Tag Archives: Grumman F-14 Tomcat

Rare video shows an F-14 Tomcat as it appeared through the onboard Television Camera Set

Watch this rare footage featuring some interesting images taken from aboard an F-14 Tomcat by using the TCS (Television Camera Set).

Filmed by Dave “Bio” Baranek, author of the book Topgun Days: Dogfighting, Cheating Death and Hollywood Glory as One of America’s Best Fighter Jocks, and a twenty-year experienced Tomcat Radar Intercept Officer (RIO), from onboard his F-14 making use of the television camera set (TCS) mounted in the chin pod, this clip shows 2,5 minutes of video of Tomcats flying with US Navy Fighter Squadron 2 (VF-2) Bounty Hunters around 1989.

As explained by Bio himself, the story behind this video is quite interesting: “I have to say that the opening segment (head-on pass) was a boring ‘1v1’ during deployment, so the comm is kind of sloppy, because we were basically fooling around. But when we got back to the ready room and looked at the video, I thought, ‘That is a keeper!'”

The TCS was a camera that could be slaved to the radar antenna providing a gray-scale visual image to the aircrew. Even if it had a fairly limited field of view and was heavily affected by atmospheric haze, the TCS was one of the F-14’s most interesting system. Being integrated into the weapons system in fact, it was useful in many scenarios: although the television camera set was most useful at high altitude where the air is clear, it delivered to the Tomcat aircrew a unique first sight-first shot capability given the fact that the aircrew could visually identify (VID) hostile aircraft at a greater distance than using eyeballs alone.

Other interesting segments of the video show four Tomcats sweeping their wings, and a cool F-14 night catapult shot from USS Ranger using maximum afterburner.

The story of an F-14 Tomcat RIO who became prisoner of war during the First Gulf War

The dramatic story of a US Navy Tomcat RIO, POW during Operation Desert Storm.

As we have recently explained, in the early morning of Jan. 21, 1991, the F-14B (BuNo 161430, at the time designated F-14A Plus) from the VF-103 “Sluggers,” callsign “Slate 46”,  flown by Lt. Devon Jones and RIO Lt. Lawrence Slade, was hit by an Iraqi SA-2 Surface to Air Missile.

The crew was forced to eject due to the violent flat spin which followed the SAM explosion.

During the descent, the two men saw each other for the last time before entering the clouds and once they put their boots on the ground their fate was quite different.

In fact, while Lt. Jones was saved with a spectacular Combat SAR mission, Lt. Slade tried to go as far as he could from the Tomcat crash site, walking for about 2 ½ hours in the desert using his radio every hour without receiving any reply.

Then, while Slade tried to hide himself near a little knoll, the Iraqis found him.

“At about 1030, a white Datsun pickup truck came around the knoll,” Slade says in the book Gulf Air War Debrief.

“It was probably bad luck because I don’t think they were looking for me; they were just driving by. Two men stopped and got out. One had a 12-gauge shot gun, the other, an AK-47. […] They approached me, but it never crossed my mind to pull out my pistol. I was obviously had. They made me strip off all my gear.”

The two men were very polite and after they put Slade between them in the pickup, took him in their tent where they fed him.

Then, after the lunch, they put him again in the pickup and they asked him if he wanted to go to either Saudi Arabia or Baghdad. Of course, he told them Saudi Arabia, choosing the most northern town he could recall. Slade knew that if the trip took three hours, it would have been Baghdad; eight, Saudi Arabia. Sure enough, 3 ½ hours later they pulled into an army camp, and he knew it wasn’t Saudi Arabia. For the rest of the day Slade was shuttled to six different camps, blindfolded and handcuffed. Nevertheless he was for sure a subject of interest, since people came out to see him, take pictures of him and poke at his gear. They’d pick on him, kick him, and if they spoke English they’d say things like “You kill our children.”

Slade spent the following three days in Baghdad where he experienced very harsh interrogations, then he was transferred in the first of several prisons where he spent his POW (Prisoner Of War) experience.

