Translated by BabelFish
Under many aspects, Grumman F-14 Tomcat is undoubtedly
the best interceptor in the world. The proof of its capacity has
resided, initially, in the impressive line of embarked hunters carried
out by its manufacturer for one time which goes up well before the
second world war. Most known of all these machines left Bethpage
are the F6F Hellcat, the F7F Tigercat and the F9F Panther, first
apparatus with reaction builds by the American firm and of which the
number of victories obtained during the war of Korea, 1950 to 1953,
The potential adversaries of the United States are certainly not obnubilated by the heritage of Tomcat, but the traditions of effectiveness and reliability whose enorgueillit Grumman received a bright confirmation with the F-14A. Two of these planes belonging to Squadron VF-41 of US Navy indeed managed to destroy, above the gulf of Syrte, in August 1981, two Known-22 Sukhoi Libyan. The missiles air air with infra-red homing head that used on this occasion the American apparatuses constitute in fact only one part of the important panoply of armament which Tomcat can carry.
System of fire control system
The first F-14A will on accomplish its initial flight December 21, 1970 since the ground of the manufacturer of Calverton, but it was crushed on the ground a few days later, following a rupture of the hydraulic lines. Steel pipings of the first prototype were replaced by titanium elements, and the second prototype left the ground in its turn on May 24, 1971. F-14 were going to lead its first landings and catapult-launchings since aircraft carrier USS Forrestal in June 1972.
Second variable-geometry aircraft built in series in the Western world, Tomcat is characterized by a kinematics of aerofoil offering the advantage of reducing the problems of stability during the changes of configuration. With a minimal arrow, the apparatus has good performances on takeoff and the landing, an acceptable operating range in subsonic flight and an important autonomy on mission of aerial cover. The maximum arrow, as for it, ensures F-14 of excellent performances in transonic flight and supersonic flight.
The F-14A is one of only, among all the current planes, with being able to fill of the missions of interception at short, average and long distances thanks to a range of varied means whose each component is adapted to a particular mission. Thus, while the AIM-9 Sidewinder is intended for the combat at short distance, the AIM-7 F Sparrow is used with average carried. Hugues AIM-54 Phoenix is without the most powerful question likely to be employed by Tomcat; it is able to achieve goals located at more than 160 km. Lastly, for the whirling combat, the embarked hunter of US Navy is equipped with a gun M61A-1 Vulcan of 20 mm, supplied at a rate of 675 blows.
Without the existence of an effective system of weapon, the most powerful armament would not be used for nothing. This remark is particularly valid for F-14, which was equipped with a system of fire control system Hugues AWG-9, able to detect targets located at more than 185 km. Coming from project F-111B, impelled by General Dynamics and Grumman but ever carried out in the long term, the AWG-9 was installed on Tomcat at the end of the year 1968, at the same time as the dual flow jet engine TF30 and missile AIM-54 Phoenix. The most remarkable element of F-14, the AWG-9 is able to locate flying objectives with low and high altitude, and, when it operates in mode of continuation and sweeping, to seek other potential threats while following 24 targets simultaneously; it can direct on six of them from missiles AIM-54A and two Sidewinder.
The operational tests of the Phoenix missile made it possible to determine a certain number of records. That of the distances intervened the day when a machine of this type was to draw against a target drone simulating a Soviet bomber "Backfire" located at 205 km. The missile traversed 135 km to achieve its goal, which flew at the speed of Mach 1,5. F-14 appeared also able to destroy a cruise missile by releasing a Phoenix against a target evolving/moving to 15 m of altitude at the speed of Mach 0,75 (the shooting was started at a distance of 40 km). The most extraordinary exploit was that during which six missiles were dispatched in 38 seconds against various objectives. Four of them went finally from account touch their target.
Problems of engines
If the integration of the systems of fire control system did not pose, at first sight, of problem, all the aspects of the program of Tomcat did not appear also positive. The engine TF30 which propelled this apparatus was a constant source of troubles for the engineers, and rare were then those which went so far as to regard the combination of this engine and the cell of the new plane as a success. In fact, US Navy had complained about this engine from the very start, by in particular deploring the various breakdowns of turbines with which its crews had been confronted. The efforts made to put an end to this difficult situation led to the realization of new alternatives of the TF30; it does not remain about it less than reliability, the lifespan and the availability of this machine were always more reduced. This situation led US Navy to acquire a version improved of Tomcat equipped with General Electric F110, of which flight tests, in 1981-1982. The experiments carried out with the F101DFE (Derivative Fighter Engine), an engine derived from F110, showed that the performances of Tomcat improved clearly, and this in the various flight envelopes. In 1982, the persons in charge for the American navy authorized the development of this engine, which started to be assembled on Tomcat of series since 1984. Offering a push higher than that of its predecessor, F110 will be installed first of all on the F-14A (More), whose deliveries must begin 1988. The production will relate then to the final version F-14D, which will be equipped with a digitized avionics and an improved radar. The current production schedule expects that the construction of the F-14A to end with the exit of the chains of Calverton of the exemplary 570e of series. After the production of 29 F-14A (More), Grumman will launch out in the assembly of the F-14D, whose US Navy ordered nearly 300 units. The deliveries of this model, which will be produced until 1998, will undoubtedly take place at the beginning of the next decade.
