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 U.S. Navy Air Superiority - The F-14 Tomcat!


Photos of Aircraft of Squadrons to Which I Was Assigned or Directly Supported

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The Grumman F-14 Tomcat is a supersonic, twin engine, variable sweep wing, two-place strike fighter. The Tomcat's primary missions are air superiority, fleet air defense, and precision strike against ground targets.  My experiences with the F-14 began in 1983, when I was assigned to VF-124, Miramar California ("Fightertown USA").  I served as an avionics technician, later became a supervisor, and then later became an instructor for west coast F-14 squadrons, avionics systems.  As a Naval Officer, I was responsible for avionics support for two embarked F-14 squadrons aboard USS Carl Vinson.

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The F-14 entered the fleet in 1973, replacing the F-4 Phantom II.  The F-14B, introduced in November 1987, incorporated new General Electric F-110 engines.  In 1995, an upgrade program was initiated to incorporate new digital avionics and weapon system improvements to strengthen its multi-mission competitive edge. The F-14D, delivered in 1990, was a major upgrade with F-110 engines, new APG-71 radar system, Airborne Self Protection Jammer (ASPJ), Joint Tactical Indicator Distribution System (JTIDS) and Infrared Search an Track (IRST). Additionally, all F-14 variants were given precision strike capability using the LANTIRN targeting system, night vision compatibility, new defensive countermeasures systems and a new digital flight control system. 

Boasting up to six AIM-54C Phoenix AAMs, the F-14A is capable of destroying six separate targets at ranges in excess of 100 miles.  After problems with the initial TF30 engine, Grumman produced a Tomcat powered by a pair of GE-400 turbofans.  The aircraft became the prototype for the F-14A+, or later the production F-14B.  A vastly improved model, the F-14D Super Tomcat, of which 37 were built, first took to the air on February 9, 1980 and includes enhanced radar and cockpit, a dual IRST/TV under-nose pod, and increased AAM capability.  Tomcats are now being equipped for night-attack bombing duty with the use of Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night (LANTIRN) pods. Placed on an external point beneath the right wing, the LANTIRN pod will allow the F-14 to drop laser-guided bombs under the cover of darkness.

The wings have the ability to automatically sweep during flight, with a manual override provided. The twin, swept fin-and-rudder vertical surfaces are mounted on the engine housings and canted outward.  Normal sweep range is 20 to 68 deg with a 75-deg "over-sweep" position provided for shipboard hangar stowage; sweep speed is 7.5 deg per second.

For roll control below 57 deg, the F-14 uses spoilers located along the upper wing near the trailing edge in conjunction with its all-moving, swept horizontal stabilizers, which are operated differentially; above 57-deg sweep, the horizontal stabilizers operate alone. For un-swept, low-speed combat maneuvering, the outer 2 sections of trailing edge flaps can be deployed at 10 deg and the nearly full-span leading-edge slats are drooped to 8.5 deg. At speeds above Mach 1.0, glove vanes in the leading edge of the fixed portion of the wing extend to move the aerodynamic center forward and reduce loads on the horizontal stabilizers.

The engine intakes have 2 variable-angle ramps, a bypass door in the intake roof, and a fixed ramp forward; exhaust nozzles are mechanically variable.  Viewed from the front, the top of the intakes are tilted toward the aircraft centerline; from above, the engines are canted outward slightly to reduce interference between intake airflow and the fuselage boundary layer. The engines exhaust through mechanically variable, convergent-divergent nozzles.

The AWG-9 is a pulse-Doppler, multi-mode radar with a designed capability to track 24 targets at the same time while simultaneously devising and executing fire control solutions for 6 targets. The cockpit is fitted with a Kaiser AN/AVG-12 Head-Up Display (HUD) co-located with an AN/AVA-12 vertical situation display and a horizontal situation display. A chin mounted Northrop AN/AXX-1 Television Camera Set (TCS) is used for visual target identification at long ranges. Electronic Support Measures (ESM) equipment include the Litton AN/ALR-45 radar warning and control system, the Magnavox AN/ALR-50 radar warning receiver, Tracor AN/ALE-29/-39 chaff/flare dispensers (fitted in the rear fuselage between the fins), and Sanders AN/ALQ-126 deception jamming system.

The F-14 has visual and all-weather attack capability to deliver Phoenix and Sparrow missiles, as well as the M-61A1 Vulcan cannon, and Sidewinder missiles for close in air-to-air combat. The F-14 also has the LANTIRN targeting system that allows delivery of various laser-guided bombs for precision strikes in air-to-ground combat missions. The F-14, equipped with Tactical Air Reconnaissance Pod System (TARPS) is the Navy's only manned tactical reconnaissance platform.

The Tomcat has an internal 20-mm Vulcan Gattling-type gun fitted on the left side, and can carry Phoenix, Sparrow, and Sidewinder AAMs. Up to 6 Phoenix missiles can be carried on 4 fuselage stations between the engines and on 2 pylons fitted on the fixed portion of the wing; 2 Sidewinder AAM can be carried on the wing pylons above the Phoenix mount. Although the F-14 was tested with conventional "iron" bombs on its external hard points in the 1960s, the BRU-10 ejection racks were not strong enough to provide a clean separation. Tests in 1988-1990 showed that BRU-32 racks could drop Mk 80-series bombs safely. Later tests would qualify the AGM-88 HARM and the AGM-84 Harpoon.

