F-111 Wings, Paint Schemes & Notes
By Jim Rotramel
A pair 493rd TFS
F-111Fs from the 48th TFW orbiting near Konya Bombing Range in south-central Turkey in
February 1986, two months before Operation El Dorado Canyon. Note the difference in
profile when the Pave Tack pod was retracted (foreground) and extended (background). Also,
note that the AN/ALQ-131 ECM pods at this time had white radomes. Each aircraft was armed
with GBU-10E/Bs (with blue, inert warheads) on the outboard pylons and SUU-21/A practice
bomb dispensers in the inboard pylons.
The wings had full-span slats and double-slotted flaps. The
trailing edge of the flaps had a curious bump on all variants of the aircraft.
They swept back into the top of the fuselage and were covered by large panels called
over-wing fairings. These fairings were hinged at the front to lift up during
supersonic or high-G flight and equalize air pressure within the fuselage/wing cavity.
Roll control was provided by two sets of spoilers. The
inboard set locked down when the wings swept past 45 degrees, while the
outboards locked down at 47 degrees.
The FB-111A, F-111B and F-111C featured wingspans extended
by seven feet.
When parked, the F-111s wings were usually either
swept back to 54 degrees or forward to 16 degrees with the flaps at 35 degrees and slats
extended (the stabilizers drooped until supplied with hydraulic pressure
during engine start). NOTE: you DONT have to buy aftermarket flaps and
slatsits perfectly acceptable to build a parked aircraft with the flaps and
After engine start, the wings were set to 16 degrees during
the ground checks, and normally to 54 degrees for taxi. Prior to takeoff they were again
put to 16 degrees with the slats down and the flaps at 25 degrees. At this time the
ground roll spoiler switch was activated, raising the spoilers whenever both
throttles were in idle. This feature killed lift and shortened the ground roll during
landings or takeoff aborts.
Takeoff was at about 160 KTAS, and the wings were quickly
cleaned up and swept to 26 degrees for climb out, initial cruise, and/or air
refueling. The most common sweep settings for low level were 35 or 44 degrees, with the
latter being used for toss weapon deliveries.
Depending on the amount of fuel remaining, landing
approaches were normally flown at slightly slower speeds than takeoff, with the sweep set
at 16-20 degrees, slats down and flaps at 35 degrees (25 degrees if single engine). After
landing, the ground roll spoiler switch was deactivated and the wings swept to 54 degrees
for taxi back to parking.
The fabric wing seal that
covered the wing cavity is shown above
Above left - The top of an
F-111D wing with the flaps and slats fully deployed.
Above right - The bottom of an F-111D wing the flaps and
slats fully deployed. Note that while the pylons are flush with the wing in front of the
pivot point, there is a gap between the two aft of that.
Scaledown has produced wings with flaps and slats extended
for both short and long wings. The wings are complete units, including precut wings that
allow you to throw away the kit wings. Because of resin shrinkage, the fit of the flaps
and slats isnt perfect, but shouldnt pose a problem for a reasonably capable
modeler. One note on the short wingsfill the hole for the outboard pylon. Short-wing
airplanes never used that pylon.
Paragon has produced a modification kit for the short wing
airplanes for extended flaps and slats as well. These are a bit more of a modeling
challenge because they require you to cut away the front and back of the kit wings.
Shrinkage is a minor problem with these wings as well, but a good model can be made using
this kit as well. One nice touch with the Paragon kit is the inclusion of photo-etch parts
to simulate the fabric wing cavity seals.
All F-111s were constructed with provisions for four
outboard pylons fixed for carriage at 26 degrees of wing-sweep. However, of these, only
the inboard fixed pylons were used operationally, and only by FB-111As for carriage of two
extra 600-gal external fuel tanks (explaining the pigeon-toed appearance of
some FB-111A fuel tanks on takeoff).
Other variants only used the four movable inboard pylons,
with external tank carriage being limited to F-111Cs, F-111Es, and F-111Fs (and ONLY from
the outboard pylon). Operationally, fuel tanks would probably only be used in conjunction
with AGM-69A SRAMs (FB-111As only) or B61 nuclear weapons on the inboard pylons.
The 600-gallon external fuel tanks in the
Minicraft F-111 kits were woefully undersized. The Monogram A-10 tanks were closer, but
still undersized. Scaledown has produced corrected fuel tanks, with different versions for
both the tactical and strategic aircraft.
As training aircraft FB-111As modified as F-111Gs no longer
carried any tanks. However, they did retain the FB-111A pylons, which were pointed at the
front and more sharply angled at the back than those found on other F-111s. Scaledown has produced the FB-111A/F111G
When stores were loaded on the wing
pylons, safety pins were inserted in the pylons to prevent them from being inadvertently
jettisoned. These pins were always inserted from the outboard side. That meant that on the
left wing only, the small door that allowed access to the cartridge actuating devices
(CAD) had to be opened whenever the pins were inserted.
Australian bought 24 F-111C aircraft with the extended wing
tips and strengthened landing gear of the FB-111A design (although its avionics remained
virtually identical to those in the F-111A). Initial delivery occurred in July 1968. Four
F-111Cs were modified to RF-111C standard in 1979-80 by installing a pallet in the weapons
bay and a control panel in the cockpit (A8-126, 134, 143, and 146).
