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F-111 Weapons Bay

By Jim Rotramel


The weapon bay M61 gun installation is illustrated by this views, and the first image in the text below. Note the bomb rack at top left of the top photo and the shape of the fairing in the bottom photo along with the white rotating muzzle cover.


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F-111 Weapons Bay


The second worst blunder in the Minicraft 1/48 scale F-111 kit is the weapons bay, and again, while Scaledown has this on their list of things to do, it has not yet been accomplished. There were five types of interchangeable F-111 weapon-bay doors:

Normally, the real weapons bay doors were ALWAYS opened after the airplane taxied to its parking spot and not closed until after the engines were started. These doors are what the Minicraft kit purports to represent. The problem is that they are modeled in the closed position and split laterally through the middle of the doors, which makes modeling the aircraft as it was normally seen on the ground almost impossible. (It’s also worth noting that the same problem exists with the Hasegawa 1/72nd scale kits, as they also model the weapon bay doors only in the closed position. The only times this didn’t happen was if the WSO forgot to follow his checklist, an ECM pod was fitted in the forward position, or during the Cold War when Varks sat nuclear alert and no weapons were being carried in the weapons bay. These doors were used with an internal luggage rack, nuclear weapons, and/or ‘Tokyo’ fuel tanks.

An M61A1 20-mm gun was optional equipment for F-111A/D/E and pre-Pave Tack F-111C/F models (the FB-111A/F-111Gs never used gun). The gun installation replaced the two bay doors on the right side of the aircraft and extended just slightly over the centerline. Unless the gun system was selected, a fairing rotated to cover the end of the gun barrels. The gun was installed on all aircraft used in Vietnam, but never used. The guns were removed about 1983 when AIM-9P-4s began to be carried for self-defense. On stateside-based F-111As and F-111Ds, the guns were often still carried, but seldom used. The European-based F-111Es and non-Pave Tack F-111Fs reverted only to the original weapon bay doors.



Pave Tack pods were mounted on a rotating cradle in the weapons bay, thereby minimizing the pod’s impact on aircraft performance. For this, the outer weapons bay doors were modified with a ‘cut out’ section towards the rear, while the inner ones were replaced by the cradle. The doors were left open while on the ground, but closed prior to taxi. They were not normally opened in flight. Looking forward, the cradle rotated clockwise to stow the pod and counterclockwise to expose it. The pod was stowed prior to takeoff, and usually kept that way for most of the mission until nearing the target area, when it was used by the WSO to find and designate targets for LGBs. It was extended prior to landing, with the turret tucked away in the ‘stowed’ position to protect the forward-looking infrared (FLIR) window. (This window was a milky amber color, while the two smaller laser windows were clear, but had a distinct bluish tint.)

The cradle was a metal frame covered with a thin, aerodynamically shaped fiberglass fairing. To allow uninhibited movement of the pod head, there was a ‘box’ cut out of the rear of the cradle on the pod side. The pod head rotated about the longitudinal axis of the barrel, while the turret rotated at right angles to the head. This wrist-like movement allowed the pod to view virtually the entire hemisphere beneath the aircraft. The four-inch ‘hump’ exposed when the pod was stowed in the weapons bay was smoothly faired, with no ‘hard’ lines. Two sets of bolt holes with 30-inch spacing were visible on the ‘hump’ side of the cradle and used to mount the pod to it. The pod was overall 34087 olive drab with predominately black markings, while the cradle was painted to match the aircraft’s paint scheme.

Between 1981 and 1984 all F-111Fs were modified to carry the Pave Tack pod; Australian F-111Cs were also modified beginning in the late 1980s. Although usually installed, the cradle could be replaced by the normal weapons bay doors in about an hour.


This photo shows how the Pave Tack pod normally looked on the ground, with the weapon bay doors open and its head rotated into the “stowed” position with the window rotated into the protective fairing. Also note the yellow cooling duct and its white fitting. The duct was only on the right side of the weapon bay. In flight, the bomb bay doors remained closed while the pod rotated in and out of the weapon bay on its cradle.


This photo shows an extended Pave Tack pod as displayed at an air show, which is about the only time one would intentionally leave the weapon-bay doors closed. More importantly, it clearly shows the prominent bomb bay hinge fairing shared by all models.




The Pave Tack pod head is shown in the left photo (above). Note the orange IIR and two smaller, clear laser windows. The large gear mechanism was only located on the right side of the head. The right photo shows the four air-water heat exchanger vents that were exclusive to F-111D/Fs. Also, note the weapon bay hinge fairing and the inlet brace at top right.




The left photo (above) shows the small door for the weapon-bay safety pin, located just behind the doors on the left side of the aircraft, was always open on the ground. EF-111As (right) had a single, large air water heat exchanger vent on each side of the fuselage.

The EF-111A had a special cradle hinged on the right side of the fuselage to hold its AN/ALQ-99 jamming system. EF-111As and RF-111Cs only opened their bays for maintenance.

The RF-111C reconnaissance pallet had a special cradle hinged on the right side of the fuselage that was as wide as three of the four weapon bay doors, leaving the left-most door in its original configuration, except for the addition of a single camera window.

Text Copyright © 2002 Jim Rotramel
Images Copyright © 2002 United States Department of Defense and Jim Rotramel
Page Created 09 March, 2002
Last Updated 15 December, 2003

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