F-111 Evolved | Strike Aircraft
Crew: Pilot and air combat officer
Engine: 2x Pratt & Whitney TF30-P109 engines (max 25,100 lbf ea.)
Wingspan: 21.3m extended, 10.3m swept
Weight: 24,000kg empty
Speed: 2,655 kph at altitude, 1,473 kph at sea level
Range: 5950km ferry
The F-111, with terrain-following radar and swing-wing capabilities, flies faster and lower than many fighter aircraft. The fighter-bomber profile of the F-111 is closer to a deep penetration attack aircraft. The F-111 is an all-weather attack aircraft, capable of low-level penetration of enemy defenses to deliver ordnance on the target. The F-111 features variable geometry wings, an internal weapons bay and a cockpit with side by side seating for a pilot and air combat officer. The cockpit is part of an escape crew capsule.
The wing sweep varies between 16 degrees and 72.5 degrees (full forward to full sweep), allowing maximal stability for each speed of flight. The wing includes leading edge slats and double slotted flaps over its full length. The airframe is made up mostly of aluminum alloys with steel, titanium and other materials used in places. The fuselage is made of a semi-monocoque structure with stiffened panels and honeycomb sandwich panels for skin.
The F-111 uses a three-point landing gear arrangement with a two-wheel nose gear and two single-wheel main landing gear. The landing gear door for the main gear is positioned in the center of the fuselage and also serves as a speed brake in flight. The aircraft is powered by two afterburning turbofan engines. The F-111's variable geometry wings, escape capsule, terrain following radar, and afterburning turbofans were new technologies for production aircraft.
The F-111 Evolved uses SAAB AB's multi-mode Terrain Awareness Warning System, which uses a full suite of terrain sweeping sensors to allow the F-111 Evolved to fly at extremely low levels in all weather conditions, using map data combined with all-round sensors to warn the pilot of potential CFIT (controlled flight into terrain) dangers and providing numerous escape paths for the pilot as needed. Connected to the autopilot this can allow the F-111 Evolved the ability to prevent collision into terrain during low-level flight. Pilots are able to dip and weave in the lowest valleys and highest mountains with precision accuracy.
One function which is used for the AESA in the F-22 and JSF, and very likely to also migrate down into the F/A-18 and F-16C, is the use of the AESA radar as high power, highly directional centimetric band jammer. This is possible for two reasons, the first being the superior bandwidth of such antennas, the second being the ability to timeshare the radar modes and thus waveforms and beams. A jamming waveform pointed at a threat radar becomes just another digitally commanded waveform and beam to the AESA.
The centimetric band is important since it is mostly used for fighter air intercept radars, newer SAM engagement radars, and missile seekers. Much effort was expended by the New Hayesalian Air Force over the last decade to field a hi-band jamming capability in the F-111 Evolved.
While a centimetric band high power jamming capability will not provide the ability to disrupt long range wide area surveillance radars, it will provide its users with a Prowler-like capability to disrupt in-band interceptors and long range high altitude SAMs. Since the AESA will typically produce ten times more peak power than an onboard DECM trackbreaking jammer, it will provide significantly better capability against forward quarter threats operating within the bandwidth of the AESA. This will be particularly valuable in situations where the aircraft is attacking from medium to high altitudes, where large SAMs and fighters are the only serious threats. A multimode AESA radar on the F-111 provides a platform for this very useful growth capability.
F-111 Evolved can be equipped with a Forward Looking Infrared Pod, which is able to accurately photograph the terrain it flies over and analyse situations, something the F-111 was always suited for with an outstanding loiter time.
The pilot's side of the cockpit in the legacy F-111 is an true artifact of the 1960s, with electromechanical instruments, tape indicators and gyro gunsight, many components of which would not be out of place in a Vietnam era F-105D. Many of these instruments are reaching old age mechanical wearout, and many are prone to moisture ingress. Modern digital flight displays have completely replaced this in the F-111 Evolved, more akin to the F-22N Sea Raptor and F-15NH Blue Heeler.
In monitored airspace this aircraft employs an inter-ship data link via blue green laser. This laser communications system makes radio transmission detection by hostile forces impossible. Via this same data link the pilot is able to network into a much larger strike package of aircraft and also has the ability to network with ground units during ground attack mission. AWACS data can be streamed into the cockpit displays. This allows the crew to have a radar picture without employing their own active systems.
The F-111 Evolved is incredibly capable. It’s penetration capacity has international targets fearing, and it’s performance levels are highly able to match or exceed those of the F-35. The F-111 Evolved performs the mission superbly, penetrating defences at Mach 1 speeds, hugging terrain contours at 200 feet using Terrain Following Radar (TFR) and TAWS, effectively disrupting enemy defences via the use of its sophisticated jamming equipment and finally hitting the target with free fall or Precision Guided Munitions (PGM). In New Hayesalian service, the F-111 Evolved now also performs the duty of the Wild Weasel SAM-detection aircraft.