F14- - History

F14- - History

Description: The F-14 Tomcat is a supersonic, twin-engine, variable sweep wing, two-place strike fighter manufactured by Grumman Aircraft Corporation. The multiple tasks of navigation, target acquisition, electronic counter measures (ECM), and weapons employment are divided between the pilot and the radar intercept officer (RIO). Primary missions include precision strike against ground targets, air superiority, and fleet air defense.

Features: As a Strike Fighter, the Tomcat is capable of deploying an assortment of air-to-ground ordnance (MK-80 series GP bombs, LGBs and JDAM) in various configurations, while simultaneously carrying the AIM-7, AIM-9 and AIM-54 air-to-air missiles. The F-14 also has the LANTIRN targeting system that allows delivery of various laser-guided bombs for precision strikes in air-to-ground combat missions and for battle damage assessment. With its Fast Tactical Imagery (FTI) system the F-14 can transmit and receive targeting/reconnaissance imagery in-flight to provide time sensitive strike capability. A number of F-14s also carry the Tactical Air Reconnaissance Pod System (TARPS) providing in-theater tactical reconnaissance.

Background: Current plan is to have Tomcats in service until mid-FY07. Tomcat squadrons have already started to transition to the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet aircraft, and will continue to transition in a phased approach


General Characteristics: Overall Length: 62 feet 9 inches (18.9 meters)
Wingspan: 64 feet (19 meters) unswept; 38 feet (11.4 meters) swept
Height: 16 feet (4.8 meters)
Weight: 43,600 lb (19,777 kg) (F-14B)
Speed: Mach 2+
Ceiling: 50,000+ feet
Range: 1600 nm
Power Plants:
F-14A: (2) TF30-414A Afterburning Turbofans with over 40,000 lb Total Thrust
F-14B/D: (2) F110-GE400 Afterburning Turbofans with over 54,000 lb Total Thrust
Sensors: Tactical Air Reconnaissance Pod System (TARPS) LANTIRN Targeting System
Armament: Up to 13,000 pounds to include four Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) [F-14D], AIM-54 Phoenix missile, AIM 7 Sparrow missile, AIM 9 Sidewinder missile , air-to-ground precision strike ordnance, and one M61A1/A2 Vulcan 20mm cannon.
Crew: Two (pilot and radar intercept officer)
Contractor: Northrop Grumman
Date Deployed: First flight: December 1970


History's Most Bizarre Shoot-Downs: F-14 vs. F-14?

Here's What You Need to Remember: A century of aerial warfare has brought some memorable episodes.

2nd Lt. Owen Baggett was the co-pilot of an Army B-24 bomber sent to bomb Japanese facilities in Burma. Their plane shot nearly to pieces by Zero fighters, Baggett and four other crewmen bailed out. The Zero pilots made sport of the parachutists, machine-gunning and apparently killing two of them in mid-air.

Enraged, Baggett—still dangling from the silk canopy presumably thousands of feet in the air—drew his .45-caliber pistol and fired at a passing Zero. The Japanese plane stalled and crashed. Later, while a prisoner of the Japanese, Baggett learned that he had hit the Zero pilot in the head, killing him.

That March 1943 incident is just one of many bizarre shoot-downs that punctuate the century-long history of aerial warfare.

1948 & 1949: Royal Air Force Spitfires versus Israeli Spitfires versus Egyptian Spitfires

During skirmishes in the Middle East in 1948, the armed forces of Israel, Egypt and Great Britain all used pretty much the same models of Spitfire fighters, leading to fatal confusion.

British forces were pulling back from Palestine, leaving Egypt and the new state of Israel to fight it out over territory claimed by both Jews and Arabs. In May, waves of Egyptian Spitfires attacked the airfield at Ramat David, believing it to be held by Israel.

But in fact, British troops were still in charge of the base. The Egyptian planes unwittingly destroyed two Royal Air Force Spitfires and two transport planes and killed four men. With help from gunners on the ground, surviving British fighters destroyed five Egyptian Spitfires.

And after weeks of chaotic combat on three sides, in January 1949 two RAF Spitfires mistook two other RAF Spits as Israeli planes and shot them down, too.

September 1956 & June 1973: Grumman F11F & F-14 versus themselves

Thomas Attridge, Jr., a Grumman test pilot, was flying an F11F on trials off the U.S. East Coast, firing the jet’s 20-millimeter cannons into the water. In a steep supersonic dive, the Tiger actually outran its own cannon shells, which had been slowed by air resistance.

Rounds impacted the canopy, fuselage and engine, severely damaging the F11F. Attridge crash-landed the plane near Calverton, New York, gouging a 300-foot gash in the forest and breaking his leg. Based on the self-shootdown, the military began training supersonic jet pilots to turn away after firing guns.

But even missiles could turn on their users. Seventeen years after Attridge’s self-destruction, Grumman test pilot Pete Purvis fired a Sparrow air-to-air missile from an F-14 over California. Immediately after launch, the missile pitched up, striking the F-14 and puncturing a fuel tank. Purvis and backseater William Sherman safely ejected.

January 1968: CIA UH-1 versus North Vietnamese An-2s

A UH-1 helicopter flown by CIA pilot Ted Moore was carrying ammo to a U.S. Air Force radar installation on a mountain in Laos when four North Vietnamese An-2 biplanes attacked the site with guns and bombs. “It looked like World War I,” Moore recalled.

Moore positioned the copter over the slow-flying biplanes as crewman Glenn Woods fired an AK-47 assault rifle. In 20 minutes of slow-motion combat, Moore and Woods shot down two of the An-2s—a feat confirmed by a CIA ground team. Foiled in the air, the North Vietnamese later attacked the radar site on foot, destroying it.

Spring 1999: Serbian Mi-8 versus U.S. Air Force RQ-1

The Americans lost at least four RQ-1 Predator drones during the three-month air war against Serbia. The slow-flying robots were sometimes scrambled by NATO electronic jamming and crashed. Serbian defenses accounted for others.

One Serbian tactic was to send an Mi-8 helicopter to fly alongside a drone. The pilot would match speed and altitude with the robot and the copter’s door gunner would blast it with his machine gun. At least one Predator was reportedly destroyed this way.

David Axe served as Defense Editor of the National Interest. He is the author of the graphic novels War Fix, War Is Boring and Machete Squad.

This article first appeared earlier this year and is reprinted due to reader interest.


"A Hot New Fighter for the Navy": PM Meets the F-14

The F-14 is designed to roll and turn at supersonic speeds and outshoot planes threatening our fleet. It's the Navy's substitute for the controversial F-111.

In the January 1970 issue, Popular Mechanics laid out the details of the Navy's newest jet fighter: the F-14 Tomcat. A fast and nimble jet capable of Mach 2+ speeds, the F-14 would serve for decades as the U.S. Navy's fiercest jet fighter until it was replaced by the F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet. But in 1970, we got the details about how this new Navy plane actually worked.

A plane of revolutionary design was conceived some years ago, a plane meant to be all things to all military men. It would fly high or skim treetops, fly slow or faster than sound. It would fire missiles, shoot cannons or drop bombs, and it would operate from landlocked airfields as well as carriers far at sea. It was the F-111, a craft that caused a ruckus, political and military, that has yet to fully subside. Some dubbed it &ldquoMcNamara's Folly," a slap at the former secretary of defense who championed it.

Nevertheless, the F-111 found a home with the United States Air Force. But the Navy, also slated to adopt it, finally said no. Among other complaints, the Navy said the plane was too hefty for carrier service. The Navy went hunting for a substitute&mdashand Grumman came up with the F-14.

First and foremost, the Navy explains, the F-14 will not try to be a plane that does everything. It will be just what its designation implies, a fighter&mdasha dogfighter in the old tradition. It will turn and roll with the best of them, even at supersonic speeds, keep up with most of them straight-and-level, and outshoot any of them with guns, rockets and missiles. It will fly fast and it will fly long.

