Saturday, 4 February 2012

F-14 Tomcat

The F-14 Tomcat developed by Grumman is a two seated interceptor designed to go Mach 2 with swept wings. It's two F110 engines give it the ultimate thrust. The front pilot flies the plane and does all the dogfighting while the second pilot is a RIO (Radar interceptor officer). The Tomcat has variable-sweep wings which sweeps forward during takeoff and landing. The wings sweep back during flight to be able to travel over Mach 2.

During the 1950s and 1960s, the US Navy saw threats of supersonic missiles and fighters from the USSR. The US Navy wanted a fighter jet that could intercept and eliminate the threats. For this, a high speed fighter was developed for both the Navy and Air Force which is the F-111. The US Air Force had the F-111A while the Navy had the F-111B. The Air Force liked the fighter as their land based version provided a fast heavy payload capability. The Navy however did not like it as it was too big and too heavy. The F-111B was 20,000 IB heavier than the requirement. The reason of the dislike is that if it's too big, it took up space and if it was too heavy, it runs the risk of not making it off the flight deck and fall into the sea rather than take off. This problem was unsolved as General Dynamics (F-111 developers) had no experience in creating carrier borne fighter jets.

At the very end of the Vietnam War, Grumman's F-14 replaced the F-111B. Over it's course of history, it scored five air to air kills while in service with the US Navy. The F-14 scored it's first kills in 1981 during the Gulf of Sidra incident where two F-14s from USS Nimitz engaged and shot down two Libyan Su-22s. Libya extended it's economic exclusion zone further which prompted the call for the US Navy to deploy and show the freedom of navigation. In 1989, two F-14s from the USS John F Kennedy shot down two Libyan MiG-23s. There were reports of Libya having chemical weapons that led to the USS John F Kennedy being deployed. It scored it's final kill in the Gulf War when an F-14 shot down an Iraqi Mi-8 Helicopter.

Iran is the only foreign operator of the F-14 Tomcat. The Shah of Iran wanted new fighter jets as Soviet planes constantly crossed into Iranian airspace without permission. The US offered Iran either the F-15 or the F-14. The Shah was invited to the US to see the fighter jets demonstrate. The F-15 only flew basic maneuvers while the F-14 did a whole set of maneuvers stunts and a touch and go landing. This impressed the Shah and this made him choose the F-14. Another reason why the F-14 was chosen was because the F-15 at the time had engine problems. The Iranians were granted access to classified technology of the F-14 which meant that Iranian F-14s were equal to US Navy F-14s. After the Islamic revolution in Iran, the Shah was overthrown and relations between Iran and the US broke. The US had cut off it's support for Iran's F-14 leaving them to struggle in terms of maintenance. Today, the Iranians still use the F-14 with the help of Russian engineers.

F-14 Tomcats had gone a long way since it's introduction. The F-14B was designed to bomb enemy targets which gained them the nickname - Bombcat. The F-14D is equiped with IRST (Infra Red Search and Track). The F-14 carries a variety of weapons like the Aim-9 Sidewinder, the M61 Vulcan cannon and the Aim-7 Sparrow. The Tomcat is well known for it's capability to carry Aim-54 Phoenix missiles. It can carry up to eight Phoenix missiles. The Aim-54 is a heavy long range missile that can travel at Mach 5. The Aim-54 proved itself worthy when the US Navy had an F-14 to shoot down eight mock air targets and had exceptional results with all targets hit but one (missile glitch).

In 2006, the F-14 was retired and replaced by the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. Out of the 800 F-14s in the US Navy, over 100 were donated to museums and over 100 of the newest Tomcats were being mothballed in a boneyard. The rest were being scrapped with the fuselages being melted and recycled into making new cars, etc. So don't be surprised if your new car has pieces of metal that went at speeds of Mach 2 defending the interests of the United States. All the avionics and computers had been checked, accounted for and stored away making sure that it does not end up in the wrong hands like Iran.

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