When VF-84 was first established on 1 July, 1955, at NAS Oceana, they were known as the Vagabonds and the FJ-3 Fury was their mount.
The name Jolly Rogers originated from the Fighting Seventeen of World War II fame.
VF-17 was one of the first Navy fighter squadrons to receive the F-4Us, they wanted a squadron insignia which would live up to the Corsair name
--hence the famous skull-and-crossbones were born.
After the disestablishment of VF-17 in April of 1944, the VF-61 became the new Jolly Rogers.
In 1959, VF-61 was disestablished and the then VF-84 Vagabonds requested to carry on the name and insignia of the Jolly Rogers.
Approval came down in April 1960 and the skull-and-crossbones were soon adorning their F-8U Crusaders.
VF-84 traded their F-8Us for F-4Bs in 1964 and subsequently they had also flown the F-4J and F-4N variants of the venerable Phantom.
The squadron began its transition to the F-14A in early 1976 and after the transition was complete, they embarked on their first major cruise with the new aircraft aboard USS Nitmitz (CVN-68) in December of 1977.
The squadron received the first TARPS pods of the fleet in 1979 and was a pioneer in using the Tomcat as a reconnaissance platform.
The Jolly Rogers also played a prominent role in the 1980 motion picture
'Final Countdown', which propelled the skull-and-crossbones and the
F-14 Tomcat to international stardom.
In December 1990, aircraft carrier USS Roosevelt (CVN-71) was called
upon to join USS Ranger and USS Midway in the Persian Gulf.
Throughout the Gulf War, VF-84 flew combat air patrols for the fleet, escorted the air wing's strike aircraft, and performed TARPS missions
to collect bomb damage assessments.
After the war, the squadron flew 111 more sorties in support of
Operation Provide Comfort before the Roosevelt was finally relieved by
USS Forrestal in June 1991.
The Jolly Rogers have always sported some of the most recognizable squadron markings in the world:
Sinister white skull-and-crossbones on all-black tails, with gold bands
wrapped around the tip of the tail fins, and black bands with gold V's run
down the sides of the forward fuselage
(these were from the Vagabonds days).
The squadron's prized mascot is a set of skull and crossbones enclosed in a glass encasement.
"Passing of the bones" from the outgoing skipper to the incoming skipper is a time-honored Jolly Rogers tradition.
The bones are supposedly the remains of ENS Jack Ernie of VF-17.
Ernie was killed during the Okinawa invasion in World War II, as his flaming aircraft spiralled towards earth, he made one last radio transmission asked "to be remembered with the skull-and-crossbones".
Ernie's family later presented the squadron with the set of skull and crossbones and asked the squadron to fulfill Ernie's last wish.
He may be lost fifty some years ago, but ENS Jack Ernie's spirit lived on until this day.
The post Cold War downsizing of the Navy has brought about the disestablishment of many squadrons;
unfortunately VF-84 was no exception.
The squadron spent the last eighteen months of its existence participating in numerous joint service operations, sending its crew to career-advancing venues, honing their ACM, strike, and TARPS skills, and they even made a memorable appearance in yet another motion picture
Not too long after VF-84's disestablishment on 1 October, 1995,
the VF-103 Sluggers adopted the name and insignia of the Jolly Rogers and the "bones" were passed on to them.
No matter how times may change, there will always be someone to carry on the pride and tradition of the Jolly Rogers!
"Bad News for the Bad Guys: The F-14 is still in the game!"
History of F-14s in Combat:
The F-14 came too late for the Vietnam war and only one deployment on the USS Enterprise (CVAN-65) with CVW-14 was made from
17 September 1974 to 20 May 1975.
Even though VF-1 and VF-2 Tomcats flew combat air patrols over
South Vietnam as part of 'Operation Frequent Wind', F-14s didn't score any MiG kill.
The following squadrons belonged to Carrier Air Wing 14:
VF-1 F-14A / VF-2 F-14A
VA-27 A-7E / VA-97 A-7E
VA-196 A-6A / KA-6D VAQ-137 EA-6B
HS-2 SH-3D / VAW-113 E-2B
RVAH-12 RA-5C / VQ-l Det 65 EA-3B
On 29 April 1975, Commander Task Force 76 received the order to execute Operation 'Frequent Wind', the evacuation of U.S. personnel and
Vietnamese who might suffer as a result of their past service to the allied effort.