In short, the F-14 is an air-superiority fighter, designed to clear the skies of anything that might threaten the fleet.

Of course, the Navy quickly adds, with the boys from the budget bureau breathing down their necks, the F-14 will also be able to strap on extra "garbage," like bombs, for air-to-ground missions, thus proving its versatility. Are we back to the F-111?

Not quite. The F-111 is a superior air-to-ground attack aircraft and, as such, probably should have been designated the A-111. But, in the air, the F-14 could probably run rings around it.

What, then, will the F-14 have that the Navy wants, and that the F-111 lacked?

In any study of this newest of aircraft, you almost have to start with its looks. It is, indeed, a beautiful bird, with one of the cleanest and most impressive configurations in years.

Grumman abandoned the side-by-side seating of the F-111, and went back to tandem seating for the pilot and the missile-control officer, slimming the fuselage and reducing drag. A one-piece bubble canopy further streamlined the fuselage while giving the crew 360° visibility.

The engines are slung in pods from the wing roots and offset about a foot from the fuselage. This was an important element in Grumman's plans. The F-111, with its two engines almost flush against the sides of the fuselage, in the beginning had problems at some speeds boundary-layer air from the fuselage became too turbulent and caused compressor stalls when it entered the engine intakes.

Grumman believes it has eliminated this problem by moving the air intakes away from the fuselage and canting them slightly away from the plane's body. Thus, air will have a straight-line flow, through the intake and straight back to the compressor. Grumman calls it a "two-dimensional flow," meaning that there's no "dirty air" coming in and that the clean air has no curves to go around.

The engine pods go back to the tail section and support the twin vertical stabilizers and the horizontal stabilizers, which double as ailerons at certain speeds. Grumman had toyed with the idea of a single vertical stabilizer, but gave it up. By mounting twin stabilizers on the engine pods, engineers eliminated any bulky structural buildup between the pods. All that connects the pods at the tail is a thin "pancake" section that holds the tail hook for carrier landings and four speed brakes. Also, a single vertical stabilizer would have been too tall for the between-deck space available on carriers.

The wings of the F-14, perhaps its most important feature, are both similar to and different from those of the F-111, the first of the swing-wing planes. Like the F-111, the wings swing from front to rear for subsonic, transonic and supersonic speeds, and have full-span slats and flaps for lift control, and spoilers (no ailerons) for roll control at subsonic speeds. The horizontal stabilizers, which are mounted below the wings even when they are fully swept, double as ailerons at supersonic speeds. The wings, in fact, are "double jointed" they also swing up over the stabilizers to cut down on carrier storage space required to park the planes.

The F-14's wings differ from the F-111's in several respects. The outer (swinging) panels are shorter than those on the F-111 because the inner wing root is much larger. The pivot points are twice as far apart, to make room for the engine pods and the main landing gear, so the swing wings are stubbier and don't need to swing as far. In normal operation, they'll rotate from 20° full forward to 68° fully swept, compared to 16° to 72° on the F-111.

Also, the mechanisms for swinging the wings on the two planes work differently. Each aircraft has a yoke, which rides the back of the fuselage and holds the pivots for the swing wings. Grumman calls its a "carry-through structure.&rdquo On the F-111 a single actuating arm in front of the yoke pushes out and in, swinging the wings backward and forward. On the F-14, two actuating arms behind the yoke perform the same function.

At high speeds, new control surfaces called glove vanes will swing out from the leading edge of the wing root to help stabilize the plane when the wing sweeps back, shifting the aircraft's aerodynamic center. Without it the stabilizers would require larger trim angles, increasing drag.

In short, the F-14 is an air-superiority fighter, designed to clear the skies of anything that might threaten the fleet.

The most important part of the structure of the F-14, however, isn't readily apparent. Grumman, which has been studying titanium for years, claims that about one-fourth of the structural parts are made of the lightweight, high strength metal. It also claims the F-14 is about 30,000 pounds lighter than the F-111 because of it. Weight was a big factor in the F-111's final rejection by the Navy for carrier use.

All of these factors&mdashthe clean lines, the efficient air intakes and the big savings in weight&mdashwill permit the F-14's engines, identical to those of the F-111, to operate much more efficiently, giving more thrust per unit of weight, more loiter time or range, and better rate-of-climb than the F-111.

Though exact performance characteristics are classified, it's known that the plane will be a Mach-2-plus fighter and operate up to around 70,000 feet. Exact specifications are also classified, but it's obvious that the F-14 is smaller than the F-111 and considerably lighter.

Its role can be assumed from some of the planned armament. First of all, the Navy insisted that the F-14 carry an internally mounted, 20-mm machine gun. This was in response to complaints from combat pilots they said that other aircraft they flew left them nothing to defend themselves with after they'd expended their externally mounted weaponry. On the F-14 they will always have a gun with them.


How the F-14 Tomcat Fighter Became the 'Bombcat' Bomber

One of the world&rsquos most famous fighter jets once had a secondary mission of dropping precision-guided bombs in wartime.

The F-14 Tomcat, designed to protect carrier battle groups from swarms of enemy fighters and bombers, later became a bomber itself after the end of the Cold War.

The Tomcat gained this capability as a stopgap measure to preserve carrier strike capabilities after the retirement of the dedicated A-6 Intruder carrier-based attack jet.

A carrier-based fighter designed to ward off Soviet mass attacks, the F-14 first hit the skies in the 1970s and soon became one of the most recognizable fighters of the 20th century.

The combination of the long-range AWG-9 radar and super-long-range AIM-54 Phoenix missiles gave the Tomcat the unique ability to swat down Soviet bombers, and the variable geometry wing set allowed the large fighter to dogfight with the best of them. The F-14 achieved stardom in 1986 with the release of the iconic film Top Gun.

After the 1991 Gulf War, the U.S. Navy retired its A-6 Intruder carrier-based bombers. The service still required a long-range strike jet, and it would be several years before the larger, more capable version of the F/A-18 Hornet, the F/A-18 Super Hornet, would join the fleet.

The loss of the Soviet Union as a high-tech opponent in 1991 left the F-14 Tomcat without a peer-level enemy to fight. It was difficult to justify a pure fighter like the F-14 on financial grounds, as there were hardly any adversarial air forces of note in the post-Cold War world.

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Many of the F-14 airframes in the fleet still had plenty of hours left in them, and the Navy made the decision to equip them to carry laser- and satellite-guided bombs.

As this article at The Aviationist explains, the fighters were fitted with a version of the Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night (LANTRIN) targeting pod. An F-14 fitted with LANTRIN could paint targets with a laser beam day or night, then drop laser-guided bombs to demolish the target.


Grumman F-14 Tomcat History, Part 1

Development
The Hughes (Raytheon) AWG-9 was a weapon system for which an aircraft was sought! The Navy was looking for a replacement for its aging carrier-based fighters, especially the F-4 Phantom, in the late 1960s. When the F-111B program also threatened to fail (the aircraft was too big and too fast for carrier landings), Grumman launched the G303 in October 1967. Later, the jet was named the Tomcat, in honor of the role that Rear Admiral Tom “Tomcat “Connelly played in its development. The question of whether the aircraft should have rigid wings or the F-111’s swiveling wing was initially left open. The Navy did not respond to the offer, however, as attempts were still being made to save the F-111B. In July 1968 though, the US Navy decided against the F-111B and again advertised a fleet interceptor under the title VFX. Grumman offered the G303 against designs by Northrop American, LTV, General Dynamics and McDonnell-Douglas. Finally, Grumman was awarded the contract in January 1969.

In the spring of 1969, the decision was made in favor of the swivel wing, and it was agreed that six prototype YF-14 Tomcats should be built and tested intensively. The contract was later extended to twelve aircraft. The first flight-capable prototype took off on December 21, 1970 with two Grumman works pilots, William Miller and Robert Smythe, for a first short flight with the wings fully swung out. During the second test flight nine days later, the aircraft was lost due to hydraulic and engine damage. Miller and Smythe were able to eject themselves out of the crashing plane just above treetop height. The test program could hardly have gone any worse. Through May 1971, the F-14 was further developed before flight testing continued.

