USA   F-111 Aardvark OZ
RAAF History

Last Updated 11 September, 2003

The RAAF's F-111 ... Pre-delivery

Reference -
Reference -
Photos and descriptions by GRAEME SEMKEN
Page 2 The Aircraft

The F-111, a versatile aircraft, was originally referred to as the TFX (Tactical Fighter Experimental). The press took this designation, and the variable wing geometry, to heart, and persisted in referring to the aircraft as the "swing-wing fighter". A fighter it was not, at least not the kind which dogfights with other aircraft. The original requirements which the aircraft tried to fill were for a tactical and strategic bomber, strike fighter, and heavy naval fleet defence fighter. The first F-111 was handed over to the R.A.A.F. in September 1968, making it the only air force outside the United States to operate the type.
The variable sweep wings have been the most obvious innovation of the F-111. It was also the first aircraft to enter service which could make blind, precise attacks flying in at very low altitude using Terrain Following Radar.
Despite early problems with power plants, drag, structure and not least climbing costs, the F-111 survived its initial bad press, and is likely to be looked upon as a classic. It has earned the affection of crews in both countries.
Graeme Semken joined the R.A.A.F. in February 1948, was a member of the first RAAF Apprentice Course at Wagga, NSW in 1948-50, and saw a number of firsts and lasts (some of which appear on other pages in this site).
Graeme was a member of the RAAF Resident Engineering team at GDFW - General Dynamics' Fort Worth, Texas plant, arriving on the 1st August 1968 as a Flight Sergeant Engine Fitter on attachment prior to proceeding on F-111C training, which was initially postponed and then cancelled. He was promoted to Warrant Officer Engineer on the 1st September 1968. He left in July 1970.
On his return to Support Command he worked on F-111C Ground Support Equipment and in the F-111C Project Cell (TF30 P3 Engines) that was set up when it became evident that the F111C's were to be delivered. He retired from the RAAF in Dec 1972.
He has been kind enough to ask if his photos and recollections would be of any interest. I think there is only one answer I could have given, and I hope the F-111 fans will enjoy the photos and descriptions as I did.
Here are Graeme's photos, and his own comments. I have only added notes about the individual aircraft in text boxes at the foot of each page.
It's long photo essay, spread over two pages;



The entrance to GDFW - USAF Plant No.4

An aerial shot of the entrance to GDFW / USAF Plant No.4, adjoins Carswell AFB - a SAC Base. It's next to Lake Worth in Texas.
Some of our F-111C's in storage can be seen in the right centre - in front of the flight line stations.
During a shift change the 4 lane highway both in and out was like a peak period in any city.

F-111s in storage

The aerial shot was taken in 1969 flying above General Dynamics, Fort Worth Texas as a passenger in a Bell Helicopter.
In the shot are MANY F111's in what was then called the 'hold mode' after the wing carry-thru box failure.
Our F111'C's were all produced and are in the right of the photo, most of them in the 'X' area being prepared for storage, some in the vicinity of the 'X' area are F111'C's, others were stored at the Flight line - see next photo (below). Other F111A's and FB111A's are lined up and also stored. Count how many!
The main factory building in the photo is 1mile long (approx - a long walk) and 3 stories high - all air conditioned. At its peak of production they employed around 28000 people in 3 shifts - 7days. An F111 was produced nearly every day!

F-111C's in storage - flight line GDFW


Here are a couple that I scanned from a GDFW handout that I received in 1968 at the Acceptance Ceremony - Dated September 1968.

F-111 Production Line GDFW - 1968

F-111 Production Line GDFW - 1968.

Fitting a wing to an F111A

The fitting of a wing to an F111A on the Production Line.

F-111C Acceptance Ceremony, 4th September 1968

I obtained the original photograph from a close friend at General Dynamics - it also appeared in a front page edition of General Dynamics News Vol. 21, No.19 on Wednesday September 11th 1968, with the heading 'First F111C Delivered'.
The story of the aircraft pictured as A8-125 was not quite true - read below.
Also in the photo, at the end of the production line is C12, the production line number given to our 12th F111C.
In my 2 and 1/2 years at GD this was the only time the production line was stopped - this was because of the noise level, thus allowing all to hear the speeches!
Our first aircraft off the production line was number two (A8-126) of our twenty-four. Number one was delayed, as the RAAF, in consultation with General Dynamics (GD) and the USAF rejected the wings that they had designated to be fitted so they were making a new set and they (the wings) were not ready.
Number two departed GDFW on the 5th September 1968 and flew to Edwards AFB to undergo long-range flight trials - before tackling the ferry flight home, on its arrival it was grounded by the Proj Manager in Washington and was returned to GDFW on the 9th December 1968. The pilot on both flights was Sqn.Ldr. Ron Green - (later Group Captain - CO ARDU).
Aircraft numbers three to six were on the flight line in various stages of flight acceptance. Aircraft number seven was at the paint shop just off the production line so GD painted it up with all the markings of number A8-125, just for the acceptance.
Note: Their may be others who say that the above story is not "politically correct" but it is technically correct in every word - I know!

COMMENT: The first aircraft, A8-125, and the second, A8-126, were finally delivered to the RAAF in June 1973 due to the need for modifications to be carried out.
Both remained in service at least until the mid-1990s (any current information would be welcome), with A8-126 being converted to RF-111C standard.

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