Author Topic: F-111K Merlin GR.3 in 1/72  (Read 712 times)

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Offline Pellson

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F-111K Merlin GR.3 in 1/72
« on: June 17, 2021, 07:01:37 am »
General Dynamics F-111K/Merlin GR.3 (Airfix F-111E 1/72)
 


In the early 1960s, the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC), an aeronautical industry conglomerate formed by the forced merger of the previously independent aircraft manufacturers English Electric, Vickers-Armstrong, Bristol and Hunting-Percival, was in the process of developing a new strike aircraft for the Royal Air Force to replace the English Electric Canberra. This aircraft, designated as "TSR-2" (Tactical Strike and Reconnaissance), had a large set of requirements listed by the government, and had led to TSR-2 becoming a hugely complex machine. It was intended that it be able to undertake both conventional and nuclear strike missions at high and low level, in all weathers, at supersonic speeds. As a consequence, the costs of the project soon spiralled out of control, leading to it becoming the most expensive aviation project in British history, at a time when defence spending was being cut. This led to the RAF being asked to look for potential alternatives to TSR-2, in the event of it being cancelled.
At the same time, the Australian government was looking for a replacement for the Canberras operated by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), and was investigating a number of options, including the TSR-2 and the General Dynamics F-111 then being developed for the US TFX Program. The versatility of the F-111 and uncertainty over the TSR-2 led, in 1963, to contracts for the RAAF-specific General Dynamics F-111C.
Despite the increased pressure this put on the TSR-2 project, an incoming Labour government expressed its support for the TSR-2, although the RAF was asked to also evaluate the F-111 as a potentially cheaper option. In April 1965, the TSR-2 was officially and famously finally cancelled and the RAF found itself forced to look elsewhere for a long range strike aircraft, eventually focusing at the possibility of acquiring up to 110 F-111s. No firm commitment was made to the F-111 until the publication of the 1966 Defence White Paper however, although it was clear that the F-111 was the government's preferred option.
Following the publication of the defence review, it was announced that up to 50 F-111s would be procured for the RAF. Like the Australian version, these would be highly adapted to suit a unique set of British requirements. The intention was to form an initial four operational squadrons, plus an Operational Conversion Unit, with two stationed in the UK and two forming part of the UK's forces East of Suez. The plan was that long-range, land based F-111s would be used to replace the strike capability of the CVA-01 aircraft carriers that were cancelled in the White Paper, something violently contested by the Senior Service, but to little avail. Although there was no public announcement as to specific squadrons that would receive the F-111, a document from early 1966 by the AOC-in-C of Bomber Command, Air Chief Marshal Sir Wallace Kyle, indicated that 12 Squadron (then a Vulcan squadron assigned to the strategic nuclear role), together with the inactive 7 (previously Valiant), 15 (Victor) and 40 (Canberra) Squadrons, would receive the aircraft upon their delivery.
In April 1966, a firm order was placed for 10 F-111s for the RAF, with options for another 40, covering the standard F-111K models and a number of dual-control TF-111K trainers, with the purchase price set around £2.1m ($5.95m) per unit (1965 prices). This was intended to show a significant reduction in cost when compared with the development and estimated production costs of TSR-2. At the same time, a pair of Victor squadrons had been moved out of RAF Honington, which was earmarked for conversion to accommodate the F-111 force. However, at the same time the actual cost of F-111 production had increased. In April 1967, when the RAF's 40 additional aircraft were ordered, the per unit cost of the F-111C for the RAAF was US$9m. This eventually led to an admission from the British government that the cost would increase from the initial figure set out and in 1967, the then Secretary of State for Defence, Denis Healey, stated that adjusting for inflation was taken into account, which would add approximately 2.5% to the cost of each aircraft. This did not include the cost of installing the British adaptations. The total estimate cost per unit by the time the last aircraft was due to be delivered in 1970 would be approximately £2.7m. Despite this, the government still maintained that the F-111 programme (combined with the proposed AFVG aircraft) would be cheaper than TSR-2 to the tune of approximately £700m.
The first two aircraft began assembly in July 1967. These were intended as development aircraft, to undertake airframe, avionics and weapons testing prior to them being refurbished as operational units. Essentially, the F-111K was based on the original F-111A, but featuring some minor changes. The main difference to their American near sisters were in electronics such as a more extensive nav-attack system (later also installed in the American F-111D) and ECM suite where the most obvious addition was a big RWR antenna set on top of the fin. Another prominent feature was the redesign of the cockpit, moving the left seat forward about half a foot to allow better allround visibility for the pilot. Also, the landing gear was to be of the heavy duty type already selected for the American FB-111A version, allowing for a higher all-up weight than the F-111A. The intakes were of the triple plow II type and finally, a retractable refuelling probe was fitted in the nose, immediately forward of the escape capsule, allowing probe and drogue air to air refuelling, differing from the boom and receptor method preferred by the USAF. Also, a British developed reconnaissance pallet was procured for installing in the weapons bay on photo recon missions. Replacing that, either offensive load mot more commonly, an extra fuel tank could be carried in the bay, leaving the wing pylons to carry bombs and missiles. While the initial airframes were delivered with TF30-P-9 engines, in a later stage, they were replaced by the better P-100 sub variant, making it one of the better performing variants of the F-111 family.



