The Story of an F-1111 Aardvark POW Who Had to Eject over North Vietnam (Bill Wilson)

I stood up and made a gesture of surrender, and they were all over me. Funny thing, the first thing to come off was my Seiko watch . . . then they got around to my gun and knife.”

When Bill Wilson was captured by the North Vietnamese, one of his captors pointed an accusing finger at him, exclaiming: “YOU! F-One Eleven!” and, with a sweeping palm down gesture, “WHOOOOSH!” It was a simple eloquence that described the fear and awe that the North Vietnamese felt for the swing-wing marauders that came in the night, unheralded, to sow their seeds of destruction with pin-point accuracy. When Wilson collected his “Golden BB”, he had been flying the F-111 for just over a year.

Originally known as the TFX (Tactical Fighter “X”), the F-111 was conceived to meet a U.S. Air Force requirement for a new tactical fighter-bomber. In 1960 the Department of Defense combined the USAF’s requirement with a Navy need for a new air superiority fighter. The USAF’s F-111A first flew in December 1964, and the first production models were delivered to the USAF in 1967. Meanwhile, the Navy’s F-111B program was canceled. In all, 566 F-111s of all series were built; 159 of them were F-111As. Although the F-111 was unofficially referred to as the Aardvark, it did not receive the name officially until it was retired in 1996.

An interesting feature of the aircraft was its variable-geometry wings. While in the air, the wings could be swept forward for takeoffs, landings or slow speed flight, and swept rearward for high-speed flight. The F-111 could also fly at very low level and hit targets in bad weather.

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