Later that day, many evacuees had been cleared from the
U.S. Defense Attache Office and the U.S. Embassy.
This aerial exodus was paralleled by an outgoing tide of junks, sampans, and small craft of all types bearing a large number of the fleeing population.
On the afternoon of 30 April, Task Force 76 moved away from the coast.
This ended the U.S. Navy's role in the 25-year American effort to aid the Republic of Vietnam in its fight for survival.
Soviet bomber escort
There was an ever lasting game in the skies over this world's oceans ...
the game was called "Catch that bomber!"
Since the F-14's primary mission was to defend the fleet from attacking Soviet long-range bombers with air-launched anti-ship missiles, the nature of the game called for the Tomcat crew to train ...
and which training is better than the real thing?
Whenever Soviet bombers or fighters closed in on the carrier battle group,
F-14s were there to "welcome" them according to the rules of engagement. The goal was not to shoot the "enemy" down, but to escort him away from the carrier and to take a look at the weapons they carry.
VF-41 Black Aces F-14As shoot down two Libyan Su-22 Fitter-Js in 1981
Moammar Gadhafi, leader of Libya, extended the territorial claims over the Medirannean Sea to twelve nautical miles instead of the international accepted 2 miles.
Playing the role of the "World Wide Police Force" the US started a challenge against the Libyan leaders' territorial policy:
US aircraft carrier battle groups exercised close to the Libyan twelve mile zone while US Navy fighters often entered the Libyan "territorial waters".
Often US Navy aircraft were tracked by Libyan radar and Libyan fighter aircraft were launched against US fighter aircraft, heading in their direction and turning away before coming into to short range.
But sometimes it came to air combat maneuvering missions between Libyan and US Navy aircraft.
The morning of 19 August 1981 began for two patrolling VF-41 F-14As just the same way:
Fast Eagle 102 and Fast Eagle 107 were flying Combat Air Patrol (CAP) mission for USS Nimitz (CVN-68) aircraft conducting a missile exercise.
A patrolling E-2A Hawkeye made radar contact with two
Libyan Sukhoi Su-22 Fitters which had taken off from the former
Wheelus Air Force Base near Tripoli and were now heading towards the
As the Fitters were closing in on the Tomcats, the lead Su-22 pilot fired an
AA-2 Atoll air-to-air missile at the F-14s.
The missile failed, the Su-22s were declaired hostile and the Tomcats were cleared to engage.
The lead F-14 went for the Fitter wingman while the other went for the
Soon thereafter, when the Su-22 turned clear of the sun of the lead F-14 pilot got a lock-on with an AIM-9 Sidewinder missile and fired, hitting the
The Libyan pilot ejected successfully from his burning Fitter.
Meanwhile, the second F-14 fired on his lead Fitter at very close range an
AIM-9 air-to-air missile and destroyed the Su-22.
The F-14 and its crew had proven itself superior to the Su-22s.
"Navy Two, Libya Zero"
VF-32 Swordsmen kill two Libyan MiG-23 Floggers in 1989
The day is January 4, 1989.
The airspace close to the Libyan coast.
Two VF-32 F-14As from USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) fly a mission as Combat Air Patrol when a pair of Libyan Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23 Floggers were detected.
The MiG-23s had taken off from Al Bumbaw Airfield near Tobruk and they continued their flight towards the US fighters, even though the F-14s radar had locked on the bogeys.
It's a common procedure under such circumstances to lock the powerful AWG-9 radar on the incoming Libyan fighters, to give them the possibility to turn around and head back home.
Usually this procedure was impressive enough to drive the Libyans back since the radar warning tone resulting from an armed F-14's radar was fearsome enough.
But this time it did not work.
For the second time US Navy F-14s were engaged by Libyan fighter aircraft under hostile conditions.
During the 8 minutes engagement, the MiGs kept turning in on the Tomcats to maintain a firing solution for their Soviet built air-to-air missiles.
As later examination of F-14 still photography resolved, the MiG-23s were armed with AA-7 Apex missiles.
After several evasive maneuvers by the Tomcats and aggressive maneuvers by the Floggers, the incoming pair of MiG-23s were declared hostile and the
F-14 crews were cleared to engage.
The crew of the lead F-14A, AC202 (BuNo. 159437) fired an unsuccessful AIM-7 Sparrow missile, while the second F-14As, AC207 (BuNo. 159610) AIM-7 found its target and destroyed one MiG-23.
