U.S. Navy’s last F-14 Tomcat flight 7 years ago today

Oct 04 2013 - 7 Comments

Still in service with the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force, where it was recently spotted with a beautiful splinter color scheme, the F-14 Tomcat was retired by the US Navy seven years ago.

Even if, officially, the last flight of a U.S. Navy Tomcat took place on Sept. 22, 2006 during the ceremony that was held at NAS (Naval Air Station) Oceana, the real last flight of a Tomcat in the USN colors was on Oct. 4, 2006.

Seven years ago today, a VF-31 Tomcatters F-14D (BuNo 164603) was transferred from Oceana to Farmingdale Republic Airport, on Long Island, New York and you can see its last landing in the following video.

The airframe that reached such a milestone was a Grumman F-14D and it was last but one Tomcat (or Super Tomcat, as the D version was also known) built.

The BuNo 164603 was first delivered on May 29, 1992 at NAS Miramar to VF-124 Gunfighters, the West Coast Tomcat Fleet RAG (the Replacement Air Group, the naval training squadron for a specific aircraft).

Then, in June of the following year, the BuNo 164603 was one of the first F-14D to be assigned to VF-2 Bounty Hunters.

By February 1998 it was flying with the VF-213. As “Black Lion 101” this Tomcat achieved another important milestone on Oct. 7 2001, when this F-14D along with some other Tomcats and Hornets belonging to the CVW-11 (the Carrier Air Wing 11, embarked on the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) destroyed an SA-3 SAM battery near Kabul’s international airport, conducing the first strike of the Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF).

The BuNo 164603 stayed with the Black Lions until early 2002 when it was passed on to VF-101 Grim Reapers, originally the East Coast Tomcat Fleet RAG and became the entire Tomcat Fleet RAG after Gunfighters disbandment on 30 September 1994.

However, it was during the summer of 2003 that the BuNo 164603 reached its last squadron and was transferred to VF-31 Tomcatters.

The Tomcatters made of the airframe their “Felix 101” jet, meaning that it became the colorful CO (Commanding Officer) aircraft.

With VF-31 this Tomcat completed two cruises including the Mediterranean Cruise 2005-2006 embarked on the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71), in support to Operation Iraqi freedom (OIF), that signed the end of Tomcat career.

The last chapter of the US Navy F-14 life was closed on Oct. 4, 2006, when the BuNo 164603 completed the ultimate flight, with the last of the U.S. flying Tomcats transferred from Oceana Naval Air Station to Farmingdale Republic Airport.

Then the BuNo 164603 was ferried on the road from Farmigdale to Bethpage and displayed in front of the Northrop Grumman Plant 25 where all the Tomcats were built and where it still rests today.

Dario Leone for TheAviationist.com

Image credit: U.S. Navy

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  • Tomcat and Raptors

    F14’s were final assemnled and flight tested at Navy Plant 6 in Calverton NY not Bethpage.
    Best ACFT program I ever worked on.

    • Dario Leone

      Thank you very much for the clarification! :-)

  • fighter_interceptor_318

    F-14D Super Tomcat is the best and most beautiful US Navy fighter!

  • Justin

    That first turn looked pretty sharp, wings swept and everything.

  • ask2wice

    Given a choice between the F-14A and the F-15, where I’d have to choose only one aircraft to patrol the world and take on all adversaries, all aircraft (bombers as well as fighters), I’d have done exactly what the Shah did and chosen the F-14 Tomcat. Phoenix and the RIO made it a much more versatile, overall superior platform to the F-15. PLATFORM (weapon system), not single-mission pretty much WVR dogfighter (air superiority fighter).

    F-14 was all-around the best choice of aircraft to patrol the world. And after all, isn’t that what the U.S. Navy does? Patrol the world? That’s why the F-14, overall taken as a package of capabilities, was better.

  • ask2wice

    Computing power, AI and advanced drone technology will probably make the manned fighter obsolete by 2050. Maybe sooner. The human factor is the least reliable, most fragile, highest maintenance “system” on board a high-speed airborne weapons delivery platform. F-14 will go down as one of the most memorable aircraft in all of aviation history. &Not only because Hollywood liked it! Mostly, because the world of bad guys feared it.

  • Farzam Mir