During this test campaign, another two machines were lost. On June 20, 1973, an AIM-7 missile collided with the prototype No. 5 shortly after it was fired. The jet crew was able to save themselves with ejection seats and later received the humorous title “The Tomcat pilots who shot themselves”. As a consequence of this accident, the pyrotechnic charges on the rocket pylons were increased. The weapon firing test had thus served its purpose.On July 29, 1973, William Miller died when he – flying alone – crashed with the No. 10 prototype. In October 1972 the first F-14As were delivered to NAS Miramar and the training of the first F-14 pilots began. With the hit movie “Top Gun” the Tomcat became well known and the influx to the US Navy was very big at that time! Everyone wanted to be a Tomcat driver.

The pilots soon gave the F-14A the nickname “Turkey” because of its large number of flaps, spoilers and slats. Initially, it was not very popular with its crews because it was a powerful aircraft, but it was also large, heavy, somewhat underpowered, sometimes not easy to handle, and was often a “difficult child” when landing on a carrier. The widely spaced engines resulted in the jet in afterburner operation immediately turning into a rotation that was difficult to catch in the event of an engine failure. The TF-30 engines were generally problematic. The worst was the tendency to lose turbine blades, which then flew around in the engine, destroyed it and also cut through the fuselage.

F-14A 159590, NJ453, NAS Miramar

The manufacturer, Pratt & Whitney, made an effort to develop a more reliable variant of the engine as quickly as possible, which was finally available with the TF-30-P-414. Additional protective steel cladding was installed in the air duct to protect at least the rest of the aircraft from engine damage. However, the new engine was bigger and heavier. By 1979, all aircraft had been converted to the new engine model, and reliability improved. In 1981 P&W brought an additional minor upgrade to the engines, and the TF-30-P-414A became the standard version. Nevertheless, Tomcats were still lost due to various engine failures.

The problems earned the TF-30 a bad name, but Pratt & Whitney could at least claim “mitigating circumstances”. The Tomcat had such excellent high-speed maneuverability that the engines were particularly stressed. Other high-performance aircraft of the time suffered similar problems with their engines too. Throughout their use, over 150 F-14 Tomcats crashed, the vast majority being –A versions!

The crashes of the F-14B/D were relatively minor in number, 13 F-14Bs and 6 F-14Ds these had other – more powerful – General Electric F110-GE-400 engines that also allow a start without afterburner on the aircraft carrier. The oldest aircraft in the U.S. Navy is an F-14 Tomcat 159600, it joined the Navy in July 1975 as the F-14A-85-GR, only flew during the VF-124 training session, and was named the fifth Tomcat in 1994 F-14D (R) standard rebuilt and still flies with bug number 111 on the VF-31.

Armament
The standard armament was originally 4 Phoenix, 2 Sidewinder and 2 Sparrow missiles, this has changed over time. At the end of the 1980s the first F-14s were equipped with bombs, the lower Phoenix rails served as a weapon platform for MK 82, MK 83, MK 84, MK 20, CBU-59, CBU-78, GBU-12, GBU-16, GBU- 24, GBU-31, and GBU-38 bombs.
-AIM-54 Phoenix
-AIM-7 Sparrow (missile for medium range air combat with a semi-active radar)
-AIM-9 Sidewinder (with an infrared search head)
-M61 Vulcan cannon with 675 rounds of ammunition

The radar guided missiles are controlled by the Hughes AN / AWG-9 Pulse Doppler radar and the AN/AWG-15 fire control computer. The AN/AWG-9 gives the Tomcat long-range airspace observation capabilities in the range up to 160 km and more. It can target 24 targets and attack six of them at the same time with Phoenix missiles.

TARPS
The aerodynamic container is approximately 5.18 m long and weighs 794 kg. It contains a camera in the nose, another panorama camera in the middle part and an infrared scanner in the rear part. The TARPS container is attached to the right rear station in the “fuselage tunnel” and occupies all the rocket stations there. Since it requires additional electrical cables, fifty Tomcats were modified especially for TARPS. The system is controlled by the radar interception officer in the back seat, who has a new TARPS display on which he can track the reconnaissance data. The pilot can switch the cameras on and off using a switch on the joystick. TARPS was introduced to the fleet in 1980 and proved very valuable. Tomcats still fly with a TARPS container today.

Commissioning and Operations
In September 1974 the USS Enterprice sailed into the Pacific. The first two F-14 squadrons VF-1 Wolfpack and VF-2 Bounty Hunters were on board. During the Vietnam Evacuation in 1975, the brand new Tomcats flew protection missions, but were not involved in fighting. The F-14A first encountered enemy aircraft over the Mediterranean in 1981. Libyan leader Ghaddafi had declared the Gulf of Sidra was in Libyan territorial waters. US President Ronald Reagan drove the USS Nimitz carrier group into the Gulf to challenge Ghaddafi.

VF-41 Black Aces F-14A at NAS Oceana

On August 18th, 1981 there was a confrontation between two Tomcats and Libyan jets, but no shots were fired. The next day, the Libyan pilots were more aggressive. Two Sukhoi SU-22 ground attack planes attacked two VF-41 Black Aces Tomcats. The leading Su-22 fired an air-to-air missile, which, however, did not pursue the target. The two F-14s returned fire with AIM-9L rockets and shot down the Libyan aircraft.

In October 1985, four Tomcats – VF-74 Bedevilers and VF-103 Sluggers, stationed on the USS Saratoga (CVN-60) – intercepted a Boeing 737 of an Egyptian airline, which carried the terrorists who had kidnapped the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro.

In March 1986, Libya launched surface-to-air missiles on F-14s patrolling the Gulf of Sidra, operating from the USS America (CVN-66) and USS Saratoga (CVN-60). As a countermeasure, the F-14 destroyed the missile position and sank some Libyan patrol boats.

In April 1986, Tomcats provided fighter protection for the Tripoli and Benghazi bombing raids by F-111 Aardvarks flown during Operation Eldorado Canyon.

In January 1989, two VF-32 Swordsmen Tomcats destroyed two attacking Libyan MIG-23s with AIM-9 Sidewinder and AIM-7 Sparrow missiles.

These were the only U.S. fighter plane combats that did not occur during a war.

In the Gulf War, F-14As flew air and reconnaissance patrols the only Tomcat aerial victory occurred on February 6, 1991, when an F-14A of VF-,1 from the aircraft carrier USS Ranger, shot down a Mi-8 helicopter with an AIM-9M. The VF-103 Sluggers lost an F-14A Plus due to enemy fire on January 21, 1991, both crew members survived after a rescue operation.

The Tomcat did a great job, but from today’s perspective it is out of date the US Navy has already retired all F-14A and B versions, they went to museums or to the aircraft cemetery in Davis-Monthan (AMARC). Their tasks are carried out by the new F-18E/F Super Hornets. It remains to be seen whether this is a good replacement. The F/A-18A and C were to replace the Tomcat, but due to their design did not deliver the performance of the F-14. The F-14B’s and D were equipped with newer ground target systems and laser designators (Lantirn) at the end of the 80s, this is located on the right wing station where the Sparrow usually hung! The Lantirn container is almost identical to that of the F-15E. They were now able to drop both free-falling and laser-guided bombs with pinpoint accuracy. The “new” F-14s were now jokingly called Bombcats.

VF-31 Tomcatters F-14D, 164350

At the moment the last two F-14 squadrons are in the Persian Gulf, they are on board the USS Theodore Roosevelt (VF-31 and VF-213) at CVW-8. (About the F-14 squadrons in the second part) Iran had ordered 80 F-14A Tomcat and 79 have also been delivered, the gods are fighting over the exact numbers of how many are still in use today!

