General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark

     The F-111 was a multipurpose tactical fighter bomber capable of supersonic speeds.  It was one of the more controversial aircraft ever built.  In an attempt to reduce development costs, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara wanted to procure only one airplane to be used by both the Air Force and the Navy.  The Air Force wanted a fast, long range plane, but such a design was far too large and heavy for carrier operations.  Civilian DOD consultants came up with the idea for a "Tactical Fighter Experimental" program, which became known as the "TFX."  As a compromise between conflicting goals, the TFX was not ideally suited for either. Although both services were against the plane, it was "rammed down their throats."  
     The F-111 could operate from tree-top level to altitudes above 60,000 feet.  It had variable-sweep wings that allowed the pilot to fly from slow approach speeds to supersonic velocity at sea level and more than twice the speed of sound at higher altitudes. Wings angle from 16 degrees (full forward) to 72.5 degrees (full aft).  Full-forward wings gave the most surface area and maximum lift for short takeoff and landing. The F-111 needed no drag chute or reserve thrust to slow down after landing.
      The Air Force aircraft was produced in a variety of models.  They had numerous problems, and only the F-111F actually fulfilled the original TFX design specification.  This was not the fault of General Dynamics, rather it was that of the civilian planners in the Pentagon whose "cost effective" inclinations ironically produced the major aeronautical fiasco of the 1960s.  They set out to save money, but the plane ending up cost far more than expected.  
     The F-111A first flew in December 1964. The first operational aircraft was delivered in October 1967. A models were used for tactical bombing in Southeast Asia.  A total of 563 planes were purchased Seventy-six were built as FB-111s and saw service with the Strategic Air Command as bombers until 1990 when they were converted to F-111Gs and assigned to Tactical Air Command.   The naval aircraft, the F-111B, was never placed in production.   The last aircraft were withdrawn from service in 1996.