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Grumman F-14 "TomCat"

During the early 1970's in an age of electronic fire-control systems with laser guided bombs, radar or heat seeking missiles, include essential counter-electronic avionics, a contemporary aircraft's complexity, reliability, and maintenance were directly scrutinized by their cost. Development of the F-14 "Tom Cat" was stimulated by the failure of the Grumman F-111 super-sonic fighter program of the late 1960's which was plagued by cost over run, aircraft losses and computer system glitches. Lessons from the F-111 assisted in the development of the F-14 as a super-sonic, aircraft carrier based defensive fighter. A distinctive feature of this aircraft is a variable swept wing design that can be altered in-flight. Changing the geometric position of the wing allows the pilot to trim the aircraft's aero-dynamic performance according to its demand. Computer controlled flaps, spoilers, or other wing surfaces provide different characteristics during take-off or landing on aircraft carrier deck, at high altitude super-sonic flight, or for evasive combat maneuverability, all performed automatically while the pilot concentrates upon his mission.
Powered by (2) Pratt & Whitney after-burning, turbofan jet engines each providing 21,000 lbs of thrust, the "Tom Cat" had a maximum air speed of 1,560 mph (MACH 2.3) with a maximum range of 2,000 miles. Coupled with its superb maneuverability the "Tom Cat" armament consists of 14,500 lbs of air to air missiles or guided bombs. Its primary role is as a defensive aircraft utilizing close range "Sparrow" missiles, medium range AIM-9 "Sidewinder" missiles and (6) "Phoenix" long range missiles. The long range "Phoenix" missiles are controlled by a powerful Hughes AWG-9 radar that has a unprecedented ability of detecting and striking an object 100 miles away. In addition, a Vulcan 20mm cannon loaded with 675 rounds, is mounted in a forward position for dog fight tactics.


Since its first flight in 1970, approximately 550, F-14A's in various configurations have been manufactured or retrofitted until ceasing production in 1986. Although considered one of the finest aircraft in the U.S. military arsenal, cost became a primary factor in its curtailment leading to cancellation and decreased development of the F-14D during budget cuts in defense spending of the 1980's. Lighter and inexpensive aircraft such as the McDonnell-Douglas F-18 "Hornet" were favored to compliment the "Tom Cat" in its defensive role.



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Christy Butler **** www.shoeboxphotos.net **** **** butts@bcn.net