Iranian F-14 Tomcat fighter jets get a modern “splinter” color scheme

The photo in this post depicts the first Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force F-14AM (“Modernized”) landing at Tehran Mehrabad International Airport in April 2012.

Iran still operates some Tomcats that are being modernized to extend their operative life. Domestic upgrades include avionics, weapons (R-73E, AIM-54A+ “Fakkur”, AIM-54A, AIM-7E and AIM-9J are among the air to air missiles adapted to the aircraft’s fire control system) and color scheme: indeed the plane was give a  three-tone Asian Minor II camouflage pattern resembling the one adopted by Russian 4th and 5th generation fighter planes and U.S. Aggressors.

Image credit: Babak Taghvaee


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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.


          • Nixon was the pres when these were first sold to Iran. Jimmy may be responsible for leaving the shah to his devices but not for selling f-14’s. But why Tomcats? Wasn’t there a ground based fighter that could have been better suited? I imagine the Shah got the hottest new bird in our inventory.I’d like to see a dogfight scenario between Tomcats & Lightning’s.

            • The Shah DID see a flyoff between the F-15 and F-14. F-15 went first, and while it was doing its’ flight display the Grumman test pilot started his engines in the run-up area to burn off fuel so that when it came time for him to fly the under-powered F-14 it was carrying a lighter fuel load and he flew a SPECTACULAR demonstration. Pretty smart!

              Besides – the Shah probably had already made up his mind in favor of the F-14 over F-15 even before the demo because he wanted Phoenix to be able to chase off high-flying, often-intruding Soviet MIG-25s. As it turned out, one sniff of the F-14’s AWG-9 radar and the MIGs would turn North and quickly run away! The Soviets dared not lose one of their aircraft over Iranian airspace. Having F-14 on guard sent that message to them LOUD AND CLEAR. The overflights stopped!

            • Well the US sold them F-4s as well for the air to air and air to ground mission. These were used in some small middle east conflicts of the 70’s when Iran was considered an friendly regional power.

    • To be fair, pretty much every enemy of the US over the last 15 years has been a country or person that was aided by the US about 20 years before that.

    • We make a lot of enemies, often deservedly so. It ain’t easy not to when you appoint yourself “World Police.”

    • The premise is wrong… Iran has no reason of being an enemy of US unless US pokes them every now and then… Iran is a country several thousands of kilometers away and it has not attacked any country in centuries , let alone the US…

  1. So Iran keeps the F-14 flying while the U.S. Navy goes and does the stupid thing and replaces it with the far less capable (to an upgraded F-14) F/A-18E/F? Which they now want to modernize … oh, if they can’t afford to purchase F-35s, that single-engine mistake that should never have been forced down the Navy’s probably hoarse throat (or perhaps agreed to by weak-kneed Pentagon paper-pushing Admirals)? Simply AMAZING!!!

    The USN should have taken the F-14, re-engined with 2-30,000 lb thrust [class] super cruise engines, added canards, fly-by-wire, AESA, IRST, cantilevered vertical stabs (aka; Silent eagle), a stealth weapons pod attached to the belly, added fuel tanks down the mid upper-center line … plus modernized ECM … and what they would have had was a world-class fighter-bomber/interceptor WITH LEGS that could have attacked any point on the globe (just about) while the carrier stayed far out to sea and out of ever-increasing zones of danger! And it would have probably performed better and cost less than the “jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none” semi-stealth F-35 – an aircraft that does NOT belong on a carrier! You’d have thought after the F-111 debacle that Congress would have learned something. Never …

    • You have to wonder how the entire Tomcat program would have panned out if it were more of an export success, if it got better funding throughout its life, if the Marines used it, and especially if its air to ground capability were put to use from the outset.

      Still my favorite jet and glad that at least it went out with a loud impressive bang Rushed psuedo develoopment as a strike fighter and ended up being more capable than the Strike Eagle.

    • The problem with the F-14 is that they just ran out of airframe hours. Every jet has a finite life and the F-14 hit that number of flight hours. (I know, everybody is going to say, “But the B-52 is lasting 50 years plus.” But the B-52 isn’t out going Mach 2 and pulling 9g.)

      The last F-14 was delivered in 1992. That was a mistake, production should’ve continued.

      • They kept producing and updating the F-15, which first flew at about the same time (aprox. ’69/’70). They should have done the same with the F-14. My thought being – let these new drones (which they should have known were coming) go in to take out enemy air defenses, then let the F-14s come in from a distance to either launch standoff weapons or barrel on in to enemy airspace supported by drones, Prowler or Growler, and internal ECM support systems. A/C Carrier stays far away and safe – enemy gets a heck of a spanking by an aircraft, the F-14, which has a large payload capacity and could fight it’s way in and out!

        … and this could have been done at far less the cost of producing Navy F-35s or the totally redesigned F/A-18 E/F. F-35 being way too expensive an aircraft – way too vulnerable for carrier operations given it’s single-engine configuration – and F/A-18E/F being inferior to what could have been a new and better Tomcat. Guess Grumman couldn’t play politics as well as its’ competitors. Or Dick Cheney just didn’t like them!

