kilograms), maximum overload.
The aircraft is powered by two Pratt & Whitney JTF10A (TF30-P-7) afterburning turbofan engines producing 20,350 pounds of thrust, each.
The FB-111A has a cruise speed of 565 miles per hour (909.3 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed of Mach 2.2 (1,450 miles per hour, 2,333.6 kilometers per hour) at 50,000 feet (15,240 meters), the service ceiling. The bomber has an unrefueled range of 4,500 miles (7,242 kilometers).
The FB-111A could be armed with six AGM-69A Short Range Attack Missiles or up to 37,500 pounds (17,009.7 kilograms) of conventional or nuclear weapons (B43, B61 or B77).
With the introduction of the Rockwell B-1B Lancer, the FB-111As remaining in service were converted to FB-111G tactical fighter bombers. They were retired by 2003.
The Royal Australian Air Force bought 15 of the FB-111Gs. By 2007, these had also been taken out of service.
© 2017, Bryan R. Swopesby