How IRIAF F-14 Tomcats could be (effectively) used in combat against Israeli or U.S. planes or drones

A previous article about the theoretical Israeli strike on Iran with the rendering of an F-15I dropping bombs on Tehran got a lot of attention and sparked debate. Someone criticized it for not being enough realistic, even if I had explained that the image had to be taken as such even if contained one (or more) wrong details. It was not supposed to be accurate that’s why I didn’t ask Al Clark, who designed it, to correct some elements of artist freedom.

In this article, a new Al’s artwork below gives me the opportunity to write something about one of the most famous aircraft in IRIAF inventory: the F-14 Tomcat.

According to “IRIAF 2010“, the book published by Harpia Publishing and written by Tom Cooper, Babak Taghvace and Liam F. Devlin, that I consider one of the most detailed sources about Iran’s Air Force, due to the lack of some spare parts, the fleet of more than 40 Tomcats is roughly divided into “airworthy” and “fully mission capable aircraft”.

The first fly without primary weapon systems and/or no AWG-9 radar; the second can perform QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) and air defense missions.

These aircraft are based at TFB.8 (Tactical Fighter Base 8) Baba’i near Eshahan, in central Iran.

Hence, although IRIAF officials have described the current fleet of F-14s as “completely overhauled” and “improved”, and referred to it a a “new generation of bombers” in the recent past, only a small amount of Tomcats can be used for air defense purposes in spite of the large amount of spare parts that Iran was able to clandestinely collect after the type was retired by the U.S. Navy and the efforts of various domestic companies to produce some specific parts and subsystems.

What is the role the Tomcat could play in a hypothetical war against Israel?

As already explained in the blog post about the possible long range strike on Iran’s nuclear program, IRIAF interceptors, should play “hide and seek” with the enemy forces: they could hide from the incoming packages and try to achieve some kills during the egress phase. They could be effective by simply disturbing the strike packages to let them “feel” the threat and waste some gas.

The Tomcats could somehow be effective against isolated targets, like drones, mainly before or after the first waves of air strikes: even a UAV kill could play a role in the psychological war against Israel.

For sure, radar activation would be reduced to a minimum: during the most intense part of the air campaign their AWG-9 radar would be either jammed (although it was domestically modified or locally upgraded to make it more jamming-resistant) or detected as soon as switched on, with the latter hypothesis implying the risk of interception by enemy fighters.

Obviously, just in case: before the whole thing starts the planes should be dispersed on one of the several Iranian airbases to prevent them from being destroyed on the ground at TFB.8.

Image by Al Clark for The Aviationist

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. Why do you censor my comments on this topic? Are you afraid of different opinions? Particularly what are you afraid of when I write that you don’t have the right to depict and glorify the killing of my family in Iran?

    • Hey Iranian2,
      I think you made a mistake. I have never moderated you so far even if you don’t comply to the basic comment policy on this site that visitors should provide their email address. Are you sure you have left a comment? I’ve checked the last comments and haven’t found any on moderation queue.
      So, untill you don’t offend anyone (but this is valid for everyone) you are more than welcome here even using as a fake email address and a nickname.

      • LOL Do you really think I would use my real name and knowingly endanger myself and my family? SAVAMA, Hezbollahi, islamophobian racists, baathists, NATO militarists… Not even a valid e-mail I would use.

        But I really love to piss on some militarists’ parade who get horny by depicting other people’s misery in a war. What do you think Israeli war planes do in Tehran? Throwing candy? Can you imagine what ONE bomb on a nuclear reactor does to the genome of a whole city? Even using depleted uranium ammunition in Iraq and Afghanistan is genocide! How about that for criticism? No offense though.

        Now explain to me what happened to my comment on “Image: Israeli F-15 strike on Tehran on Day 1 of the war on Iran’s nuclear program” and why you think it is necessary to depict an air strike on civilians in a city with a population of over 10 million people?

        • First, there’s no such comment in the queue, but I wouldn’t care, since you explained the content of it and I can reply now:

          It’s an artwork. You can like it or not.
          It depicts, unfortunately, a likely situation; likely not for artist’s fault. There are simulation games about theoretical wars and about a possible war on Iran. Did you complain for them too?
          I think that focusing on that artwork is a bit simplicistic because, on this blog, we are not discussing on whether it is just or not to attack Iran. We are discussing how an attack would be conducted, if conducted.

        • BTW, if you’r not willing to give away personal information pls consider that WordPress logs your IP address and location (Central Europe) each time you leave a comment. So don’t forget this next time you post on another blog.

  2. Hi
    Iran has Modified Tomcats and put R-27 Russian missile on it (project Toofan). so they have definitely modified it’s radar.
    the same happens to Phoneix, it’s radar should be modified (or changed) to match with the plane’s radar. so you can’t say it’s easily jammed.

    even a few phoenixes fired at a group of bomber make them cancel their mission ’cause they need to do High G maneuvers and can’t do so with high load of Bombs and HARMs.

    and then would come the Revenge of Iran…

    • Hello to you too.

