Grumman F-14 TOMCAT gallery 3

(Iranian F-14A image). Despite attempts to sell the F-14 Tomcat to other air forces, only the Imperial Iranian Air Force (IIAF) would acquire this fighter. Iran’s interest began due to the inability of its Air Force to intercept the Soviet MiG-25R reconnaissance aircraft, which were carrying out missions over Iran with total impunity. It all started because the Soviets were worried about the rearmament of Iran and tired of Iran serving as a base for secret American reconnaissance flights over the USSR, so they decided to start a campaign of reconnaissance flights over Iran.
(Iranian F-14A image). After a visit by President Nixon to Iran in 1972, the Shah of Iran was interested in acquiring modern fighters to replace their F-4D Phantom II. Although on that date the decision had already been made, because contacts between Iran and the United States really began in October 1971, and after carefully studying technical information about the F-14 and the F-15, in 1972 the Iranian Air Force decided by the F-14A Tomcat. The so-called “Project Persian King” then began, and in January 1974, 30 F-14A-GR Tomcat and 424 Phoenix air-to-air missiles were ordered at a cost of 300 million dollars. Subsequently, in June 1974, a second order was placed for 50 more aircraft and another 290 Phoenix missiles, as well as spare engines and spare parts for a period of 10 years. The total cost of Project Persian King rose to 2,000 million dollars.
(Iranian F-14A image). The first Persian Tomcat was delivered in January 1976 and the other 78 were delivered progressively until July 1978. There was one aircraft that was not delivered due to the outbreak of the Islamic Revolution, so it can be said that the order was never completed. Despite information that the Iranian F-14 and Phoenix missiles had less capabilities than those of the US Navy, according to statements by some Iranian pilots included in the book “Iranian F-14 Tomcat units in combat” written by Tom Cooper and Farzad Bishop, this was not the case and they had the same specifications, although they indicate that the only difference was “the lower speed at which the radars of the AWG-9 system and the Phoenix missile changed their working frequency or jumped wavelengths to counter jamming”. But unfortunately for them, there were differences, and many.
(Iranian F-14A Asia Minor pattern). Although at first glance the Iranians had practically the same aircrafts and missiles as the Americans, there were differences, especially in terms of electronic equipment. In addition to the above, American technicians never taught Iranian engineers how to solve serious problems in avionics or sensitive material, so the Iranians were forced to constantly send equipment for maintenance or repair to the United States, with the consequent loss of time and money. This situation forced a good number of Tomcats to always be kept on the ground, so the combat readiness of the squadrons was not always adequate.
(Iranian F-14A image). But despite the problems, the Tomcat was a super fighter that was light years ahead of any fighter of the time and, for example, it put an end to the annoying Soviet reconnaissance flights as soon as the Iranians received their aircrafts armed with Phoenix missiles in 1976. The Iranian pilots carried out tests with these missiles in which they shot down target drones located at 24,000 meters above sea level, with the missiles reaching speeds of Mach 4.4 (5,390 km/h) and performing 17g maneuvers. Targets located more than 200 km away were also reached, making the Tomcat-Phoenix pairing lethal.
(Iranian F-14A image). Even with the operational difficulties of the F-14s, the Imperial Iranian Air Force had become a formidable force, but with the Islamic Revolution of 1978-79 and the overthrow of the Shah, the United States stopped providing technical and logistical support and the Iranians had to fend for themselves. A second order placed by Iran in 1976, which consisted of another 70 F-14s worth $900 million was also canceled, and the Phoenix missiles pending delivery of the 714 initially ordered were also not sent, which meant that the Iranian Air Force never had more than the 284 already sent.
(Iranian F-14A image). The 79 Iranian Tomcats were deployed to the 72nd, 73rd, 81st, 82nd Tactical Fighting Squadron (TFS) and 83rd Tomcat Flight School. The missions assigned were early-warning platform for other older Air Force aircraft, and the usual long-range interceptor and air superiority fighter. The Imperial Iranian Air Force quickly trained its pilots and ground support personnel and managed to activate its fleet of F-14As in a really short time but unfortunately, the 1979 Islamic Revolution brought a halt to the powerful and rapid growth of the capabilities of the Iranian Tomcats. Even before the final outbreak of the revolution, some pilots began to leave Iran due to the general situation. According to the authors Tom Cooper and Farzad Bishop, 27 pilots left the country.
