33 years ago, El Dorado Canyon

MikeD

Administrator
Staff member
The US engaged in an retaliatory raid of Libya in response to numerous terrorist attacks that had ties to Libya's leader Muahmar Gadafi. 18 USAF F-111F Aardvark interdiction-strike jets supported by 4 EF-111A Raven electronics countermeasures jets and escorted by KC-10 tanker jets, launched from the UK. Denied permission to take a direct route over France, Spain and Italy, they were forced to route down the Atlantic, and east through the Strait of Gibraltar into the Med. Targets for the F-111s were Tripoli airfield and two Army barracks.

USN aircraft consisting of A-6E Intruders, A-7E Corsairs, EA-6B Prowlers and the then-new and in their combat debut F/A-18A Hornets from the USS Coral Sea and the USS America in the Gulf of Sidra (the USS Coral Sea's last combat it would see before retirement), took on the role of "Iron Hand", striking Libyan air defense SAM and AAA sites for protection of their own A-6s that were striking another airfield and barracks complex, as well as protection for the F-111s, augmenting the EF-111s and EA-6Bs in their electronic jamming roles.

1 F-111F was lost, and the circumstances surrounding the loss still have not been fully released, nor have the story of what specifically happened to the aircrew of the ill-fated jet, besides the fact that it ended up in the Gulf of Sidra. Both aircrew were initially listed as MIA. The pilot's body was returned by Libya 2 years later, though they had misidentified it as the WSOs body. The WSOs body has never been recovered and he is still MIA, presumed KIA/BNR.

The Isla Grande airport west of San Juan, Puerto Rico, was renamed The Fernando Luis Ribas-Dominicci airport, in honor of the pilot who was a native of Puerto Rico.

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Lawman

Well-Known Member
I believe up until the first Gulf War and Bosnia, these were the longest fighter/bomber missions ever undertaken by US Forces. Even then the only missions that outdistanced this were conducted by Bombers (B2 and 52) which could go far longer and in better comfort with less tanker requirement.

Pretty sure the only bombing raid longer than this outside US ops was the Blackbuck raid by the Vulcan, and they only barely pulled that off.


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SurferLucas

Southern Gentleman
One our Captain's at QX was a FB-111 pilot around this time. His squadron did the "will it work" test run...from the UK to Newfoundland and back, from what I recall of his story.

He had some great things to say about the FB-111 and how it matured into a kick ass weapon.
 

Lawman

Well-Known Member
One our Captain's at QX was a FB-111 pilot around this time. His squadron did the "will it work" test run...from the UK to Newfoundland and back, from what I recall of his story.

He had some great things to say about the FB-111 and how it matured into a kick ass weapon.
Most of the hate for the 111 was based around it being a maintenance pig relative to the rest of the aircraft serving. That should be surprising since it was designed earlier than a lot of aircraft it served with, and had what was bleeding edge technology in its first generation stages like Pave-track and Terrain following radar. Plus it was swing wing, which every aircraft we’ve owned in that configuration (Tomcat, Bone, etc) has always been more maintenance intensive than its contemporaries.

That said it had capabilities that no other plane at the time could replicate and would give an enemy air defense a hell of a problem to solve. There was literally nothing else out there that could go that fast, that low, that far, and strike a target with precision. Everything else out there was still slinging sticks of 4-8-12 unguided bombs from a profile that more resembled tactics reminiscent of propellor driven attack aircraft.
 

SurferLucas

Southern Gentleman
Most of the hate for the 111 was based around it being a maintenance pig relative to the rest of the aircraft serving. That should be surprising since it was designed earlier than a lot of aircraft it served with, and had what was bleeding edge technology in its first generation stages like Pave-track and Terrain following radar. Plus it was swing wing, which every aircraft we’ve owned in that configuration (Tomcat, Bone, etc) has always been more maintenance intensive than its contemporaries.

That said it had capabilities that no other plane at the time could replicate and would give an enemy air defense a hell of a problem to solve. There was literally nothing else out there that could go that fast, that low, that far, and strike a target with precision. Everything else out there was still slinging sticks of 4-8-12 unguided bombs from a profile that more resembled tactics reminiscent of propellor driven attack aircraft.
Yep...he likes to tell the stories of doing 800kts, 200 AGL and hands off the stick...letting the TFR/autopilot fly the plane.

Plus, no other plane can dump and burn like a Vark can!
 

Lawman

Well-Known Member
Yep...he likes to tell the stories of doing 800kts, 200 AGL and hands off the stick...letting the TFR/autopilot fly the plane.

Plus, no other plane can dump and burn like a Vark can!
Fun fact, for the first gulf war, the military actually put colorfully painted radar reflective objects and other stuff (truck hulks etc) out in the middle of the desert in specific locations of the map so that aircraft could continuously update their navigational systems. Otherwise you’d be screaming across a featureless desert at 400-800 knots going strictly dead reckoning time distance heading.

For all the wow of GPS in that war, a lot of our systems were still not integrated to that form of navigation directly.
 

MikeD

Administrator
Staff member
I believe up until the first Gulf War and Bosnia, these were the longest fighter/bomber missions ever undertaken by US Forces. Even then the only missions that outdistanced this were conducted by Bombers (B2 and 52) which could go far longer and in better comfort with less tanker requirement.

Pretty sure the only bombing raid longer than this outside US ops was the Blackbuck raid by the Vulcan, and they only barely pulled that off.
I believe this is still the record longest tactical-jet (fighter type) strike missiom we've undertaken. Bomber jets (actual B-prefix jets) have done longer, not surprisingly. But i believe the TAC/USAFE -111 force still holds it.

One our Captain's at QX was a FB-111 pilot around this time. His squadron did the "will it work" test run...from the UK to Newfoundland and back, from what I recall of his story.

He had some great things to say about the FB-111 and how it matured into a kick ass weapon.
SACs FB-111 was a great weapon. Replacement for the B-58 Hustler, it was sadly the first of the F-111 series retired following the end of the Cold War and the fall of the USSR, with some becoming G models for TAC. Only two bases had them, Plattsburgh NY and Pease NH, and both were BRACd (closed) in the first early-90s rounds of the base closure process. FB had longer wings, more fuel, and was to launch north over the Pole to hit similar targets that B-1s and B-52s were going to go after. One of the mods here, his dad was an FB-111 WSO/bombardier. Awesome version of the -111 series.
 
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