F-14 Tomcat

F-14 Tomcat

The F-14 Tomcat is a legendary fighter aircraft. The US Navy retired her in 2006 after a great service record in the Middle East.

She was built by Grumman, the same defense contractor who designed the lunar module. 

This same forward thinking was brought to the F-14 Tomcat. And she could reach supersonic speeds. Outfitted twin engines, two-seats, and a twin-tail. 

She was referred to as a variable-sweep wing fighter aircraft. The Tomcat was developed for the United States Navy’s Naval Fighter Experimental (VFX) program after the collapse of the F-111B project.

Why was the F15 built around the same time upgraded while the F-14 was not? 

Maintenance Issues

The maintenance crews of the VF-211 were severely overworked during the 1997-98 deployment to make an adequate number of working and reliable aircraft. But a lot of the maintenance success was due to pushing the ground crews.

And after working the jets and the people hard during workups she flew well. Instead of fixing the birds during periods of maintenance. And the Navy chose to tearing them down for fatigue life extended inspections. 

When the Tomcat planes were in shape they required 37 MMH/FH. That was a fourteen-plan squadron. This is reported in an article in Proceedings, Sept 1998.

In February of 1993, Proceedings published an article by F-14 pilot LT John Wood that showed MMH/FH for his F-14 squadron, VF-11, in two types of Tomcats: for F-14 As it was 31.3, and for the F-14D it was 17.8.     

The new build B & D models were not nearly as bad as the A and rebuild models. The A & B’s were supposed to be retired with new build D’s being built into the early 2000s.

New airframes combined with newer tech would have ironed out a lot of the maintenance hour problems.

Simply speaking the cost to maintain the airplane was not worth the manpower it took to do so anymore.

Today only the Iranian Air Force still flies her. 

According to National Interest Magazine: 

the United States would do everything in its power — short of war — to ground the ayatollah’s Tomcats. But the Americans failed. Through a combination of engineering ingenuity and audacious espionage, Iran kept its F-14s in working order — and even improved them. The swing-wing fighters took to the air in several conflicts and even occasionally confronted American planes.

https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/how-iran-taking-ancient-f-14-tomcats-and-making-them-better-74896

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