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Gordon Shumway

The F-14 Tomcat, yeah, yeah, lots of love and topics on her in the past

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Killing time on Youtube today and I saw what was said to be the last demonstration flight of an F-14D at an air show before she was retired. A beautiful demo. I've been very fortunate to see F-14's A and D models fly air show demos going back to the  late 1970's. An incredible bird, sexy gen 4 fighter jet and  a fun air show performer. Of course the 1986 movie Top Gun put the F-14 on the public pedestal and made her an air show  Queen until retired.

 

As a young teen BITD, I wrote to all the Gen 4 manufactures when Canada was looking for its NEW FIGHTER ACQUISITION. F-14, F-15, F-16, F/A-18 and Tornado all manufactures sent me cool media kits. Being about 12-13 years old it was WAY FREAKING COOL!!! Anyways I have read many people say F-14 was not a  maneuverable bird, but every air show I saw  her demo at   she freaking looked   like she could turn and burn with the rest of them. I recall Grumman's media kit say she was spec'd at +9 G and -3G, like her peers. The video I saw today  still impressed me and F-14 has  been retired for what 13-14 years now.

 

 I know she was a great missile truck but really why do some say she could not dog fight.

 

Any feedback  pro or con on this will be appreciated.

 

I know many posters here LOVE THE TOMCAT! I love all Gen 4 jets and the Tomcat is/was a sexy gal.:smiley-transport006:

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If I remember reading correctly, the F-14 was limited in NATOPS to a max of +6G to avoid stressing the airframe.  That combined with its weight is probably why it got the idea of being unmaneuverable.  The restrictions put on it by the TF30s certainly didn't help.

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TF-30's were not the best match to the Tom but pretty well all Grumman had available  with A models. The  GE F110 were what I figure like a whole new thing in B, B+ and D models. I'm figuring with  total performance acceleration, speed and  maneuverability the F110 changed the Tomcat  much for the better. My memory of her air show demos were really more spectacular when  I started to see D models doing  the air  show circuit.

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6 hours ago, Andrew D. the Jolly Rogers guy said:

Maneuverability is relative. She was a huge improvement over the Phantom, but outclassed by the subsequent F-16/18 etc. 

Yes, thanks.

 

The Tomcat was more of a systems jet and not just a fighter jet. The Phoenix system and its then very advanced radar was her ace in the hole especially for BVR combat to protect the CVN and task force. But curious how with  good crews did she do in general ACM. Sure the F-16, F-18 and of course F-15 were all notably capable dog fighters but were Tomcats capable  in ACM training to well sort of hold their own? Having two sets of eyes must have helped once the merge  happened. I  ask all this as I guess the Youtube video  with the last F-14D demo just looked great and has me  thinking about this stuff. I find it hard to  believe it's been what, over 13 years since F-14 were generally retired.

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Flying against the A model was like beating up the fat kid on the block.  One of the people I worked with used to talk about his first dissimilar BFM ride against the Kittykat.  It was a high aspect fight and during the initial turn at the merge the F-14 went into a flat spin, and the crew ejected.  The B and D models were noticeably better in that environment due to the new engines.

 

Regards,

Murph

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40 minutes ago, Murph said:

Flying against the A model was like beating up the fat kid on the block.

 

 ...It was a high aspect fight and during the initial turn at the merge the F-14 went into a flat spin, and the crew ejected.  The B and D models were noticeably better in that environment due to the new engines.

 

It still sounds unbelievable that most of the Tomcats were bound to suffer from such a bad power plant for the whole career. 

 

I personally like this aircraft, always liked, but has there been another type in recent times that has had such an ill fitting and/or restrictively limited engine? Or how their users really took it?

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1 hour ago, janman said:

 

It still sounds unbelievable that most of the Tomcats were bound to suffer from such a bad power plant for the whole career. 

 

I personally like this aircraft, always liked, but has there been another type in recent times that has had such an ill fitting and/or restrictively limited engine? Or how their users really took it?

