F-14 Tomcat


Following the disastrous attempt to achieve interservice aircraft commonality with the F-111, the Navy issued a request for proposals (RFP) for a new VFX fighter in July 1968. Competitors included Grumman, General Dynamics, Ling-Temco-Vought, McDonnell Douglas, and North American Rockwell. On January 14, 1969, the Navy announced the award of the contract for the VFX fighter, now designated F-14, to Grumman.

One ideal application of the variable-sweep wing was for naval fleet defense fighters, which must be able to quickly intercept threats and yet slowly approach aircraft carriers to land. Variable-sweep wings in the fully swept (high-speed) configuration permit efficient supersonic dash and the carrier-approach requirements could be met with the wing in the unswept (low-speed) position. To minimize drag during transonic maneuvers typical of air-to-air combat, the pivots must be located in a relatively out-board position. Experience with the F-111 revealed that large penalties in trim drag occurred if this key design factor was not adequately appreciated. Although the F-111 incorporated the variable-sweep concept, the full advantages of the concept were not realized because the pivot locations were relatively inboard. As a result, the F-111 suffered excessive trim drag at transonic and supersonic conditions. The designers of the F-14 were made aware of the significance of pivot locations by NASA briefings, which helped convince Grumman to locate the F-14 pivots in a more favorable out-board position. These studies also pointed out the importance of the placement of the horizontal tail relative to the wing for stability and control. These recommendations were also included in the F-14 design.

Initial operational capability was achieved in 1973, following the first flight on 21 December 1970. The original program was for 497 Tomcats, including 12 development aircraft, though the program was extended into 1990s. The initial F-14A was deployed with USN squadrons VF-1 and VF-2 in October 1972. A total of 557 aircraft [including the 12 development aircraft] were delivered to US Navy bu April 1987, when production ended. The final 102 aircraft were delivered from FY 1983 powered by improved TF30-P-414A turbofans. A total of 79 Tomcats were delivered to Iran before the 1979 Revolution. They are normally grounded for lack of parts; some were seen flying during December 1989 Iranian maneuvers. The aircraft was not procured by the US Marine Corps.

The F-14A Aircraft is the basic platform of the F-14 series. It is equipped with two TF30-P-414A engines. Sixty "core" F-14A Aircraft are being upgraded with the AN/ALR-67 Countermeasure Warning and Control System, LANTIRN and the Programmable Tactical Information Display (PTID). In all F-14 series aircraft, the Automatic Flight Control System (AFCS) will be replaced by the Digital Flight Control System (DFCS). Designed in 1968 to take the place of the controversial F-111B, then under development for the Navy's carrier fighter inventory, the F-14A used the P&W TF30 engines and AWG-9 system and carried the six Phoenix missiles that had been intended for the F-111B. A completely new fighter system was designed around these with emphasis on close-in fighting "claws" along with standoff missile fighting. From its first flight on 21 December 1970, the F-14A went through five years of development, evaluation, squadron training and initial carrier deployments to become the carrier air wings' most potent fighter. Technical and financial problems that received a great deal of publicity were overcome in achieving this goal. In the late 1970s the Defense Department experienced very substantial engine problems both with the F-14 with the TF-30 engine, and with the F-16 and the F-15 with F-100 engines. They were so serious that there was consideration given to developing new engines for the aircraft, which would have been an enormously difficult undertaking. It was decided instead to make upgrades and improvements in the engines. The engines in the later models of the F-14 are entirely adequate for the purpose. The engines in the F-14As have been improved so that they are also effective, although they are not the engine the Navy would have put in the airplane from the beginning if there had been a more powerful engine design then. In the mid-1990s one change that was made in the F-14 was the introduction of a Digital Flight Control System to the F-14 to prevent the pilot from making an unsafe or unauthorized maneuver, reducing the burden on the pilot to remember what cannot or should not be done under certain conditions. Funding for the new Digital Flight Control System -- about $80 million -- was obtained by reprogramming money in Fiscal 1996. The existing TARPS Pod System will be replaced with the TARPS Digital Imaging System. The Bol Chaff System will be added as part of an integrated modification program. The incorporation of these changes will not change the designation of the F-14A.

The F-14B is either a remanufactured F-14A or new production aircraft, both equipped with F110-GE-400 engines, which replaced the TF30-P-414A engines. Originally it was planned that the F-14B with the advanced P&W F401 would be the major production version. However, performance of the TF30-P-412 exceeded expectations while development of the F401 was delayed. One F-14B was flight tested, showing that an F401-powered Tomcat would be a potential future option. The F110-GE-400 is a new design which emphasizes reliability, maintainability, and operability. The new high technology engine improves capability and maneuverability without throttle restrictions or engine trimming. Compared to engines on earlier F-14 models, the F110 is a tremendous leap forward. Engine stalls are virtually unheard of and the enormous amount of thrust produced by the F110's have eliminated the necessity for afterburner launches from the carrier. Following the loss of three aircraft over a four week period in 1996, the CNO ordered a safety stand down to review what was known in order to find out if there were any operational restrictions that needed to be placed on the aircraft. The Navy placed interim restrictions on the F-14 in the low altitude, high speed environment. Afterburner use was prohibited for F-14Bs [and F-14Ds] at all altitudes except for operational emergencies.

