The F-111F was the final F-111 version produced for the Tactical Air Command (TAC). It was ordered on July 1, 1970. It differed from the F-111D in having more advanced electronics which were nevertheless simplified and more reliable. It carried the Mark IIB avionics suite which combined F-111D and FB-111A navigational and digital computer systems (but excluding the F-111D's AN/APN-189 Doppler radar navigation set) plus numerous other FB-111A components such as the AN/APQ-144 attack radar and some simpler, less costly avionics systems used by earlier F-111s. The APQ-144 attack radar of the F-111F has a new 2.5-mile display ring made possible by a 0.2 s pulse-width capability. The F-111F also featured an improved landing gear. It was powered by a pair of 25,100 lb.s.t. TF30-P-100 turbofans (although the first 30 had TF30-P-9s and were subsequently re-engined). These offered about 35 percent more thrust than the engines of the F-111A and E. An adjustable engine nozle was added to decrease the drag.
On October 13, 1971, a modified F-111A started the F-111F Category I flight test program. A problem with overheating of the aft centerbody fuselage was corrected by an engineering change. The first F-111F entered service with the 374th TFW based at Mountain Home AFB in Idaho in January 1972. The entire wing became operationally ready in October of 1972. There were some initial problems with the TF30-P-100 engine--difficulties were encountered with afterburner stalls in cold weather, with tail-feather seal leakage, and with inlet guide vane cracking .
The last F-111F was delivered to the USAF in September of 1976. 106 F-111Fs were built. Their serials were 70-2362/2419, 71-0883/0894, 72-1441/1452, 73-0707/0718, and 74-0177/0188. Another twenty-four were cancelled (serials were 71-0895/0906 and 75-0210/0221).
After serving with the 366th TFW, the F-111Fs were reassigned to the 48th TFW based at RAF Lakenheath in the United Kingdom. F-111Fs also serve with the 57th Fighter Weapons Wing based at McClellan AFB in California.
The F-111F had an internal weapons bay, but in most aircraft this bay was normally occupied by extra fuel or by other equipment. Many F-111Fs carry the Ford AVQ-26 Pave Tack pod semi-recessed in the weapons bay. The Pave Tack was equipped with a laser designator and forward-looking infrared (FLIR) which were used for the delivery of laser-guided bombs with pinpoint accuracy. The laser and FLIR were boresighted inside a powered turret giving magnified clear pictures of targets that were integrated with the cockpit avionics displays and weapons-aiming systems. Although all of the F-111 marks could drop laser-guided bombs, only the F version had the laser suite to designate targets.
24 F-111Fs from the 48th TFW based at Lakenheath spearheaded the US attack on Libya on the night of April 14, 1986, striking targets in Tripoli with laser-guided and retarded bombs. The lead ship during the Libya strike was 70-2390. One F-111F (serial number 70-2389) was lost to ground fire during the attack. The 18 F-111s of the 48th TFW and the 20th TFW flew what turned out to be the longest fighter combat mission in history. The round-trip flight between the UK and Libya of 6,400 miles (10,300 km) spanned 13 hours,
During *Desert Storm*, the 67 F-111Fs of the 48th TFW operated from air bases in Saudi Arabia. Because of their ability to deliver precision-guided ordinance in all-weather conditions, they played a key role in the destruction of the Iraqi command and control structure and in the elimination of key targets in the Kuwait theatre of operations. These aircraft flew 2500 sorties, destroyed 2203 targets, including direct hits on 920 tanks, 252 artillery pieces, 245 hardened aircraft shelters, 13 runways, 113 bunkers, and 12 bridges. A total of 5500 bombs were dropped. Almost 85 percent of these bombs were precision guided munitions. When Iraqi forces deliberately opened a oil pumping station manifold to allow oil to leak into the Persian Gulf, an F-111F was selected to deliver a GBU-15 electro-optically guided bomb against the manifolds to stop the flow.
On the last night of the war, two F-111Fs delivered the hastily-devised GBU-28 deep-penetrator bombs against Iraqi command and control bunkers. These bombs could penetrate over 100 feet of earth or 22 feet of concrete.
No F-111Fs were lost in combat during the Persian Gulf War, which was a remarkable testament to its combat effectiveness.
In 1995/96, the F-111Fs were all retired to AMARC and placed in storage. This ended the service of the F-111 series with the USAAF, with the exception of the EF-111A Raven electronic warfare aircraft, which soldiered on for a couple more years. Most of them still sit there today. The F-111 has been replaced by the F-15E Strike Eagle for medium range precision strike missions, and by the B-1B Lancer in the supersonic bomber role.
During its long service, the F-111A/F series never had an official Air Force popular name. However, because of its long, pointed nose, the F-111A came to be known unofficially as the "Aardvark", or just 'Vark for short. In October 1996, at the time of the official retirement of the F-111F from the USAF, the name Aardvark was officially assigned.
Engines: Two Pratt & Whitney TF30-P-100 turbofans, 25,100 lb.s.t. with afterburning. Performance: Maximum speed: 1453 mph at 53,450 feet, 914 mph as sea level. Initial climb rate 25,550 feet per minute (clean). Service ceiling 56,650 feet. Combat radius 1330 miles. Maximum ferry range 3634 miles with external fuel. Dimensions: wingspan 63 feet 0 inches (maximum), 32 feet 0 inches (minimum), length 73 feet 6 inches, height 17 feet 0 inches, wing area 525 square feet. Weights: 46,172 pounds empty, 82,819 pounds gross, 98,950 pounds maximum takeoff. Internal fuel capacity was 5043 US gallons, with a total capacity of 7443 US gallons when maximum external fuel is carried.