A Cold War legend – USAF General Dynamics F-111E Aardvark “The Chief” (says it all really) at The American Air Museum, IWM Duxford during my visit in the summer of 2012. Swing wing, supersonic (Mach 2.5!), massive payload and with terrain following radar, what a beast!
The F-111E strike bomber variant entered USAF service from 1969 to 1971. This variant was an updated F-111A design due to delays in delivery of the F-111D (94 were produced and featured the same TF30-P-3 turbofan afterburning engines and Mark I avionics of the F-111A with some minor improvements to the weapons systems and featured the Triple Plow II inlet).
Many F-111E’s were operated by the 20th Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW) at RAF Upper Heyford in the UK from 1970 until 1993. The 20th TFW conducted numerous training exercises during the Cold War and stood ready to go into bat for NATO against the Soviets and the Warsaw Pact nations. Fortunately it was never required in this role but 20th TFW F-111E’s acted as an airborne reserve in 1986 to F-111F bombers during Operation El Dorado Canyon airstrikes against Libya. Over the years a number of F-111E received upgraded avionics and engines. The type also saw service during the Gulf War from 1990 to 1991 and the last were retired from the USAF inventory in 1995.
This particular F-111E (67-012) was the last operated by the 20th TFW at Upper Heyford so was a perfect choice to be displayed in The American Air Museum. It was directly transferred by the USAF to the museum in 1993 (RAF Upper Heyford closed in 1994).