In a day and age where the United States Air Force has a grand total of 76 B-52H Stratofortress, 62 B-1B Lancer, and 20 B-2A Spirit bombers in service, it’s fair to say the United States’ bomber force is quite potent. That said, there aren’t as many in service as there once were.
One plane that once supplemented the bomber force quite well was the F-111 Aardvark. This was a fast, all-weather strike plane that was originally designed to serve both the Air Force and Navy, much like today’s Joint Strike Fighter. While the Navy version didn’t pan out, the Aardvark, after some teething problems, emerged as a reliable strike asset by 1972.
The F-111 could deliver payload. According to Christopher Chant’s Encyclopaedia of Modern Aircraft Armament, the Aardvark could haul as many as 36 Mk 82 500-pound dumb bombs. By comparison, the B-52 can haul 51 of those same bombs. So, in terms of load, each Aardvark accounted for 70.5 percent of a legendary BUFF.
This F-111 has Durandal runway-cratering bombs loaded. As you can see, it carries a lot.
As aviation historian Joe Baugher noted, during the F-111A’s deployment to Vietnam as part of Operation Linebacker II, each F-111 was capable of dropping the bomb load of five F-4 Phantoms. Not only could the F-111 deliver one hell of a payload, it could do so very accurately due to advanced radars.
This F-111F is being prepared for the April, 1986, strike on Libya.
Three newer models of the F-111 — the F-111D, F-111E, and F-111F — all entered service in the 1970s. None of these variants saw action in the Vietnam War, but saw plenty of action elsewhere. The F-111F played a key role in the April, 1986, strikes on Libya and both the F-111E and F-111F saw action in Desert Storm.
An F-111 drops two dozen Mk 82 500-pound bombs – about half the load a B-52 can carry.
An electronic warfare version of the F-111, the EF-111A, also played a key role in Desert Storm — one even scored a maneuver kill against an Iraqi Mirage F-1!
Today, the F-111 is retired, but would still make a formidable foe in the skies. Learn more about the potent Aardvark in the video below.