|The EF-111A Raven electronic warfare variant.|
|Manufacturer||General Dynamics, conversion by Grumman|
|Primary user||United States Air Force|
|Unit cost||US$15 million + $25 million each for conversion|
|Developed from||General Dynamics F-111|
The General Dynamics/Grumman EF-111A Raven was an electronic warfare aircraft designed to replace the obsolete Douglas EB-66 in the United States Air Force. Its crews and maintainers often called it the "Spark-Vark," a play on the F-111's "Aardvark" nickname.
In 1972, the USAF paid Grumman to convert some existing F-111As into electronic warfare/ECM aircraft. The USAF had considered the Navy Grumman EA-6B Prowler, but was reluctant to adopt a Navy aircraft. Ironically, after the EF-111 retired in the 1990s, the Air Force began depending on Navy and Marine Corps EA-6B squadrons for electronic warfare.
A contract to create EF-111As from existing F-111A airframes was awarded to Grumman in 1974. The first fully equipped model, known then as the "Electric Fox", flew on March 10, 1977, and deliveries to combat units began in 1981. A total of 42 airframes were converted at a total cost of $1.5 billion, the last delivered in 1985.  Each F-111A cost US$15 million, with each conversion costing US$25 million. The EF-111A received the official popular name Raven, although in service it acquired the nickname "Spark 'Vark".
The Raven retained the F-111A's navigation systems, with a revised AN/APQ-160 radar primarily for ground mapping. The primary feature of the Raven, however, was the Raytheon AN/ALQ-99E jamming system, developed from the Navy's ALQ-99 on the Prowler. Its primary electronics were installed in the weapons bay, with transmitters fitted in a 16 ft (5 m) long ventral "canoe" radome; the complete installation weighed some 6,000 lb (2,723 kg). Receivers were installed in a fin-tip pod, or "football," similar to that of the EA-6B. The aircraft's electrical and cooling systems had to be extensively upgraded to support this equipment. The cockpit was also rearranged, with all flight and navigation displays relocated to the pilot's side, and flight controls except throttles being removed from the other seat, where the electronic warfare officer's instrumentation and controls were installed.
EF-111s were unarmed, although a few sources indicated that the inner wing pylons could be fitted to allow carriage of AIM-9 Sidewinders for self-defense. The aircraft's considerable speed and acceleration were its main means of self-defense. The EF-111 was not capable of firing anti-radiation missiles in the lethal SEAD role, which was a tactical limitation.
In 1986 the EF-111A's engines were upgraded to the more powerful TF30-P-9 of the -D model, with 12,000 lbf (53.4 kN) dry and 18,500 lbf (82.3 kN) afterburning thrust.
From 1987 to 1994 the Spark 'Vark underwent an Avionics Modernization Program (AMP), similar to the Pacer Strike program for the F model. This added a dual AN/ASN-41 ring laser gyroscope INS, AN/APN-218 Doppler radar, and an updated AN/APQ-146 terrain-following radar. Cockpit displays were upgraded with multi-function displays borrowed from the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
EF-111s saw combat use during Operation El Dorado Canyon (the 1986 retaliatory attack on Libya), Operation Just Cause (Panama, 1989) and Operation Desert Storm in 1991. On January 17, 1991, a USAF EF-111 crew: Captain James Denton and Captain Brent Brandon ("Brandini") are acknowledged to have scored a kill against an Iraqi Dassault Mirage F1, which they managed to maneuver into the ground, making it the first and only F-111 to achieve an aerial victory over another aircraft.Cite error: Closing
</ref> missing for
On February 13, 1991, EF-111A s/n 66-0023 crashed into terrain while maneuvering to evade a perceived enemy aircraft threat killing Pilot Capt. Douglas L. Bradt and EWO Capt. Paul R. Eichenlaub. It was the only EF-111A lost during combat, the only loss killing its crew and one of just three EF-111s lost in its history. EF-111s were also deployed to Aviano Air Base, Italy in support of Operation Deliberate Force during the mid-1990s.
The last deployment of the Raven was a detachment of EF-111s stationed at Al Kharj Air Base in Saudi Arabia until April 1998.
Shortly afterward, in May 1998, the USAF withdrew the final EF-111As from service, placing them in storage at the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARC). These were the final F-111s in service with the USAF. In the short term, EA-6B Prowlers are fulfilling this function for both the Navy and Air Force, but the EA-18G Growler, which is now in production, is expected to perform this role in the future, though for the Navy only.
Of the 42 converted aircraft, 36 were sent to AMARC or scrapped, 3 were destroyed in crashes and 3 remain as display pieces:
- 66-0016 is on display at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico and bears the names of Pilot Capt. Douglas L. Bradt and EWO Capt. Paul R. Eichenlaub, the crew killed aboard 66-0023 during the Gulf War. It is also the airframe that was credited with the Mirage F1 kill.
- 66-0049 was the first prototype EF-111 and is on display at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho.
- 66-0057 is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.
- 66-0039 is located on the display row of the AMARC facility, which is part of the facility tour. According to a July 2006 AMARC inventory website, 32 other EF-111As remain at the facility, located in area 23 and 24. The 3 others sent to AMARC have likely been destroyed by scrapping.
Specifications (EF-111A unless noted)
YF-107 - XF-108 - F-110 - F-111 - F-117 Related lists
- Electronic warfare
- Electronic countermeasures
- ELINT - Electronic Intelligence
Lists relating to aviation
|General||Timeline of aviation · Aircraft · Aircraft manufacturers · Aircraft engines · Aircraft engine manufacturers · Airports · Airlines|
|Military||Air forces · Aircraft weapons · Missiles · Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) · Experimental aircraft|
|Notable incidents |
|Military aviation · Airliners · General aviation · Famous aviation-related deaths|
|Records||Flight airspeed record · Flight distance record · Flight altitude record · Flight endurance record · Most produced aircraft|
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 Global Security. EF-111.
- ↑ F-111.net. F-111 combat operations. April 14, 2006
- ↑ F-111.net. F-111A Tail numbers. April 14, 2006
- ↑ In both Citations for the Distinguished Flying Crosses for Captains Denton and Brandon (signed by LT GEN Charles Horner - CENTAF CC) "...a low altitude air battle followed during which Capts Denton and Brandon eluded a missile attack, followed by the destruction of an attacking F-1 as it impacted the ground." In the OFFICIAL retirement remarks on May 2, 1998 by Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, LT GEN David L. Vesely recited the OFFICIAL history of the Aircraft 66-016, pointing out the "downing of an Iraqi F-1 on the first wave attack bt Capts Brandon and Denton" and explaining that is why that airframe was chosen to represent the EF-111 on static display.
- ↑ National Museum of the United States Air Force. General Dynamics EF-111A Raven Fact Sheet.
- ↑ AMARC registry. July 2006.