[F-14 Tomcat] United States Navy's
Grumman F-14 Tomcat
USS Enterprise The F-14 Tomcat...sleek...powerful...deadly...and the REAL star of the movie Top Gun. The F-14 Tomcat followed a history of "Cats" in the military. The F-4F Wildcat and the F-6F Hellcat that fought in the skies years before the Tomcat ever bit the air. In the late 1960's, the US Navy dropped its TFX program, and decided to focus on an aircraft dedicated to fleet defense. Grumman had already begun developing the F-14, and was definitely headed for a "Cat" designation. The person responsible for this project was Admiral Tom Conolly, Deputy Chief, Naval Operations for Air. The aircraft was dubbed "Tom's Cat" long before the official name of "Tomcat" was ever adopted.

The final prototype of the F-14 took off on May 24th, 1971, with its variable-geometry wings for speed and greater stability. In full forward-sweep position,the wings provided the lift needed for slow-speed flight, especially needed during carrier landings. In swept-back positions, the wings blend into the aircraft, giving the F-14 Tomcat a dart-like silhouette for high-speed, super-sonic flight (using Pratt & Whitney TF30-P-412A Turbofans). By 1972, the first of the F-14 Tomcat's off the production line were sent to the US Navy. In October of 1972, two squadrons were formed with the F-14 Tomcat to begin flight operations. The F-14 Tomcat was designed to carry a million dollar missile, the AIM-54 Phoenix. The AIM-54 has a range of over 100 miles and sole purpose was to destroy Soviet bombers. The F-14 Tomcat program came down to a test at the Naval Missile Test Center at Point Mugu, CA in November, 1973. The Pentagon wanted an aircraft that could take on six different targets at once, and on that day in November, the Tomcat demonstrated that ability. Six AIM-54 Phoenix missiles were launched at 6 different drone targets at the test range. Only one of the six missiles failed to hit its target. The Pentagon was sold, and the F-14 Tomcat program was in full swing. In 1974, the two squadrons, the VF-1 Wolfpack and the VF-2 Bounty Hunters, were deployed and assigned to the USS Enterprise (CVN-65).

However, the Pratt & Whitney TF30 engines were hard to maintain, and lacked the power needed to utilize the heavy aircraft. The engines were also prone to severe failures where a fan blade would break off, and then fly through the rest of the engine, destroying it entirely. In 1981, the Navy began to replace the older Pratt & Whitney TF30 engines with newer TF30-P-414A's. These newer models had steel cages around the first three fan blade compartments. This prevented broken fan blades from destroying the entire engine during a failure.

Still, the new engines provided only a temporary solution since the power and fuel usage were identical to TF30's. In 1984, the F110-GE-400 engine was selected to replace the ill-fated TF series engines (The Navy renamed the F110-GE-100 to F110-GE-400). The F110's generated 14,000 lbs/dry, 23,100 lbs/wet(afterburner) of thrust compared to the TF30's 12,350 lbs/dry, 20,900 lbs/wet. The F110's were also more fuel efficient.

[MiG-23] 19 August 1981. Libya. Khadafi sends two Sukoi Su-22 fighter jets to take on a couple of United States fighter jets: The F-14 Tomcat. The Result: The loss of two Su-22 jets. Again, on January 15th, 1986, Khadafi challenges the US Naval forces by sending two MiG-23 Floggers to test the American military and find out how far they could push the US. The MiG's vectored on two A-6 Intruder's, after which the A-6's turned away, and two F-14 Tomcat's on CAP were sent to meet the MiG's head-on. Previous encounters with the Libyan Air Force resulted with the Libyan aircraft turning tail, and returning back to Libyan airspace. This encounter was not going to end so easily. What is probably the most publicized air-combat sequence took place and lasted over 6 minutes, an eternity to the pilots and RIO's flying the two Tomcat's involved in this battle. The end result was still the same, however. US-4, Libya-0.

[MiG-23 Stats] [Mig-23 Profile]

The Tomcat's also saw some active action during Operation Desert Storm providing CAP (Combat Air Patrol) for bombers and other aircraft, and also performing TARPS (Tactical Air Reconnaissance Pod System) missions. One F-14 Tomcat was shot down by ground fire, but no other Tomcat's were lost. Only one combat kill was credited to the Tomcat using the AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile to down an Iraqi Mil Mi-8 "Hip", a Soviet-made transport helicopter.

F-14 Bombcat!
In late 1995, the F-14 Tomcat took on a new, and completely different role in military combat over targets in Bosnia...they became bombers. Dubbed "Bombcat's", these new bombers dropped LGB "smart bombs" while other aircraft painted the targets with lasers.

One of the defensive weapons of an F-14 Tomcat consists of a fixed 6-barrel M61A1 Vulcan 20-mm cannon located on the lower left side of the aircraft, underneath the pilot. The aircraft has 4 weapon pallets, and 2 weapon pylons, able to carry AIM-54 Phoenix, AIM-7 Sparrows, and AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles. The heart and deadly aspect of the F-14 Tomcat is its unique ability to carry the AIM-54 Phoenix. The Tomcat was built for that purpose, and it is the only platform that can carry the Phoenix. At most, the Tomcat can carry six (6) AIM-54 Phoenix missiles. The Phoenix missile has a range of over 100 miles, and the Tomcat's powerful AWG-9 (F-14A) pulse-Doppler radar can track up to 6 targets at once. With the AIM-54 and AWG-9 working in tandem, the F-14 Tomcat can down aircraft without ever being seen by the enemy. However, the expensive nature of the Phoenix missile deem this missile as a last resort or for use against enemy Exocet or anti-ship missiles. The F-14 "D" model houses the APG-71 digital radar.

[F-14 Stats] [F-14 Profile]
F-14 Tomcat crash in Nashville F-14 In The News
CNN Coverage ICNN Coverage II Crash: Feb. 18th, 1996Tomcat's Stand-down for 3 days
CNN Coverage IIICNN Coverage IV
Linked to Tomcat's Hangar
Upgrade to Curb AccidentsAnother Tomcat Incident
April 17, 1996
Pilot Error Cause of April 17 Crash Still Unknown
Return to Tomcat's Hangar