During 1983, F-111C A8-147 was modified with the same Pave
Tack system used by the F-111F. All other F-111Cs were modified in Australia beginning in
March 1985. At about the same time, they received other modifications to make them
compatible with the GBU-15 glide bomb, but without the AN/AXQ-14 data link pod. Three
final weapons which were unique to the F-111C community were the indigenous Karinga
cluster bomb, AGM-84 Harpoon, and AGM-88 HARM.
The F-111C fleet received the avionics update program (AUP)
in the early 1990s. This resulted in a cockpit configuration similar to Pacer Strike
Only 25 F-111Es received the extensive Avionics
Modernization Program (AMP) changes during 1990-92. They were 68-0022, 0027, 0032,
0040/41, 0044, 0047/48, 0050, 0054, 0063, 0067/68, 0071/77, 0079/80, 0082/84). These
aircraft replaced F-111Gs at the 428th FS in July 1993, but were retired soon thereafter.
During the early 1980s all F-111Fs were modified with the
Pave Tack system which enabled the WSO to visually acquire targets 24-hours a day using
high-quality infrared video, and self-designating them with a laser for attack with laser
guided bombs (LGB). Integration of this system required additional cockpit controls and
displays, the most significant of which was the virtual image display (VID).
Starting in 1993, 21 F-111Fs were upgraded by
Rockwells Pacer Strike program to make them very similar to the AMP F-111Es. They
were: 70-2399, -2405, -2411; 71-0883, -0884, -0886, -0887, -0888, -0889, -0890, -0891,
-0893; 72-1442, -1443, -1444, -1446; 73-0710; 74-0178, -0180, -0184, -0185, -0186. All
were initially assigned to the 524th FS, with some later being transferred to the 523rd
FS. 72-1444 was originally at Eglin AFB and went directly to the 523rd.
Paint Scheme Notes
F-111As had a different camouflage pattern than all the
other tactical variants. This is most evident around the nose. They initially had white
undersides, but this was changed to olive drab on the Harvest Reaper F-111As. By the time
of the Constant Guard V deployment to Thailand in 1972 the undersides were black, a color
used until the overall gray scheme was adopted by tactical F-111s in the early 1990s.
F-111s were the last aircraft to use the Vietnam era colors, with Desert Storm aircraft
using this scheme because most aircrew found it much easier to fly tactical formation
US-based F-111A and F-111Ds had hard-edged patterns,
virtually identical between aircraft, while European-based F-111Es and F-111Fs had soft
edged patterns, which were generally similar from one aircraft to the next.
FB-111As were painted in a unique scheme using SAC colors.
Aircraft 68-0250 was painted in a new European One scheme in early May 1984,
with all other FB-111As being repainted in due course.
Libya Raid Aircraft: When the Libya raid occurred,
the tail codes and national insignia were flat black. Some aircraft carried color wing and
squadron insignia (the former on the left, the latter on the right). The last three digits
of the tail number were stenciled in white on the front-bottom corner of both nose wheel
doors. Pilot and crew chief names were painted in white on the left nose gear door, while
the WSO and assistant crew chief names were on the right. No AIM-9s were carried. Within a
couple of months of the raid, a hand-painted rendition of the World War II North African
Campaign ribbon began to appear on all 48th TFW aircraft (these were carried until the
aircraft transferred to Cannon AFB after the Gulf War). None of the raid aircraft received
any special markings except for 70-2390, which eventually was adorned for a short period
with a small (about eight-inch long) vertical white bomb, shaped very much like a Fat Man
atomic bomb. It was located on the left side of the fuselage just in front of and slightly
below the bottom front corner of the escape capsule.
Desert Storm Aircraft:
The 493 TFS reversed black and yellow on its squadron patch
after Desert Storm, and its fin cap became black with yellow stripes. All F-111Fs based at
Lakenheath were inflicted with an incorrectly proportioned national insignia from the late
1980s, many until they transferred to Cannon AFB. Applied with a stencil that made the
bars about half again as long as they should be, these solid-pattern insignia
were applied to many aircraft during the Gulf War. A correctly proportioned F-15E type
broken-pattern stencil insignia started being used on the F-111Fs at Lakenheath at about
the time that the F-15Es started arriving there.
Gray Scheme: Starting in 1990 the depot in Sacramento,
where all stateside-based F-111s were overhauled, had to stop painting aircraft because of
environmental concerns. At about the same time a decision was made to change to a
different type of paint stripping process and paint. The new paint was the same 36118
Gunship Gray used on F-15Es. F-111Ds and F-111Gs were painted at the rate of about one per
week at Cannon AFB, where the priority became painting over the former FB-111As SAC
colors as quickly possible. After the first few airplanes were painted, it was discovered
that the accumulation of oil on the belly beneath the engine bays interfered with paint
adhesion enough that the area between the ventral strakes was left the old color on many
aircraft. As the gray color scheme was applied, the squadron colors were again applied as
stripes on the upper fin. The new scheme wasnt at all popular with European aircrew,
with the few aircraft that were painted that way being quickly repainted. Only the first
AMP F-111E saw combat in gray paint; aircraft 68-0050 flew a single combat sortie on 25
February. (Although FB-111A 68-0294 and F-111G 67-7194 had experimental radomes of 36081
gray fitted beginning about 1990, the black radomes remain standard.)
F-111Cs used Vietnam-era colors and F-111D/E/F
patterns until being painted gray a year after the acquisition of the ex-USAF F-111Gs.
EF-111As had a unique gray color scheme, and had
never carried squadron colors.
WEBMASTER's NOTE: Paint colours here.
Edited by Assistant Webmaster
David de Botton - Flash@F-111.net
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