14 April 1986: In response to several acts of international terrorism sponsored by the Libyan regime of Muammar Khadafi, the United States launched Operation El Dorado Canyon. Along with A-6E Intruders, F/A-18 Hornets and A-7 Corsair IIs from the aircraft carriers USS America and USS Coral Sea, 24 General Dynamics F-111F Aardvarks of the 48th Tactical Fighter Wing from RAF Lakenheath, accompanied by EF-111 Ravens for electronic counter measures, and flew 3,500 miles to their targets.
Navy aircraft attacked Benina Airfield and the Benghazi barracks, while the Air force fighter bombers, using GBU-10 Paveway II 2,000-pound laser-guided bombs, attacked the Aziziyah Barracks and the Sadi Bilal terrorist training camp at Tripoli. Because of the length of the flight, the F-111s had to refuel from KC-10 Extender air tankers four times in each direction. The KC-10s, in turn, refueled in flight from KC-135 Stratotankers.
There were very stringent rules of engagement in place, and for that reason, the majority of the Aardvarks did not release their bombs.
Libya had some of the most sophisticated air defenses in the world. Analysis indicated that only three cities in Russia were more heavily defended. Even so, of the 55 aircraft in the two attack forces, only one F-111 was lost, probably shot down by a surface-to-air missile. Its two man crew were killed.
A number of Libyan aircraft and facilities were destroyed. 37 people were killed and 93 wounded. From the standpoint of destruction caused, the results were minimal. But the effects on Colonel Khadafi were pronounced, and resulted in a significant scaling back of his regime’s terrorist activities. Viewed from that perspective, the mission was a complete success.
2 February 1974: Test pilot Philip F. Oestricher made the first test flight of the General Dynamics YF-16 Light Weight Fighter prototype, 72-1567, at Edwards Air Force Base, California. During the 90-minute flight the airplane reached 400 knots (740.8 kilometers per hour) and 30,000 feet (9,144 meters).
Built at Fort Worth, Texas, the prototype rolled out 13 December 1973. It was loaded aboard a Lockheed C-5A Galaxy heavy-lift transport and was flown to Edwards. During high-speed taxi tests on 20 January 1974 the YF-16 began to oscillate in the roll axis, threatening to touch the wingtips to the ground.
To prevent damage, Phil Oestricher lifted off to regain control and after six minutes, touched down again.
The airplane had sustained damage to the right horizontal stabilizer. Engineers determined that the airplane’s roll control was too sensitive, and that the exhaust nozzle was improperly wired, resulting in too much thrust at low throttle settings. The YF-16 was repaired and was ready for its first test flight on 2 February.
The two YF-16 prototypes competed against the Northrop YF-17 for the role of the Air Force and NATO light weight fighter program. The YF-16 was selected and single-seat F-16A and two-seat F-16B fighters were ordered. The YF-17 was developed into the U.S. Navy’s F/A-18 Hornet.
The F-16 was designed to be a highly-maneuverable, light weight air superiority day fighter, but it has evolved into a multi-role fighter/fighter bomber with all weather attack capability.
The F-16 (now, a Lockheed Martin product) remains in production, with more than 4,500 having been built in the United States and under license in Europe. The United States Air Force has more than 1,200 F-16s in service.
The F-16C is a single-seat, single-engine Mach 2+ fighter. It is 49.3 feet (15.03 meters) long with a wingspan of 32.8 feet (10.0 meters) and overall height of 16.7 feet (5.09 meters). It has an empty weight of 20,300 pounds (9,207.9 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 48,000 pounds (21,772 kilograms).
The fighter is powered by one Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 or General Electric F110-GE-129 afterburning turbofan engine which produces 17,800 pounds of thrust (79.178 kilonewtons) each, or 29,100 pounds (129.443 kilonewtons) with afterburner) (F100), or 29,500 pounds (131.223 kilonewtons) (F110).
The Fighting Falcon has a maximum speed of Mach 1.2 (913 miles per hour, or 1,470 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and Mach 2+ at altitude. The fighter’s service ceiling is higher than 50,000 feet (15,240 meters). Maximum range is 2,002 miles (3,222 kilometers).
The F-16C is armed with one General Electric M61A1 Vulcan 20 mm 6-barreled Gatling gun with 511 rounds of ammunition, and can carry a wide range of air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles and bombs.
The first prototype YF-16, 72-1567, is now on display at the Virginia Air and Space Center, Hampton, Virginia.
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.
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 73.54 feet (22.415 meters) long. The wingspan varies from a maximum 70.0 feet (21.336 meters) when fully extended, and a minimum 33.96 feet (10.351 meters) when swept fully aft. Overall height is 17.04 feet (5.194 meters).
The wings of the FB-111A have a total area of 550 square feet (51.10 square meters). When fully extended, the wings’ leading edges are swept aft to 16.0°. The angle of incidence at the root is +1° and -3° at the tip. There is 1.0° dihedral.
The Aardvark’s empty weight is 47,481 pounds (21,537 kilograms). Normal maximum takeoff weight is 116,115 pounds (52,669 kilograms), and the maximum overload takeoff weight is or 119,243 pounds (54,088 kilograms).
The aircraft is powered by two Pratt & Whitney TF30-P-107 engines. This is a two-spool axial-flow turbofan engine with afterburner. It has a 3-stage fan section, 13-stage compressor section (6 low- and 7 high-pressure stages) and 4-stage turbine (1 high- and 3 low-pressure stages). The -107 has a maximum continuous power rating of 10,800 pounds of thrust (48.041 kilonewtons) at 14,150 r.p.m., N2 (static thrust, at Sea Level), and a maximum power rating of 20,350 pounds (90.521 kilonewtons) at 14,550 r.p.m., N2 (45 minute limit) The T30-P-107 is 3 feet, 2.12 inches (0.968 meters) in diameter, 20 feet, 1.4 inches (6.132 meters) long, and weighs 4,121 pounds (1,869 kilograms).
The FB-111A has an average cruise speed of 415–442 knots (478–509 miles per hour/769-819 kilometers per hour), depending on the mission profile. It’s maximum speed at 50,000 feet (15,240 meters) is 1,262 knots (1,452 miles per hour/2,337 kilometers per hour)—Mach 2.20. The bomber’s service ceiling varies from 50,390 feet to 56,380 feet (15,359–17,185 meters), again, depending on the mission profile. The maximum combat range is 4,920 nautical miles (5,662 statute miles/9,112 kilometers). The airplane can carry as many as six 600 gallon (2,271 liter) external tanks on underwing pylons. This gives the Aardvark a maximum ferry range of 4,313 nautical miles (4,963 statute miles/7,988 kilometers).
The FB-111A could carry weapons in an internal bomb bay or on underwing hardpoints. It could be armed with up to 37,500 pounds (17,010 kilograms) of conventional bombs; or six AGM-69A Short Range Attack Missiles (SRAM). The Aardvark could carry maximum of six nuclear weapons (B-43, B-57 or B-61).
In addition to a prototype (63-9783, which was converted from the last production F-111A) General Dynamics built 76 FB-111A strategic bombers. With the introduction of the Rockwell B-1B Lancer, the FB-111As remaining in service were converted to F-111G tactical fighter bombers. They were retired by 2003.
The Royal Australian Air Force bought 15 of the F-111Gs. By 2007, these had also been taken out of service.