by Ethan Horgan, Sophomore

The Grumman F-14 was created during the cold war to combat soviet bombers and air-to-ship missiles. Two seats, twin engines, and swing-wing capabilities made this a revolutionary multi-role fighter that dominated against the Russian MiG-23 and SU-22. The F-14 was the predecessor of the f-4 phantom, which dominated the vietnam airspace.

The F-14 contains many internal and external aspects that all come together to make it such an important aircraft. Inside the cockpit, the F-14 was equipped with a powerful radar system called the AN/AWG-9, which had a range of over 100 miles and could track multiple targets simultaneously. The Tomcat was also equipped with various air-to-air missiles, including the AIM-54 Phoenix, which had a range of over 100 miles and could engage multiple targets simultaneously, and the Aim-9 sidewinder, which is a short-range, infrared-seeking missile. The hard points on the tomcat could take many missiles, or take various guided or unguided bombs. The Tomcat also held an M-61 20mm cannon carrying 675 rounds of pure lead.

The Tomcat was designed to be stationed on aircraft carriers to maintain naval and air superiority in any location. Its long-range missiles, radar, fuel capacity, and efficiency made it a lethal threat from anywhere in the world. The Tomcat’s formidable swing-wing capability gave such an inconceivable advantage in dogfighting that it changed the game forever. Its far-back speed, and upfront maneuverability sought to allow the plane to fight in any conditions. Its variable wings let the plane excel in both air-to-air, and air-to-ground as well.

Only one foreign nation purchased the F-14, that being Iran. Iran used these planes against the Iraqi su-22s and mig-25s. Iranian F-14s scored at least 50 air-to-air victories in the first six months of the war against Iraqi MiG-21s, MiG-23s, and some Su-20s/22s. During the same period, only one Iranian F-14 suffered damage after being hit by debris from a nearby MiG-21 that exploded. Over the course of the war, Iraq reportedly shot down 12-14 Tomcats, while Iran’s airforce (mainly Tomcats and Mirages) shot down a total of 150 Iraqi aircraft. The U.S. Navy suffered its only F-14 loss from enemy action on 21 January 1991 when BuNo 161430, an F-14A upgraded to an F-14A+, from VF-103 was shot down by an SA-2 surface-to-air missile while on an escort mission in Iraq. Both crew members survived ejection with the pilot being rescued by USAF Special Operation Forces 

The F-14 Tomcat served in a number of conflicts, including Operation Desert Storm, where it played a crucial role in the air campaign against Iraq. Later being replaced by the McDonnell Douglas F-18 Hornet, then even later the Lockheed Martin F-22 and F-35. The Tomcat retired from the U.S. Navy service in 2006, after more than 30 years of service. The Tomcat’s final mission was to drop one bomb over Iraq and return to the Roosevelt aircraft carrier. The official final flight retirement ceremony was on 22 September 2006 at Naval Air Station Oceana and was flown by Lt. Cmdr. Chris Richard and Lt. Mike Petronis as RIO in a backup F-14. All retired F-14 rest in the “Boneyard” in Arizona.

MHS Headlight Staff
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The Headlight is the official newspaper of Marblehead High School. Pieces are posted in the Marblehead Current with permission.

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