The last four-ship of USAF F-111s flew from
Fort Worth to Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona after retirement and naming ceremonies at
Lockheed Martin TAS. The flight closed a chapter that spanned nearly three decades of
mission success and a legacy of firsts in military aviation.
On hand for the ceremonies were USAF and
company officials as well as people who designed, built, supported, or flew F-111s. Col.
Michael J. Koerner, commander of the 27th Fighter Wing, Cannon AFB, New Mexico, hasted the
event. Before announcing the retirement of the aircraft, Maj. Gen. Lee A. Downer, director
of operations, Headquarters Air Combat Command, officially named the F-111 the
The F-111 is believed to be the only USAF
aircraft to go through its entire service life without being officially named.
The F-111 was born in 1962, when the
Department of Defense awarded a contract to General Dynamics Fort Worth to develop a
supersonic aircraft called the TFX. A total of 562 aircraft were delivered, including
F-111s for the Royal Australian Air Force.
The airplane was the first in history to
incorporate multi-role features, and the first production aircraft with a
"swing" wing, allowing short takeoffs and landings and supersonic speeds at high
or low altitudes. Noted for its long-range, low-altitude, and high-speed weapons delivery,
the Aardvark gained a worldwide reputation in combat.
The retirement ceremony was attended by
pilots who flew the F-111 in Vietnam, in the 1986 raid against terrorist targets in Libya,
and in Operation Desert Storm.
During the ceremonies, Tactical Aircraft
Systems President Dain Hancock said the F-111 was the forerunner of today's advanced
aircraft programs. "This aircraft taught us a lot about integrating sophisticated
systems to work as one system, to help the pilot do his job better," Hancock said.
"The F-111 did, of course, evolve into six different models for the different roles
it has performed for the US Air Force. All of these lessons have served us well in the
F-16 and F-22 programs, and they will surely find application in the next-generation Joint
Strike Fighter program that we are now pursuing."
The EF-111A, an electronic warfare model,
will remain in USAF service until 1999. Australia plans to keep its fleet of F-111Cs and
F-111Gs in service until the year 2015.