(Iranian F-14A image). In the mid-1980s, the new Iranian regime began a purge in the middle ranks of the armed forces which of course affected the Tomcat pilots and ground personnel. In addition, many Iranian mechanics and engineers left along with Grumman’s American personnel, so only 80 technicians remained to keep a fleet of 77 F-14As flying. In addition, there is evidence that some Grumman technicians had orders to sabotage Iranian aircrafts and missiles before their departure to the United States and 16 Phoenix missiles were sabotaged.
(Iranian F-14A image). Suddenly, the United States found that it might have to face a powerful enemy armed with powerful weapons in the future, so it began actions to try to defend itself from this threat. Electronic countermeasures (ECM) were developed to defeat the Iranian Phoenix missiles, as well as the American Phoenix missiles were modernized to prevent them from being interfered with by the Iranian ECMs. In addition, American radar warning devices were modified to detect emissions from Iranian AWG-9 radars at much greater distances.
(Iranian F-14A image). American concern was of such magnitude that negotiations began with the new Iranian regime to buy back the entire fleet of F-14s and the remaining Phoenix missiles. Although some Iranian representatives agreed, the Tomcats ultimately remained in Iran and were progressively activated. In fact, in Iranian circles it is said that it was two F-14As that shot down the USAF’s RH-53D helicopters that attempted to rescue the kidnapped inside the American embassy in Tehran on April 30, 1980, and not the F-4 Phantom II fighters as claimed at that time.
(Iranian F-14A image). Following the start of the Iran-Iraq War in September 1980, the fleet of Iranian Tomcats was activated as quickly as possible and within days of the start of hostilities a dozen F-14s were ready for combat. On September 7, an F-14 shot down an Iraqi Mil Mi-25 attack helicopter with its gun after having missed with two AIM-9P Sidewinder missiles, becoming the first kill for the Persian Tomcats. The first downing of an Iraqi fighter occurred on September 13 when a MiG-23MS “Flogger” was hit by a Phoenix missile.
(Iranian F-14A image). During a conference held in Tehran at the end of the war, senior military officials stated that the Tomcats had achieved only 30 kills during the entire war and that only 16 had come from AIM-54 Phoenix missiles. However, at the same conference they stated that 71 Phoenix missiles had been fired and that another 10 had been lost in different actions. Despite Western distrust of Iranian figures, according to authors Tom Cooper and Farzad Bishop there is enough evidence to affirm that the Iranian F-14A achieved 130 confirmed kills and 23 probable ones.
(Iranian F-14A image). It is strange to compare the official kill figures declared by the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF) and the data obtained by Tom Cooper and Farzad Bishop, since the opposite usually happens. For example, Iraq claimed to have shot down 70 Iranian Tomcats during the war, a clearly inflated figure, but there are 10 confirmed losses and at least another 6 probable Iranian F-14 losses, which would give a maximum of 16 losses. According to the testimony of some Iranian pilots: “where the F-14s operated, no Iraqi fighters appeared”, so the deterrent power was enormous during the war. It can be stated that the F-14A was not a “failure” against the Iraqis, and the low numbers declared by the IRIAF after the war could have been due to political reasons. It must have been hard for the Iranian regime to recognize that the “American aircraft” performed excellently in combat.
(Iranian F-14A Blue-Grey pattern). Unfortunately, not everything was wine and roses with the Tomcats, since according to an Iranian pilot: “by war’s end, the TF-30 engine had destroyed more of our F-14s than the Iraqis could”, because the problems with the engines were endemic and never stopped. In return, the AWG-9 radar demonstrated its excellent performance regarding range and its resistance to enemy countermeasures (jamming). An Iranian pilot stated that on one occasion more than 10 Iraqi fighters tried to interfere with him at the same time, but the situation was solved in seconds by changing the radar wave frequencies. Thanks to being able to assign and track up to 24 different targets, there were always working frequencies available to avoid jamming.
(Iranian F-14A image). After the war against Iraq, some other combat actions of the Iranian F-14A have been known, such as the skirmish against two Azerbaijani MiG-25 Foxbat in July 2002, where both were forced to flee. It is known that there are currently some F-14As in service in the IRIAF, but the number and their status are unknown. One of them could be seen during the Islamic Republic of Iran Army Day on April 18, 2022. Likewise, the lack of Phoenix missiles has led the Iranians to try to integrate other missiles into the Tomcat, such as the Soviet AA-10 Alamo, without obtaining positive results. In 2017, an indigenous missile called “Fakour-90” was presented, which is externally the same as the AIM-54 Phoenix, although its actual performance surely does not reach that of the American missile.


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