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Author Topic: What if the F 111K had entered RAF service as planned  (Read 1417 times)
uk 75
Kitbasher
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« on: May 20, 2008, 12:24:37 PM »

Although I yield to noone in my enthusiasm for the TSR 2 and its two British stablemates I also recall seeing the RAF brochure (now reproduced on TSR2 Research Group site) showing an F111 in vivid colour in RAF V force style camo.

The usual financial reasons koed the purchase (Devaluation of the Pound etc). The planned 50 aircraft would only have been sufficient to equip a few squadrons and an OCU (Honington was planned in the UK, with Tengah in Singapore as the overseas base).  It is interesting to note that the RAF was given Buccaneers to substitute the F111.  If the money had not run out, the squadrons which received the Buccaneer (12,208, 15 and 16) might have received the F111s.

By the 1970s it was clear that the UK needed a nuclear delivery system to replace the tactical bomb carrying Vulcan B2s in the UK and Cyprus as part of NATO's counter to the large Soviet missile and medium bomber forces.  The F111 would have filled the role brilliantly (assuming the F111K received the same sort of fixes as the Aussie F111C).  The incoming Conservative government in 1970 might have found money for additional aircraft to bring the total up to a more respectable 75.

In UK service the F111 would initially have only carried the WE177 bomb.  The planned MARTEL missiles seem to have been a failure and the RAF would have had to wait until the 80s to get its hands on Harpoons.  As an iron bomb carrier the F111 did not come into its own until the laser guided bombs were available in larger numbers in the 80s.

The RN would still have lost its carriers, and the Buccaneers freed up would have been used for dedicated maritime support.

Between 1970 and 1982 there were no major confrontations (other than Vietnam) in which the UK would have been obliged to use its F111s.  Assuming the Vulcans gave way to the F111 in the 70s, the Falklands crisis would have been a serious test for the range and capability of the planes. Their existence might, however, have encouraged the UK to stay in the business of keeping overseas bases where they could deploy with tanker support.

By 1991 the force would have gained a more conventional role as the Soviet Union gave up its INF forces. By being able to operate alongside the USAF with similar equipment the F111s might have avoided the losses experienced by the Tornado force.

As for its replacement in the 1990s. The USAF went for the F15E. If the F111 had been procured in the 60s-70s the UK would have been much more dependent on the US than it was in actual history. However, money freed up from the Tornado programme might have found its way into paying for the developed Harrier versions which took so long to materialise otherwise.

UK 75
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Lawman
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« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2008, 01:56:06 PM »

The problem is the sheer cost of the F-111, and also the timeframe (i.e. probably not being ready until the early to mid-'70s). If it had entered service, then there would have been potential for operations alongside Buccaneer and even Vulcan if the money were available. A British SRAM and ALCM duo would have helped as well, with Buccaneers and F-111s carrying SRAMs for tactical use, and Vulcans carrying ALCMs.

Buccaneers would still have been useful in the ground strike role, given their ability to carry pretty impressive loads at low level - they would probably mostly carry cluster munitions (e.g. the BL-755, and perhaps even a version of the devastating American CBU-72 fuel air bombs). The F-111s would then focus on the next layer of defences, i.e. their SAM screens and rear eschelons, using a mix of cluster weapons, free-fall WE-177s and SRAMs. The Vulcans would then focus on hitting major rear-area and strategic targets, possibly using SRAMs for defence suppression.

Frankly, the best bet would probably have been for the RAF to adopt the Buccaneer right from the start, alongside the F-4 Phantom - less competition with the Royal Navy, and bigger purchases help both sides. Buccaneers and Vulcans could have filled the same roles, especially with some Phantoms for the supersonic role - heck, even better, an air-to-ground capable CF-105 Arrow!
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gunfighter
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« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2008, 08:34:20 PM »