As he recalls: “In retrospect, I was shot down on the fourth day of the war and they had already had a few prisoners: a couple of Tornado crews, an A-6 crew and a Marine OV-10 crew. ”

Lieutenant Slade and his fellow POWs changed different prisons in Baghdad where they also experienced several allied bombs raids, the most intense of which was the one that took place on Feb. 23, when 2,000-lb bombs almost completely destroyed their jail.

But for sure the most impressive experience faced by Slade were the interrogations by Iraqi jailers. He had a total of six interrogations, some of what they called soft-sell, where they just asked him questions. Then there were the hard-sells, where they pounded on him. For the most part, they didn’t use any classic torture methods. They just beat him up, tied his hands behind his back and double-blindfolded him to the point where he couldn’t even blink.

They beat allied prisoners even when they answered their questions. Slade, as well as the other POWs answered to the questions just to make beatings stop “even though the answers were complete garbage. Some I didn’t know the answer to, and I’d tell them, then I’d make up something. I could hear them writing it down. I thought, ‘You idiots!’ […] Some time toward the end of February, they banged me up against the wall and broke my seventh vertebra.”

During these interrogations Slade was blindfolded and never saw his interrogators, probably so that he could not identify them later, or perhaps because the Iraqis understood how terrifying it is to be blind in the hands of  a torturer.

Lt. Slade endured interrogation, torture and starvation in the Iraqi hands for 43 days: even if his six weeks as a POW were not anywhere as long as six years in North Vietnamese prisons, to Lawrence Slade every week must have seemed like a year.

F-14B Slade 2

Image credit: U.S. Navy


Let’s celebrate Top Gun Day with this cool video: F-14 versus Everything

May 13th is Top Gun Day.

This video proves that the F-14 Tomcat was much more than a  capable fleet defender.

Clips taken from the Tomcat HUD and TCS, show that the F-14 could win against some of the best and most agile fighters ever built, such as the F-16, the MiG-21, the MiG-29, the F/A-18, the Mirage 2000, the F-15 and the MiG-23 during DACT (Dissimilar Air Combat Training) and/or real dogfight sessions.

Although we don’t know the Rules of Engagement (ROE) of the mock aerial combat in the footage, this video shows that, despite its size, the Tomcat was an amazingly agile and nasty dogfighter.


Photos of World’s last active service F-14 Tomcat jets overhauled in Iran

The Iranian Air Force is the last operator of the legendary F-14 Tomcat.

The photos in this article were recently released by FARS News Agency.

They show some Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force F-14 Tomcat jets be overhauled at an unspecified location (Tehran Mehrabad International Airport according to some sources).

F-14 IRIAF overhauled 2

Iran still operates some Tomcats that are being modernized to F-14AM (“Modernized”) standard to extend their operative life until 2030. Domestic upgrades include avionics (radar and RWR) and weapons: R-73E, AIM-54A, AIM-7E and AIM-9J are among the air-to-air missiles adapted to the aircraft’s fire control system.

F-14 IRIAF overhauled 3

The Iranian Tomcats can also carry the AIM-54A+ “Fakour-90” missile: a domestically upgraded, partially reverse engineered version of the famous AIM-54 Phoenix long range missile of the U.S. Navy F-14s.

F-14 IRIAF overhauled 4

The IRIAF F-14s are also being given a three-tone Asian Minor II camouflage pattern loosely resembling the “splintered” one adopted by Russian 4th and 5th generation fighter planes and U.S. Aggressors.

F-14 IRIAF overhauled 5

Tehran is believed to operate a fleet of about 60 F-14s even if the number of combat capable aircraft is unknown. According to some rumors, there would be plans to use the Tomcat in the air-to-ground role as well.

F-14 IRIAF overhauled 6

Anyway, in some way or another one Tehran managed to keep the F-14s airworthy, a significant achievement considered the embargo on Iran and the consequent lack of spare parts for the Tomcats.

F-14 IRIAF overhauled 7

F-14 IRIAF overhauled top

Image credit: FARS News agency

H/T to user “ASFTD” on ACIG forum for the heads-up


The F-14 Tomcats that never were vs F/A-18E/F Super Hornet: who would have won?