Versions
• F-14A Tomcat – First production version (delivered from 1973) for the US Navy (554 pieces).
• F-14A/TARPS – F-14A’s, equipped with the TARPS system, were used for reconnaissance collecting (50 pieces).
• F-14B Tomcat – prototype of an F-14 with F401-P-400 engines (2 pieces). One model flew on September 12, 1973, the second was not completed the program was discontinued for cost reasons.
• F-14C Tomcat – planned development of a Tomcat with TF30-P-414A engines and more modern avionics, program discontinued due to cost reasons.
• F-14A (Plus) Tomcat – The main difference between this version and the F-14A, which was built on November 14, 1987, is the new F110-GE-400 engines from General Electric. This replacement was necessary because the originally installed TF30 engines from P&W could never totally satisfy the Fleet’s needs. They were inefficient, difficult to maintain, and moreover unreliable and prone to accidents. The most common cause of the loss of Tomcats was that turbine blades broke, flew through the engine and destroyed it. In 1991 the F-14A (Plus) Tomcat was renamed the F-14B Tomcat. (Newly built: 38 airframes, converted F-14As were another 47 airframes, for the sum of 85 in total)
• F-14D Tomcat – The F-14D was delivered from 1990, or converted from older aircraft. This represents a fundamental modernization within the scope of the limited expansion options of the aircraft. New are the AN / APG-71 radar system, digital flight control, improved countermeasures for self-protection , night vision compatibility, target transfer capacity and various components that now allow the F-14 to attack ground targets (which was not intended when the aircraft was originally designed). (Newly built: 37 airframes, converted from F-14A / F-14D (R) equal another 18 airframes, totaling 55 examples). The last Tomcat was handed over to the US Navy in Miramar on August 14, 1992.

Description
Task: Carrier-based multipurpose fighter
Manufacturer: Grumman Aerospace Corporation
Unit cost: $ 38 million
First flight: December 21, 1970
Ready for use: from September 1974
Decommissioned from the United States Armed Forces in April, 2006
Crew: two, one pilot and one radar interception officer (RIO)
Dimensions:
Length 19.10 m
Wingspan 19.55 m swung out, 11.65 m swung in, 10.15 m swung in (below deck)
Wingspan 9.97 m
Height 4.88 m
Wing area 52.49 m2
Weights
Empty 18,191 kg
Takeoff weight (empty) 26,633 kg
Takeoff weight (with 4 AIM-7 sparrows) 27,068 kg
Takeoff weight (with 6 AIM-54 Phoenix) 32.098 kg
Maximum at start 33.724 kg
Landing weight 23,510 kg
Fuel (max.internal) 7,348 kg
Fuel (max.external) 1,724 kg
Engines
Engines Two turbofan engines with afterburner
F-14A: originally Pratt & Whitney TF-30P-412A, now F110-GE-400 like F-14B
F-14B and F-14D: Two General Electric F110-GE-400
Thrust
TF-30P-412A: 68 KN dry thrust per engine, 93 with afterburner
F110-GE-400: 74 kN dry thrust per engine, 120 with afterburner
Power
Maximum speed Mach 2.37 (= 2,517 km / h)
Combat range:
maximum range 4,232 km
Service ceiling over 56,000 ft (= 17,070 m)
Armament:
Guns: 20 mm M61A1 Vulcan with 675 rounds
Bombs / rockets 6,577 kg, consisting of AIM-54 Phoenix, AIM-9 Sidewinder, AIM-7 Sparrow. F-14D can carry additional guided and unguided bombs

Thanks to CHINFO (Pentagon) and AIRLANT PAO (NAS Oceana) for visiting NAS Oceana and the USS Theodore Roosevelt.


F-14 vs. F-14? History's Most Bizarre Shoot-Downs

A century of aerial warfare has brought some memorable episodes.

Key Point: Reality is often stranger than fiction.

2nd Lt. Owen Baggett was the co-pilot of an Army B-24 bomber sent to bomb Japanese facilities in Burma. Their plane shot nearly to pieces by Zero fighters, Baggett and four other crewmen bailed out. The Zero pilots made sport of the parachutists, machine-gunning and apparently killing two of them in mid-air.

Enraged, Baggett—still dangling from the silk canopy presumably thousands of feet in the air—drew his .45-caliber pistol and fired at a passing Zero. The Japanese plane stalled and crashed. Later, while a prisoner of the Japanese, Baggett learned that he had hit the Zero pilot in the head, killing him.

That March 1943 incident is just one of many bizarre shoot-downs that punctuate the century-long history of aerial warfare.

1948 & 1949: Royal Air Force Spitfires versus Israeli Spitfires versus Egyptian Spitfires

During skirmishes in the Middle East in 1948, the armed forces of Israel, Egypt and Great Britain all used pretty much the same models of Spitfire fighters, leading to fatal confusion.

British forces were pulling back from Palestine, leaving Egypt and the new state of Israel to fight it out over territory claimed by both Jews and Arabs. In May, waves of Egyptian Spitfires attacked the airfield at Ramat David, believing it to be held by Israel.

But in fact, British troops were still in charge of the base. The Egyptian planes unwittingly destroyed two Royal Air Force Spitfires and two transport planes and killed four men. With help from gunners on the ground, surviving British fighters destroyed five Egyptian Spitfires.

And after weeks of chaotic combat on three sides, in January 1949 two RAF Spitfires mistook two other RAF Spits as Israeli planes and shot them down, too.

September 1956 & June 1973: Grumman F11F & F-14 versus themselves

Thomas Attridge, Jr., a Grumman test pilot, was flying an F11F on trials off the U.S. East Coast, firing the jet’s 20-millimeter cannons into the water. In a steep supersonic dive, the Tiger actually outran its own cannon shells, which had been slowed by air resistance.

Rounds impacted the canopy, fuselage and engine, severely damaging the F11F. Attridge crash-landed the plane near Calverton, New York, gouging a 300-foot gash in the forest and breaking his leg. Based on the self-shootdown, the military began training supersonic jet pilots to turn away after firing guns.

But even missiles could turn on their users. Seventeen years after Attridge’s self-destruction, Grumman test pilot Pete Purvis fired a Sparrow air-to-air missile from an F-14 over California. Immediately after launch, the missile pitched up, striking the F-14 and puncturing a fuel tank. Purvis and backseater William Sherman safely ejected.

January 1968: CIA UH-1 versus North Vietnamese An-2s

A UH-1 helicopter flown by CIA pilot Ted Moore was carrying ammo to a U.S. Air Force radar installation on a mountain in Laos when four North Vietnamese An-2 biplanes attacked the site with guns and bombs. “It looked like World War I,” Moore recalled.

Moore positioned the copter over the slow-flying biplanes as crewman Glenn Woods fired an AK-47 assault rifle. In 20 minutes of slow-motion combat, Moore and Woods shot down two of the An-2s—a feat confirmed by a CIA ground team. Foiled in the air, the North Vietnamese later attacked the radar site on foot, destroying it.

Spring 1999: Serbian Mi-8 versus U.S. Air Force RQ-1

The Americans lost at least four RQ-1 Predator drones during the three-month air war against Serbia. The slow-flying robots were sometimes scrambled by NATO electronic jamming and crashed. Serbian defenses accounted for others.

One Serbian tactic was to send an Mi-8 helicopter to fly alongside a drone. The pilot would match speed and altitude with the robot and the copter’s door gunner would blast it with his machine gun. At least one Predator was reportedly destroyed this way.

David Axe served as Defense Editor of the National Interest. He is the author of the graphic novels War Fix, War Is Boring and Machete Squad.

This article first appeared earlier this year and is reprinted due to reader interest.


Tales of the F-14

When the Grumman F-14 Tomcat flew its last mission in February, an era of naval aviation ended that we aren’t likely to see again. The F-14 is the heaviest—and probably the most famous—fighter ever to be catapulted from a carrier. Nothing in the fleet today can match the long reach of its radar or the clobber of the six Phoenix missiles it could carry.