Since the early 1980s F-14s have had provision for the attachment of the Tactical Air Reconnaissance Pod System (TARPS), carrying optical and infrared cameras and permitting the aircraft to perform the photo reconnaissance role without degrading its performance in other roles. The only modifications required are fuselage wiring changes and the addition of cockpit TARPS control boxes.


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The F-14 has a wing able to take any angle automatically between 20 to 68 degrees according to the varying demands of the mission , it actually usage has been almost totally in the fighter/interceptor role. The main advantages of the swing wing for the F-14 includes to reduce take off and landing speed , facilitating cat ( accelerated ) launches at high gross weight and to reduce fuel consumption in subsonic loiter and enable higher altitude to be reached at low subsonic speeds.

Although the Tomcat and the Grumman A-6 Intruder are more different in other ways, both planes share a similar inlet duct, wing, and landing gear geometry.  Unlike the A-6 the long fully augmented engines extend far down stream to variable nozzles at the extreme rear of the aircraft , widely separated throughout by fuselage fuel tanks, a canted vertical tail above each engine, and the airbrake above and below the wide gap between the nozzles.

The pilot and RIO sit well separated in a capacious tandem cockpit.  Aerodynamics of the F-14 Tomcat are complex with a large fixed wing glove carrying the outer wing pivot 17ft and 10 inches apart and incorporating retractable canards .


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The Tomcat is believed to have been the world first fighter to have a look down and shoot down capability.  This capability was the last major gap to be closed in air defense.  It is also claimed that the Tomcat not only has capability against hostile aircraft but also against sea skimming anti-ship missiles.

AWG-9 radar is a large ( 1,293 lb./586.5 kg ; 28 cu ft/0.79m cube) liquid cooled package with the vital coherent pulse Doppler mode for look down capability.  The Tomcat was also the first fighter to have a track while scan (TWS) radar, enabling the Tomcat to have a target range of over 100 miles ( 160 km) to detect, select, and track up to 20 targets.  This allows it to pick out the 6 most threatening targets and launch phoenix missiles against them. Each phoenix is coded with its own target . With the help of Northrop  TV Camera Set (TCS), the task of long range recognition is greatly assisted.

One of the problems involving the use of the AIM-7 AAM was that the Tomcat needs to constantly flying toward the hostile fighter to provide target illumination for the missile

Kaiser provided the AN/AVG-12 vertical display indicator group (VDIG) situation display and electronically separated but mechanically integrated HUD.  The HUD simply uses the inside face of the wind screen instead of the typical combining glass assembly.

Other systems included in the F-14 are an expandable memory digital computer, laser gyro INS (being retrofitted when funds permit) , Westinghouse/ITT ASPJ and Hughes ITT JTIDS combined with the ITEK ALR 67 threat warning system .

Some Tomcats have been fitted to carry the Tactical Air Recon POD system (TARPS) photo and IR camera system.


Front Cockpit:  Pilot
F-14D Front Cockpit

Rear Cockpit:  Radar Intercept Officer
F-14D Rear Cockpit


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More About F-14 TARPS

See F-14 TARPS Images


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Power Plant F-14B/D:

Two General Electric F-110-GE-400 turbo fans rated at 71.56 kN and 120.1 kN with afterburn . Garret ATS 200-50 air turbine starter.  The F110 engine has 43 % more reheated thrust and 37% more military thrust (no after-burn) than the TF-20-P-414A in F-14A, resulting in 20% more specific excess energy and 30% lower fuel consumption. The engines also have 62% greater launch deck intercept radius and 34 % more combat air patrol time. Total fuel capacity is 9,029l liters plus 2 external tank each capable of carrying 1,011 liters.

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Technical Information:


Prime contractor Grumman Aerospace Corporation
Function Carrier-based multi-role strike fighter
Crew Two: pilot and radar intercept officer
Unit Cost $38 million
In-service year F-14A - 1974, F-14D - 1980
Length 61 feet, 9 inches (18.6 meters)
Height 16 feet (4.8 meters)
Wing span extended (68 degrees) 64 feet, 2 inches (19.5 m)
Wing span swept (20 degrees) 38 feet, 3 inches (11.7 m)
Max Wing Loading 642.5kg/m square
Weight empty 39,762 lbs. (18,036 kg)
Max Fuel (useable) 7,348kg
Max Take Off Weight 73,348 lbs. (33,724 kg)
Speed 2,500 km/h / 1,563 mph at ceiling
Carrier Approach 125 knots
Landing run (field) 732 meters
Range 2,013 miles ferry range (1,740 nautical miles)
Ceiling 56,000 ft
Propulsion F-14A: Two Pratt & Whitney TF-30P-414A turbofan engine with afterburners.
F-14B and F-14D: Two General Electric F110-GE-400 turbofan engines with afterburners.
Thrust TF-30P-414A: 20,900 pounds (9,405 kg) static thrust per engine
F110-GE-400: 27,000 pounds (12,150 kg) static thrust per engine
Max Power Loading 140.4kg/kN
Armament Up to 13,000 pounds:  One M61A1 20-mm Vulcan multi-barrel cannon with 675 rounds and a combination of AIM-54 Phoenix, AIM-9 Sidewinder and AIM-7 Sparrow missile, cluster bombs, and two drop tanks.


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Acknowledgement:  Information on this page obtained from the Military Analysis Network.



More Drawings & Photos: 


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