WI: A Different F-111B?

Suppose the Navy, when McNamara proclaims they need to buy a version of the F-111, elects not to buy an interceptor, but instead chooses to have it be a navalized F-111A strike plane?

The Navy brass jumps on that opportunity, and pretty much then gets F-14 research started about five years earlier. How does that change things?
 
Well the navy already has a have strike platform in the A-5 if they need to retain a conventional heavy strike package
 
That's what the A-5 Vigilante was for. Buying a navalized F-111A would replace the Vigilante, not the Phantom, which is what the Navy needed. While the F-4 was a spectacular aircraft, the increasing range and speed of Soviet anti-ship missiles necessitated a new interceptor to counter them. One capable of carrying long range AAMs that could, ideally, be used in a fire-and-forget operation so that one aircraft could engage multiple targets simultaneously.
 
The strike aircraft that needed replacing in the 60s were the A3, A1 and A4.

The A3 was starting to be replaced by the A5 in the early 60s until the Polaris SLBM took over the nuclear strike role, which is too early for the F111B strike aircraft to enter this process.

The A1 was starting to be replaced by the A6 in 1963, which again is too early for the F111B although this is likely the closest match for the F111B as a strike aircraft. The problem is that the USN compared the A5 and A6 for the likely USN missions given the Polaris would do the nuclear strikes and found that the A6 could do these missions successfully at a fraction of the cost of the A5. I'd suggest that the F111B not only would be too late, but also more expensive to operate than the A6.

The A4 was to be replaced from 1967 by the TF30 A7 and amorphous VFAX. The timing is right for the F111B but the requirement is all wrong, in the end the A in VFAX was dropped in favour for the Spey A7 which is a much less capable aircraft than the F111B would have been and vastly cheaper in every way.

Perhaps a development path that sees the early A6 and A7 replaced by the F111B that has been re-roled from interceptor to bomber with the F14 doing the air defence task. That would give supercarriers 4 sqns of big, heavy hitting aircraft from the late 60s.
 
Perhaps a development path that sees the early A6 and A7 replaced by the F111B that has been re-roled from interceptor to bomber with the F14 doing the air defence task. That would give supercarriers 4 sqns of big, heavy hitting aircraft from the late 60s.
Three at most, there were three attack squadrons on board the carriers. But there's no way possible they're replacing all three with F-111s.

For one, space. With a spot factor of 1.94, the F-111B is a very large aircraft, though not nearly as bad as the Whale or Vigilante in this regard. This is a lot bigger than the Intruder's 1.58. Three F-111B squadrons (and I'm presuming a flight of naval EF-111s, too) comes out to more space taken up than the Grumman air wings with 42 Intruders the US Navy tested out in the 1980s - and that setup was already pushing it in terms of aircraft density. You can fit it, but it's going to be a headache to move around.

For another, money. This is the 70s - there's not a whole lot of dosh to go around, and the Navy didn't have enough money for even all the F-14s they wanted to buy. Tossing another expensive aircraft on top is not a good idea. Upgraded A-6 and A-7 aircraft? Much cheaper, and a much better idea in this budget environment.

Also, this isn't going to work on the Midways.
 
Also, this isn't going to work on the Midways.
This. The "navalized F-111A" that is proposed wouldn't be able to operate from these carriers. Not from any carrier more likely because the F-111A still is a superheavy aircraft.

In any case, going for any form of common service large bomber like the F-111 was doomed to fail. The real POD and really missed opportunity was when the US decided to cancel the F401 turbofan, and with it the entire F-14B program, while pretty much halving the amount of F-14s ordered. The flawed F-14A that the USN got was never supposed to be the main production variant, in particular because the Navy didn't want the completely unsuited TF-30 turbofan in it. The F-14B was to have the F401, plus many useful improvements like an APU and some redesigned mechanisms and components which would likely have increased reliability or serviceability, and maybe reduced operating costs. Only a few dozen As were planned and would have been rebuilt as Bs later.

What is more is that the F-14B was supposed to be followed by the F-14C, a version with improved avionics to the level of the A-6 Intruder, which would fill the big bomber role this TL's F-111B does, but better. This may have led to less A-6s or A-7s being needed. Of course the big butterfly is that the USN would not have got the F-18 which would have been too expensive, but instead a smaller and cheaper supplementary aircraft.

Of course, this would have been way easier to achieve if the USN hadn't been forced to waste money on the F-111B in the first place.

Edit: Bonus point as I said in another thread, this would result in a more suited airframe for the USAF F-111, and the F401 being adopted may lead to a mid-life update of the USAF F-111 to replace the TF-30. Aka, my dream US variable geometry airforces timeline.
 
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This. The "navalized F-111A" that is proposed wouldn't be able to operate from these carriers. Not from any carrier more likely because the F-111A still is a superheavy aircraft.
This is a good point. The F-111B "worked" as a carrier aircraft because it didn't exceed 80,000 lbs in the fighter mission. Strike-loaded F-111s are going to be too heavy for even the C-13 catapult.
 
Three at most, there were three attack squadrons on board the carriers. But there's no way possible they're replacing all three with F-111s.

For one, space. With a spot factor of 1.94, the F-111B is a very large aircraft, though not nearly as bad as the Whale or Vigilante in this regard. This is a lot bigger than the Intruder's 1.58. Three F-111B squadrons (and I'm presuming a flight of naval EF-111s, too) comes out to more space taken up than the Grumman air wings with 42 Intruders the US Navy tested out in the 1980s - and that setup was already pushing it in terms of aircraft density. You can fit it, but it's going to be a headache to move around.