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For the magazine’s cover-story tribute, the editors interviewed pilots, radar intercept officers, designers, maintainers, and fans. Some of the stories wouldn’t fit even in 22 pages, so they’re included below, including a Grumman test pilot’s account of ejecting from the first production model of the F-14.

Bailout With 1.3 Seconds to Spare

Aircraft testing is a dangerous business, as test pilot Bob Smyth explained in a talk at the Cradle of Aviation Museum, Garden City, New York, on May 19, 2005.

“After Grumman’s Chief Test Pilot was killed in an F-111B takeoff accident in the spring of 1967, I was named the new chief test pilot.

The F-14 program promised to produce an airplane ready for first flight 17 months after contract go-ahead, which would be January 1971. As chief test pilot, I would make the first flight, and Bill Miller, our project pilot, would occupy the rear seat.

The F-14 program was led by a vice president who had previously spent years heading up the Preliminary Design Department. He was a very aggressive leader with a short attention span. It was his goal to fly a month earlier than the optimistic schedule had promised.

By December 30th, everyone was back (from a Christmas break), bright-eyed, and the weather was bluebird day. We were ready for our “real” First Flight, when we would go to altitude, sweep the wings, push out to Mach 1.2, and generally exercise all systems within the modest flight envelope allowed on First Flight and, of course, take pictures. (The First Flight, taking the Tomcat up and making a few simple turns, was made on December 21.)
By agreement, we would swap seats and Bill would sit up front. The weather was CAVU and cold, with about 20 knots of wind out of the northwest.

After takeoff we climbed to 10,000 feet, lest there be any hydraulic or mechanical mischief in the system. We had rounded Montauk Point and were headed back along Long Island’s south shore when we got to gear retraction entry on the flight card.

Immediately after raising the gear handle, our A-6 chase pilot said we were venting fluid out of the right side of the airplane. At the same instant, the combined hydraulic system gauge went to zero. Twenty-one gallons of hydraulic fluid had just left the airplane.

We started back to home base at 180 knots, our limit airspeed because the flaps were still extended. In about ten minutes, we were lined up with our runway about three miles out when we blew our gear down with the nitrogen bottle, since our flight hydraulic system only powered the flight controls.

At this time, our chase said we were venting more fluid, and our flight hydraulic system gauge went to zero. The airplane then went through about two cycles of gentle but uncontrollable pitching, and then snapped violently nose down.

At this point we were about a half-mile short of the runway, about 25 feet above the trees. Bill quickly initiated the ejection sequence using his face curtain. A sensitive accelerometer on the nose strut recorded and telemetered back to the ground the little blips showing the firing of the canopy and then the ejection guns on the two seats in turn. That all took 0.9 seconds as advertised 0.4 seconds later the nosewheel hit a tree!
My Martin-Baker seat sent me staight up about 150 feet, but when Bill’s fired a split second later, it sent him forward, only gaining about 10 feet vertically. Both chutes deployed nicely, and neither of us was injured. Thirty minutes later, when the fire caused by 10,000 pounds of fuel was put out, the ground crew found two fractured 5/16th-inch-inner-diameter titanium hydraulic lines, one in each wheel well.

The F-14 had an all-titanium hydraulic system with an 84-gallon-per-minute pump on each engine with no accumulators, all in the interest of saving weight. Each pump had nine pistons, which were varied in output by a swash plate. As it turned out, each time one of the nine pistons did its thing, it sent a 200-300-pounds-per-square-inch pulse down the basic 3,000-psi system. Apparently, without accumulators to dampen the pulses, a resonance occurred which fatigued the lines. Engineering duplicated the failure on a full-scale mockup of the system in 1.2 minutes at just the right pump RPM. When the line was changed to stainless steel, the line failed in 23 minutes. The answer was not material, but proper forming and clamping of the line to prevent resonance. The second F-14 did not make its first flight until May 24, 1971. There were no hydraulic problems again on the F-14 program.

As an embarrassing postscript, this whole episode could have been avoided if we had not been in such a bloody hurry. During one of the all-night engine runs a few days before First Flight, I was running the engines under the lights during systems check at 2-3 a.m. when the plane captain started waving his arms to shut down the engines. I looked over the side and saw a large puddle of hydraulic fluid.

I asked what happened, and he said it must have been a loose B nut. Well, there was only a handful of B nuts on the airplane, since most of the hydraulic connectors were the super-dry Cryofit connectors. We were all sleepy, so we went home and thought no more about it.

We later found out that a report from the Engineering Lab was working its way through the system over Christmas, telling us that the engine run failure was a fatigue fracture of the 5/16th-inch titanium line.”

A Pinball Machine in the Cockpit

Vincent Devino was the head of cockpit design and avionics installation on the F-14 from the time Grumman proposed the design in 1967. See also Devino’s photos from that era.

“The company felt very confident that it would win the contract. It would have been foolish for the Navy to do otherwise at that point because we’d had the experience integrating the AWG-9 radar system that Hughes put together on the F-111B. We took the F-14’s system right out of the F-111B.

In designing the cockpit, we worked with the project pilot who went through system by system with each of the engineers in order to whittle down the number of discrete controls in order to justify every one that the engineer thought was necessary. In the flight control system the number of caution and warning indicators was reduced. Some of the engineers wanted a first level warning of every first level system, but we simplified the number of cautions and warnings. The objective, among other things was that it was a Navy airplane and the Navy didn’t want a pinball machine in the cockpit. They didn’t want a pilot being distracted while he’s being shot off the catapult.

Since the airplane was capable of a long-endurance mission—six hours in the airplane—we tried to make the cockpits comfortable. If you’ve ever sat on an ejection seat, it’s like sitting on a brick. We made use of tempurpedic foam-the same stuff they’re yaking about for mattresses. We had people sitting in the mockup for 6 to 12 hours in the configuration that we intended to produce, so we wound up with a comfortable cockpit.

Packaging some of the stuff to fit the narrower contours of the F-14 was a challenge, but we never wound up with boxes left sitting on the desk. When you package a fighter, if you have any voids in the airplane you didn’t do your job right.

The canopy would have been made out of one piece but we couldn’t find anybody who could make a big enough piece of plexiglas at the time.

Integrating the head up display was a problem. Given the technology at the time, it was a huge box: the optics were about ten inches in diameter. Being able to fit the reflector plate under the windshield at an angle that would avoid double images was tough. The line of vision is collimated at infinity. The symbology is off in the distance it you don’t know have the HUD and windshield matched correctly: Targets could appear to be where they are not. The HUD has a flat reflector plate, and you end up with refraction problems that can cause double images if the curvature of the windshield is not correct.

We gave the F-14 a flat windshield as opposed to the F-15’s single curvature. A flat window fit into the windshield gave more ballistic protection it was more bullet-proof than the two side shields.

We got it right because somebody else had made the mistake before we did. The F-111 had a sharply raked windshield for aerodynamic reasons and it created problems. The F-14 windshield is raked at only 30 degrees so you don’t reflect more of the light coming in than you refract. It’s a pull and tug operation: The aerodynamics guys would like no windshield on the airplane. They’d like a bullet. Then we come along and put a bump there.”

Bob Klein, vice president of logistics and technology at Northrop Grumman, was the company’s last chief engineer of the F-14 program. He worked on an assembly line while in high school, in 1974.

“We built an F-14 once a week. Grumman had a program that took two scholarship winners, and if you were studying engineering you’d work in production for one month, seeing how airplanes are put together. I learned more in that one month (on the assembly line) than in the rest of my career.

We took an F-14 and instrumented it, flew it, and compared (fatigue measurements) to fleet data. We found it had 20 percent more life left in it. We saved the Navy $250 million, and added another life to the nine lives of the Tomcat. Well, I guess it was two lives, since it was 20 percent.

