Grumman F-14 TOMCAT gallery 1

(XF-14 number 7 image). The F-14 Tomcat was born as a consequence of the cancellation of the General Dynamics-Grumman F-111B long-range carrier-based interceptor aircraft. This aircraft had arisen from the union of two development programs, one from the US Navy called “Fleet Air Defense (FAD)” to provide aircraft carriers with a long-range interceptor, and another from the USAF called “Tactical Fighter Experimental (TFX)” for the production of a new fighter-bomber and interdictor to replace the F-4 Phantom II fighter-bomber in service.
(Grumman 303F mock up image). The US Navy advocated a high-performance fighter, while the USAF primarily wanted a low-level attack aircraft with good fighter performance, which in the US Navy’s opinion would harm its operational needs. Despite the complaints, in 1964 General Dynamics began development of the F-111B with the help of Grumman to make a naval version. At the same time, the US Navy urged Grumman to continue studies for an advanced fighter more suited to its needs, resulting in the “303 design”.
(XF-14A image). During the development of the TFX program, the Vietnam War revealed the weaknesses of the F-4 Phantom II in terms of maneuverability in air combat, so a new program called “Naval Fighter Attack Experimental (VFAX)” was ordered to replace the Navy’s Phantoms in ground-attack and fighter roles. In this way, the TFX program focused on achieving a long-range interceptor. Finally, in May 1968, Congress canceled the TFX program after verifying that the F-111A aircraft developed as a prototype for the future F-111B had serious problems reaching supersonic speeds and many problems during landings on aircraft carriers.
(F-14A image). After the TFX program was cancelled, the US Navy was free to develop a new program called “Naval Fighter Experimental (VFX)”, and in July 1968 issued a request for proposals (RFP). The new aircraft was to be an air-to-air fighter, tandem two-seat, twin-engined with a maximum speed of Mach 2.2. The main armament would be composed by air-to-air missiles, such as the long-range AIM-54 Phoenix, the medium-range AIM-7 Sparrow and short-range AIM-9 Sidewinder, in addition the aircraft would have a built-in 20 mm M61 Vulcan Gatling type rotary gun.
(F-14A image). 5 offers were received from the main American aeronautical companies, 4 of them with aircraft designs with variable-geometry wings. In January 1969, Grumman was awarded the contract for the development of a new aircraft designated the “F-14A“. The new aircraft was based on Grumman’s G-303-E proposal, which was an aircraft with variable-geometry wings, two Pratt & Whitney TF-30-P-1 turbofan engines, an internal fuel load of 7,300 kg, a Hughes AWG-9 radar fire control system and AIM-54 Phoenix air-to-air missiles.
(pre-production F-14A image). The contract contemplated the manufacturing of 6 prototypes/pre-production aircrafts. The maiden flight took place on December 21, 1970, and was a short and trouble-free flight. However, the second flight ended with the loss of the aircraft during takeoff due to a hydraulic failure. After the accident, another 6 pre-production aircraft were ordered. These aircraft were the first in the world to use composite materials and their manufacturing used titanium (24%), steel (17%) or aluminum alloy (39%). The prototypes were powered by two Pratt & Whitney TF-30-P-12 turbofan engines with which they reached a maximum speed of Mach 2.4. Likewise, it could take off in less than 350 meters and land in less than 700 meters at a speed of 200 km/h.
(F-14A image). The variable-geometry wings were quite heavy and raised the weight of the prototypes to 18.15 tons empty and a maximum takeoff weight (in catapult) of 32.60 tons. The wings could retract up to 68 degrees in flight and up to 75 degrees on the ground, achieving a wingspan of only 10.15 meters that reduced their space during storage on aircraft carrier hangars. In 1971 the F-14A was also offered to the USAF for its Improved Manned Interceptor (IMI) program to replace the F-106 Delta Dart fighter, but was defeated by the McDonnell-Douglas F-15 Eagle. In this same year, the US Navy requested a proposal for a naval variant of the F-15 Eagle, but the design presented was not even close to the performance of the Tomcat and was rejected.
