Air International 1995-11
D.Baker - Feline Claws. The nine lives of the F-14
Wearing low visibility markings, an F-14A is refuelled by a USAF Boeing KC-135E Stratotanker of the 117th AREFS Kansas Air National Guard. With an intercept radius of more than 930km (500nm), Tomcats provide a wide umbrella for carrier battle groups and upgrades through the F-14D have significantly enhanced fleet defence capabilities.
Grumman F-14A Tomcats of VF-102 Diamondbacks.
In spite of proposals by Grumman to stave off an advanced tactical fighter by developing the F-14's propulsion and avionic systems, the Navy opted for the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18E/F. Fleet defence and attack assets are depicted here by an F-14A of VF-84 Jolly Rogers and an F/A-18D of VMFA(AW)-225 Vagabonds. VF-84 became the first Navy squadron to deploy TARPS equipped F-14A Tomcats for the reconnaissance mission.
Considering its size and weight, the F-14 is a manoeuvrable aircraft. Vortices stream off the wingtips and condensation forms a cloud over the wings of an F-14B of VF-24 Fighting Renegades as it pulls up in a high-g manoeuvre.
A pair of F-14Bs of VF-24 Fighting Renegades in close formation, each carrying two Mk 84 LDGP 2.000lb bombs and armed with AIM-9 Sidewinders and AIM-7 Sparrow missiles. Note the taileron incidence, forward wing sweep and flap and slat deployment required to formate on the slow-flying camera aircraft (KC-135).
An NF-14D of the Naval Air Warfare Center, Point Mugu, launching a Hughes AIM-54C Phoenix during trials of the system. Developed from the AAM-N-10 Eagle missile which was to have armed the Douglas F6D Missileer, the AIM-54C has a range of 148km and contains a 60kg continuous rod warhead. For fleet defence tasks, F-14s are also armed with AIM-9 Sidewinders, AIM-7 Sparrows and an integral M61 Vulcan cannon.
F-14 weapons integration and tactics are developed at the Naval Air Warfare Test Center, Patuxent River, by Strike Squadron, Test Wing Atlantic. F-14A 159455 is dropping a pair of Paveway II laser guided bombs during a dive attack.
With the wings swept fully forward and with flaps and slats deployed, an F-14A of VF-32 Swordsmen lands on USS Dwight D Eisenhower.
Cockpit improvements of the F-14D include a new head-up display (HUD) and two multi-function display screens which combine the information presented by several analogue instruments characteristic of the F-14. In contrast, the thick canopy frame and forward quarter-lights look positively antiquated.
During initial studies in 1968. Grumman 'boiled down' 6,000 designs for the VFX into the 303-60 (left front) which bore more than superficial resemblance to the cancelled F-111B, evolving to the 303-C (left back), the 303-D (front right) and the fixed-wing 303-F from which the F-14 emerged.
The Tomcat 21 represents the best stretch into advanced avionics and electronic technologies for the next century that Grumman could find. In addition to air superiority and reconnaissance, the F-14 now has a ground attack capability, a role advanced by future studies such as these.
Grumman F-14D Tomcat