The F 111 is a really cool and powerful plane. The main problem with it I think was money, but if we imagine a timeline in the early-mid 70s, without the oil crisis for instance, and the US and british having a better economy, the F 111 could have been ordered in greater numbers. Even developing a fighter variant. In this scenario, sure the RAF doesn´t need the tornado, going for a high end front line force of multirole or specialized aardvarks. The number could fall close to the tornado force, with 150 ADVs (with a bigger bomb bay housing 8 sky flashes, plus 2 fuel tanks and 4 sidewinders under the wings), and about the same amount of attack birds (with the usual configuration, or much better with the longer wings of the F 111C). In this case, maybe the germans and italians couldn´t go ahead with the tornado, and look for another partner like Spain, Greece, or even Israel, or buy another aircraft from France or the US.
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XV107
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« Reply #3 on: May 21, 2008, 01:06:27 AM »

The first Merlin GR1 squadrons would most likely have been 7, 12 and 15. 12 had been identified as the obvious choice for one squadron in about mid-1965, while the other two numberplates were retained by Bomber Command specifically for the aircraft when there was some chopping and changing of the ownership of some numbers.

To explain that point:

If a squadron (say number 74) was a fighter squadron, it'd be in Fighter Command (obviously). Fighter Command therefore 'owned' the numberplate. However, if the squadron disbanded and there seemed to be little prospect of it reforming in the foreseeable future and if the numberplate was a particularly senior one, the AOC-in-C of the Command which owned it could transfer it to another Command if that Command was casting about for numberplates for a new squadron.

Thus, in 1965, Transport Command was after a numberplate for the VC10 squadron. Bomber Command offered up 49, 90, 148 and 207 (recently disbanded Valiant squadrons) since it seemed unlikely that these would reform as bomber units in the near future - which they haven't. However, in January 1966, the AOC-in-C Bomber Command wrote to the Air Member for Supply and Organisation outlining future plans for the Command. 7 and 15 were to be retained as the F-111 squadrons, and the 40 Squadron numberplate was also to be retained - implication being that 40 would receive the F-111 or possibly AFVG in due course. In this letter, Sir Wallace Kyle told AMSO that as 10 Squadron was a senior numberplate and not likely to be employed by Bomber Command, he would be content to transfer it to Transport Command for the VC10.

Conversely, since 10 Squadron formed on the VC10, the numbers offered for transfer in 1965 remained under the controlling authority of Bomber Command, and would've been in the running if there'd been an expansion of the Command for some reason.

Clearly, this sort of horse-trading of numberplates all-but ended when Strike Command was formed and concluded entirely when Air Support Command was brought under the Strike banner as well.

The Buccaneer numberplates originally projected are interesting ones - Under a plan in 1970, 12 was to be the first Bucc unit in Strike Command, followed by 208, then 58 and finally 45. 100 Squadron was also mooted as a possibility in 1968, but that'd have been as an alternative to 208, which under the 1968 considerations might have received Phantom FGR2s. 15 was to be the first RAFG Bucc squadron, and 16 the second. Clearly, the four-squadron Bucc force in Strike Command declined to being a three-squadron force, in which case 58 wouldn't have formed as the junior of the four plates under consideration; it'd have ended up as the lead Hunter FGA9 unit at Wittering, and might then have ended up as the Tornado Weapons Conversion Unit.

Anyway, back to the F-111.... I suspect that the temptation to field a couple of squadrons of ex-RN Buccaneers would've led to the RAF deciding that they might be able to use it (Cyprus? Germany?) after all, in addition to the AFVG/UKVG/Must Refurbish Canberra Again; I'm sure some pressure from SACEUR and the US President might have squeezed the money for a two-squadron nuclear QRA force out of the cabinet; an OCU plus one maritime squadron at Lossiemouth would've been useful and freed the F-111s up for their intended mud-moving/irradiation of Her Majesty's enemies role without having to bother with Martel. With the failure of AFVG, it might not have been impossible for the RAF to have 50 F-111s, 50 Buccaneers and a small force of Vulcans - say three squadrons at Scampton plus the OCU - with the intention to replace the Buccs and Vulcans (and possibly the F-111s) during the early to mid 1980s with what became the Tornado.
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