(F-14A image). At the end of 1971, the first contract was signed for the acquisition of 301 F-14A Tomcat, in addition to the 12 pre-production aircraft. The name “Tomcat” was chosen by Grumman to partly pay tribute to the involvement of Admiral Thomas F. Connolly, since during the development of the program the aircraft was known as “Tom’s Cat” in reference to said Admiral. In addition, Grumman had a tradition of giving feline names to its previous models, such as Bearcat, Cougar, Hellcat, Panther, Tiger, Tigercat or Wildcat.
(F-14A image). The production F-14A hardly differed from the prototypes except for the installation of an under nose electronics pod and a modification of the rear fuselage area that improved subsonic cruise speed and combat radius. Later, during production, other modifications were added, such as the shape of the air brakes, changing the position of the starboard chaff dispensers or changing the rear position light. There were also some changes to the under nose sensor pods, which could carry ECM and infrared sensors, only ECM, only infrared and there were even some F-14As that lacked these under nose pods. All modifications were included during the manufacturing batches and were differentiated into “blocks”.
(F-14A image). Finally, the F-14A Tomcat resulted in an aircraft suitable as an interceptor and as an escort for attack aircraft thanks to its long and medium range missiles. It is a very large and robust aircraft, with a reinforced landing gear for use on aircraft carriers. It does not have hardpoints for weapons on the sweeping parts of the wings, but the weapons are installed in the belly between the air inlets of the engines and in pylons under the area where the wings are collected (wing gloves). The internal fuel capacity is about 9,000 liters, distributed in several tanks, and can carry two external drop tanks of 1,000 liters each. It is also equipped with a refueling probe in the nose for refueling in flight. The production Tomcat weighed 18.16 tons empty, with a maximum takeoff weight of 33.68 tons and a maximum landing weight of 23.47 tons.
(F-14A image). Without a doubt, the most striking feature of the Tomcat is its variable geometry wings. These wings could be varied in flight from 20º to 68º, and could be controlled manually or automatically. The wings were usually extended in flights at cruise speeds, progressively closing as the speed increased. The system in charge of varying the angle of the wings was the Central Air Data Computer (CADC), which automatically adjusted this angle to the speed of the aircraft, although the pilot could adjust them manually at any time if he wished.
(F-14D image). The engines installed on the first F-14A were two Pratt & Whitney TF30-P-412A turbofan with 9,480 kg thrust (93 kN) with afterburner. The Tomcat could reach a maximum speed of Mach 2.34 (2,517 km/h) at high altitude and Mach 1.2 (1,470 km/h) at sea level, with a cruise speed from Mach 0.75 to Mach 0.90 (925 to 1,100 km/h). These engines were always the cause of mechanical problems and were even described by a senior US Navy official as “terrible”, causing almost a third of all accidents. It was quite common for turbine blades to fail as well as suffer compressor stalls above 9,000 meters altitude. It was even rumored that missile exhaust (from their own launches) could cause these stalls at specific altitudes, although these rumors could be greatly exaggerated.
(F-14A image). The F-14 crew is made up of the pilot and the radar intercept officer (RIO) who sit in tandem, with the pilot in front. Both crewmen have Martin-Baker GRU-7A rocket-propelled ejection seats. The pilot has the controls of the aircraft and a Kaiser HUD that displays main navigation information as well as many other digital and analog flight instruments. It also had UHF and VHF radios, IFF transponder, electronic countermeasures (ECM), chaff/flare dispensers, an inertial navigation system, a fighter-to-fighter data link and a radar warning receiver (RWR). This system has various antennas distributed throughout the fuselage that locate enemy radar emissions and indicate their distance, direction and whether they are search, tracking or missile-homing radar signals.
