| ||The US Navy officially retired the Grumman F-14 swing-wing twin-engine supersonic air-superiority jet fighter in a ceremonial final flight from NAS Oceana, Virginia on Friday, 22 September 2006. |
The F-14 TOMCAT joined the Fleet in 1972 serving 34 years, after the first Grumman test flight from the Calverton, Long Island plant runway in 1970. The last flight was commanded by pilot Lt. Cdr. Chris Richards with Lt. Mike Petronis as RIO.
The F-14 aircraft was designed originally to defend US Navy aircraft carriers from Soviet bombers carrying long-range missiles. The TOMCAT could carry and launch up to six over-the horizon AIM-54 PHOENIX missiles in a launch and leave mode. The F-14 was the only US aircraft to ever operationally use the PHOENIX missile, although one was launched very early in the development flight test program from an F-4 PHANTOM at Point Mugu, California in the Sea test Range.
The F-14 also operationally carried a 20 mm cannon plus two AIM-9 SIDEWINDER air-to-air missiles with the six AIM-54s, or six AIM-7F SPARROW and four AIM-9s and a variety of air-to-surface weapons up to 6,575kg or 14,500 pounds. The improved F-14B model was introduced in 1987 and the vastly improved F-14D model was delivered in 1990.
The first F-14 combat use was in the Gulf of Sidra off Libya on 19 August 1986 when two F-14s from the USS Nimitz were "intercepted" by two Libyan Sukhoi SU-22 fighter-bombers. The Libyan jets apparently attacked the F-14s and were destroyed. On 4 January 1989, two Libyan MIG-23 "Floggers" were engaged by two f-14s and were also shot down. The F-14 also saw combat in 1991 in Operation Desert Storm over Kuwait and Iraq, performing airborne Tactical Air Reconnaissance Pod System (TARPS) missions.
The Navy retooled the F-14 after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 as a ground-attack "Bombcat" jet dropping 'smart" bombs over Bosnia in late 1995 and Kosovo and as late as early this year it helped ground support troops in Iraq. The Navy's last 22 deployed F-14As were brought back from the Gulf to NAS Oceana in March, 2006. Incidentally, I was stationed at NAS Oceana in 1952 in a Naval Air Fighter Squadron.
The F-14's replacement is the F/A-18 SUPER HORNET attack fighter, a dual role jet that can be reconfigured quickly between roles. The last F-14 squadron flew out of NAS Oceana, Virginia until this month. The F-14 pilots were the best pilots of the best plane in the best Navy in the World!