F-14 Tomcat

The Grumman F-14 Tomcat is a supersonic, twin-engine, two-seat variable geometry wing aircraft. During its active service in the United States Navy, the F-14 Tomcat was the Navy's primary air superiority fighter. It later performed tactical reconnaissance and precision bombing in close air support roles. Grumman first created a design for the VFAX maneuverable fighter to complement the heavy F-111B interceptor. By incorporating the 100+ mile range AIM-54 Phoenix missile, it won the VFX Naval Fighter Experimental requirement for an agile air superiority fighter with long range interception capability. The F-14 Tomcat was the first of the American teen-series fighters which were designed incorporating the experience of air combat in Vietnam against Migs.

It entered service in 1972 with the Navy, replacing the F-4 Phantom II, and the abortive F-111B. It was later exported to the Imperial Iranian Air Force (IIAF) in 1976. The USN replaced the F-14 with the more modern and economical F/A-18E/F Super Hornet in 2006. At the time of its retirement, many pilots noted that the F-14 had a higher top speed and longer range than its replacement. Its Phoenix / AWG-9 weapons system, though old, still had the largest radar and longest missle range of any contemporary western fighter. The Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF) will remain the only air arm flying F-14s.

The F-14 Tomcat was created in response to the U.S. Navy VFX specification, following termination of the F-111B program. However, the F-14 was actually started even earlier as an internal Grumman project to build the 1966 requirement for a VFAX, a lighter and more agile fighter that would be a better fighter than the F-4 Phantom II and a better bomber than the A-7 Corsair II. Grumman engineers after 1965 were tasked with creating the Naval version of the F-111 which introduced new fuel-efficient afterburning turbofan engines, swing wings for efficiency at landing, cruise and dash, and new large Phoenix missiles with a range greater than 100 miles for the single point mission of fleet air defence. The VFAX was created when Navy planners realized the F-111B had been created as a missile carrier, but did not have the performance or maneuverability to counter MiGs which had been encountered over Vietnam in 1965.

Grumman engineers simply transplanted the heart of the F-111B's engine and weapons systems optimized for the fleet air defence requirements onto this same airframe. As early as 1966, Flight International Magazine printed that the Navy had realized because of this proposal that a lighter VFAX which could carry the Phoenix would be better than a mixed fleet of F-111B interceptors and light VFAX fighter bombers. Grumman's design 303 would win the revised VFX competition.

Grumman would retain the TF30 afterburning turbofan engines and AWG-9/Phoenix weapons system of the F-111B. To reduce costs, the F-14 would share the landing gear, air ducts, and wing of the Grumman A-6 Intruder in a lighter and more agile airframe than the F-111B, with redesigned swing wings, a blended wing / body, and extensive use of titanium which had matured since the SST and SR-71 projects. The F-14 would not only be a better fighter, but also be a better multi-role bomber than the F-4 Phantom. The Tomcat was the most powerful and maneuverable fighter at its introduction. The swing wing and Phoenix / AWG-9 interception capabilities would never again be duplicated on any subsequent US fighter designs. The Tomcat would be retired primarily for maintenance costs as its speed, range / payload and radar / missle range remained superior to its more modern replacement. The F-14 Tomcat was the first of a new generation of air superiority fighters designed from lessons learned in air combat over Vietnam with Soviet MiG fighters.

The F-14 began replacing the F-4 Phantom II in USN service starting in September 1974 with squadrons VF-1 Wolfpack and VF-2 Bounty Hunters aboard the USS Enterprise (CVN 65). In 1995, an upgrade program was initiated to incorporate new digital avionics and weapon system improvements to strengthen its multi-mission competitive edge. The F-14D, delivered in 1990 in reduced numbers, was a major upgrade with F110 engines, new AN/APG-71 radar system, Airborne Self Protection Jammer (ASPJ), Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS) and Infrared Search and Track (IRST). Additionally, all F-14 variants were given precision strike capability using the LANTIRN targeting system, night vision compatibility, new defensive countermeasures systems and a new digital flight control system. At the end of its life, the F-14 Tomcat was upgraded with ROVER, a system which allows a Forward Air Controller (FAC) on the ground to see real-time images acquired by the aircraft's sensors by transmitting these images to the FAC's laptop.

In the 1991 Desert Storm Gulf War conflict, air superiority was tasked to USAF F-15 Eagles. U.S. F-14s were used primarily for strike package escort and reconnaissance due to the way the Air Tasking Orders were set up. The emissions from the AWG-9/APG-71 are recognizable with a radar warning receiver. When Iraqi fighters were detected inbound, as soon as the Tomcats "lit up" the Iraqis would immediately abandon the attack while well out of range, perhaps indicating their familiarity with both the Tomcat and the AIM-54.

