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Grumman F-14 Tomcat

30 Aug

Back in the 1950’s, the US needed a  long range, high endurance interceptor to protect it’s carrier battle groups against anti-ship missiles. The specifications they set forward were a Fleet Air Defense aircraft with more powerful radar and longer range missiles than the F-4 Phantom II to intercept bombers as well as missiles. Both the navy and air force were involved in the design and testing process, often fighting over what specifications were needed and what weren’t which resulted in the heavy and lackluster F-111B put forward for the Tactical Fighter Experimental (TFX) program.

General Dynamics, the producer of the F-111 teamed up with Grumman to find ways to improve the aircraft and were eventually sidelined. Due to difficulties in making a “one size fits all” fighter, Congress allowed the Navy to pursue their own designs. Grumman gave the design better radar, more reliable and powerful engines, ground attack capabilities and improved missiles among other things.

Introduced in 1974 after extensive modifications and testing, the Tomcat was the premier air superiority fighter of its time with a 2 seat cockpit and bubble canopy that offered much better visibility than its predecessor, the F4. It was also eqipped with the revolutionary geometry wing design where the wings would sweep back for high-speed intercept but swing forward for lower speed flight to offer greater stability. Avionics and anti-aircraft armament were all top of the line and pushed the technological barriers of the early 1970’s.

The Tomcat served as America’s premier air superiority and tactical reconnaissance aircraft from 1972-2006 and with Iran’s air forces from 1978 to present. The fighter didn’t see actual combat until the Gulf of Sidra incident in 1981 when 2 F-14’s engaged 2 Su-22’s and destroyed them easily. While never participating in large aerial battles, the Tomcat boasts a modest combat record with 135 air to air kills, most of which are from the Iran-Iraq War, 4 air to air losses, and 4 losses due to ground fire.

Although it has been retired by the US, it’s still in service with the Iranian air force. But due to numerous sanctions they are unable to import replacement parts leaving them with 60 (allegedly) Tomcats left, most of which are probably unfit for combat.

Number Built: 712

Unit Cost: $38,000,000 (1998)

                                                                            

General characteristics:

  • Crew: 2 (Pilot and Radar Intercept Officer)
  • Length: 62 ft 9 in (19.1 m)
  • Wingspan:
    • Spread: 64 ft (19.55 m)
    • Swept: 38 ft (11.58 m)
  • Height: 16 ft (4.88 m)
  • Wing area: 565 ft² (54.5 m²)
  • Airfoil: NACA 64A209.65 mod root, 64A208.91 mod tip
  • Empty weight: 43,735 lb (19,838 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 61,000 lb (27,700 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 74,350 lb (33,720 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × General Electric F110-GE-400 afterburning turbofans
    • Dry thrust: 13,810 lbf (61.4 kN) each
    • Thrust with afterburner: 27,800 lbf (123.7 kN) each
  • Maximum fuel capacity: 16,200 lb internal; 20,000 lb with 2x 267 gallon external tanks

Performance

  • Maximum speed: Mach 2.34 (1,544 mph, 2,485 km/h) at high altitude
  • Combat radius: 500 nmi (575 mi, 926 km)
  • Ferry range: 1,600 nmi (1,840 mi, 2,960 km)
  • Service ceiling: 50,000 ft (15,200 m)
  • Rate of climb: >45,000 ft/min (229 m/s)
  • Wing loading: 113.4 lb/ft² (553.9 kg/m²)
  • Thrust/weight: 0.91
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