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F-14 Tomcat: Development History

The following text has been included from

F-14 History

As the cold war heats up in the 50's. The Americans realized that they needed a fighter/interceptor to protect its battle fleet from hostile targets such as enemy fighters and missiles from the Soviet Union.

To meet the Navy's requirement "Fleet Air Defense Fighter" Program was started. The requirement would to have a missile launcher aircraft able to stay in the air for a long period of time and be capable to take out multiple threats at any given time. The F6D-1 and XAAM-10 was selected but it would soon prove to be a failure. A fundamental problem was that the craft would become defenseless right after all missiles have been launched. This program was terminated at the end of 1960. To fulfil the Navy's requirement, the Navy would have to look else where for its fleet defender.

Meanwhile the US Air Force was seeking to replace its F-105 Thunderchief, the Navy unwillingly joined up with the Air Force to form the TFX program (Tactical Fighter Experimental) under McNamara's direction.

McNamara, one of the " bright young man " brought into the government by JFK was horrified by the sheer cost of the arm race. He believed that with his expert business knowledge, he would be capable of combining various needs into one single system that could achieve minimum cost. Thus the policy of "Commonality" was born and the Navy was informed that its missile armed defense fighter would come in the form of F-111B.

The US navy opposed to such plan, believing that F-111 could never meet their specification. Grumman, whose long experience of building carrier planes won the chief contractor, rapidly came to the same conclusion as they struggled to transform the F-111 into a navy fighter. The F-111B, amply fulfilled the worst prophecies, not only did it have little in common with the airframe used for its airforce cousine F-111A (land based version), its size and speed also made operation from all but the biggest American carrier impossible (The Navy wanted below 50,000 pound but McNamara demanded the navy to accept 55,000lb and later turned out to be in excess of 63,000lb.).

With the help of VADM Thomas F. Connoll, the congress official stopped all funding to the project, thus officially terminating the F-111B. (Much to everyone's relief)

Grumman immediately began a new design on a clean sheet of paper of a new lightweight fighter, bodily transfer from the F-111B includes the TF-30 engine, Hughes AWG-9 radar and Hughes AIM-54 Phoenix long range AAM. The F-14 was a totally new and uncompromised fighter. The selection process out of five submissions from Grumman, General Dynamics, Ling-Temco-Vought, McDonnel Douglas and North America Rockwell (4 of the 5 design involved sweep wings), Grumman's design was announced as the winner over McDonnel Douglas of the hastily contrived VFX program.

The new airplane was an impressive looking machine. Its variable geometry wings was set high beside the 18.89 m fuselage, making a delta shape when fully swept back and blends with the tail planes. Equally distinctive were the twin fins that canted slightly outward. Less noticeably was the weight of the Tomcat that was 26,000 kg (56,320 LB).

One of the most distinctive features of the Tomcat is the geometry sweep wing. It allows the Tomcat to have a tremendous advantage in air speed as wings solely designed for high speed does not perform well in low speed and vice versa. F-14 Tomcats was primary intended to be a fighter and interceptor/escort but possess a ground attack ability as its secondary role.

The F-14 Tomcat is one of the most sophisticated fighter in the world, the AN/AWG-9 allows the RIO to track no less than 24 targets and fire 6 phoenix against the 6 most hostile target. The radar also allows track and scans up to 160 km.

Impressive as the Phoenix might seem; it is only part of the Tomcats claw. The Tomcat can be fitted with 6 AIM-54, 6 AIM-7 Sparrow and 4 AIM-9 Sidewinders. The F-14D is capable of carrying CBU-59 and Rockeye. GBU-16 LGB and Gator mines are to be added soon while AGM 88 HARM ARM and SLAM ASMs are planned to be added to the Tomcat armory in the near future.

The first of the 6 R&D prototype flew on 21 December 1970.The maiden flight was flow by Veteran Bob Smythe and Bill Miller. Unlike the F-111B, no attempt was made to achieve commonality with any aircraft and the need of the fighter sweep/escort, CAP (combat air patrol) and DLI (deck launch intercept) mission was given priority.

The first Tomcat carrier landing was on CV-59 USS Forrestal and the delivery of the first combat Tomcat was made in June 1972 and the first deployment of VF-1 Wolf Pack and VF-2 Bounty Hunter (the first two squadron of the Tomcat) was on CVN-65 USS Enterprise also known as "The Big E".

Apart from the US Navy, the only other known user is the Iranian Air Force. The Shah of Iran ordered 80 F-14A with modified electronic countermeasures equipment. The first 3 F-14 arrived in Iran in January 1976 but with the downfall of the Shah and the up rising of the revolutionary, Islamic and anti-American Iran 3 years later confirmed the worst fear of the people who cautioned against such a sale. The Carter Administration sanctioned the sale, and the status of the Iranian Tomcat and their power Phoenix missile remains unknown. The general consensus is that they are grounded due to lack of spare part and inexperienced aircrews.

Being one of the most expensive fighters in the US Military, Grumman had offered a new generation of Tomcats called Tomcat 21. Grumman claimed that Tomcat21 have major improvement in all areas and it also claimed to meet 90 % of the Navy ATF requirment and 60% of the cost. With the cancellation of A12A stealth attack fighter, Tomcat 21 was given a chance to be the next generation of US Navy fighter but with the introduction of the Super Hornet, Tomcat21 was sadly canceled.


 

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