The US Marine Corps elected to wait for the F/A-18 to replace the F-4. While the F-14 had been developed as a light weight alternative to the 80,000 lb F-111B, the F-14 was still the largest and most expensive fighter in its time. VFAX was revived in the 1970s as a lower cost solution to replacing the Navy's fleet of USMC Phantoms, and A-7. VFAX would be merged with the USAF LWF fighter competition, from which the F/A-18 Hornet emerged as roughly a midsize fighter.

The Navy and Secretary of Defence would reject Grumman proposals to the Navy to upgrade the Tomcat beyond the D model (such as the Super Tomcat 21, the cheaper QuickStrike version, and the more advanced Attack Super Tomcat 21). Instead, the Navy elected to retire the F-14 and chose the the F/A-18E/F to fill the roles of fleet defense and strike formerly filled by the F-14.

The F-14 has completed its decommissioning from the U.S. Navy. It was slated to remain in service through at least 2008, but all F-14A and F-14B airframes have already been retired, and the last two squadrons, the VF-31 Tomcatters and the VF-213 Black Lions, both flying the "D" models, arrived for their last fly-in at Naval Air Station Oceana on March 10, 2006. The F-14 Tomcat will be removed from service and officially stricken from the inventory in September of 2006.

The last F-14 combat mission was completed on February 8, 2006, when a pair of Tomcats landed aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) after one dropped a bomb in Iraq. The plane was part of VF-31 and the last pilot credited with a bomb drop in combat was Lt. Bill Frank. An F-14D from VF-213 was the last F-14 to land on an aircraft carrier after a combat mission, it was piloted by Capt. William G. Sizemore. During their final deployment with the USS Theodore Roosevelt, VF-31 and VF-213 collectively completed 1,163 combat sorties totaling 6,876 flight hours, and dropped 9,500 pounds of ordnance during reconnaissance, surveillance, and close air support missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. On March 10, 2006, the 22 planes from these squadrons flew in formation into Naval Air Station Oceana, home from the last combat deployment of the F-14. VF-213 pilots and radar interception officers who are making the transition to the Super Hornet will begin F/A-18F (double seat) training in April 2006, and the squadron will be operational, or "safe for flight," in September 2006. VF-31 pilots who are making the transition will begin F/A-18E (single seat) training in October 2006, and the squadron will be safe for flight in April 2007. This will make VF-31 the last official Tomcat squadron in the Navy.

Because of its popularity, and long service life, the Navy is attempting to place as many of its retired F-14s on public display as possible. Consequently, aircraft mothballed at the Davis-Monthan "Boneyard" will be retained for as long as possible while homes are found for them.

The sole foreign customer for the Tomcat was the Imperial Iranian Air Force (now called the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force) during the reign of the last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Due to the F-14's cost, lack of ground attack capacity, and the US government's preference to champion the F-15 Eagle for export, it was an unpopular export aircraft.

In 1974 the Imperial Iranian Air Force needed an air superiority fighter that could end incursions into its airspace by Soviet MiG-25Rs, and Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who had become a pilot in 1946 flying the British Tiger Moth, was preparing to purchase 80 export versions of the F-15 Eagle. The Grumman Corporation contacted the Shah and arranged a competitive demonstration of the McDonnell Douglas F-15 against the Grumman F-14. No other potential buyer of either aircraft would ever receive such a competition. Following a display of potential weapons systems, and several elaborate flight demonstrations the Shah selected the F-14 over the F-15 for the Imperial Iranian Air Force. He immidately arranged to purchase 80 F-14A Tomcats and 633 Hughes AIM-54 Phoenix missiles for $2 billion. The Iranian purchase is credited with saving the F-14 program, which congress had stopped funding, and possibly with saving the Grumman Corporation from bankruptcy.

Before the arrival of the F-14s, a giant airbase was built in the central Iranian desert to be used as the main hub for F-14 operations. It was named Khatami Air Base after legendery IIAF commander General Mohammad Khatami, who was killed in 1975 in a paragliding accident. By 1978, 284 AIM-54 Phoenix missiles had arrived including 10 ATM-54A training missiles. By 1979, 120 pilots and radar intercept officers had been trained in the United States and Iran, with an additional 100 still in training. At the same time maintenence technicians were being trained by Pratt & Whitney and Hughes on the engines, avionics, and weapons systems.

