General Dynamics / Grumman EF-111 Raven Electronic Warfare Aircraft (EWA)
The Grumman EF-111 Raven was a direct EWA conversion of the F-111A Aardvark fighter-bomber strike platform.
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The EF-111 Raven was developed from a United States Air Force need for an Electronic Warfare Aircraft (EWA) to replace its aging fleet of EB-66 platforms. The EF-111 was born directly from the airframe of the existing F-111 Aardvark series of swing-wing bomber aircraft already in service and extended the operational use of the airframe by decades. With a single unit conversion cost of $25 million on top of the already paid $15 million production cost, the EF-111 became an expensive yet important addition to USAF operations during the latet years of the Cold War. The system would see operational service up until the late 1990's to which then the Air Force was forced to rely on US Navy and Marine Corps aircraft to fulfill the same EWA role. In any case, the EF-111 platform proved to be versatile and reliable and performed well under the stresses of combat.
By 1972 the United States Air Force was already showcasing its F-111 swing-wing bombers throughout the skies over Vietnam. Seeing the potential for replacing the EB-66 conversion models, the USAF tabbed some F-111A models to be converted themselves into the EF-111, taking on the designation name of "Raven" in the process. These new systems would adopt state-of-the-art technologies to help other aerial battlefield components fight more effectively and accurately. Grumman proceeded on the conversion plans under a new USAF contract in 1974 with first flight achieved by a Raven in 1977. Deliveries would start four years later.
EF-111's were deployed in operational combat use against Libya, Panama, in the Persian Gulf War and Bosnia/Herzegovina with no aircraft lost to enemy fire. From there, the Ravens would be deployed near US interests worldwide for a time up until 1998 to which the EF-111's would be officially retired from USAF service. By any regard, the EF-111 ended up looking quite similar to her strike counterpart with the exception of bulge on the top of the vertical tail fin. Some 42 F-111A Aardvark models were eventually converted to EF-111 Ravens.
The EF-111 also gained the nickname of "Spark Vark" during its tenure and was also known for a time as the "Electric Fox".