The Return of the F-111 (Sep 1972)

After the return of the Combat Lancer F-111 detachment to the USA in November 1968 the F-111’s career went through a series of highs and lows. A fatal accident in December 1969 resulted in the grounding of the entire F-111 fleet for seven months as a major structural test and inspection programme was undertaken. However, although accidents continued to happen, the aircraft and its avionics and weapon systems were continuously developed and improved and by 1972 most of the aircraft’s problems were behind it, even if it still had its critics. In addition, the crews were now much more experienced and proficient. When Linebacker I commenced in May the 474th TFW at Nellis AFB, Nevada, was one of the units notified for deployment to Southeast Asia, thereby heralding the return of the F-111 to combat status. Commencing on 27 September the Wing deployed two squadrons of F-111s to Takhli as Constant Guard V and flew the first mission on the night of the 28th, 33 hours after leaving Nellis. The last of 48 F-111s arrived at Takhli on 5 October with seven more replacement aircraft arriving over the next seven months.