The first two airframes were in the final stages of assembly at General Dynamics' plant at Fort Worth, Texas in early 1968 when the Parliament discussed a new policy that would see the majority of British forces stationed East of Suez withdrawn by 1971. One consequence of this would be to cancel the F-111K procurement as the need for long range strike assets effectively would be halved. Also, the devaluation of the pound sterling in 1967 had led to the per unit cost rising to approximately £3m and additionally, the production schedules were slipping; while the RAAF had its first F-111 delivered in 1968, official acceptance of the type into service did not occur until 1973 due to structural and development problems (which led to the RAAF having to lease 24 F-4 Phantoms as an interim measure). However, eventually the proposal of drawback to West of Suez fell through, and the Government decided to keep strategic strongholds in Hong Kong, Singapore, the Emirates and Aden, using these as power hubs and economic motors to create and maintain political and economic relationships in the respective regions. While this wasnít appreciated by the fundamentally anticolonial USA, the Americans as usual prioritised business before principles and also valued the shared development responsibility with the British and the Australians. Accordingly, the project continued and an increase of the existing order of 50 air frames to the original 110 was discussed , but as the first F-111 Kís , now dubbed Merlin GR. Mk 1, were delivered to no 12 Sqn RAF in late 1968, some serious structural problems in the wing box had already been discovered by USAF. As a result, the entire programme was halted until a solution could be found, and in the meantime, the already delivered F-111Kís were grounded, sitting in hangars at RAF Honington. It took almost four years until the flight ban was lifted, and by then, adding to the old order seemed very distant. However, asthe RAF took delivery of the final airframes on the original order in 1973, two squadrons, noís 7 and 40, had deployed to RAF Seletar in Singapore in response to the ever increasing Chinese pressure on the region. They came to stay for over twenty years, forming the Singapore Strike Wing, and made frequent visits to their F-111 sister squadrons at RAAF Amberley in Australia. At home, however, the permanent nature of this deployment left a gaping void in the NATO commitments, so a further 30 aircraft were ordered in 1975, forming two more squadrons for a total of six Merlin squadrons.
While ever expensive to operate and maintain, the Merlins gave good service throughout the seventies and eighties, and in the nineties were involved not only in the Gulf War, but also in precision strikes on the bases of Somali pirate lords as well as some Serbian strongholds in the Balkans conflict. At this stage, the Merlins had gained substantial upgrades to its computer systems as well as weapons integration, but also laser ranging and marked target seeker system was installed in the late seventies under the navigators position, ahead of the nose gear well, prompting a redesignation to GR.2. Later, a fixed forward looking infrared system assisting both in targeting and general low visibility operations joined the LRMTS on the left of the latter, but following closely the US Navy experience with the American A-6E TRAM electro-optical targeting turret and the USAF Pave Tack pod, operational on the F-111F, a turreted fixed installation was placed on the right hand side under the nose, ahead of the nose landing gear substituting the LRMTS in the late 80ís. By now, several American smart munitions as well as the british ALARM anti radar missile was integrated, the latter very commonly seen on the small side hardpoints on the outer movable main pylons. Now, the version was GR.3. Another early nineties upgrade was the integration of the Sky Shadow ECM pod, generally found on the rear central hardpoint of the aircraft.
With the end of the Cold War, the expense of operating the Merlin fleet came under scrutiny, but the unique capabilities the system possessed kept it operational even as the Americans retired their last F-111ís just before the turn of the century. However, when the Austrailans decided to retire their F-111ís in 2007, the writing was on the wall, and just a few days after the final RAAF F-111 flight, on the 3rd of December 2010, the RAF bid farewell to its last Merlins as well, almost to the day 42 years after its introduction in service.
 


