F-14 Strike Fighter
The Tomcat has been configured as a potent precision strike-fighter with the incorporation of the Low-Altitude Navigation and Targeting InfraRed for Night (LANTIRN) system. With LANTIRN, the Tomcat has an accurate, autonomous designation and targeting capability for the delivery of laser-guided bombs. This system is effective during day or night and at high altitudes.
With the retirement of the venerable A-6 Intruder, the Navy needed a capable attack aircraft to serve during the transition to the follow-on strike platform. When Lockheed-Martin approached the Navy with the F-14/LANTIRN upgrade, the Navy saw a cost-effective, savvy solution to the strike-fighter shortfall. The LANTIRN upgrade was proposed by industry in September 1994 and, just two months later, AIRLANT conducted prototype demonstrations. Using streamlined acquisition initiatives for contracting, standards, and test and evaluation, program preparation was compressed to 6 months. Only 223 days after contract award, the Jolly Rodgers of VF-103 deployed with the LANTIRN system and an entirely new Strike mission. The first LANTIRN-equipped Tomcat squadron, VF-103, deployed in June 1996 on board the USS Enterprise (CVN-65), and all deploying battle groups now have LANTIRN-capable Tomcats.
In late 1995 the F-14 Tomcat took on a new combat mission as part of Operation Deliberate Force in Bosnia. Nicknammed "Bombcat's", they delivered laser-guided bombs while other aircraft painted the targets with lasers. With the addition of the precision strike mission for F-14 aircrews, there was a shift in the emphasis of training; flight hours now have to be devoted to air-to-ground training as well as for air-to-air training. The first LANTIRN-equipped Tomcat squadron, VF-103, deployed in June 1996 onboard the USS Enterprise (CVN-65), and all deploying battle groups now have LANTIRN-capable Tomcats.
Precision Strike provides the F-14 the capability to deliver laser-guided bombs for air-to-ground missions. It consists of the LANTIRN pod with laser designator and internal navigation system, LANTIRN control panel and night vision capable displays. In LANTIRN equipped F-14As and F-14Bs, the TID has been replaced with the PTID. In 1994 the Navy planned to spend over $2.5 billion to add limited ground attack capability and other improvements to 210 F-14 Tomcat fighter aircraft (53 F-14Ds, 81 F-14Bs, and 76 F-14As). The ground attack capabilities were required to partially compensate for the loss in combat capabilities during the period starting in 1997, when all of its A-6E Intruder attack aircraft were retired, to the turn of the century when the F/A-18E/F, the next generation strike fighter, was scheduled to arrive. The strike enhancement program began in FY 1995 and completed in FY 2000, with 50 aircraft in FY 1998, 24 in FY 1999, and seven in FY 2000. The F-14 is undergoing two upgrades.
In addition to its precision strike capability, the F-14 is being outfitted with enhanced defensive countermeasure systems (BOL chaff and AN/ALR-67 Radar Warning Receiver), night vision capability, and Global Positioning System (GPS). These systems significantly enhance the capability of the Tomcat in the strike-fighter role.
The A/B initial upgrade, includes structural modifications to extend the F-14's fatigue life to 7,500 hours, improved defensive capabilities and cockpit displays, and incorporation of digital architecture and mission computers to speed data processing time and add software capacity.
Block I adds a LANTIRN Forward-Looking Infrared (FLIR) pod with a built-in laser to designate targets and allow F-14s to independently drop laser guided bombs (LGBs), a modified cockpit for night attack operations (night vision devices and compatible lighting), and enhanced defensive countermeasures. The A/B upgrade had to be incorporated into 157 F-14 aircraft before the Block I upgrade could be added.
Concerned about the Navy's capability to maintain carrier-based power projection without A-6Es and with only limited F-14 upgrades, the Joint Conference Committee on the fiscal year 1994 Defense Authorization Act directed the Navy to add an F-15E equivalent capability to its F-14D aircraft, including the capability to use modern air-to-ground stand-off weapons. But the Navy, in a report submitted on May 20, 1994 outlining its plans for the F-14, reiterated the intent to add only the A/B and Block I upgrades. The Navy estimated it would cost $1.8 billion to add F-15E-equivalent capability to 53 F-14Ds and another $9 billion to upgrade 198 F-14A/Bs. According to the Navy, an upgrade of that magnitude was not affordable.
Upgraded F-14s generally have greater range than the F/A-18C and could possibly reach targets beyond the Hornet's range. But planned upgrades will not include an air-to-ground radar for precision ground mapping that would permit crews to locate, identify, and attack targets in adverse weather and poor visibility. In addition, no F-14s will be able to launch current or planned precision munitions or stand-off weapons, except for LGBs.
The 157 F-14A/B models' AWG-9 radar is one of the most powerful US military aircraft radars for detecting multiple air targets approaching at long range, but it does not provide a ground mapping capability that permits crews to locate and attack targets in adverse weather and poor visibility or to precisely update the aircraft's location relative to targets during the approach, a capability that improves bombing accuracy. Only the 53 F-14Ds, with their improved APG-71 synthetic aperture ground mapping radar, will have this capability.
The Block I upgrade does not add any weapon capability new to the F-14, except the ability to independently drop LGBs. No Block I F-14s can launch precision stand-off attack weapons such as the High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM), Harpoon antiship missile, Maverick anti-armor missile, Walleye guided bomb, and Stand-off Land Attack Missile (SLAM). Block I aircraft will not be able to employ future precision stand-off weapons, including the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) and the Joint Stand Off Weapon (JSOW). The Navy does plan to add the capability to launch the Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) to F-14Ds when their computer software is updated.
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