The War: Trials of the F-l 11

The F-111 is probably the most controversial plane ever built. Ever since former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara overruled the top military leaders in 1962 and gave the contract for the 1,650-m.p.h., two-seat fighter-bomber to General Dynamics, the plane has had to fly through a barrage of verbal flak. It has been the center of several congressional investigations, been frequently attacked in the press as deficient in performance and criticized relentlessly by the U.S. Navy, which complains that its version is hopelessly overweight for carriers.

Last week, as the first six of the new planes made their combat debut over North...