The TF30 had some serious issues early in it's career with mechanical failures, these eventually were resolved..   The other main issue were compressor stalls.  In the F-14, these were never resolved (except by placing restrictions (AOA and thrust management) on how the pilots flew the aircraft.

 

In some ways, that's not really the fault of the motor, it had a lot to do with the design of the intakes. Bottom line was that this motor wasn't a good choice for a fighter.   It served the A-7 and F-111 pretty well once early issues were overcome.

 

IMO - what really did in the F-14 (all variants in) was it's horrible maintenance record.  Not sure the Navy had anything else that had such poor reliability rates.   Even if the aircraft was flying, there was a good chance that critical systems, such as the radar were down.  Maintenance hours vrs flight hours were astronomical.   

 

All this is funny because as a kid growing up, the F-14 was portrayed as a true "uber-fighter" which could out-fly and out-shoot anything else on the planet.   I still remember the screams of the fanboys when the F-15 got the majority of the kills in Desert Storm, while the F-14 was relegated to second string work.    They were convinced it was a Air Force conspiracy because the boys in blue didn't want the world to see how superior the Tom was.

 

 

 

 

Edited by 11bee

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The movie Top Gun certainly contributed to the thought that the F-14 was invincible and the best fighter in the inventory.   It did a 4G inverted dive with a MiG-28, so it had to be good. 

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Not to come off as an expert, which I most certainly am not, but I remember reading what I thought was a convincing, good an article by a former f-14 pilot. He stated the it was a big misconception that the f-14, even the A model with the tf30s, was a lead sled. He said it depended a lot on whether the phoenix palletes were fitted or not; if they were it deprived the airframe of a significant amount of lift, and turn and climb rates suffered as a consequence. He also reckoned that whilst all 3 models required more 'piloting', the B and D models could more than handle themselves against any of the other teen series fighters in a knife fight. In the end, it was the atrocious reliability of the airframe that brought on a relatively early retirement. My understanding is that the radar/avionics of the D model had more acceptable maintenance/failure rates, however the airframe itself was still tricky and complex? Perhaps others can verify or dispute this?

I do also remember seeing a EM curve for a bunch of teen fighters, (not sure how accurate it was) but I was shocked that at certain speeds, particularly lower energies, the f14 held the edge over the f15 and f16? Again, not sure how accurate this was but that 'pancake' between the engines I am pretty sure added very significant amounts of lift. With the f110 engine, and and extra pair of eyes, and skillful use of the wing sweep mechanism to fool an opponent as to the f14s energy state, I dont think the turkey was a seal waiting to be clubbed if the fight got close...

I'll try to post a link to the article I mentioned

Edited by dryguy
spelling error

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Excellent Read, 11bee.

 

Since the vast majority of us have no experience to such a Navy life, it's a blast to read it and take it all in.

 

During Vancouver's Expo 86 on one of the days myself and family visited, was  a day that the USS Ranger was in port in English Bay as well. What a sight it was to see a large aircraft  carrier in real life and not just on t.v or in movies.

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4 hours ago, dryguy said:

Not to come off as an expert, which I most certainly am not, but I remember reading what I thought was a convincing, good an article by a former f-14 pilot. He stated the it was a big misconception that the f-14, even the A model with the tf30s, was a lead sled. He said it depended a lot on whether the phoenix palletes were fitted or not; if they were it deprived the airframe of a significant amount of lift, and turn and climb rates suffered as a consequence. He also reckoned that whilst all 3 models required more 'piloting', the B and D models could more than handle themselves against any of the other teen series fighters in a knife fight. In the end, it was the atrocious reliability of the airframe that brought on a relatively early retirement. My understanding is that the radar/avionics of the D model had more acceptable maintenance/failure rates, however the airframe itself was still tricky and complex? Perhaps others can verify or dispute this?