Thereafter, the lead F-14 closed in on the remaining MiG-23 and launched an AIM-9 Sidewinder heat-seaking missile.
The missile exploded in the tailpipe of the fleeing Flogger.
The pilot of this MiG-23 also managed to eject from his destroyed aircraft.
Both pilots were seen with good chutes.
After this engagement, the victorious Tomcats headed north for the carrier.
"Navy Four, Libya Zero"
VF-11 and VF-31 under fire from Syrian SAMs/AAA and engaged by
MiGs in 1983
In 1983 a multi-national peacekeeping force
- including some 800 U.S. Marines -
did their duty in Lebanon, a country shaken by civil war.
In late 1983 the peacekeeping force was threatened by both Lebanese military groups and Syrian forces, resulting in combat mission by aircraft from CVW-3 aboard USS John F. Kennedy.
During these missions, VF-11 and VF-31 F-14A were under fire from
Syrian Surface-to-Air missiles (SAM) and Anti-Aircraft-Artillery (AAA).
VF-11 even engaged MiGs over Lebanon.
One of the aircrews:
"While assigned to VF-11, I engaged eight MiGs over Lebanon.
I was the CAP for this mission and flew 3,000 feet above the
TARPS F-14 on the run over Lebanon.
My section engaged 4 MiGs.
I locked on and prepared to shoot.
Four MiGs did a split S and ran for Syria.
Four more MiGs came in to shoot us but blew through without engaging."
None of the F-14s were losts or damaged, but the Syrians' aggressive action resulted in the National Command Authority ordering air strikes against Syrian positions near Hammana.
During the attacks, two U.S. Navy aircraft were shot down, one A-7 and
The A-6 pilot was killed, the B/N taken prisoner
(and released a few weeks later) and the
A-7 pilot ejected safely and was recovered by friendly forces.
The 1985 'Achille Lauro' affair
In 1985 the Italian cruise liner Achille Lauro was hijacked by terrorists from the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) in an attempt to free political prisoners and terrorists by putting pressure on the Israeli government.
During the hijacking of the cruise liner, the terrorists murdered the American Leon Klinghoffer.
Therefore, after the end of the hijacking, the US government decided to get hold of the terrorists.
US intelligence uncovered the plans of the PLO terrorists and then
US President Ronald Reagan ordered the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea to take action against the flight of the terrorists from Egypt to Libya.
What followed was condemned by many as an act of "airborne piracy", but
it was in fact a well planned precision operation launched by carrier aircraft launched from USS Saratoga (CV-60) and intelligence aircraft from the USAF:
No less than seven F-14As from VF-74 and VF-103 were launched,
four to undertake the interception of the B737 plus three to fly top
cover for the unlikely event that Libyan fighters would take aggressive
action against the US aircraft.
Additionally, an E-2C, four KA-6D tankers, EA-6B Prowlers,
EA-3B Skywarriors and a RC-135 electronic intelligence aircraft participated
in the operation.
Once on its way to Libya, the Egypt Air Boeing 737 with the terrorists on board was located by an E-2C Hawkeye which vectored the Tomcats into position to perform the interception.
The Tomcats approached the B737 with all lights extinguished in total radio silence, only using modern data link facilities between the participating aircraft.
The Tomcats positioned themselves ahead, to the rear and on each side of the airliner.
Once in position, the F-14s switched on position ligths and made a call to the B737 pilot to follow.
Without another choice the airliner was escorted to NAS Sigonella in Italy, where a Navy SEAL (Sea-Air-Land) team surrounded the airliner and
captured the terrorists.
Gulf War I: The war between Iraq and Iran
In 1974 and 1975 the Shah of Iran had ordered some 80 F-14As as the only foreign customer for the Tomcat.
The Iranian F-14s should counter the penetration and overflight of
Soviet MiG-25 Foxbats over Iranian territory since the
IIAF (Imperial Iranian Air Force) had no other match for the MiG-25.
Delivery of the F-14s lasted from early 1976 to July 1978 including some
270 AIM-54 Phoenix missiles.
The 80th F-14 was not delivered due to the revolution in Iran and overthrow of the Shah.
From early 1979 onwards no more spare parts were delivered to the new Islamic Republic of Iran and the Navy and Grumman technicians had to be replaced by foreign technicians.
A great set-back in the Iranian F-14 programme.
On 22 September 1980 Iraqi troops invaded Iran to occupy the region of the Schatt Al Arab and some strategic islands in the Persian Gulf.
