Saturday, August 13, 2011


Today we will talk about one of the most elegant fighter planes ever built. I have a very special memory of this aircraft because it has accompanied me since when being a kid I saw the movie "Top Gun"

F-14 principal role was fleet air defence, designed as an air superiority fighter and long range interceptor it was a large high performance carrier-borne.

The F-14 was the second american variable-sweep wing fighter aircraft after F-111. This variable-sweep wings allowed F-14 low speed approaches to carriers and manouvers with the wings swept forward and high speed interception and climb with swept back wings. Variable-sweep mechanism was fully automated so controlling the aircraft was much easier and pilot could concentrate on other more important tasks.

The F-14 was two-seated aircraft in all versions as its predecessor the F-4 Phantom II. F-14 operated with a crew fo two, a pilot and a radar officer known as RIO (Radar Interceptor Officer) who was in charge of radar, intelligence and weapon systems.

F-14 SuperTomcat en el Intrepid Air and Space Museum
One of the main weapons of the F-14 was the long range AIM-54 Phoenix missile which can destroy an enemy aircraft at 100 nautical miles. This missile was initially developed to be carried by the sea-borne version of the USAF F-111 (F-111 B) which finally never enter into service and also provided its AWG-9 radar to the F-14.
AIM-54A (left) on F-14 at NAS Pax 1984
Misil AIM-54 Phoenix
 The initial target of this long range missile was the defense of carrier battle groups from soviet Tu-4 armed with KS-1 (NATO designation AS-1 "Komet") antiship missiles which later were replaced by Tu-16 "Badger" and Tu-22 "Badger" armed with K-10S (NATO designation AS-2 "Kipper"), Kh-20 (NATO designation AS-3 Kangaroo) and Kh-22 (NATO designation AS-4 Kitchen) antiship missiles. The two later missiles were typically armed with a nuclear warhead.

Kh-22 under a Tu-22M2

AWG-9 radar could track up to 24 airborne targets, display 18 of them on the cockpit displays, and fire AIM-54 Phoenix missiles against 6 of them at the same time.The accuracy of this weapon systems was estimated on the 80%.
AN/AWG-9 Radar (via
F-14 A suffered a lot of problems during its development initial stage mainly related with the reliability of its TF-30 jet engines as the compressor failed on high angles of attack. These engines also didn't give the F-14 the expected performance as Navy expected a 1:1 weight/thrust ratio, later version B and D were fitter with the new F110-GE-400 engines that provided more than 1:1 weight/thrust ratio and allowed take-off from carriers without using the afterburner.

F-14 Tomcat intercepting a Tu-95 "Bear".
F-14 users were U.S. Navy an Iranian Air Force. It seems a bit weird that a high performance jet as the F-14 was used by the Iranian Air Force because nowadays this country is considered as a threat to U.S. Before the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Iran under the rule of the Sha Reza Palevi was a key ally for U.S. in the Middle East. In 1974 the Sha purchased an order of 30 F-14 aircraft to the U.S. and after some months the order was increased up to 80 fighters.The F-14 pruchase decission was made after a simulated combat exercise between the F-14 and F-15 that lead to the Sha's final preference for the F-14. Only 79 aircraft from the 80 initially requested were finally purchased as the last unit was retained by U.S. due to the weapon embargo declared after the kidnapping of U.S. Emabassy in Teheran. This embargo also affected spare parts and maintenance of those aircraft so at the moment the operational status of Iranian F-14 is not clear as much of the aircraft were canibilized in order to provide spare parts.
Sidra Gulf Incidents
The F-14 has been involved in two incidents with Lybian to over the Sidra Gulf. The first one took place on August 19th 1981 when two Lybian Su-22 "Fitter" attacked with an AA-2 "Atoll" air-to-air missile two F-14's of VF-41 squadron based on USS Nimitz carrier. The missile was dodged by the F-14 after which the F-14 open fire. After launching the missile both Su-22 lead to their air base trying being both of them destroyed by a AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles launched by the F-14's. According to the U.S. Navy official briefing both Lybian pilots ejected and were safely rescued.

On January 4th 1989 another combat between F-14 and Lybian aircraft ocurred over the Gulf of Sidra. This time the Lybian aircraft were soviet made MIG-23 "Flogger". At this confrontation F-14 were cleared for firing before being fired as they felt hostigated by the MIG's. After the launch of two AIM-7 "Sparrow" radar guided missiles that couldn't track their targets the U.S. aircraft fired two more missiles another AIM-7 and one AIM-9 "Sidewinder" which finally detroyed both MIG's-

General characteristics (Via Wikipedia)
Performance (Via Wikipedia)
Armament (Via Wikipedia)
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