We had this great 8-inch by 8-inch display in the back seat. With that and the (Lightning) pod, the F-14 could carry a 2,000-pound weapon. It became the number one choice for fleet missions. We implemented the Lightning pod, laser-guided and GPS guided weapons very quickly. We went from turning on the pod to implementing it in the fleet in six months. The best way to do something ‘lean’ is to gather a tight group of people, give them very little money, and very little time.”

Like Sitting in a Cadillac

Charlie Brown, a Vietnam-era combat pilot who flew Bearcats and two years in Phantom IIs, was part of the F-14 design team as well as an experimental test pilot with Grumman.

“The [Navy] specs called for Mach 2.34. We actually tested the airplane for Mach 2.5. I flew it 2.5 a couple times. When you fly a Phantom, it’s built for 2.0, but when you fly that fast you know it. It’s like sitting on a beach ball you don’t know which way it’ll go, it’s so sensitive. In a F-14 it’s like sitting in a Cadillac. It’s solid. You don’t realize you’re going that fast.

On December 30, 1970 Grumman took its new warplane for its second flight. It ended in a crash, and accusations were made regarding the choice of materials.

They wanted to get it in the air that year. The first flight [lead pilot] Bob Smyth and [project pilot] Bill Miller were going to takeoff, circle the field and land. I think it was a 35-minute flight. For the second flight, they took off and they got into the operations area and were testing, and the chase pilot recognized a loss of hydraulic fluid, being red and streaming on the airplane or streaming off the tailpipe. They proceeded to lose system after system. At 100 or 200 feet from landing the airplane went full nose down so they punched out. What happened was simple and understandable. Before you put up for first flight you put it through systems mockup and ground testing for vibration and things. A short time before flight the flight test department decided they needed a parameter to check hydraulic pulsations in the system. We used titanium lines to lighten airplane instead of tried-and-true aluminum. They connected a pressure sensor somewhere around the pressure pump. It was this line that failed. The configuration had not gone through the full ground test workup with the rest of airplane and systems. This small line was not clamped adequately and the vibration of the second flight was enough to crack the line. The whole titanium system was badmouthed for failing, but that’s not what really happened…

“The physics of getting supersonic air into the engine required rectangular air inlets. The engine only accepts subsonic air, or it’ll stall. How do you slow that air down? With moveable ramps. Hydraulic pistons move in such a fashion to slow air down as it goes to the forward compressor section of engine. These are computer-controlled. The air coming to the engine also has to have a fairly smooth flow, particularly with the TF30 engine from the F-111B program [which was sensitive to airflow disturbances and rapid throttle changes]. To get the airflow down in high Mach and maneuvering situations. was another challenge to the inlet designers. It was a challenge and we handled it…

“The F-14 was crafted to win dogfights. The tools it had for this mission were ideal at long and short ranges…

“The Tomcat’s air-to-air weapons mix was just unmatched. The Phoenix gives you up to 110-mile range. It launches and. [after a programmed number of feet] the missile turns on its own radar where told to look. It was a launch-and-leave situation. You can launch six and track more than 30 targets. One step down was the Sparrow, at 20-25 miles. Then you step down to infrared sidewinder. Now you’re talking feet-you’ve got that 25-mm gun, with about 600 rounds of ammo, so you have a full minute of firing time.

It was sort of a fighter pilot’s dream on an intercept [mission]. That capability has not been matched, and won’t be. We don’t have it anymore.”

Early Attempts at Swing Wings

All variable geometry wing aircraft are descendants of two experimental airplanes built on opposite sides of the Atlantic in the 1940s and 1950s.

The first is the Messerschmitt P 1101 a prototype airplane built by the Nazis that ranks as the first variable geometry jet fighter in history. It was found in May 1945 when a company of U.S. infantry seized a secret research laboratory in Oberammergau, a German town in the shadow of the Bavarian Alps. The design allowed its wings to be set at three angles on the ground to evaluate the reduction in drag and increase in speed in wind tunnels and, the Germans hoped, in flight tests. The wings could not morph in the air, however. It never flew.

It still made an impression. Robert J. Woods, the leader of a military intelligence unit called a Combined Advanced Field Team, evaluated the find, and later became co-founder and chief designer at Bell Aircraft Corp. He collected the identities of the experts who created the airplane and sent them, and the prototype, to America.


The Secret History of the First Microprocessor, the F-14, and Me

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Photograph: William Widmer

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The story of the first microprocessor, one you may have heard, goes something like this: The Intel 4004 was introduced in late 1971, for use in a calculator. It was a combination of four chips, and it could be programmed to do other things too, like run a cash register or a pinball game. Flexible and inexpensive, the 4004 propelled an entire industry forward it was the conceptual forefather of the machine upon which you are probably reading this very article.

That’s the canonical sketch. But objects, events, people—they have alternate histories. Their stories can often be told a different way, from a different perspective, or a what could have been.

This is the story, then, of how another first microprocessor, a secret one, came to be—and of my own entwinement with it. The device was designed by a team at a company called Garrett AiResearch on a subcontract for Grumman, the aircraft manufacturer. It was larger, it was a combination of six chips, and it performed crucial functions for the F-14 Tomcat fighter jet, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of its first flight this week. It was called the Central Air Data Computer, and it calculated things like altitude and Mach number it figured out the angle of attack, key to landing and missile targeting and it controlled the wing sweep, allowing the craft to be both maneuverable when the wings were at about 50 degrees and very, very fast when they were swept all the way back.

Ray Holt was one of the engineers for the Central Air Data Computer. He is probably not someone you have heard of—how could you have? He worked on the project, one of two people doing what’s called the logic design, for two years, between 1968 and 1970, with a team that included his younger brother, Bill. He couldn’t tell anyone about what they had built, and the project was kept quiet by the Navy and by Garrett for decades as other engineers were awarded credit for inventing firsts. Later, when he was able to talk about the device, people were skeptical. Maybe they were uncomfortable with history being revised.

I wanted to know more about him. Ray has always been in the margins of my life, ghosting around the edges of my consciousness. I remember visiting his parents’ house in Compton, California, when I was very young. His family came to our place once, and I have a memory of chasing one of his three sons up the stairs. One time, when I was in my mid-twenties, I unknowingly sat next to him in the audience at a health food talk my mother was giving. She was surprised to see us sitting together when she came out afterward to say hello.

Ray Holt is 76 years old now. He lives in rural Mississippi, where he teaches high school STEM classes and runs a robotics nonprofit. Me, I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, with my husband, a software engineer, and two sons I’ve been an editor at WIRED for more than a decade. Ray and I reconnected over the summer, and after he told me his story, I wanted to learn more about the Central Air Data Computer and its place in history—and how his life might have branched around mine.

His career as an engineer almost didn’t happen. Growing up in Compton, Ray made extra cash fixing bicycles and old tube radios in high school he was class president and a great baseball player, but he was also a B student who had difficulty reading. His teachers sometimes discounted him. One once said to him, “I wish you were as good a student as Bill.” Everybody loved Bill. Math genius, they said. When Ray took an aptitude test during his senior year, he was told that he had low mechanical ability. He was told, “Don’t go into engineering.”


Grumman F-14 Tomcat

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 05/17/2021 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

The Grumman F-14 "Tomcat" was the quintessential United States Navy (USN) fleet defense interceptor of the latter Cold War years. Its existence was brought about largely due to the demise of the failed F-111B initiative, a carrier-based version of the large General Dynamics F-111 "Aardvark" swing-wing fighter-bomber. The B-model was intended to succeed the storied (though aging) McDonnell Douglas F-4 "Phantom II" line but the ballooning endeavor fell to naught, leaving the USN without a suitable replacement. Grumman, already having worked under the General Dynamics banner on the F-111B project, took on a private venture role in developing a future fleet defense fighter for possible sale to the USN. One of the resulting designs became company model "G-303" and, when presented to the USN, beat out a competing submission from McDonnell Douglas. The aircraft fell under the new project acronym of "VFX" ("Naval Fighter Experimental").