These areas in Iran include some rich oil fields.
During the wartime the conflict escalated and both sides commited atrocities by bombing civilians with nerve and poison gas.
Not war, but murder.
During the war, the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF) was only able to keep a mere seven to ten F-14s operational at any time.
A lack of tires and brakes kept most of the F-14s on the ground.
Additionally, by 1986 Iran ran out of AIM-54 missiles and from then on the only available armament were AIM-9 Sidewinder and AIM-7 Sparrow missiles. Therefore the F-14 was often used in the airborne radar warning role covered sometimes by F-4Es or F-5Es.
Gulf War II: 1991, Free Kuwait
In 1991, half a year after Saddam Hussein's Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait, the Allied forces started a massive air war against Iraq followed by a ground offensive to drive the Iraqi army out of Kuwait and back into its own territory. The Allied air war was highly successful since soon after the beginning of the air war the Allied fighters ruled in the skies over Iraq.
A lot of Iraqi fighter aircraft were flown to Iran to escape destruction, several Iraqi fighter aircraft were shot down by Allied fighters.
But not a lot of "MiG kills" happened, since the Iraqi Air Force preferred to evade air combat because of an overwhelming superiority of Allied fighters which were supported by airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft from numerous countries.
The F-14s' missions during the war were
1. both USN and USAF strike support, including both sweep and combat air patrol (CAP),
2. Suppresion of Enemy Air Defence (SEAD) for USN and USAF aircraft,
3. SCUD strike support,
4. Tactical Air Reconnaissance missions
5. Fleet Air Defence (FAD) and CAP.
F-14 supported strikes were rarely engaged by enemy aircraft and achieved a 100% success rate resulting in zero air-to-air loss of strike/SEAD aircraft. Coalition forces specifically requested F-14s on numerous occasions for escort, High Value Unit CAP and protection for forces during anti-ship operations.
The only air-victory of a Tomcat was the shooting down of an Iraqi
Mil Mi-8 Hip helicopter on February 6th, 1991.
The helo came accross a pair of VF-1 Wolfpack F-14As flying from
USS Ranger in the Persian Gulf and was downed by the Commanding Officer of VF-1 CDR Ron McElraft USN and Lt Stuart Broce USN with an
AIM-9 Sidewinder missile.
No Grumman F-14 Tomcat earned a real MiG kill in this war.
A rumor says that the Iraqi fighter pilots preferred to reverse course and head for a safe place when they were detected by a powerful F-14 radar.
If so, the Phoenix weapon system has been worth its money!
One VF-103 F-14B was lost on January 21st, 1991 with one Aircrew
rescued and one taken prisoner of war.
F-14 squadrons in the Gulf War operations Desert Shield & Desert Strom:
VF-1 13 Jan 1991 - 19 Apr 1991
VF-2 13 Jan 1991 - 19 Apr 1991
VF-14 14 Sep 1990 - 12 Mar 1991
VF-21 05 Aug 1990 - 04 Nov 1990
VF-32 14 Sep 1990 - 12 Mar 1991
VF-41 14 Jan 1991 - 03 Apr 1991
VF-74 23 Oct 1990 - 09 Dec 1990, 06 Jan 1991 - 11 Mar 1991
VF-84 14 Jan 1991 - 20 Apr 1991
VF-102 15 Jan 1991 - 03 Apr 1991
VF-103 23 Oct 1990 - 09 Dec 1990, 06 Jan 1991 - 11 Mar 1991
VF-154 05 Aug 1990 - 04 Nov 1990
Today, as part of the U.S. presence in the Gulf the F-14s are enforcing the NO FLY zone over Iraq and fly TARPS reconnaissance missions.
Gulf War III: Peace Keeping Missions
Since the end of the Gulf War the UN patrolled the skies of Iraq to control the No Fly Zones in the north and south.
From time to time Iraq tried to provoke the UN and especially the USA.
At the end of 1998 UN weapon inspectors were again stopped and the
US and the UK, finally at the end of their patience, bomb Iraq in what
became known as Operation Desert Fox.
For several days Royal Air Force and US fighters and bombers
- plus US cruise missiles -
Recent intelligence information revealed that the damage to Iraqi installations was greater than first thought.
After Operation Desert Fox the Iraq forbid any more weapons inspections and denied the existence of the UN No Fly Zones.
