Academy 1:48 F-111F Aardvark 70-2370 494th TFS/48th TFW

The Story

On 25 August 1990, 18 F-111Fs departed Lakenheath as the first USAFE unit to deploy for Desert Shield. Based at Taif Air Base, Saudi Arabia, the 48th TFW(P) would grow to include 66 F-111F aircraft, composed of the 492nd, 493rd, and 494th Tactical Fighter Squadrons. During Desert Storm, F-111Fs flew thousand of sorties, striking Iraqi armor, artillery bridges, airfields and C3 centers. It was the 48th TFW(P) that began "tank plinking", using their Pave TAC pod to drop GBU-12 bombs onto Iraqi tanks. Although one aircraft was lost in a training accident during Desert Shield, no aircraft was lost in combat during the conflict.

The Kit

This model started with the Academy F-111C boxing. I chose this boxing because it had updated features not available with the F-111F boxing at the time. These included a new front gear bay, front landing gear, Pave Tack pod, various antennas under the nose, and metal pitot tube. However, the F-111C does have larger wings than the F-111F. So the kit wings were substituted with the wings from a scrapped Hobbyboss EF-111A. However, the Hobbyboss wings are noticeably more blunt at the leading edge. Modifications to the model include: Dmold seamless intakes, Paragon F-111F exhausts, Black Box F-111F cockpit set and Resin Art wheels. Reference photos show that Aardvarks in Saudi Arabia were parked with the wings partially swept. Choosing to replicate this look meant I could not use the kit or Verlinden photoetch for the wing glove. Using the Verlinden piece as a template, a new part was made by cutting and scribing some sheet styrene. For the loadout, I used two GBU-24 bombs from Hasegawa Weapons Set D, an ALQ-131 pod from Hobbyboss, missile rails from the Verlinden F-111F update set, and the kit Pave Tack pod but modified to have the head turned 90 degrees. The Pave Tack pod was built onto a scratch built cradle, and within a Hobbyboss F-111 weapons bay inserted into the model. Weapons bay doors where scratch built. Painting was done following the standard paint scheme. As usual, I airbrush with a variety of acrylic paints. Decals are primarily from Afterburner Decals 48-054 "Lakenheath Varks". I chose to represent F-111F 70-2370 of the 494th TFS "Panthers". However, many of the smaller stencils on the real plane are black, and not the green / brown colour given on the Afterburner sheet. Where possible, these decals where taken from various other sheets.