        On a little bit of a different note – – – With drone technology on the way in, the USN needs to rethink aircraft procurement and carrier aircraft fit-out. Now that the F-14 is gone, buy fewer F-35s and have the Carrier Air Group consist of drones, F/A-18 E/F, Growler and a fewer F-35s. This would enable drone/F-35 deep penetration for high-value targets (air defenses) at the beginning of an air campaign. Of course once air superiority is established, there is much less of a need for stealth capability and the F-18s could then go in and pound away with precision attack weapons. And the COST SAVINGS of having fewer F-35s would be tremendous!

        By the way – with drones you could fit more aircraft on a carrier, and maybe then there would be less of a need for maintaining 11 of those costly, vulnerable, too-big-to-lose (or like banks~ too-big-to-fail) behemoths! Soon one carrier may be able to do the work of two given drone technology and precision strike weapons – many of which can be fired from other platforms. And they could be standoff weapons! Lots of little guys out there have very dangerous diesel-electric submarines that pose a great danger to the CVN and its’ Task Force.

        Oh if only the Navy could think/have its way and the defense establishment could be reigned in from all of these way-too-expensive programs. Probably won’t ever happen – unless and until the U.S. goes BANKRUPT!

        • The only problem with that scenario is that the Russian’s advanced anti-ship missiles like Yakhont may have made carriers obsolete. The Navy admits there is no defense against Yakhont as it has a range of almost two hundred miles travels at mach 2.5 and doesn’t miss. It’s like an Excocet on steroids;
          We have nothing even close in our arsenal of anti-ship weapons.

          • My only question here is: Is this just another “great premise” that the Russians trot out(like all those bad-ass, vectored thrust, super-maneuverable, airshow jets they have) that never really makes it to front-line service because of prohibitive cost and/or no export customers to fund them?

            • The Cobra maneuver is really cool until an F-15 or F-16 gives them an AMRAAM where the sun doesn’t shine (like in Bosnia).

          • I always like when there is a anti carrier missile everyone says there is no need for carriers. Well a $75K AIM-9X can shoot down drones and fighters, does that make them obsolete?

            And if it wasn’t for carriers the opening stages of war in Afghanistan would have been a year away, vice a month.

        • Most Tomcats were built before 1985, that was a long time ago. The plane is just old, and VG is obsolete. VG has not been used in a fighter design since the early 1970’s; it is obsolete as far as fighter aerodynamics are concerned. The plane has a giant RCS thanks to its large intakes and visible engine fan blades. The F-14 needed to be retired, but its replacement (F/A-18E) is a joke. What the navy needs is a modern twin engine LO fighter, not outdated F-14s, F-18s, or the underwhelming F-35C. Maybe a naval version of the F-22 Raptor with uprated engines would have worked. But to keep insisting that a plane designed in the late 1960’s would still be viable in today’s modern battlefield is just ridiculous.

        • They’re still putting out new Strike Eagles. The F-16 is still in production but Lockheed (formerly Gen. Dynamics) won’t sell them to us. The F-22/F-35 lobby is very strong.

      • Also, the B52 has had dozens of mods/fixes/updates to allow it to keep on truckin’… Besides… it’s PAID FOR ;)

      • The F-14Ds were still fairly new when they were moth-balled. The program was canceled to save money or at least that is the excuse given by Cheney when he was Secretary of Defense.

        • A lot of those “Ds(the bulk of them to be precise)” were “remans” to begin with so they already had hours before they became “Ds.”

      • True. The Iranian Toms don’t have any sea-air corrosion issues to deal with either! Another jet that was waaaayyy ahead of it’s time(aka engines)!

    • I believe all or most of those upgrades were accomplished by the Russians as the Iranians could not afford SU-27/30 aircraft. So they made a deal with the Russians to upgrade.
      With the exception of the engines (2-33,000 lb/thrust instead of 30,000 you recommended) all the avionics and weapons have been brought up to world class standards. The F-14 airframe is an exceptional platform and will give many more years of service, to Iran unfortunately.

      The Luftwaffe did the same deal with Russia on all those MIG-29s that were left in E.Germany after the Soviet Union imploded. All new avionics except the new stuff was German/NATO spec as were weapons and avionics replacing the old Russian gear.
      The US was really pissed about that one as they had all but signed the deal with Germany/NATO for a new load of F-16s to replace their aging and outdated F105s.
      Germany’s contribution to the 78 day Kosovo fiasco was that their MIGs were downed on a number of occasions. I wonder how many may have been friendly fire?

      • You don’t know what you talking about. There were no Russians involved in keeping these birds flying! It was all Iranian technicians,

    • But having to invest 23 hours of maintenance to fly 1 hour, just didn’t make sense. The F-14 was good, but it’s time was up.

      What Boeing should have done was put the F-14D’s GE F110 engines into a bigger F/A-18. Whoa!

      • yeah, but F22s need like 30 hours maintenance per flight hour and are a new design… F35s were supposed to have their engines changed in 2 hours, but in fact the whole thing takes up to 2 days. Complex jets always end up taking a lot of time to maintain… but a bigger F/A18 with F110 engines could have been a awesome plane… mostly because it would’ve been a new fighter and, hopefully, lack some of the flaws of F/A18, wich are many..

    • Wow.

      “…Navy goes and does the stupid thing and replaces it..”?

      Guess you missed out on the THIRTY YEARS of carrier operations, in a salt water environment that the USN conducted with them.

      You obviously DO NOT know about aeronautical engineering.

      The Super Tomcat WAS offered, but LOST to the Super Hornet.

      Do keep up.

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