Except the adoption of a new alternative of the dual flow jet engine TF30, the F-14A underwent only few modifications since its service entrance, intervened at the end of 1972 within Squadron VF-124, based with NAS Miramar (California). From the point of view of the crews, one of the most outstanding changes was the installation of Northrop AXX-1, a system of television which makes it possible to identify the potential objectives at distances much more important than before. Each of the two cockpits of Tomcat was equipped with a screen which offers excellent images of targets located out of the visual field of the pilot and the operator radar. Having certain capacities of continuation, the AXX-1 makes it possible to obtain sights very brought closer or in great angle of the located plane.
Tomcat also gained in effectiveness by the use of new and more sophisticated versions missiles than it carried at the beginning. A model improved of the Phoenix, the AIM-54C, entered recently in service; equipped with a avionics digitized and profiting from a higher resistance to the electronic countermeasures, this machine is equipped with a more sensitive rocket of proximity and has a range higher than that of its predecessors. The improvements made to the short-range missile Sidewinder and the missile with average carried Sparrow brought respectively the realization of alternatives AIM-9M and AIM-7M, which have greater chances to achieve their goal. In an immediate future, Tomcat will be equipped with the missile with average carried guided by radar Hugues AIM-120A, more known under the denomination of AMRAAM (Advanced Medium-Arranges Air-to-Air Missile). Having to enter soon in service, the AIM-120A represents, with a higher speed, a more powerful warhead, a highher degree of accuracy and a rocket of improved proximity, a significant progress compared to Sparrow.
Tomcat in service
_ the beginning of career operational of Tomcat French at least of September 1974, time to which plane be take in account by the Squadrons VF-1 and VF-2, embark all two on the aircraft carrier Enterprise (CVN-65). This building hardly returned from an eight month campaign in the Pacific that two formations of the fleet of the Atlantic, Squadrons VF-14 and VF-32, deployed on board the USS John F Kennedy (CV-67), received their first F-14A. Since, 18 units of US Navy were transformed on this apparatus, Tomcat being also affected in Navy Reserve: Squadron VF-301, installed with Miramar, took delivery at the end of 1984 of it, and Squadron VF-302 was equipped with it in 1985. Two formations of drive which do not operate on aircraft carrier, Squadrons VF-101 and VF-124, belonging respectively to the fleet of the Atlantic and that of the Pacific, passed on F-14. At the beginning of 1985, nearly 10 years after the arrival of first Tomcat in unit, will squadrons them equipped with this plane had carried out 42 turns of operations overseas. The hunter developped at the point by Grumman had then replaced in first line various exceeded machines, among which appeared McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom.
Apart from the missions of interception, F-14 ensures, while waiting for service entrance of the specialized version of McDonnell-Douglas Hornet, the RF-18, the main part of the exits of recognition of US Navy. Around fifty of F-14A were thus equipped with the nacelle TARPS (Tactical Air Recognition Pod System), which includes/understands an oblique camera or vertical CAI KS-87B, a panoramic camera Fairchild KA-99 and systems of sweeping to infra-reds Honeywell AAD-5. Representing only one weak increase in the offensive mass of the plane, the TARPS makes it possible to obtain images of very good quality.
The operational service entrance of this device began in 1982, and its use extended to eleven will squadrons, which makes it possible to each carrier air wing to put in line at least three apparatus of recognition assigned to one or two will squadrons. The plans drawn up initially by US Navy counted on the acquisition of 49 F-14 equipped with the TARPS, the operations of transformation were entrusted to the Grumman firm. Recently, however, the persons in charge for the American marine made the decision to modify three additional planes so that Navy Reserve Squadron VF-302 can align apparatuses of recognition.
Only one foreign customer
Although it is able to face threats with short, average and long distances, F-14 was only one success very limited to export, the majority of the prospect customers having preferred to buy hunters of air superiority like the F-15 Eagle. In fact, Grumman recorded one market abroad, which seems well to have arranged the American government, anxious to put as far as possible, but secret of this plane safe from any indiscretion. It acts of Iran of before the Islamic revolution, which ordered 80 Tomcat in 1974-1975 and took them into account between January 1976 and July 1978. Delivered at the same time as 424 missiles air air AIM-54A Phoenix, these apparatuses were in charge of the interception of Mikoyan-Gourevitch Mig-25 Soviet which flew over the Iranian territory regularly. In 1979, when the shah gave up the capacity, the Iranian air force had received only 270 of the Phoenixes which it had acquired. Tomcat equipped four squadrons divided between the bases with Shiraz and Khatami, but the majority of the 75 specimens still in state are nailed on the ground for lack of spare parts. The majority of the air operations carried out by Iranian aviation in the terrible war which opposes in Teheran in Baghdad as from September 1980 return in F-4 Phantom II and the F-5E Tiger II. Tomcat Iranian were generally employed, because of the range of their radar, as a platform of remote detection; they drew only very little from Phoenix missile.