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jdp But the experiment of saving money by creating one platform to serve all needs appears to have failed.

As if the experiment had not already been performed.

The F-111 originated in studies for a replacement for Tactical Air Command's F-100 Super Sabres and F-105 Thunderchiefs in the tactical strike role. Tactical Air Command wanted an aircraft which could operate from shorter runways. They also required a longer ferry range as overseas deployments by F-100s were often limited by refuelling problems. The aircraft would also be optimized for very low-level penetration, including a final 370 km dash at Mach 1.2. It would be a multi-role aircraft, capable of Mach 2.5 at high level in the interceptor role. This made it inevitable that the successful design would have a variable geometry, swing wing.

Glueing on the fighter role and the demand for Mach 2.5 capability immediately made the F-111 designers jobs more difficult. Their task, however, would soon be immeasurably complicated by the incoming Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara. He directed that the USAF (whose primary requirement was still for a low-level strike aircraft) and the US Navy (who need a long-range carrierborne interceptor) should acquire a common aircraft. This became known by the acronym TFX.

Both services initially welcomed the joint common fighter, until it became clear that no single airframe could meet all the different requirements. By then, however, the bit was between McNamara's teeth, and he drove the program forward. Boeing and General Dynamics competed for the lucrative TFX contract, which was awarded to the latter company (the military favored the Boeing submission) in November 1962. The General Dynamics design was more of a compromise, and the US Navy and USAF versions were variants of a common airframe. The Boeing aircraft, however, was tailored more closely to the USAF requirement, while the Boeing Navy version had relatively little commonality with the USAF variant. McNamara was later accused of having bought the second best airplane at the higher price.

Technical difficulties, barely controlled weight growth and massive cost escalation characterized the remainder of the TFX's development. During wind-tunnel testing severe drag problems were encountered. Weight reduction programs on the naval version reduced commonality to a mere 28 per cent or so, before the F-111B altogether, and replaced by the F-14 Tomcat.

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