During the first days of 1999, 2 USAF F-15s and 4 US Navy F-14D (VF-213) were engaged by about 13 Iraqi MiGs and Mirage F.1s above the No Fly Zone in southern Iraq.
In accordance with the UN resolutions, both the F-15s and F-14s fired missiles at long distance at the Iraqi.
No Iraqi aircraft were hit, but one Iraqi fighter is said to have crashed on approach to its airbase because of a lack of fuel.
After this incident the UN continue to control the No Fly Zones, undisturbed
by Saddam's forces ...
eventually firing at Iraqi installations if provoked
Missions over former Yugoslavia
When NATO decided to intervene in the war in what was once known as Yugoslavia, fighter aircraft from various NATO countries flew reconnaissance and combat missions.
The U.S. Navy aircraft carriers with CVW-8 onboard were on station in the Adriatic Sea.
In support of the IFOR and SFOR troops in former Yugoslavia, F-14s from several squadrons flew multi-role missions:
Air-to-ground strikes against hostile targets (CAS, Close Air Support),
Forward Air Control (FAC(A)) and TARPS missions.
In this conflict the Tomcats delivered life laser-guided bombs for the first time for real.
Also, flying from U.S. carriers, the F-14 represented the only
U.S. photo reconnaissance aircraft in the Adriatic
(except for the unmanned recce drones).
In March 1999, NATO decided to strike against Serbian forces due to continuing ethnic expulsion and massacres against the Albanian people in Kosovo.
To end Yugoslavian terror NATO bombed Serbia for weeks day and night.
The US send among others the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt which also ment launching F-14s.
The role of the F-14s was enemy fighter suppression, forward air control, aerial reconnaissance and also precision laser-guided air-to-ground attacks.
When airstrikes ended, the role of the allied fighters was changed to fly cover for the international KFOR troops who occupied Kosovo.
Between 06 April and 09 June, CVW-8 fighters flew 4,270 total sorties and 3,055 combat sorties with zero losses.
The F-14s, EA-6Bs and F/A-18s of CVW-8 destroyed or damaged a total of 477 tactical targets and 88 fixed targets.
Among others, VF-14 F-14s dropped some 350 laser-guided bombs
(a total of 350,000 lbs) and the Tophatters flew also FAC(A) missions
for other coalition strike aircraft.
Strike missions against terror
On September 11, 2001, terrorists attacked the USA with hijacked airliners which they used as flying bombs.
The unthinkable happened when the terrorists directed two airliners into the New York City World Trade Center towers, killing thousands of innocent people and damaging both towers so badly that both collapsed shortly thereafter.
At the same time, another airliner was flown into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C..
Hundreds of people inside the building were killed, too.
In a fourth airliner near Pittsburg, hijackers were heroically stopped by passengers when they fought against the terrorists onboard the flying airliner. However, this aircraft crashed killing all people onboard.
The primary target of the terrorists, to crash the airliner into another city, failed.
Several thousand people were killed onboard the aircraft, in the buildings or on the streets around the buildings.
Never before in modern history has such a terrorist act happened before.
The whole world was shocked.
On Sept. 12, 2001 NATO implemented Article 5, which stated that an
attack against a member in Europe or North America was an attack against them all.
The terrorists were identified as being a group around the Arab
Osama Bin Ladin, living in Afghanistan under the protection of the
ruling Taliban regime.
In their fight against terrorism the USA were joined by all nations of the world (except Afghanistan and Iraq)
- no matter what the country's religious orientation is.
Weeks after the terrorist attacks, U.S. and British forces started a major series of strikes to battle the terrorists and their network, their infrastructure and weapons.
On Oct. 7, 2002 aircraft carriers (CVN-65 with VF-14 & CVN-70 with VF-213) launched long-range, heavy loaded F-14 and medium-range F/A-18 strike fighters day and night while the Air Force sent long-range bombers deep into Afghanistan.
Targets were terrorist bases, weapons and vehicles, training camps and Taliban military units.
Additionally, the attacks were placed as a front-line pace maker for the so called "Northern Alliance".
This group of anti-Taliban Afghans moved from northern Afghanistan down south in their long lasting fight against the Taliban regime.
As in any war, the attacks caused also civilian casualties among the Afghan population, but as far as it is known these were limited to a small number.
On Oct. 9, 2002 VF-14 led the first long-range tactical air strike, flying over 1,700 miles round trip to Mazar-e Sharif, where Taliban aircraft were destroyed on the ground.
