The F-14 Tomcat represented the dawning of a new age of fighter aircraft. Its technology and capability vastly overpowered traditional military planes and the fighter’s impact remains apparent even today. The F-14A debuted on December 21, 1970 and after several years of modifications it became the foremost carrier-based fighter aircraft in the United States Navy. Though the F-14 had already gained recognition in its own right, the film Top Gun which starred Tom Cruise as an F-14 naval aviator, cemented the plane’s role in popular culture.
One of the Tomcat’s strengths is its ability to accurately deliver ordnance against multiple targets simultaneously. The F-14’s six long-range Phoenix missiles can be automatically directed at separate targets using the onboard weapons control computer system. In addition to the Phoenix missiles, the F-14 can carry Sparrow medium-range missiles and close-up 20 mm cannon and Sidewinder missiles. The F-14 was versatile in the combination of missiles, guns, and bombs it could carry, which gave it the ability to customize its armament to suit a particular mission. The swept wing design of the Tomcat creates its trademark look, but the wings are versatile and can be extended or retracted for optimum performance.
Though originally expected to remain in service until at least 2009, the United States military retired the F-14 from service on September 22, 2006.
During the Shah of Iran’s reign, Grumman sold the country 80 F-14 Tomcats in addition to spare parts and armament for $2 billion. When the Shah was overthrown by Islamic militants, the United States placed an embargo on further sales of F-14s and parts to Iran. However, several of the original F-14 Tomcats sold to the Shah are still flying for the current Iranian Air Force.
Maximum speed: 1,544 mph
Cruise speed: 576 mph
Range: 576 mi
Ceiling: 56,000 feet
Length: 62 feet 7 inches
Wingspan: 64 feet unswept; 38 feet swept
Height: 16 feet
Maximum weight: 74,348 lb
Empty weight: 40,104 lb
Engine(s): Two Pratt and Whitney TF-30-P412A turbofan engines with afterburners
Rate of climb: 45,000 feet per minute
Armament: Combination of missiles, Gatling gun, and bombs
Contractor: Grumman Aerospace
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