I do also remember seeing a EM curve for a bunch of teen fighters, (not sure how accurate it was) but I was shocked that at certain speeds, particularly lower energies, the f14 held the edge over the f15 and f16? Again, not sure how accurate this was but that 'pancake' between the engines I am pretty sure added very significant amounts of lift. With the f110 engine, and and extra pair of eyes, and skillful use of the wing sweep mechanism to fool an opponent as to the f14s energy state, I dont think the turkey was a seal waiting to be clubbed if the fight got close...

I'll try to post a link to the article I mentioned

 

EM charts if coming from a - or natops kinda source are bound to be accurate but then again most of those charts assume certain criterias, like std atmosphere, weapon loadout / stores config and fuel capacity. long story short 1v1 dact is one thing, an actual operational encounter might be another thing. evenso it did held it's own against the libyan fitters and floggers in a close in situation twice. as for the 2nd engagement with floggers was it the pilots who really forgot to turn the seeker volume knob up or the heater was a nogo i am not sure, but in real life there are always many more parameters than EM charts.

Edited by murad

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On 4/11/2017 at 7:55 AM, nspreitler said:

The movie Top Gun certainly contributed to the thought that the F-14 was invincible and the best fighter in the inventory.   It did a 4G inverted dive with a MiG-28, so it had to be good. 

 

Don't forget the Zero kills

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On 4/11/2017 at 5:09 AM, janman said:

 

It still sounds unbelievable that most of the Tomcats were bound to suffer from such a bad power plant for the whole career. 

 

I personally like this aircraft, always liked, but has there been another type in recent times that has had such an ill fitting and/or restrictively limited engine? Or how their users really took it?


It wasn't meant to be saddled with the TF-30 at all. 

The TF30's were supposed only power the first 85 or something like that F-14's, then they were supposed to switch over to the F401 "F-14B" and the A's were supposed to retrofitted with F401's and be rebuilt as B's. The F401 had something like 28,000lbs of thrust so it would have been the ideal "real" motor for the F-14. However the F401 proved to be troublesome and didn't meet the Navy's expectations so the F-14B was killed in 1973 and wasn't revived for nearly a decade when they started testing the F110's that would eventually go into the A+/B's and D's. 

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2 hours ago, Jonathan_Lotton said:


It wasn't meant to be saddled with the TF-30 at all. 

The TF30's were supposed only power the first 85 or something like that F-14's, then they were supposed to switch over to the F401 "F-14B" and the A's were supposed to retrofitted with F401's

 

Yeah, I was aware of that. Still, the TF-30 was what it got - apart from handful of B and D models. 

 

Now, the "horrible maintenance record" was something I wasn't that well educated of. I know it was a complicated machine. I guess I've got to read those stories posted above.

 

I can assure you not every Tomcat fanboy fell in love with this plane after seeing Top Gun. When I made my first plastic kit - incidentally an F-14 - around mid 80's I hadn't seen the flick yet. When I finally saw the film in the late 80's, I already was a fan. And Top Gun, it felt quite shitty film even back then. Jets are always cool but even as kid I realized the childishness of the movie. 

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The F-14 is a 1969 design that served until 2006..even with the D it was still a 1969 design.  Manpower was cheap and plentiful back then so man hours weren't as big of a concern as they are now. The emphasis on ease of maintenance and lower MMH's per flight hour was a concern in the design of follow up aircraft like the Hornet because things were becoming more expensive. 

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Tomcats were maintenance hogs, I recall hopefully correctly that its in service ready rate averaged about 60-65%. F-18's are what 90+%. But Tomcats were very cool and IMO great planes. Top Gun was a "Hollywood" movie and full of Hollywood BULL FLOP but  for me it's enjoyable and with cool flying scenes. It came at a time  when  people were  being able to make home surround set ups too and it was a fun demo movie. Lets not forget though the death of the great pilot and air show performer  Art Scholl during the filming of the movie.