Sixty-seven F-14B Aircraft were modified to extend the service life of the airframes and improve the offensive and defensive posture of the platform. This includes the F110-GE-400 engine, Fatigue Engine Monitoring System, AN/ALR-67 Countermeasure Warning and Control System, Gun Gas Purge Door Engineering Change Proposal (ECP), Direct Lift Control/Approach Power Compensator ECP, AN/AWG-15F ECP, and Engine Door Tension Fittings ECP. In addition, the AN/ASN-92 Carrier Aircraft Inertial Navigation System (CAINS) I is replaced with the Embedded GPS Inertial (EGI) Navigation System. The F-14B Upgrade includes a MIL-STD-1553B Digital Multiplex Data Bus (DMDB), Programmable Multi-Display Indicator Group (PMDIG), PTID, the AN/AWG-15H Fire Control System, AN/ALR-67D(V)2 Radar Warning Receiver, EGI, and Mission Data Loader. Other survivability improvements were developed under the F-14 Airframe Change Number 828, Multi-Mission Capability Upgrade. Developmental Test (DT) for the F-14B Upgrade Aircraft was completed on 5 November 1996. Operational Test (OT) of the F-14B Upgrade Aircraft was completed in June 1997. The modified F-14B Aircraft is referred to as the F-14B Upgrade; with modifications completed in FY01.

The F-14C was planned as a development version of the F-14B incorporating new avionics and weapons, but it did not enter development. It was to be the advanced avionics aircraft developed from the original F-14B (with the Pratt F-401 engine). The plan was initially for approximately 24 F-14A (TF-30) followed by the "Fleet" F-14B (F-401) in mass production. The F-14C Super Tomcat was a mix of the B and D models, with the GE F110 as power, and some of the F-14D's avonics, but without the dual chin pod. The F-14C would have incorporated upgraded avionics, improved radar plus a fire control system compatible with those of the A-6, E-2C and F/A-18. All these new features - which should have been realized in the newer built F-14C - were later incorporated in late production F-14A, F-14A(PLUS) and F-14D.

The F-14D is either a remanufactured F-14A or new production aircraft, both equipped with F110-GE-400 engines, new radar, and new avionics systems. The F-14D is the largest, fastest, and most powerful fighter aircraft in the United States military inventory. It is powered by two General Electric F110 engines which produce up to 30,200 pounds of thrust EACH at maximum afterburner on the deck at 0.9 Mach. These engines enable the F-14D to reach a top speed greater than Mach 2.0 or about 1 mile every 3 seconds. Their superior thrust and quick response also provide superb safety and control in the aircraft carrier landing environment.

The F-14D provides controls and displays that increase aircrew effectiveness through automation and simplicity. Additionally, the F-14D provides changes to the radar, airframe, electronic countermeasures systems, Naval Flight Officer (NFO) armament control panel, pilot air combat maneuvering panel, and emergency jettison panel which enhance the offensive and defensive posture of the platform. The AN/APG 71 Radar replaces the AN/AWG-9 Radar used in the F-14A/B and has fewer Weapon Replaceable Assemblies (WRAs), thereby reducing both weight and space requirements. The functional expansion is achieved by replacement of AN/AWG-9 analog processing hardware with more flexible digital processing. Major changes were made in the following areas: Signal Processor, Data Processor, Digital Display, Central Processor, Receivers, and Antenna configuration. The Infrared Search and Track System (IRSTS) is a Navy developed system which provides long range detection in the long wave infrared spectrum of both subsonic and supersonic targets. The Air Force common Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS) terminal, when installed and integrated, provides secure, jam resistant, high capacity digital data and voice information distribution, and accurate relative navigation capabilities.

Production shifted to the F-14D in 1988, and Initial Operational Capability for the F-14D Aircraft was in FY92. The original program schedules envisioned the first D delivery in March 1990 with an all-D fleet achieved by 1998. Plans called for 127 new-production F-14D and modification of 400 F-14A and F-14A+ to D configurations. The revised defense budget submitted in April 1989 proposed cancelling the new-construction portion of the program, but Congress authorized 18 new F-14Ds for 1990 with the stipulation that these would be the last new aircraft authorized--a total of 37. The first F-14D was delivered in February 1990. The funding plans for remanufacturing F-14As into F-14D(R)s in the 1990-1994 period included 6 in 1990, 12 in 1991, 24 in 1992, 48 in 1993, and 60 in 1994; the schedule was later scaled back to 18 in 1992, 20 in 1993, and 24 aircraft in 1994 and 1995. Further defense spending cutbacks eliminated almost all procurement funding for 1991 and provided no money at all in 1992-1993. The final blow fell in mid-February 1991 when the Navy cancelled an already-funded $780 million contract for 12 remanufactured F-14, effectively ending further production.

The F-14B and F-14D Aircraft were introduced as production aircraft, and through an F-14A Aircraft remanufacturing program. The remanufacture of F-14B and F-14D Aircraft was performed by Grumman and Naval Aviation Depot (NADEP) Norfolk, Virginia. Since NADEP Norfolk ceased operation, modifications for the F-14B Upgrade are now accomplished by NADEP Jacksonville, Florida, and Northrop-Grumman, St. Augustine, Florida.

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 wiring changes and cockpit readouts. In 1989, the Navy decided to phase out the F-14's reconnaissance mission in favor of using F/A-18 Hornets. During Operation Desert Storm in January-February 1991, however, F-14s flew 781 TARPS missions, and subsequently continued in that role. The Tomcat is the United States' only tactical reconnaissance capable aircraft. While carrying the Tactical Air Reconnaissance Pod System (TARPS), the F-14 can deliver real time photos on film or digitally to theater commanders, providing them with the information they need to make crucial decisions on the battlefield.

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