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+ Switch between cockpit and third person view
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F-14 Tomcat – a brief history of the top gun fighter warplane
The first American fighter to incorporate the lessons learned in the skies over Vietnam, the F-14 was meant to be a long-range interceptor capable of interdicting strikes against American carrier groups as well as an agile air superiority fighter. To accomplish these missions, the aircraft was designed to fire the long-range AIM-54 Phoenix missile, but also carried shorter range air-to-air missiles such as the AIM-9 Sidewinder and AIM-7 Sparrow. In addition, it was fitted with the M61 Vulcan gun.
Initially powered by two Pratt & Whitney TF30 engines, the aircraft was intended to receive the F100 shortly after production began. This upgrade did not occur and it was not until 1987, that the F-14’s engines were significantly improved. A key element of the aircraft’s design was its variable geometry wings. Able to move between 20° and 68° in flight, they were controlled by the F-14’s air data computer. Typically, they were swept forward to allow the aircraft to turn tightly in a dogfight and swept back during high-speed intercepts.
F-14 Tomcat – Operational History:
The F-14 first saw combat over the Gulf of Sidra on August 19, 1981. Engaged by two Libyan Su-22s, F-14s from VF-41 downed both aircraft. Seven years later, two F-14s from VF-32 shot down two Libyan MiG-23s over the same waters. Though intended as an air superiority fighter, the F-14 saw its first extended combat use as a photo reconnaissance aircraft.
With the retirement of dedicated reconnaissance aircraft, such as the RA-5C Vigilante, the F-14 was selected to fill the void. Equipped with a Tactical Airborne Reconnaissance Pod System (TARPS) controlled by the aircraft’s radar intercept officer, the F-14 began flying reconnaissance missions over Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley in the early 1980s. Developing high-speed, medium altitude tactics for the mission, F-14 air crews proved highly adept in the reconnaissance role.
In 1991, the F-14 returned to its traditional mission as part of Operation Desert Storm. Initially, the Tomcat was limited to combat air patrols and escorting strike aircraft as overland air superiority had been assigned to Air Force F-15s. It was during this conflict that the only F-14 lost to enemy action was downed when one was struck by an SA-2 surface-to-air missile. While the pilot was rescued, the RIO was taken prisoner by the Iraqis. Operation Desert Storm saw the F-14 achieve its final air-to-air kill when one shot down a Mi-8 helicopter with an AIM-9 Sidewinder.
Following Desert Storm, the F-14 saw action during the 1995 and 1999 NATO operations over the former Yugoslavia. Sandwiched between these was participation in the Operation Desert Fox in Iraq (1998). In the wake of 9/11, the F-14 led several of the first strikes into Afghanistan in the opening hours of Operation Enduring Freedom. It subsequently saw service over Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.