Following the overthrow of the Shah most Iranian F-14 pilots and technicians trained in the U.S. fled from Iran, fearing their association with the Shah's regime, and their time in the U.S. would endanger them. Only two pilots out of the original flight class chose to remain in Iran. Their fears proved correct, and many of the original Iranian F-14 crews and technicians who remained were jailed or murdered by the new regime. Eventually several F-14 pilots who were jailed were released when war broke out with Iraq. In addition, Hughes technicians attempted to sabotage the Iranian arsonal of AIM-54 missiles before leaving the U.S., Contrairy to U.S. reports that state the entire supply was disabled, only 16 AIM-54As were sabotaged, the rest being safely stored in guarded underground bunkers at Khatami. Of the 16 missiles sabotaged, all were eventually placed back into operation using stolen U.S. Navy parts.

Of the 80 aircraft ordered, 79 were delivered between 1976 and 1978. Due to the overthrow of the Shah the last unit was embargoed and turned over to the United States Navy. The weapons embargo on Iran also cut off spare parts and technical assistance for the aircraft. For many years it was thought from that point forward Iran used the fighter primarily as an airborne radar controller, like a mini AWACS, escorted and protected by other fighters, but later information indicates this was incorrect. By 1980, with the prospect of war with Iraq becoming ever more likely, most of the 77 surviving F-14 airframes were found to be in non-operational condition, or at least had non-functioniong radars. As a result, F-14 pilots were forced to rely on ground control for their first wartime patrol and intercept missions. Within a few days of the start of the war, a dozen or so F-14s were made operational.

The first confirmed kill by an F-14A during the Iran-Iraq war occured before the formal start of hostilities, when on September 7, 1980 a IRIAF F-14A destroyed an Iraqi Mil Mi-25 (export version) Hind helicopter using its 20mm Vulcan cannon. Six days later Major Mohammad-Rez Attaie shot down an Iraqi MiG-21 with an AIM-54 Phoenix missile while flying border patrol. A single AIM-54 fired in July, 1982 by Captain Hashemi may have destroyed two Iraqi MiG-23s flying in close formation.

There are reports that the aircraft was used extensively in the Iran-Iraq War and some claim it achieved over one hundred kills. Although information from that war is notably questionable and sources often suspect, a phenomenon from the early part of the Gulf War, as well as U.S. AWACS surveillance of Iranian F-14 operations indicate the aircraft did see some degree of combat. U.S. AWACS observed the downing of an Iraqi Tupolev Tu-22 "Blinder" bomber, and the downing of at least one F-14. Official "kills" attributed to the F-14 generally fall in the range of 23 to 35 aircraft destroyed, with the loss of several IRIAF F-14's.

Some rumors suggest that a few of the AIM-54 Phoenix missiles supplied to Iran before the revolution were sold to the Soviet Union, where they may have strongly influenced the development of the similar Vympel AA-9 'Amos' long-range missile. In return, the Soviets may have assisted in returning the Phoenix to service in Iran. It is known that the AIM-54s were used only sporatically during the start of the war, most likely because of a shortage of qualified radar intercept officers, and then more frequently in 1981 and 1982 until the lack of thermal batteries suspended the missiles use in 1986. There were also rumors that suggested that Iran's Tomcat fleet would be upgraded with avionics derived from the MiG-31 Foxhound. However, the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force officials and pilots are definite that the Soviets were never allowed near the F-14s and never received any F-14 or AIM-54 technology. Also, the AIM-54 missile was never out of service in the IRIAF, though the stocks of operational missiles were low at times. Clandestine deliveries from US sources and black market purchases supplied spares to top up the Phoenix reserves during the war, and spares deliveries from the USA in the 1990s have also helped. Furthermore, an attempt was made to adapt the MIM-23 Hawk surface-to-air missiles that were also a carryover from the pre-revolution period to be used as air-to-air missiles for the F-14, and at least two F-14s have been successfully integrated.

By the close of the war both sides were unable to obtain new aircraft or parts, and aerial combat had become conservative. Neither side could afford to loose aircraft they simply could not replace. In particular the IRIAF F-14 fleet suffered from a lack of trained technicians, and by 1984 only 40 F-14s were still in service. By 1986, that number had dropped to just 25. The F-14 was deligated to protecting Iran's vital oil refining and export infrastructure, where they often encountered French-built Iraqi Dassault Mirage F1EQ fighters attempting to attack Iranian oil pipelines. Global Security suggests that less than 20 aircraft were still airworthy as of 2000 and cited one report that only seven can be airborne at one time.

