Monday, March 20, 2006

Bye Bye, Tom Cat

In the movie Top Gun, Tom Cruise and the other naval pilots flew the high powered and extremely fast F-14 Tom Cat. But the Top Gun airplane is no more.

On March 10, the F-14 Tomcat fighter faded into naval aviation history. That’s when the pilots of Fighter Squadron VF-31 (the TomCatters) and VF-213 (Black Lions) ended their Iraq deployment, where they flew sorties from the deck of the USS Theodore Roosevelt. The planes flew in formation back to Oceana Naval Base and the crews are being retrained to fly other, less expensive planes.

According to Defense Industry Daily,
The swing-wing F-14 remains a capable aircraft in both air-air and air-ground roles; yet it lacks electronics upgrades for the most modern weapons, and its maintenance burden is several times that of the competing F/A-18 Super Hornet. On average, NNS reports that an F-14 requires nearly 50 maintenance hours for every flight hour, while the Super Hornet requires 5-10 maintenance hours for every flight hour.
Apparently, this move has not been greeted with universal approval. The TomCat is a faster plane with longer range, and according to some, can engage more targets simultaneously.

So, is the F-14 gone from the skies? Well not completely. Again according to Defense Industry Daily, The last Grumman F-14s flying will belong to Iran.
Iran's residual fleet of F-14s and Phoenix missiles racked up an impressive list of kills (Major Jalal Zandi, with 9 kills, is believed to be the most prolific Tomcat ace) and demonstrated the value of an "air dominance intimidator" fighter capability during the 1980-1988 Iran/ Iraq war. The Iranians proved ingenious in evolving an infrastructure to keep their aircraft flying, and the Islamic regime resorted more than once to pulling former IIAF pilots out of prison to fly missions.

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