VFX called for an aircraft platform with enhanced agility (when compared to the outgoing fleet of F-4 Phantoms). Additionally, it was to serve beyond the interception role and provide its crew with air combat capabilities that the F-111B was never going to match for it proved an overweight, underperforming system at its core. The aircraft would utilize a crew of two (as in the F-111) to help spread the workload and operate the powerful onboard radar, weapons, and general missions systems. The radar of choice became the AWG-9 X-band pulse Doppler radar system for very-long-range search and tracking functionality for engagement of aerial targets - aircraft or cruise missiles. The system offered a range out to 170 nautical miles which provided the aircraft a Beyond Visual Range (BVR) attack capability. In this way, the crew could fire on targets before the enemy ever registered the aircraft on radar. The radar itself was an in-development solution for the proposed, though ultimately abandoned, F-111B. The radar-guided Hughes AIM-54 "Phoenix" - the "Million Dollar Missile" - provided a new, long-range air-to-air missile threat and become the aircraft's primary weapon. It was also initially developed for the F-111B program. Power to the airframe would be served from a twin-engine, side-by-side arrangement through Pratt & Whitney TF30 afterburning turbofans - engines also slated for the failed F-111B. The Grumman product was granted the USN designation of "F-14" continuing the storied relationship between the service branch and the carrier-based fighter concern that stretched back to the days of World War 2 and the F4F "Wildcat" fighter.

Doing away with a typical prototype phase, the F-14 was placed into direct development as soon as possible to help avoid bureaucratic interference and stall eventual production. The United States Marine Corps (USMC) also took an interest in the program as they too showcased a fleet of aging F-4s that would also need replacement in the near-future. An initial flyable airframe recorded its first flight on December 21st, 1970.

The F-14 was designed from the outset as a carrier-based fighter - unlike the F-111B which was born from a land-based fighter-bomber airframe. The F-14 did, however, retain many of the qualities and components inherent in the F-111B such as the "swing-wing", variable geometry wing assemblies, radar system with long-range missile support, two-man crew, and twin-engine layout.

Externally, the aircraft proved one of the more elegant designs of the latter Cold War years with smooth contours and a highly identifiable profile from any angle. The radar system sat under a traditional nose cone at front with the tandem, two-seat cockpit fitted just aft. The cockpit sat under a single-piece, rear-hinged canopy which provided excellent all-around vision. The pilot was seated in front with the radar operator (RIO - Radar Intercept Officer) at rear (flight control systems - namely the stick and throttle - were not duplicated in the rear cockpit). A broad fuselage surface shrouded the complex swing-wing control systems seated above the twin intake ducts. The ductwork aspirated the well-spaced twin-engine configuration which saw a pair of vertical fins fitted to each engine nacelle at rear ahead of the jet pipes. The swing-wings could be fully extended for low-speed, low-altitude flight and "tucked in" when high-speed flight was the order of the day. Standard horizontal tail-planes (all-moving) were fitted at each engine housing side. The undercarriage was of a reinforced design for the rigors of carrier operations and included two single-wheeled main legs and a dual-wheeled nose leg. A tail hook allowed the aircraft to snag a deck cable to shorten its landing run.

Variable geometry wings have been used in several notable designs throughout modern military aviation history and were being actively researched as far back as World War 2. Primary examples became the aforementioned F-111, the European consortium Panavia Tornado strike platform, and the Soviet Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23/27 "Flogger" fighter-bomber. This feature would allow an in-flight aircraft to adjust its wing angle on-the-fly to suit the desired action. The F-14 adopted a swing-wing feature that gave it sweeps of 20-degrees to 68-degrees and primarily managed by an onboard computer (with manual override possible). The wing design made the F-14 an iconic fighter of the Cold War years - further popularized by its featured role in the Tom Cruise motion picture "Top Gun" which also served as a great USN recruiting tool.

Initial Tomcat production models became the F-14A, first flying on December 21st, 1970. The line formally began to replace F-4s on September 22nd, 1974 though the initial dozen aircraft were classified as pre-production models more akin to prototypes than production quality forms. USN squadrons VF-1 and VF-2 were the first F-14 operators and served on USS Enterprise (CVN-65). In all, 557 F-14As were delivered with 478 to USN ownership. The remaining seventy-nine were shipped to then-ally Iran at a time when the two nations maintained something of a working relationship.

Power to these early aircraft was from 2 x Pratt & Whitney TF30-P-412 turbofan engines providing for a maximum speed of Mach 2.4, a rate-of-climb of 30,000 feet per minute, a service ceiling of 50,000 feet, and a combat radius of 665 nautical miles with full missile load. The last 102 F-14A models were instead fitted with the newer TF30-P-414A model engines.

In service, F-14s were charged with the broad role of fleet defense and its missions generally centered around Combat Air Patrol (CAP) - the seeking out and engagement of incoming enemy aerial threats at range before they could do damage to the fleet. To deal with the threat, the F-14 could manage a full combat load of up to six AIM-54 Phoenix missiles for long-range work, AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles for short-range work, and a 20mm M61 Vulcan internal cannon for extreme-close range service. The AIM-7 Sparrow could also be carried as a medium-range solution to better balance the attack potential of the aircraft. There proved ten hardpoints in play - six under the fuselage mass, two under the engine nacelles, and two under the wing "gloves". Two hardpoints supported external fuel tanks for even more extended operational ranges. Performance, agility, and the onboard radar coupled to this armament and support from Command-and-Control aircraft made the F-14 the preeminent interceptor of its day while its carrier-based nature gave it access to all points on the globe. As the ground-attack functionality of the F-14 did not materialize in time, the USMC moved away from its interest in the aircraft as its F-4 replacement.

The F-14A was to be improved with the proposed "F-14B" model and its Pratt & Whitney F401-P-400 turbofan engines but this mark was cancelled due to budget constraints. Instead, work progressed on the "F-14A+" (also "F-14 Plus") of 1987 in which the original Pratt & Whitney engines were dropped in favor of the better-performing General Electric GE F110-GE400 series turbofan. The original P&W engines held a penchant for blade failures and were generally regarded as underpowered for the aircraft and its carrier-based nature, requiring much power on take-off and climb-to-altitude. The F-14+ first went airborne in September of 1986 and the USN took on a new-build stock of 38 of the type and added a further 48 F-14A variants modified to the new standard. To add confusion, the USN eventually updated the F-14A+ designation to become "F-14B". Other changes to the mark included an all-new threat receiver system and lengthened jet pipes. The changes produced a much-improved carrier interceptor with added range.

The F-14C was a proposed multi-mission platform but this initiative fell to naught. This led the improved F-14D production models instead - the definitive mark of the line though limited mainly in the numbers procured. The aircraft appeared in 1991 and were given the General Electric GE F110-400 series turbofan engines as in the F-14B but bettering the previous mark by adoption of digital cockpits, digital avionics, and radar processing. The digital form of the original AWG-9 radar now became the AN/APG-71 series. A pair of Infra-Red Search and Track (IRST) pods were added under the nose and the Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) unit was improved. Ejection seats were updated to the "Naval Aircrew Common Ejection Seat" (NACES) standard. Thirty-seven F-14D models were manufactured by Grumman and 18 more were updated to the standard from existing F-14A airframes - again due to budget constraints as 127 D-models were originally sought by the USN). In 2005, F-14D models were given the Remotely Operated Video Enhanced Receiver (ROVER) system which provided ground commanders an "eye-in-the-sky" capability for improved Close-Air Support (CAS) work.

Power for D-models were from 2 x General Electric F110-GE-400 turbofan engines which provided 13,810lb thrust on dry and 27,800lb thrust with afterburner engaged. Performance included a top speed of Mach 2.34 with a combat radius out to 500 nautical miles and a ferry range of 1,600 nautical miles. Rate-of-climb was 45,000 feet per minute with a service ceiling just above 50,000 feet.