Several years since it was eventually retired from the U.S. Navy, the Grumman F-14 Tomcat remains one of the most loved planes by aviation enthusiasts.

Any article about this iconic fighter plane, still operating with the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force, its story, capabilities, records and surrounding anecdotes, always become a much debated and commented post on The Aviationist. For this reason, we will continue writing about this legendary plane and its replacement: the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

After the Tomcat retirement, the Rhino (as the F/A-18E/F is nicknamed by its aircrews) has not only quickly become the backbone of every Carrier Air Wing (CVW), but it has also replaced some of the oldest Legacy Hornets on the American flattops. Having fulfilled such a difficult task, the Super Hornet has demonstrated to be one of the best multirole jets available today. But could an advanced version of the F-14 have been even better?

LCDR Joe “Smokin” Ruzicka, who was the Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) who flew the last F-14 Demonstration before the Tomcat’s retirement in 2006, last year released an interesting interview to Foxtrot Alpha’s Tyler Rogoway. Among all the other things, Ruzicka explained that, while the Super Hornet is a great plane, it seems like its strength mainly comes from technology. “In the Tomcat, I think you had to be a better aviator because the technology just wasn’t there. It was up to the aircrew to maximize its performance (or minimize it if you sucked).”

That said, one might wonder whether integrating the same technology in the F-14 would have been possible.

By 1987, Grumman realized that the potential for growth had not yet been reached by the F-14 airframe, and they proposed to the U.S. Navy four advanced versions of the F-14, as told by Tim Callaway in Issue 13 “Grumman F-14 Tomcat” of Aviation Classics magazine.

The F-14D Quickstrike was the first proposal: featuring an enhanced version of the APG-71 radar, this advanced Tomcat version would have carried stand off weapons such as the Harpoon, HARM and SLAM (Standoff Land Attack Missile) missiles.

Requiring only new software and minor modifications to existing F-14Ds, the Quickstrike would have been a cost-effective attack platform but it didn’t meet the Advanced Tactical Fighter specification and the U.S. Navy chose the shorter ranged F/A-18E/F.

The second proposal was the ST21, the Super Tomcat for the 21st Century. The latter would have been a structural upgrade to the existing F-14Ds, that would have introduced a new wing glove design and single piece windscreen, while sensors positioned in front of the under fuselage weapons rails would have supplemented the chin pods. Moreover the ST21 would have also received a new engine the F110-GE-129 of 13,154kg of thrust, which would have provided a supercruise speed of Mach 1.3 featuring also thrust vectoring nozzles for greater maneuverability. These new engines would have supplied to the ST21 a tremendous acceleration alongside with a greatly increased range of the aircraft.

Another modification to the standard F-14D would have been the AST21, the Attack Super Tomcat for the 21st Century.

This advanced Tomcat would have been fitted with additional extra bomb pylons under the engine nacelles, a nuclear weapons capability, a modified radar with a Forward Air Controller (FAC) mode and an Integrated Defensive Avionics Package (IDAP) to improve survivability in the air to ground environment. The last proposal, as Callaway explains, was the ASF-14 Advanced Strike Fighter.

The ASF-14 would have been a totally new aircraft with the F-14 shape and it would have taken advantages of the new materials and new technologies developed for the Advanced Tactical Fighter and Advanced Tactical Attack Aircraft programs.

None of these proposals has been built and we’ll never know if an advanced Tomcat would have been better than the actual Super Hornet, but for sure these two fighters are two different aircraft as explained by Ruzicka, who told to Rogoway that the better way to understand the differences between the F-14 and the F/A-18E/F is using the analogy of a muscle car to a mini-van, “with the Tomcat being the former and the Super Hornet being the latter. The muscle car doesn’t have much to it in the way of fancy technology, just some raw speed and the coolness of a Steve McQueen movie, but it gets the job done. The mini-van on the other hand is a very nice car, complete with DVR’s for the kids, Air Conditioning, power windows, and lots of places to put your sippy cup. It’s a great car—-but it’s still a mini-van.”

Image credit: U.S. Navy