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
It's long photo essay, spread over two pages;
page: GENERAL DYNAMICS, FORT WORTH, 1969-70
Next page: F-111 PRODUCTION LINE, FORT WORTH, 1968 THE
GENERAL DYNAMICS, FORT WORTH,
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.
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-111 PRODUCTION LINE, FORT
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.
The fitting of a wing to an F111A
on the Production Line.
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!
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.