Despite the various modernization initiatives, the F-14 was an interceptor born from work begun in the 1960s. By 2006, it had seen its best days as battlefield technology surpassed its design and enemy tactics shifted the focus away from thoroughbred interceptors to missile defense instead. As such, the F-14 was retired from USN service in 2006, ending the stellar career of the one of the finest naval interceptors to ever grace the skies. The F-14 was formally replaced by the McDonnell Douglas / Boeing F/A-18 "Super Hornet" in the same fleet defense role - though this platform also added a proven air-to-ground attack capability that the F-14 lacked.

The F-14B was eventually modernized in the latter half of the 1990s to support air-to-ground strike work and this produced the working nickname of "Bombcat". The move was brought about to tighten the gap created by the retirement of the Grumman A-6 Intruder strike fleet. Bombcats were cleared to carry the LANTIRN ("Low-Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night") low-altitude/low-light/all-weather laser designator pod (under the right wing unit) to be used in conjunction with precision-guided drop ordnance and saw only limited combat use by the end of the aircraft's service tenure.

Iran became the only foreign operator of the F-14 and continues its support to this day (2014). These represent F-14A models and serve across the 81st and 82nd Tactical Fighter Squadrons of the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF). As Iran does not have a carrier fleet, the F-14s are used in a land-based, air defense role. The aircraft were obtained by the Islamist regional power through the relationship held between the last "Shah" and the United States (under then-President Richard Nixon) prior to the Islamic Revolution of 1979 which severely soured the partnership. Iran was offered access to current American military equipment of the time and selected the F-14 to shore up its interceptor fleet for possible use against neighboring Iraqi marauders and Soviet spy flights - the model was selected ahead of the competing McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle air superiority fighter. AIM-54 Phoenix missiles, engines, support, and training were all also part of the U.S.-Iran agreement (though sensitive avionics components were not). The first F-14 was delivered to the Iranians in January of 1976.

Despite the F-14 being a largely American weapons platform, the highest scoring Tomcat ace became Iranian Jalil Zandi who served during the bloody Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) and managed eleven kills. Iranian authorities have hinted that their F-14s have been modernized with Iranian equipment to keep them viable after all of these decades and a refusal by Washington to sell any support hardware to the Iranians (an 80th F-14A Tomcat was originally scheduled for delivery to Iran but absorbed into the USN fleet after the fall of the Shah).

In combat service, the F-14 did not disappoint. Early use in American hands saw it claim a pair of Libyan Sukhoi Su-22 Fitter aircraft in 1981 (the "Gulf of Sidra Incident") and, later, two more Libyan Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23 Flogger fighters in 1989. Iranian Tomcats netted an Iraqi Mil Mi-25 helicopter in 1980 to earn their first Tomcat-based kill and managed the downing of several Soviet-originated aircraft against Iraq in their decades-long war of attrition. During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, USN F-14s split the CAP role with USAF F-15 fighters in the grand campaign that reduced the "Fourth Largest Army in the World" to ashes and ultimate retreat - also marked as the world's first "Digital War". They also undertook reconnaissance sorties to aid incoming waves of allied strike fighters and bombers. USN Tomcats then served under the NATO banner over the Balkans (Bosnia) in the tumultuous regional conflicts there where Bombcats could lay down precision munitions upon enemy targets for the first time. Its last operational sorties were conducted during the early stages of the American-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq before retirement in 2006.

Total F-14 production by Grumman yielded 712 aircraft and these were manufactured from the period of 1969 to 1991. Non-combat attrition proved relatively high for the series in that some 160 were lost in accidents alone. Many preserved F-14 Tomcats are showcased at outdoor and indoor displays across the United States today.

In May of 2015, an Iranian military parade revealed the Fakour-90 long-range air-to-air missile based highly on the Raytheon AIM-54A Phoenix. These missiles will be operated from the active Iranian F-14 stock. The AIM-23 Sejil is another weapon based on an American product (the MIM-23) that is slated for use on the F-14 fleet.


Why Did America Give the F-14 Tomcat to Iran in 1973?

It was a huge mistake that would haunt the region for years to come.

Key point: The F-14 was one of the finest planes ever. Unfortunately, Washington sold them to Tehran without realizing Iran would soon undergo a revolution.

A 46-year-old video reveals the impressive aerial display that apparently helped to convince the shah Iran to buy Grumman-made F-14 Tomcat fighters from the United States back in July 1973.

The video, which Facebook user Fulcrum Pilot posted on Sept. 26, 2019, depicts an early-model F-14A performing a short takeoff and landing, a low-speed pass and a high-g turn over Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland as Iranian king Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi watches.

This first appeared in 2019 and is being reposted due to reader interest.

The shah was in Maryland to choose between the F-14 and the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle in order to build up the Iranian air force. Both of the twin-engine fighters flew over Andrews that day.

“The flight demonstration was scheduled not to exceed 30 minutes from the first take off to the landing of the second aircraft,” Dario Leone explained at The Aviationist.

The base was closed for that short time in which at the presence of the shah, the two U.S. fighters had to fly their demonstration. It was decided that the U.S. Air Force’s F-15, piloted by Irv Burrows (McDonnell Douglas’ test pilot), would perform first, while Don Evans and Dennis Romano (Grumman’s test crew) with their F-14 would wait their turn after the Eagle.

While the F-15 taxied onto runway, Don and Dennis started engines of the Tomcat ahead of the schedule and burned down fuel in the warm-up area during the Eagle demonstration, to reduce the difference in thrust-to-weight ratio between the two fighters. However F-15’s demonstration was spectacular, not only for the raw power of the aircraft but also for pilot’s skills. Burrows was a great pilot and that day, he showed all his ability.

The flight plan was the same for both planes, Leone wrote. “A sequence of maneuvers beginning with a high performance take off followed by an Immelman turn and climb-out then a descent to a high-speed fly-by, two high-g low altitude turns followed by a slow speed fly-by in the landing configuration and last, the landing.”

Since the F-15 has a higher thrust to weight ratio than the F-14A, the Eagle performed a really impressive flight profile during which it pulled an incredible seven-g, 360-degree turn.

After the F-15 had finished its display, everyone was waiting for the underpowered F-14A demonstration. The Tomcat’s TF-30 engines would not give to the aircraft the same thrust-to-weight ratio as the Eagle.

However, during the F-15’s performance, Evans and Romano burned down a great quantity of fuel and now they had only 2,500 pounds of remaining gas. While this little quantity was only sufficient to accomplish their flight demonstration, 2,500 pounds was also one eighth of the Tomcat’s internal fuel capacity and thanks to this fact the Tomcat had the same thrust-to-weight ratio as the Eagle.

At this point the F-14 had one thing that the F-15 didn’t have. Variable-geometry wings that would make the difference for the grace of the flight demonstration.

Don and Dennis pushed both throttles to full zone-five afterburner -- the maximum thrust setting for the TF-30. “The Tomcat’s crew, during the knife-edge pass, decided to sweep the wings from fully swept to fully forward and then they executed a turn at the maximum of the Tomcat’s performance [envelope], producing a large cloud of vapor off the wings due to the shock wave,” Leone wrote.

The shah was blown away. That’s how, starting in the mid-1970s, Iran became the only country besides the United States to operate arguably the most powerful interceptor jet ever built.

More than 40 years later, Islamic hardliners have taken over Iran and transformed the country into one of America’s worst enemies. But several dozen of the 79 F-14s Iran bought in the 1970s remain in service.

Through a combination of engineering ingenuity and audacious espionage, Iran has kept its F-14s in working order — and even has improved them. The swing-wing fighters have taken to the air in several conflicts and even occasionally have confronted American planes.

David Axe serves as Defense Editor of the National Interest. He is the author of the graphic novels War Fix, War Is Boring and Machete Squad. This first appeared in 2019 and is being reposted due to reader interest.


Watch the video: Grumman F-14 Tomcat in HD