Numerous strikes with precision guided ammunition followed from VF-14,
VF-41, VF-102, VF-211 and VF-213.
The fight against world-wide terrorism has only just begun and the world faces a long period of insecurity until international terrororism is overcome.
USA go to war against Iraq
Since Gulf War II the Iraqi government played games with the UN inspectors and failed to fully disarm and destroy the weapons as told by UN resolutions. This lasted for 12 years and nobody really seemed to care.
In March 2003, the USA decided it was enough and went to war with Iraq without a UN resolution.
F-14 Tomcats took part in the war as part of several Carrier Air Wings.
The deputy commander of CVW-41 (USS Abraham Lincoln) stated, that even with the arrival of the F/A-18E, the F-14 remains
"the platform of choice for precision targeting."
Five F-14 squadrons participated:
VF-2, VF-31, VF-32, VF-211 and VF-213.
On other occasions during the Iraq war, F-14s were land based and supported special forces operations. (see below)
Inside The Navy October 20, 2003
Special Forces And Tomcats Teamed Up For Classified Missions In Iraq
One of the more secretive operations in Iraq is the untold story of how
land-based Navy F-14 Tomcats supported special operations forces on the ground during multiple strike missions over western Iraq.
Details are classified, but Inside the Navy has learned the missions required aircraft that could fly long distances, provide a strong precision strike capability, and support forward air control airborne missions
-- all capabilities resident in the Tomcat.
The operations are considered highly successful, said a source familiar with the missions.
While land-basing the typically carrier-based F-14s is considered unorthodox, it was the introduction of new tactics, techniques, and procedures that made the missions unique and so sensitive, said the source.
Lessons will be drawn from these special operations, but top admirals do not see the missions as a model for future naval air campaigns.
Spokesmen for both the Navy and U.S. Central Command declined multiple requests for comment, noting details of the missions would be unavailable until the operations became unclassified
-- which they said could take a number of years.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Vern Clark disclosed the existence of the missions in a luncheon speech April 17.
"It will be awhile before we hear all of the stories about the way
[special operations forces integration] works,"
he said at the Navy League's annual conference in Washington, DC.
"What most people don't know is that we had F-14s shore-based for this operation, working hand in glove, totally and completely dedicated to the special forces, and the skills that they brought in the cockpit."
According to Vice Adm. John Nathman, the deputy chief of naval operations for warfare requirements and programs, special operations forces had a need so "compelling" during the Iraq war that it was important for the Navy to contribute F-14s to that mission.
Nathman spoke to Inside the Navy on Oct. 9 following an unrelated panel discussion at the U.S. Naval Institute's symposium in Virginia Beach, VA. Special operations forces needed an aircraft that could fly for longer periods of time, and could "stay" or loiter on station, he said.
Further, they needed a "striker that was precise," said Nathman.
"Their needs were a precision strike capability," he said, adding,
"They needed a sensor capability and they needed the ability to work with someone that understood the urgency of their mission, which is the . . . forward air control airborne mission," he told ITN.
"So, the F-14 fit that need. And that's why we were asked to provide this, and we did."
Nathman could not recall where the missions took place, but said they were conducted
"in a number of different places over Iraq."
But Vice Adm. David Nichols
-- who took over as commander of
U.S. Naval Forces in U.S. Central Command and commander of
5th Fleet in Bahrain earlier this month --
told ITN special operations with the land-based F-14s generally took place in western Iraq.
Nichols spoke to ITN May 9 following a speech in Pensacola, FL, when he was still commander of the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center.
"They did what strike airplanes always do --
they flew, dropped bombs, and controlled other airplanes dropping bombs in direct support of some of our special operations crowd,"
The missions were preplanned and rehearsed in support of special operations, he said.
The Navy was able to "accommodate a few airplanes ashore," he said, but was not specific.
This suggests only a fraction of the 50 Tomcats that were sent to the Iraqi theater as five squadrons actually participated in the special operations missions.
Why the Tomcat?
Although the Navy plans to retire its Tomcat fleet as it introduces the
F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, the F-14 has continued to provide valuable capabilities in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Tomcats have a better fuel capability than F/A-18 Hornets, so F-14s can
fly a bit longer and faster, according to Navy officials familiar with the aircraft. Although it depends on the particular flight profile, an F-14 can typically fly a round trip of 800 miles in about one-and-a-half to two hours without refueling, the officials said.
