1/48 Monogram F-111 Swing Wing Fighter

by Steve Eggers



History – A VERY brief history.  

The General Dynamics F-111 is one of the most controversial aircraft that ever flew. Perhaps no other aircraft before or since has been so bitterly criticized in the media. It suffered a protracted development cycle in which numerous serious problems had to be identified and repaired, and cost overruns came to be a serious concern. Of the several thousand that had originally been planned, only 562 flight worthy examples of seven different variants were completed. The F-111 was the subject of protracted and bitter debates within the Congress, with opponents denouncing the aircraft as a "flying Edsel" that was more dangerous to the US than it was to any potential enemy.  

However, after a prolonged development period in which many, many problems had to be identified and fixed, the F-111 turned out to be one of the most effective all-weather interdiction aircraft in the world. Although vilified by some as being an unsafe and dangerous plane, the F-111 series of combat aircraft established the best safety record of any of the aircraft in the Century Series of fighters --- only 77 aircraft being lost in a million flying hours.  

The F-111 never had an official Air Force popular name.  However, because of its long, pointed nose, the F-111A came to be known unofficially as the "Aardvark", or just 'Vark for short.   

At the 1996 F-111 retirement ceremony at the Lockheed-Martin (formerly General Dynamics) Plant in Ft. Worth , Texas, the F-111 was officially named the “Aardvark”.

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The Kit

The Monogram F-111A started out life as a 1/48 scale Aurora TFX kit. I have never seen one of these and tried to buy a few of them on Ebay, solely for the collector value of it. It is my understanding that this kit was more of a toy than what we consider today as a serious model kit.

Phil Brandt summed it up the best….. (who’s name is on the decal sheet of the Monogram kit!)

“The most obvious area is the incorrect fuselage shape. Although Monogram redid the downward "swoop" of the radome, the top planview reveals that the taper from the capsule to the pitot is still too rapid, ala Aurora.  The fuselage hump aft of the canopy was changed somewhat (more filleting), but still doesn't flow gently toward the strake that comes forward from the vertical fin.  And, that strake is much too thick and doesn't taper to a sharp edge along the top.

The canopy has been recast in Monogram's outstanding thin, clear style. Unfortunately, it, too, is simply a copy of the Aurora version--and it's inaccurate!  The real F-111 canopy lower line is not horizontal in relation to the fuselage center line, but has a definite downward slant toward the radome.  And, the top view of the actual canopy reveals a windshield profile that does not curve in toward the nose nearly as much as that of the Monogram/Aurora version.  To produce an accurate canopy for this model, the builder will either have to reshape the windshield panels from clear sheet, or vacuform a whole new canopy.
Another glaring discrepancy is the turned-in engine inlet lips; they're simply not correct!  And, the engine lower housing should sweep up much more dramatically, starting at a point even with the aft main landing gear door.  The inlet spike air bleed holes and splitter plates remain unchanged from Aurora and feature the artistry of what must be the Matchbox "Trench Digger's" brother.  Monogram redid the seats, but retained the totally inaccurate Aurora instrument panel--yuk!

The landing gear strut and trunnion assemblies have been done from scratch and are a great improvement.  The Aurora  wheels will need to be widened.  The speed brake is improperly contoured; it should be wider and the sides should curve up to meet the fuselage curve (after the engine contour is moved upward).

The strakes that jut out of the lower empennage have been retained from Aurora, and are still incorrect.  They should stick out at approximately 60 degrees from the horizontal, and they should be moved upward about 1/4".

The afterburner assemblies are too long and too small in diameter, and the hydraulically- actuated "fingers" (there should be six, not four) that actuate the nozzle leaves do not taper correctly.

The "speed bumps" which extend aft beside the nozzles have been correctly chopped off by Monogram, but should have a circular, not oval, cross section. And, the tail bumper/tail hook housing is much more prominent in the real bird than the small ridge that has been added by Monogram.

As for ordnance release assemblies, Monogram chose to use TERs (can you say "eff- four?"), which have NEVER been used by the F-111 fleet!  The modeler will have to construct the correct BRUs.