The Iranian Tomcat patch is a duplicate of the American patch with the phrase "Anytime Baby" written in Farsi.

The Tomcat consists of a high forward nacelle containing the radar and cockpits, and two widely spaced engines arranged around a flat fuselage that contains the variable geometry mechanism. The space between the engines allows for underbody carriage of many external stores. The F-14 retains conformal underbody carriage of 4 AIM-7 Sparrow missiles, two under the forward and two under the center fuselage. Unlike the complex swivelling pylons on the F-111B which cannot carry a full load at full sweep, all load stations are on fixed pylons under the body or the fixed wing glove, and are fully usable at all wing sweeps. In addition, external fuel tanks can be mounted under each engine. The F-111 was limited to four swivelling and two fixed wing pylons and an internal weapons bay.

The F-14 met its design goal of exceeding the slatted F-4J. Compared to the F-4, the F-14A has an improvement of 21% in acceleration and sustained G-Force, 20% increase in rate of climb, 27% increase in maneuvering capability and 40% in turning radius. TOPGUN pilots are trained to beat A-4 Skyhawk aggressors simulating the MiG-17, which had caused so many problems over Vietnam and sealed the fate of the F-111B.

The flat, pancake-like section between the engines acts as an airfoil to provide additional lift, giving the Tomcat an effective wing area about 40% greater than its actual wing dimensions. This results in relatively low effective wing loading. The Tomcat also has a Mach Sweep Programmer (MSP) that automatically adjusts the wing angle for optimum flight performance, the only variable-geometry aircraft so equipped. (A similar system was tested but not used for the Panavia Tornado ADV). Movable glove vanes extended to offset the migration of the center of lift rearwards as airspeed increased, and these were even implemented on 1/72 plastic models of the era. However for maintainability, given the amount of time actually spent at high Mach, they were subsequently removed.

Unlike most variable-geometry aircraft that are optimized for fast, low-altitude attack, the Tomcat uses its swing wings forward to enhance low-speed maneuverability.

Sometimes called underpowered, it lacked advanced technology to give a 1:1 combat thrust-to-weight ratio desired in later fighters. The Pratt & Whitney TF-30 turbofans gave long range and loiter times, but were troublesome and were not well adapted for air combat; they were subject to compressor stalls in violent maneuvers or high angle of attack and provided only a slight thrust to weight advantage over the F-4 Phantom II. Once the F110 engines arrived, which had power and reliability comparable to the F-15, the aircraft realized its full potential.

Although the F-14 has been tested at speeds of up to Mach 2.4+ dashes with a full missile load, very few operations have been conducted at Mach 2. Despite the low landing speed afforded by unswept wings and flaps, the F-14 lacks the directional stability at low speeds of the F-4, and the engines are difficult to control at low throttle ssettings. It has been called notoriously difficult to land on a carrier deck, and part of the reason to adopt the Super Hornet. The most famous incident was the fatal 1994 crash of Lt. Kara Hultgreen on approach.

The Tomcat was intended as an air superiority fighter and interceptor, charged with defending carrier battle groups against Soviet Navy aircraft armed with cruise missiles. It carried the Hughes AN/AWG-9 long-range radar originally developed for the F-111B. The system was capable of detecting bomber-sized targets at ranges exceeding 160 km (100 miles), tracking 24 targets and engaging six simultaneously with AIM-54 Phoenix missiles, which provided a fire-and-forget capability.

In a now famous test, a F-14 simultaneously shot down five of six target drones. However, what was not commonly disclosed is that the drones were flying dumb profiles, not jamming or evading the missiles as actual targets would. The AIM-54 has an unusual profile of flying at Mach 5 to 70,000 ft and then diving to destroy its target, impressive but of no use in a dogfight. The AIM-54 has rarely, if ever, been used in service and only be carried by the F-14, and was retired in 2004. Up to six of these 1,000 lb weapons could be carried on special underbody aerodynamic pallets and glove pylons. However, their heavy weight only enabled the F-14 to bring back 4 on a carrier.

Medium-range armament was provided by the AIM-7 Sparrow semi-active radar homing missile. The AIM-120 AMRAAM which is available with ranges out to 65 nm is compatible with almost all modern fighters and is being fitted to Hornets and Super Hornets, though the F-14 never carried it operationally, as the Navy decided it would be too expensive to make the necessary modifications to the F-14 fleet. It may be noted that replacement for the F-14 employs the AMRAAM as its long range missile, but it lacks the Mach 5 speed and over 100 mile range of the now retired Tomcat's Phoenix system. For short ranges, two AIM-9 Sidewinder infrared missiles are carried on the outer wing glove pylons.