F-14s are suited for forward air control airborne FAC(A) missions because their cockpit is crewed by two people, leaving the backseat Aircrew to focus more fully on monitoring the airspace and bringing in firepower,
the Navy officials said.
Because the FAC(A) mission is considered so demanding
-- with crucial information being rapidly passed back-and-forth --
commanders only use two-seat aircraft for those missions, said the
Thus, the Tomcat and the F/A-18F
-- the Navy's only two-seat fighters --
are the preferred Navy aircraft for FAC(A) operations, the officials said.
The Tomcat's LANTIRN
(Low-altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night) system is more advanced than the F/A-18's Nitehawk targeting pods, giving Tomcats an advantage over today's F/A-18 Hornets for air-to-ground missions, the officials said.
The LANTIRN pods could be used to locate targets, to guide laser-guided munitions, and to assess battle damage, the officials said.
Using the Fast Tactical Imagery system, the F-14 aircrew can transmit digital images captured from the LANTIRN pod video to another Tomcat or to the battle group commander.
These images could be used for immediate attack by another aircraft, for damage assessment, for locating targets of opportunity, or simply for determining precise coordinates for targeting by other weapons.
"We are kind of leading edge on that," said one of the Navy officials.
Further, the LANTIRN's global positioning system allows it be used for navigation, or to locate targets and relay them to other pilots or ground controllers. LANTIRN's GPS capability, in particular, was considered important during its mission with special forces in Iraq, said the source familiar with the operation.
Operation Iraqi Freedom marked the first operational deployment of some F/A-18Fs, which were carried aboard the Nimitz (CVN-68) aircraft carrier.
But for carriers without the two-seat Super Hornet, the F-14 would be a battle commander's aircraft of choice for precision strike missions because of its two-seat cockpit, LANTIRN pod, and longer range, the officials said.
"That is just common sense," said one official.
The future The use of land-based F-14s in Iraq should not be viewed as a
"a template or model for anything in the future,"
Nichols said, without elaborating further.
Nathman, agreed, making a case that land-basing Tomcat's
"pulled us out of who we were."
Keeping Tomcats land-based would be counterproductive at a time when the Navy is placing greater emphasis on seabasing assets, explained Nathman, an experienced pilot of the F-14 and other aircraft.
"I think that it's kind of an oxymoron,"
he replied when asked whether using F-14s shore-side should be repeated in future operations.
Instead, a better way to answer special operations-like needs,
Nathman suggested, is to have a netted battle space where any aircraft could deliver capability required for a certain mission, instead of having
"specifically connected" air assets to special operations needs.
"Their problem was so compelling that we needed to do that," he said.
"But in my view, in the future you need to go to more distributed joint effects that could answer SOF needs as well as conventional needs of the maneuver on the land."
Some people could "take that wrong," said Nathman, but "it's an oxymoron to argue to be more seabased and then to say 'No, no. We are just going to keep land-basing.'"
But if the Navy SEALs or special forces were to run into similar difficulties on the ground again, Nathman said the Navy would be ready to provide
"If it means land-basing F-14s, we'll land base F-14s again," said the admiral.
The Grumman F-14 Tomcat is a supersonic, twin-engine, two-seat,
variable geometry wing aircraft.
During its active service in the United States Navy, the F-14 Tomcat was the Navy's primary air superiority fighter and tactical reconnaissance platform.
It later performed precision bombing in close air support roles.
It was developed after the collapse of the F-111B project, and was the first of the American teen-series fighters which were designed incorporating the experience of air combat in Vietnam against Migs.
It entered service in 1972 with the Navy, replacing the F-4 Phantom II.
It was later exported to the Imperial Iranian Air Force in 1976.
It was retired from the U.S. Navy fleet on 22 September 2006, having been replaced by the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.
As of 2006 only the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force still flies the aircraft.
The F-14 Tomcat was created in response to the U.S. Navy VFX specification, following termination of the F-111B program.
However, the F-14 was actually started even earlier as an internal Grumman project to build the 1966 requirement for a VFAX, a lighter and more agile fighter that would be a better fighter than the F-4 Phantom II and a better bomber than the A-7 Corsair II.
Grumman engineers after 1965 were tasked with creating the Naval version of the F-111 which introduced new fuel-efficient afterburning turbofan engines, swing wings for efficiency at landing, cruise and dash, and new large Phoenix missiles with a range greater than 100 miles for the single point mission of fleet air defense.