      -Well, the only evidence for this are 3 pictures of R-27s mounted on the shoulder pylons. Since there are no further pictures, and no recorded launches of the missile, I believe it would be safe to assume that only a few tests were carried out whose results were not encouraging, and that trials are no longer continued (pretty much like the AA-converted HAWKs).

      After all, a modification to the radar to fit a missile does not necessarily suggest electronic improvements. It may be different, but not necessarily better (don’t forget the R-27 is a mere SARH missile of Soviet origin). Maybe the radar required no mods at all. Taking into account the fact that the Shah did care to have support infrastructure, but not to develop the Iranian military aerospace industry (which means Iran could only maintain, not really upgrade), and also the fact that IRIAF F-14s have shown no external signs of improvements (same cockpits, same engines, same everything), I don’t think the radar would be modified at all. Look at it in a different way, if you like. The R-27 is an average performing missile (the first ones, at least). The AIM-54A is the IRIAF’s best weapon. Why would they risk permanently losing AIM-54/AWG-9 compatibility in favor of R-27/AWG-9 compatibility? It doesn’t make sense.

      -Unfortunately, the AWG-9 and the AIM-54A are by now probably fairly easy to defeat. The Phoenix was an agile missile from the start, and the mid-course updates meant that the victim got no serious warning until the active radar turned on. Today, from the moment of active guidance initiation until the missile reaching the target, a modern Israeli/US pilot can severely hinder the A-Phoenix’s ability to kill, even in a bomb-laden fighter. Iran hasn’t faced jammers in a long time (Israeli ECM isn’t exactly easy to counter nowadays), the pilots are better trained (and believe me, they will know the AIM-54A inside out down to its last weakness, after all the missile comes from the West), and if shit goes south, they’ll jettison the bombs, turn hard and evade. Not much harm done, since there are going to be dozens of strikes for only some 30 Tomcats (of which few will be armed with Phoenixes, based on the number of such photos surfacing).

      And all of this is IF a lucky F-14 manages to get in range before an AMRAAM is launched at it from 100+km (yes, I know the AIM-54 has onger range,but keep in mind that severe jamming and low altitude penetration attacks can, quite simply put, butcher the Phoenix’s range).

      To sum this up, an Israeli attack has both numerical and technological superiority. The knowledge the US will provide on Iran’s F-14s would certainly help Israel in becoming practically immune to Phoenix attacks. Don’t get me wrong, the F-14 was one mighty plane. But going to war with Israel is going to war with someone who knows half your weapons inside out. That completely eliminates any advantage.

      • Iran has completely replaced F14 AWG radars with new digital radars and produced a copy of aim54 which naturally has a digital radar, unless you had a tour in iran F14 fleet and inspected the new radars up close you can’t claim Israelis or anyone else for that matter can jam them, no jamming means they shoot down intruders from 100 km away or more,maximum 190km or 100 miles.

  3. could this article be more Israel fan? using f14 to shoot down drones?that’s job of f5s and sam systems and last time I checked F14 can hit 6 targets at same time from distance of 100 miles or 190 km, they don’t need to play hide and seek they target and shoot down F15s and F16s well beyond range of those fighters while aim54 used by F14 has proven very reliable, the bvr missile used by F15 and F16 and other western planes is aim120 amraam which has a success rate of only 50%
    let’s dont forget while intruders are dealing with F14s they also have to deal with 25 mig 29 Iran has and it’s sam network since 2010 Iran has been increasingly producing sam systems among them are modernized hawk, Iranian version of bukm51 and sayyad 2 based on american standard missile and sayyad3 and modernized s200
    these have mobile launchers so cant be located and neutralized before attack, the shear number of sam missiles fires at Israeli air planes and air combat with F14s and mig 29s makes mission impossible let’s dont forget while Israelis have to carry bomb to bomb the facilities which means less AA missiles, the only thing Iranian fighters will carry is AA missiles which gives them another edge
    all said one of Iran facilities is under a mountain which makes anything except a nuclear attack ineffective
    the other one is heavily fortified with UHPC ultra high performance concrete and is burried under tons of earth, only bunker buster may have effect here and even then UHPC severly limits their effect for example a bunker buster which can dig in 200 to 300 feet in normal soil can only go down about 30 feet in UHPC
    any Israeli attack on Iran will end in their failure and gives Iran perfect excuse to shower Israel with scud missiles, powe plants, air ports,dimona reactor, all are fair game

  4. Never underestimate the Tomcat. To do so would be a big mistake, no what the US Navy/USAF think. The F-14 (even with TF-30’s) is an incredibly potent fighter/interceptor. Properly flown, it’s the equal of our legacy (teen series)…

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