FB-111A

Strategic Air Command did not participate in the original TAC-US Navy TFX project that spawned the F-111 Aardvark, but was interested in procuring a strategic version to replace the B-58 Hustler as well as outdated B-52C/D/E/F versions. After looking at more advanced derivatives, an order for 263 FB-111As was announced in December 1966. Well before the FB-111A was even near service, the planned procurement was radically slashed to just 76 aircraft, reflecting a general downsizing of SAC’s bomber force.

The first FB-111A took to the air on 30 July 1967, but this was actually F-111A 63-9783 (the eighteenth aircraft off the GD line) with the early TF30-P1 engines. originally, the FB-111A was to have been powered by a version of the naval F-111B’s TF30-P-12, with a revised afterburner section. This never materialized, and early FB-111s would fly under the power of “regular” P-12s, pending the availability of the TF30-P-7. Production models would have Triple-Plow II inlets, and the APQ-134 terrain-following radar. With a “normal” maximum takeoff weight of over 114,000lbs, the FB-111A would be the heaviest member of the Aardvark family, and thus needed a strengthened airframe and landing gear. The longer wings of the naval F-111B and RAAF F-111C were used. Provisions for an additional pair of wing pylons were added, but these were rarely if ever used.

The 340th Bomb Group at Carswell AFB received the first production FB-111A in September 1969. The 340th engaged in crew training tasks, but it was intended to base the medium-range FB-111As in the northeast, closer to the USSR. Thus, in December 1971 the 340th was deactivated, after handing over the entire operational FB-111 force (the last aircraft had been delivered in June) to the 380th BMW at Plattsburgh AFB and the 509th BW at Pease AFB.

As originally planned, the FB-111s were to have had an extended service life with the USAF, although they would have transferred to TAC as F-111Gs. The general rundown in military forces cut short this program after the first F-111G conversions had been made. The last FBs were retired by SAC in mid-1991 and afterward a few F-111Gs served with TAC’s (later ACC’s) 27th Fighter Wing at Canon AFB, New Mexico. Within a couple of years these too were retired, but it was announced that some former FBs would be given another reprieve, in the form of being transferred to the Royal Australian Air Force to serve alongside RAAF F-111Cs.

George C. Wilson “AMSA Goal Limits F-111 Bomber Design” Aviation Week & Space Technology December 20, 1965 p.21-22 includes a depiction of an aircraft with four dozen bombs loaded

Photo: FB-111A 63-9783 in gray/white scheme, and with six underwing tanks, refueling from a KC-135. Aviation Week & Space Technology February 3, 1969 front cover This airframe was an early F-111A used as a preproduction FB-111A, and was broken up in the late 1990s after being in storage for decades.

Photo: FB-111A dropping a SRAM Aviation Week & Space Technology October 13, 1969 front cover

Photo: side-view of an FB-111A dropping an inert B77 Aviation Week & Space Technology January 9, 1978 front cover

Photo: side view of a Pease-based FB-111A, as seen in the UK Armed Forces Vol. 5 No.11, front cover

Jay Miller Aero Series 29: General Dynamics F-111 Includes a photo of an early FB-111A with six external tanks from a tanker’s boom pod; FB-111H 3-view, cutaway view, and subassembly diagram.