Tomcat vs Zero: when the F-14 of the “Jolly Rogers” flew to Hollywood

The Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 103 is one of the most famous squadrons in the U.S. Navy. The unit has gained a certain popularity over the year thanks to the famous squadron markings they gained when the Sluggers (as the squadron was nicknamed until then)  became the Jolly Rogers and adopted the most recognizable symbol in Naval Aviation: Ensign Jack Ernie’s skull-and-crossbones on all-black tails.

VFA-103 is actually the third squadron to use the name and symbol of the Jolly Rogers:despite being different units, with no “lineal descent” from one another, both VF-61 (originally VF-17), VF-84, and VFA-103 have shared the same name, insignia and traditions.

When the Jolly Rogers were still equipped with the F-14 Tomcat (they now fly the F/A-18F Super Hornet) the Fighter Squadron (VF) 84, they took part in two movies.

Image credit: U.S. Navy

During the 1995, VF-84 starred in Executive Decision, a movie about the hijacking of a Boeing 747 transporting enough nerve agent to wipe out the entire United States East Coast, intercepted by VF-84’s Tomcats loaded with Sidewinder, Sparrow and Phoenix air to air missiles.

The Jolly Rogers took part to the movie with two Tomcats (BuNo 160391 and 160655). On Oct. 1, 1995, few days after filming the flying sequences, the Jolly Rogers of VF-84 were disbanded.

However, the motion picture that gave the world recognition to the Jolly Rogers, was the 1980’s “The Final Countdown”.

Not only the VF-84, but also the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) which steamed in the Pacific Ocean for the first time, were featured in the movie.

In this film the ship and its Carrier Air Wing (at that time, the Nimitz had the CVW-8 on board) are transported back in time till  Dec. 6 1941,  when they have a chance to face the Japanese Fleet ready to attack Pearl Harbor.

Along with a beautiful RF-8G Crusader belonging to VFP-63 (which is the one and only appearance of this kind of aircraft on the deck of a Nimitz class carrier) “The Final Countdown” features some F-14 of the Jolly Rogers, two of those find themselves in a dogfight against two Japanese Zeros replica.

The scenes of the “close encounter” between the Tomcats and the Zeros are among the highlights of the movie.

You may find the dogfight in the videos below a bit anachronistic, but watching the Tomcat maneuvering in all its “feline grace” against another legendary WWII warbird, is both unusual and cool.

Dario Leone for The Aviationist.com