An internal M61 Vulcan 20 mm multibarrel cannon was included in the F-14 unlike earlier naval Phantoms. Some F-14s are also equipped to carry the Tactical Air Reconnaissance Pod System (TARPS) pod, giving the Navy what was then its only manned tactical reconnaissance platform.

The F-14 was originally designed with a potent strike capability with payload and range rivaling the A-6. Payload is comparable to the Phantom, with a wide underbody and fixed pylons that can accommodate a variety of bomb loads and external tanks. But the F-111 debacle led to the common fighter community motto "Not a pound for air to ground". Planners deployed their most expensive fighters only for air superiority and fleet defense, as did the USAF, even though the ground attack capability was never actually removed from F-15s.

Only in the 1990s, after the Air Force adapted the F-15E as strike fighter, and the A-6 was being withdrawn, were F-14s fitted to carry the LANTIRN pod which enabled delivery of Laser-guided bombs. Such planes were often called "Bombcats". After the retirement of the A-6 Intruder, the F-14 was the longest range strike platform on U.S. aircraft carriers and was used on long-range missions over Afghanistan.

The F-14 was originally designed with a potent strike capability with payload and range rivaling the A-6. Payload is comparable to the Phantom, with a wide underbody and fixed pylons that can accommodate a variety of bomb loads and external tanks. But the F-111 debacle led to the common fighter community motto "Not a pound for air to ground". Planners deployed their most expensive fighters only for air superiority and fleet defense, as did the USAF, even though the ground attack capability was never actually removed from F-15s.

Only in the 1990s, after the Air Force adapted the F-15E as strike fighter, and the A-6 was being withdrawn, were F-14s fitted to carry the LANTIRN pod which enabled delivery of Laser-guided bombs. Such planes were often called "Bombcats". After the retirement of the A-6 Intruder, the F-14 was the longest range strike platform on U.S. aircraft carriers and was used on long-range missions over Afghanistan.

* Crew: 2 (Pilot and Radar Intercept Officer)
* Length: 18.6 m (61 ft 9 in)
* Wingspan: 64 ft unswept, 38 ft swept (19 m / 11.4 m)
* Height: 16 ft (4.8 m)
* Airfoil: NACA 64A209.65 mod root, 64A208.91 mod tip
* Empty weight: 19,000 kg (42,000 lb)
* Loaded weight: 28,000 kg (61,000 lb)
* Max takeoff weight: 32,805 kg (72,900 lb)
* Powerplant: 2× General Electric F110-GE-400 afterburning turbofans, 13,810 lbf dry, 27,800 lbf with afterburner (72 kN / 126 kN) each

* Maximum speed: Mach 2.34, 1,544 mph at high altitude (2,485 km/h)
* Range: 576 mi combat (927 km)
* Service ceiling: 50,000+ ft (16,000+ m)
* Rate of climb: 45,000+ ft/min (230+ m/s)
* Wing loading: 113.4 lb/ft² (553.9 kg/m²)
* Thrust/weight: 0.91

* The Tomcat played a prominent role in Top Gun, the 1986 film about naval aviators that fly the F-14. The success of that film helped the Tomcat become the most famous fighter jet of the time, and spurred a game franchise and a surge in U.S. Navy recruiting.

* The 1980 time-travel film The Final Countdown featured the VF-84 "Jolly Rogers" F-14 fighter squadron aboard Nimitz, and includes a memorable scene where two Tomcats from that squadron engage in a dogfight with two Japanese Zeroes.

* A modified single-seater F-14 is protagonist Mickey Simon's aircraft in the popular manga/anime series Area 88.

* The F-14 was a primary inspiration for the VF-1 Valkyrie in the Japanese animated TV series The Super Dimension Fortress Macross (1982–1983).[12][13] In the prequel Macross Zero, the lead character Lieutenant Shin Kudo (played by Kenichi Suzumura) is a qualified F-14 pilot.

* Tomcats are featured in Stephen Coonts' 1986 novel Final Flight.

* The 1994 computer simulator "F-14: Fleet Defender" featured the Tomcat.

* The 1997 Playstation game Ace Combat 2 features an F-14 as one of the playable aircraft and as an aircraft used by some enemies in some missions.

* The F-14 appears in numerous episodes of the 1995–2005 TV series JAG. The lead character Captain Harmon Rabb (played by David James Elliott) is a qualified F-14 pilot. A retired airframe has been relocated to the airliner storage yard at Victorville Aiport for the filming.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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