 

Go to Youtube and you will find the   entertaining and for aviation buffs informative and   great doc series  "Great Planes" and its  cousin "Planes of Fame". You will find the one on the F-14 among many others.

Edited by Gordon Shumway

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Well to be fair the F-14, like the F-15, was supposed to be replaced in the 90's by the (N)ATF.  For all intents and purposes in the last 10 years of it's life it was basically a fast, sexy A-6. 

****Please don't attack me..I love the Tomcat, just telling it like it is*****

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One of my favorites of all time. F-14 and F-16 (Ohhh what a classic!). LOL at the mention of "Top Gun" 🙂 At least they had a good soundtrack. I remember blasting it so loud my speakers fell off my studio monitor stands. It was insane lol The last time that happened was when I was in medical school learning dental

Edited by EricLobster

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I will watch Top Gun any time I stumble upon it. Childish as a movie for the most but the flying scenes enthrall me every time.  Same as Le Mans with Steve McQueen. Haven't seen The Final Countdown since the Eighties, I never find it on TV. I guess I should buy the DVD.

 

I was sad to see the Cat retired but such is life.  I'm sure there were many who mourned the passing of the Mustang, too. Too bad we'll never see a Tomcat on the Warbird circuit.

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10 hours ago, TaiidanTomcat said:

 

Don't forget the Zero kills

That was too impressive, they were in position for a Zero to shoot at them.  

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On 4/11/2017 at 8:42 AM, 11bee said:

 

 

All this is funny because as a kid growing up, the F-14 was portrayed as a true "uber-fighter" which could out-fly and out-shoot anything else on the planet.   I still remember the screams of the fanboys when the F-15 got the majority of the kills in Desert Storm, while the F-14 was relegated to second string work.    They were convinced it was a Air Force conspiracy because the boys in blue didn't want the world to see how superior the Tom was.

 

 

 

 

I will never say the F-14 is a better dogfighter than the F-15, because they were designed for different purposes. However, the F-14 played a very important part in all those F-15 kills. As described by an Eagle pilot, they all loved the F-14. As it turned out, the Iraqis were all too familiar with the Tomcats potential, so when they were lit up by the AWG-9, they turned tail and ran....right into the F-15 kill box. The pilot described it as shooting fish in a barrel. 

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Out of curiosity I just watched the Tomcat scenes from the film "The Final Countdown". Some very nice stuff there, I have to tell you! The HD material truly reveals the excellent cinematography of the carrier and aerial scenes. Really worth checking. I really knew nothing about the movie until now, but at least according to a Wikipedia article those scenes really are the only thing worth watching on this film. The story synopsis pretty much confirms it. 

 

It's clear that the Tomcat belongs to another time. I mean it was conceived in a time when economies were thought to grow forever and with an increasing speed and the defense budgets were almost unlimited, or at least you could obtain much more hardware for your money. Now that our own AF has its fighter procurement program nearing the trial phase, it's interesting to notice how important the actual costs of flying and servicing a fighter have become since the Hornet procurement in the mid 90's. Back in those days it was the purchase price everyone was talking about. In every media.

Edited by janman

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A couple of thoughts - the later versions of the TF30 were actually pretty good, and in fact at altitude I understand it was actually better than the F110. Also the F110 was not without it's own problems. A/B burn through was a real thing, and crews were lost because of it.

 

A good maintenance department could rack up impressive availability numbers given enough parts. However to do that the maintainers had to work like dogs. The learning curve was steep. Having worked on both, there is no doubt in my mind which bird was easier to work on. McAir got a lot right with the Hornet, while Grumman stubbornly hung on to everything that made the Tomcat hard to work in in the Tomcat21 proposals. The Delta was somewhat less maintainable than the older Tomcats, at least from an Avionics tech POV. Lack of an onboard APU really sucked. Trying to get cooling air on the flight deck was nearly impossible. Burning up boxes during troubleshooting was a real danger.

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