(F-14A image). The Hughes AN/AWG-9 is a X-band pulse Doppler radar with a 91 cm planar array antenna installed in the nose of the aircraft. The system has look-down capability linked to a fire control computer and it can detect large aircraft at a distance of 315 km and fighters at about 120 km, although in the first F-14A the identification of the detected aircraft was very limited and they had to be allowed to get closer for correct identification. To solve this deficiency, from 1981 onwards a Northrop’s AAX-1 Television Camera Set (TCS) was installed, which allowed secure identifications up to about 15 km. This system was linked to the Tactical Data Recording System (TDRS) that stored the images. The TCS could be coupled to the radar and automatically showed the images of the located aircraft to both the pilot and the RIO.
(F-14A image). Hughes AN/AWG-9 radar could track up to 24 targets simultaneously and guide up to 6 missiles against different targets at a maximum distance of almost 100 km. It was also capable of tracking cruise missiles flying at low altitudes in Doppler mode. This radar together with the AIM-54 Phoenix missiles could destroy a target up to 150 km away, long before these targets could even detect the F-14s. This capability was very effective against strategic bombers armed with cruise or long-range anti-ship missiles.
(F-14A image). Due to its main missions, the F-14A‘s armament has been mainly composed of long, medium and short-range air-to-air missiles, with which it covered the entire spectrum of air combat. It could also perform attack missions and carry bombs and air-to-surface missiles, although this was not a usual role for the early Tomcats. It could carry a maximum of 6,700 kg of weapons on 10 pylons and hardpoints distributed under the fuselage (6), nacelles (2) and wing gloves (2) which consisted of a mix of Phoenix, Sparrow and Sidewinder missiles. The armament was completed with the installation of an internal 20 mm M61A1 Vulcan rotary gun with 675 rounds stored in a drum under the cockpit.
(F-14A image). The number of F-14As manufactured reached 638 units, with 559 for the US Navy and 79 for Iran. The US Navy aircraft were delivered as follows: 1 prototype in 1970, 1 prototype and 12 pre-series aircraft in 1971-72 and 545 production aircraft between June 1972 and April 1987. The Iranian Tomcats were delivered between 1976 and 1978. The last 102 F-14As manufactured for the US Navy had new Pratt & Whitney TF30-P-414A engines with which it was hoped to eliminate the failures that arose with the turbine blades.
In 1973, studies began to replace the problematic Pratt & Whitney TF30-P-412A (on the image) engines with new Pratt & Whitney F-401-P400 engines with 12,729 kg of thrust. Two F-14As were prepared to be the prototypes of the so-called “F-14B Super Tomcat” program, and various test flights were carried out during September 1973. The new engine was a derivative of the USAF F-15 Eagle engine and weighed 150 kg less than those installed on the Tomcats but this program was stopped and the prototypes were stored.
(XF-14B image). In July 1981, one of the F-14B prototypes was prepared for a new phase of testing and new General Electric F101 DFE (Derivative Fighter Engines) engines were installed. Thirty-three flight hours were completed during 25 test flights, 22 conducted by Grumman and 3 by the US Navy. Some technical problems were detected, but it was observed that the aircraft’s performance improved considerably. With these engines the F-14B could be launched from the carrier’s catapults without using the afterburner, could accelerate during vertical flight and could accelerate from Mach 0.8 to Mach 1.8 in just 90 seconds. As one Navy test pilot said: “now we are able to fly the aircraft, rather than the engines, as we had to do in the F-14A”. However, despite all the advantages, the US Navy stopped testing and the prototype was put into storage again, and only two months later, in September 1981, the US Navy definitively canceled the F-14B program and decided to continue with the original engines, so the second prototype was returned to its original state and put into service again.