Monogram added raised panel detail over the entire airframe, but went too far when they added "blow-in doors" aft of the intakes; the A model doesn't have 'em!  The serial number on the decal sheet applies to a 1977 aircraft of the 429 TFS "Black Falcons" (today it's the 429 ECS (EF-111As--last of the USAF Varks) at Cannon AFB).  If the builder uses the green markings of the 442 TFTS, another serial number will be necessary for accuracy, because tail number 054 was an operational bird not a TF-coded (training) one. 429 TFS aircraft used a yellow horizontal stripe on the vertical fin and black rectangles with crew names stenciled in white on either side of the canopy (the green ones (442 TFTS) on the kit decal sheet with Nick Muralt's and my name are totally bogus!).  The naturally black nose gear doors featured a stylized yellow falcon head with the inscription "429 TFS".  BTW, I recommend SuperScale (ex-Microscale) decal sheets 48-229 and 48-393.”


Kit Construction

I built this kit straight out of the box….for the most part.  The basic assembly is out of the box.  The biggest problem I had with this kit is the wings.  Every one of these kits I have ever seen in the box has the same problem: the wing upper and lower halves are severely warped. The wings are almost to the point where they are almost unusable.  I spent a lot of time and a lot of hot water trying to get these wings straight and I still didn’t get them perfect.

The fuselage fit is pretty good; I did have problems with the nose. Not so much the fit, but the Pitot tube being part of the nose. I knocked it off a few times. The cockpit was painted and installed without any modification or any real detailing. I did not use the kit pilots, although I did have other Monogram pilots that I put into the front office of this bird. Adding those pilots made an improvement in the looks of the cockpit.

Since I was going for the look of a later F-111, the intake splitter plates had to go. This was very easy. I scored just below the cone and it snapped right off. A little bit of clean up sanding and it was ready to go!

The landing gear, being probably the best part of this entire kit was left alone, except for the nose landing gear wheels. The kit wheels were very plain. I dug up some F-18 nose wheels from the spares box and used those instead.

As Phil stated above, the F-111 NEVER carried TERs. This is actually an incorrect statement. Operational F-111’s never carried TERs, but F-111A RDT&E, serial number 63-773 did carry them. But I figured, with all the inaccuracies in the kit, leaving the TERs would be no big deal at this point, so I left them alone. I did however have a set of fuel tanks that would look great on this F-111 project. So I mounted the tanks to the empty pylons that came in the kit.

Paint and Decals

I live close to Cannon AFB, New Mexico , Home of the 27th Fighter Wing.  My Dad was a retired Air Force Master Sergeant and we would make “commissary runs” usually once every two months to Cannon. I remember as a kid seeing F-111s taxi-by and take off.  I thought to myself….”Now, that’s cool!” With that said, I wanted to do an F-111 from Cannon. Now, do I do one that is in the SEA scheme with the black bottom, or do I do a later Gunship Gray F-111. It was an easy choice. Gunship gray is easier to paint than SEA scheme.

I searched the best F-111 website in the world – www.f-111.net and found lots of pictures of 27th gunship gray aircraft.  I knew that Cannon, for a little while solely operated the F-111D. A” D” model it is! So I am chugging along build my F-111D……looked at lots of F-111D pictures. I picked up my In Detail & Scale book and started reading about F-111Ds. Remember those fuel tanks I told you about earlier? F-111Ds NEVER carried external tanks…..EVER! So, guess what? The search was on the find out which version carried external tanks. Now, I was building an F-111E……or as close as you can get to an F-111E with this kit. I did find a few pictures of Gunship Gray F-111Es stationed with the 27th toward the end of their career. WHEW!

I mixed up my Model Master FS36118 Gunship Gray and went to town spraying this F-111. To me, when the Air Force transitioned to the overall gunship gray paint scheme, the aircraft took on a meaner look. Maybe it’s just me. The wheel wells where painted the standard white, as well as, the landing gear.

The decals were the next challenge.  I couldn't find anything I could use in the spares box to make the jet that I wanted. So, I tinkered with the idea of making my own, how hard could it be. It went down to the local hobby store and bought the Vitacal system for making decals. It very simple and straight forward. I used Powerpoint to make my decal and printed them out using the Vital paper and my Canon MP150 inkjet printer. What I did find it if you are printing black decals, such as tailcodes and serial numbers, not a problem. When you get into colors on the transparent decal film, the colors are not 100% solid. Oh yea, they look great on the paper, but when you slide them off, the disappear. Printing then on white decal paper yields better results, but try trimming the white from around the edges of a unit badge! A combination of homemade decals and the spares box completed the project.


Overall, the final result ended looking something like an F-111.  Keeping in-line with my tradition, I really like taking a kit that is a bad kit and turning it into something presentable. This one is no exception.


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