General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark Long Range Strategic Medium Bomber / Tactical Strike Aircraft
The General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark swing-wing bomber was retired in 1996 from active service with the United States Air Force followed shortly by its counterpart - the EF-111 Raven.
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The General Dynamics F-111 "Aardvark" was purposely-designed as a variable geometry "swing wing" platform from the outset. The variable swing-wing philosophy would allow the aircraft to utilize three pre-determined geometric wing positions that could be called upon to change the flight characteristics of the aircraft "on the fly". The first position, with wings fully extended, was to be used when the increased weight of the aircraft - due to ordnance and/or fuel - could produce additional drag properties under the wing, assisting the aircraft on take-off. The secondary position could be utilized to attain stability and speed at high subsonic speeds. The third position, with wings completely swept back against the fuselage, could be utilized for maximum "fast-dash" performance at altitude.
The F-111 was based on this design principle, becoming the world's first operational variable geometry swing wing aircraft - leading the way for future global counterparts in the form of the Grumman F-14 Tomcat interceptor, the Panavia Tornado multirole aircraft, the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23 and MiG-27 "Flogger" strike fighters and the Sukhoi Su-17 "Fitter" bombers. Additionally, larger (and more complex) forms of the swing-wing philosophy would also arise from the developments of the Rockwell B-1 "Lancer", the Tupolev Tu-22 "Backfire" and the Tupolev Tu-160 "Blackjack" bombers.
The F-111 (belatedly assigned the designator of "Aardvark") was a large two-seat multi-role aircraft that would be used to good effect in the upcoming Vietnam War. The two crewmembers sat in a side-by-side arrangement in a fully-jettisonable cockpit capsule, with each member having equal access to all controls on the main panel. The F-111 was powered by a series of ever-increasing Pratt & Whitney brand powerplants and could field a variety of laser-guided, seeking, and drop bombs from up to 8 underwing hardpoints (four to a wing - the area under the fuselage was reserved for an internal weapons bay though the area between the engines could fit an ECM or data link pod). The aircraft utilized a single vertical tail fin mounted between the twin engines running that ran aft of the cockpit and the remaining length of the fuselage.