(XF-14B image). In July 1984, the US Navy awarded Grumman an $863.8 million contract to conduct a Full Scale Development (FSD) program of the F-14A and improve its overall capabilities. This program was named “F-14A (Plus) / F-14A+” included improvements in radar, avionics and most importantly, the replacement of the TF-30 engines, so Hughes and General Electric also participated in the program. The contract specified that the prototype for testing had to be ready during 1986 and that manufacturing of the first F-14A+ had to begin with the 558th aircraft manufactured, belonging to the “block 145” configuration.
(XF-14B image). FSD program involved the installation of General Electric F-110-GE-400 turbofan engines with a Fatigue Engine Monitoring System (FEMS), a /Approach Power Control (DLC/AFC MOD), an ARC-182 UHF/VHF radio set, a gun gas purge system, an ALR-67 Radar Homing and Warning (RHAW) system and a new AWG-15F Hughes Fire Radar Control System which was not finally implemented. The new engine was a hybrid of the GE-F101 and the F-110-GE-100 engines used in the F-16 and F-15 fighters respectively and had 12,774 kg of thrust each, 3,307 kg more per engine. This increase in power made landings easier and did not limit in-flight maneuvers as happened with the original engines.
(F-14+/B image). After the relevant tests, the first F-14A+ was delivered in March 1987. In 1988 a total of 38 F-14A+ were delivered in 3 different batches, eighteen block 145, fifteen block 150 and five block 155. Later, 43 F-14As were converted to the “Plus” variant and in May 1991 the designation of the F-14A+ was changed to F-14B. The first squadron to receive The new aircraft was the VF-101 followed by the VF-74 “Bedevilers”. In the opinion of some pilots, the new F-14A+ was truly impressive and could accelerate from 370 to 1,000 km/h in just 24 seconds. In addition, maneuverability during landing was greatly improved thanks to the Direct Lift Control (DLC) system. In the late 90s, the 81 F-14Bs received modernized avionics and an extended airframe life program, receiving the designation F-14B (Upgrade).
(F-14D image). Simultaneously with the development of the F-14A+ agreed in July 1984, it was agreed to modify another F-14A that would include the General Electric F-110-GE-400 turbofan engines, a new radar, new avionics and digital instrumentation, this time under the heading of “F-14D Super Tomcat program.” This aircraft made its first flight in November 1987 and was basically an F-14A+ with the most advanced electronic equipment and a new electronic pod formed by the TCS system and a new Infrared Search and Track System (IRSTS) located under the nose. The manufacturing of the first F-14D had to begin with the 596th aircraft manufactured, belonging to the “block 155” configuration.
(F-14D image). The main improvement of the F-14D consisted of the incorporation of a new AN/APG-71 radar equipped with a high-speed digital processor. This radar had a monopulse angle tracking and a digital take out control that locates a target and tracks it while still being able to use the Doppler mode. This system allowed the detection of targets between 24 and 24,000 meters of altitude. Also installed were two AYK-14 mission computers, an ASN-139 digital inertial navigation system, a new Tactical Data Recording System (TDRS), an ALQ-165 Airborne Self Protection Jammer (ASPJ), an AN/ALR-67 Radar Homing and Warning (RHAW) system and a Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS) that allows a Tomcat to pass radar and voice information via data link to other Tomcats so that they remain radar silent.
(F-14D image). In addition to the electronic improvements, new SJU-17(V) Naval Aircrew Common Ejection Seats (NACES) and a new on-board oxygen system (OBOGS) were also installed. The ground attack capability was also improved through improvements to the radar and HUD as well as the acquisition of the BRU-32 bomb rack, the same as the F/A-18 and which allowed the Tomcat to carry any bomb in the US Navy inventory. The new Tomcat was also prepared to be able to use the AGM-78 Standard Arm anti-radiation missile, the future AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles and the new AIM-54C (Plus / Plus-Advanced) Phoenix air-to-air missiles. The first flight of the F-14D was carried out in March 1990 and subsequently a total of 37 aircraft were delivered until July 1992. Later, 18 F-14As were converted to the D variant, receiving the designation F-14D(R), the R indicating that they were “rebuilt”.


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