Not very surprisingly, another ancient Airfix model, originally built OOB in the early eighties. Already then, I found it rather hideous and it has spent most of its time mercifully forgotten in a box together with other early builds of questionable quality. However, some ten years ago I read about the British F-111K variant, an idea to build one firmly took hold in my mind. For some time, I planned building it from a Hasegawa FB-111A kit, but I never got around to buy one, mainly due to their extortionate pricing, and a few years ago when digging around in the scrap box for something else, I found the old Aardvark just lying there, and decided to give it a go. Some take apart and rebuild, and a good repainting produced the result above, and while not anywhere near Hasegawa quality, itís now a valued member of my late cold war RAF force, in particular when I found that I could attach ALARMís and a Sky Shadow pod.
The redesign of the pilotís seat came about when I read about some pilots being annoyed about not seeing past their WSO, so I thought Iíd sort the problem, at least somewhat, but still keeping the common crew office. I basically just built plugs to fit on top of the existing structures on one side and painted, and it looks good to me.
So Ė another resurrection of a more or less awful vintage kit from my childhood. Some may say Iím too cheap and really should work with better material, but it brings nice memories to bring these old builds back to life, so I might just continue
.
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!

Offline Dizzyfugu

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Re: F-111K Merlin GR.3 in 1/72
« Reply #1 on: June 17, 2021, 07:34:54 am »
Nice! The wraparound scheme suits the F-111 well.  :thumbsup:

Offline Old Wombat

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Re: F-111K Merlin GR.3 in 1/72
« Reply #2 on: June 17, 2021, 07:37:14 am »
Nice! The wraparound scheme suits the F-111 well.  :thumbsup:

Certainly is & certainly does! :thumbsup: :thumbsup:
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Offline AeroplaneDriver

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Re: F-111K Merlin GR.3 in 1/72
« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2021, 07:51:42 am »
Very nice!!  :thumbsup:
So I got that going for me...which is nice....

Offline NARSES2

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Re: F-111K Merlin GR.3 in 1/72
« Reply #4 on: June 17, 2021, 11:39:25 am »
To be honest I'm not usually a fan of the "wrap around" scheme, but it really works on the 111 for some reason. Really nice looker there  :bow:
Decals my @r$e!

Offline Doug K

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Re: F-111K Merlin GR.3 in 1/72
« Reply #5 on: June 17, 2021, 01:00:23 pm »
Nice! The wraparound scheme suits the F-111 well.  :thumbsup:

Definitely, that looks perfect 👍

Offline Leading Observer

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Re: F-111K Merlin GR.3 in 1/72
« Reply #6 on: June 17, 2021, 02:50:25 pm »
 :wub:
LO


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Offline DogfighterZen

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Re: F-111K Merlin GR.3 in 1/72
« Reply #7 on: June 17, 2021, 04:05:33 pm »
 :thumbsup:
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Offline kitbasher

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Re: F-111K Merlin GR.3 in 1/72
« Reply #8 on: June 18, 2021, 01:26:48 am »
To be honest I'm not usually a fan of the "wrap around" scheme, but it really works on the 111 for some reason. Really nice looker there  :bow:

Maybe because you're so used to seeing it on Tornados and the F-111K looks like a big Tornado?