For another, money. This is the 70s - there's not a whole lot of dosh to go around, and the Navy didn't have enough money for even all the F-14s they wanted to buy. Tossing another expensive aircraft on top is not a good idea. Upgraded A-6 and A-7 aircraft? Much cheaper, and a much better idea in this budget environment.

Also, this isn't going to work on the Midways.
Sorry, I meant 4 sqns for jets in total; 2 x F111B and 2 x F14, a bit like those deployments in the 80s where a couple of CVWs had 2 x F14 and 2 x A6 sqns.

However, much like the A6 vs A5 debate I think CVWs with 3 attacks sqns of A6s and A7s would be better than CVWs with 2 attack sqns of F111s despite the F111s being able to do things the A6/A7s cannot.
 
This. The "navalized F-111A" that is proposed wouldn't be able to operate from these carriers. Not from any carrier more likely because the F-111A still is a superheavy aircraft.

In any case, going for any form of common service large bomber like the F-111 was doomed to fail. The real POD and really missed opportunity was when the US decided to cancel the F401 turbofan, and with it the entire F-14B program, while pretty much halving the amount of F-14s ordered. The flawed F-14A that the USN got was never supposed to be the main production variant, in particular because the Navy didn't want the completely unsuited TF-30 turbofan in it. The F-14B was to have the F401, plus many useful improvements like an APU and some redesigned mechanisms and components which would likely have increased reliability or serviceability, and maybe reduced operating costs. Only a few dozen As were planned and would have been rebuilt as Bs later.

What is more is that the F-14B was supposed to be followed by the F-14C, a version with improved avionics to the level of the A-6 Intruder, which would fill the big bomber role this TL's F-111B does, but better. This may have led to less A-6s or A-7s being needed. Of course the big butterfly is that the USN would not have got the F-18 which would have been too expensive, but instead a smaller and cheaper supplementary aircraft.

Of course, this would have been way easier to achieve if the USN hadn't been forced to waste money on the F-111B in the first place.

Edit: Bonus point as I said in another thread, this would result in a more suited airframe for the USAF F-111, and the F401 being adopted may lead to a mid-life update of the USAF F-111 to replace the TF-30. Aka, my dream US variable geometry airforces timeline.
In my mind the USN getting the F111B as a bomber wouldn't come from an early decision to develop it as such, but rather a late decision that given the F111B had been developed into a big, fast carrier-capable aircraft then the USN might as well put it to use in the bomber role.

The TF30 is interesting. The USAF developed several versions then made the big jump to the 100 and then rebuilt many early versions using the 100 components. The Navy never made the jump to the 100 or a navalised version of it so was stuck with the 412-414 thought the 70s. I wonder if the F11B1 and F14 had been developed would the Navy have done something more with the TF30.
 
The strike aircraft that needed replacing in the 60s were the A3, A1 and A4.

The A3 was starting to be replaced by the A5 in the early 60s until the Polaris SLBM took over the nuclear strike role, which is too early for the F111B strike aircraft to enter this process.

The A1 was starting to be replaced by the A6 in 1963, which again is too early for the F111B although this is likely the closest match for the F111B as a strike aircraft. The problem is that the USN compared the A5 and A6 for the likely USN missions given the Polaris would do the nuclear strikes and found that the A6 could do these missions successfully at a fraction of the cost of the A5. I'd suggest that the F111B not only would be too late, but also more expensive to operate than the A6.

The A4 was to be replaced from 1967 by the TF30 A7 and amorphous VFAX. The timing is right for the F111B but the requirement is all wrong, in the end the A in VFAX was dropped in favour for the Spey A7 which is a much less capable aircraft than the F111B would have been and vastly cheaper in every way.

Perhaps a development path that sees the early A6 and A7 replaced by the F111B that has been re-roled from interceptor to bomber with the F14 doing the air defence task. That would give supercarriers 4 sqns of big, heavy hitting aircraft from the late 60s.
Theoretically could the A3 (or a modified version of the craft) end up having a longer career as a bomb truck? Something like a USN version of the USAF's B52.
 
Theoretically could the A3 (or a modified version of the craft) end up having a longer career as a bomb truck? Something like a USN version of the USAF's B52.
The A-6 can do anything the A-3 can, so unless you plan to scrap the Intruder (strongly NOT recommended) there isn't a real point, and as said it was a giant airplane for an aircraft carrier to launch and recover.
 
Theoretically could the A3 (or a modified version of the craft) end up having a longer career as a bomb truck? Something like a USN version of the USAF's B52.
Theoretically? Sure. But why would you want to? The A-6 did everything the A-3 could do and took up 1/3 of the deck space that the Skywarrior did. The only thing the A-3 did better than the A-6 was serve as a tanker thanks to the absolutely mind boggling amount of fuel it could carry. But seeing as eight EA/KA-6s could fit in the space of 4 EKA-3s, that's not a worthwhile tradeoff
 
Theoretically? Sure. But why would you want to? The A-6 did everything the A-3 could do and took up 1/3 of the deck space that the Skywarrior did. The only thing the A-3 did better than the A-6 was serve as a tanker thanks to the absolutely mind boggling amount of fuel it could carry. But seeing as eight EA/KA-6s could fit in the space of 4 EKA-3s, that's not a worthwhile tradeoff
It would have been interesting to see stretched EA-6 airframes turned into tankers with F404 engines, might have been able to match the KA-3's offload capacity.
 
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