Funny how some schemes work well on certain aircraft, but less so on others.  For example, to me first generation Harriers don't suit grey schemes (they were trialled) but second gen Harriers don't work in Dk Sea Grey/Dk Green.  Phantoms, A-7s and EE Lightnings wear any colours well, but RAF Buccs only ever Dk Green/Dk Sea Grey. 
« Last Edit: June 18, 2021, 06:01:33 am by kitbasher »
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Offline zenrat

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Re: F-111K Merlin GR.3 in 1/72
« Reply #9 on: June 18, 2021, 06:00:22 am »
 :thumbsup:
Fred

- Can't be bothered to do the proper research and get it right.

Another ill conceived, lazily thought out, crudely executed and badly painted piece of half arsed what-if modelling muppetry from zenrat industries.

zenrat industries:  We're everywhere...for your convenience..

Offline Doug K

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Re: F-111K Merlin GR.3 in 1/72
« Reply #10 on: June 18, 2021, 07:53:21 am »
To be honest I'm not usually a fan of the "wrap around" scheme, but it really works on the 111 for some reason. Really nice looker there  :bow:

Maybe because you're so used to seeing it on Tornados and the F-111K looks like a big Tornado?

Funny how some schemes work well on certain aircraft, but less so on others.  For example, to me first generation Harriers don't suit grey schemes (they were trialled) but second gen Harriers don't work in Dk Sea Grey/Dk Green.  Phantoms, A-7s and EE Lightnings wear any colours well, but RAF Buccs only ever Dk Green/Dk Sea Grey.

I dunno, I never liked Lightnings in anything but silver, the later grey wasn't too bad, the camouflage never made sense to me. As for Buccs, they should always be al-over EDSG or maybe Desert Storm sand...

Offline Pellson

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Re: F-111K Merlin GR.3 in 1/72
« Reply #11 on: June 18, 2021, 11:37:58 am »
To be honest I'm not usually a fan of the "wrap around" scheme, but it really works on the 111 for some reason. Really nice looker there  :bow:

Maybe because you're so used to seeing it on Tornados and the F-111K looks like a big Tornado?

Funny how some schemes work well on certain aircraft, but less so on others.  For example, to me first generation Harriers don't suit grey schemes (they were trialled) but second gen Harriers don't work in Dk Sea Grey/Dk Green.  Phantoms, A-7s and EE Lightnings wear any colours well, but RAF Buccs only ever Dk Green/Dk Sea Grey.

I dunno, I never liked Lightnings in anything but silver, the later grey wasn't too bad, the camouflage never made sense to me. As for Buccs, they should always be al-over EDSG or maybe Desert Storm sand...

As you probably can tell, Iím generally rather fond of the later low level camouflages used before everything went grey and dull. That said, there are some camouflages that just doesnít fit on some aircraft. The Lightning and the grey/green is one very good example. From whifworld - the Swedish splinter on the SAAB J35 fighter is equally wrong.

My Buccs will most likely be camouflaged more or less as they actually were in service - the RAF a/c in wraparound green grey and the FAA one in overall DSG. But weíll see. When I get there, Iíll know.  ;)

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Offline PR19_Kit

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Re: F-111K Merlin GR.3 in 1/72
« Reply #12 on: June 19, 2021, 02:09:01 pm »
The dark green F2A Lightnings of 19 and 92 Sqdn. looked THE BUSINESS to my eyes. I've built two of them already.  ;D
Any aircraft can be improved by fitting longer wings, and/or a longer fuselage

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Offline buzzbomb

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Re: F-111K Merlin GR.3 in 1/72
« Reply #13 on: June 19, 2021, 04:37:08 pm »
Nice job and good backstory. :thumbsup:

Offline AeroplaneDriver

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Re: F-111K Merlin GR.3 in 1/72
« Reply #14 on: June 19, 2021, 04:39:19 pm »
The dark green F2A Lightnings of 19 and 92 Sqdn. looked THE BUSINESS to my eyes. I've built two of them already.  ;D

Agreed on the RAFG green scheme. I did a 29 Sqn F-104 last year in that scheme. One of my favorites from that era. 
So I got that going for me...which is nice....