The VFAX was created when Navy planners realized the F-111B had been created as a missile carrier, but did not have the performance or maneuverability to counter MiGs which had been encountered over Vietnam in 1965.
Grumman engineers simply transplanted the heart of the F-111B's engine and weapons systems optimized for the fleet air defence requirements onto this same airframe.
As early as 1966, Flight International Magazine printed that the Navy had realized because of this proposal that a lighter VFAX which could carry the Phoenix would be better than a mixed fleet of F-111B interceptors and light VFAX fighter bombers.
Grumman's design 303 would win the revised VFX competition.
Grumman would retain the TF30 afterburning turbofan engines and
AWG-9/Phoenix weapons system of the F-111B.
To reduce costs, the F-14 would share the landing gear, air ducts, and wing of the Grumman A-6 Intruder in a lighter and more agile airframe than the
F-111B, with redesigned swing wings, a blended wing / body, and extensive use of titanium which had matured since the SST and SR-71 projects.
The F-14 would not only be a better fighter, but also be a better multi-role bomber than the F-4 Phantom.
The Tomcat was the most powerful and maneuverable fighter at its introduction.
The swing wing and Phoenix / AWG-9 interception capabilities would never again be duplicated on any subsequent US fighter designs.
The Tomcat would be retired primarily for maintenance costs as its speed, range / payload and radar / missile range remained superior to its more modern replacement.
The F-14 Tomcat was the first of a new generation of air superiority fighters designed from lessons learned in air combat over Vietnam with Soviet MiG fighters.
United States Navy
The F-14 began replacing the F-4 Phantom II in USN service starting in September 1974 with squadrons VF-1 Wolfpack and VF-2 Bounty Hunters aboard the USS Enterprise (CVN 65).
In 1995, an upgrade program was initiated to incorporate new digital avionics and weapon system improvements to strengthen its multi-mission competitive edge.
The F-14D, delivered in 1990 in reduced numbers, was a major upgrade with F110 engines, new AN/APG-71 radar system,
Airborne Self Protection Jammer (ASPJ),
Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS) and
Infrared Search and Track (IRST).
Additionally, all F-14 variants were given precision strike capability using the LANTIRN targeting system, night vision compatibility,
new defensive countermeasures systems and a
new digital flight control system.
At the end of its life, the F-14 Tomcat was upgraded with ROVER,
a system which allows a Forward Air Controller (FAC) on the ground to see real-time images acquired by the aircraft's sensors by transmitting these images to the FAC's laptop.
In the 1991 Desert Storm Gulf War conflict, air superiority was tasked to USAF F-15 Eagles.
U.S. F-14s were used primarily for strike package escort and reconnaissance due to the way the Air Tasking Orders were set up.
The emissions from the AWG-9/APG-71 are recognizable with a radar warning receiver.
When Iraqi fighters were detected inbound, as soon as the Tomcats
"lit up" the Iraqis would immediately abandon the attack while well out of range, perhaps indicating their familiarity with both the Tomcat and the
The last flight of the F-14 Tomcat took place September 21, 2006.
The Tomcat landed at Oceana Naval Air Station in Virgina Beach, Virgina, at around 1530 after a one hour flight.
The Tomcat was officially retired on September 22, 2006.
The F/A-18E/F Super Hornet will become the only fighter jet used by the United States Navy.
The US Marine Corps elected to wait for the F/A-18 to replace the F-4.
While the F-14 had been developed as a light weight alternative to the
80,000 lb F-111B, the F-14 was still the largest and most expensive fighter in its time.
VFAX was revived in the 1970s as a lower cost solution to replacing the Navy's fleet of USMC Phantoms, and A-7.
VFAX would be merged with the USAF LWF fighter competition, from which the F/A-18 Hornet emerged as roughly a midsize fighter.
Super Hornet replacement controversy
The Navy and Secretary of Defense would reject Grumman proposals to the Navy to upgrade the Tomcat beyond the D model
(such as the Super Tomcat 21, the cheaper QuickStrike version, and the more advanced Attack Super Tomcat 21).
Instead, the Navy elected to retire the F-14 and chose the F/A-18E/F to fill the roles of fleet defense and strike formerly filled by the F-14.
The F-14 has completed its decommissioning from the U.S. Navy.
It was slated to remain in service through at least 2008, but all
F-14A and F-14B airframes have already been retired, and the last two squadrons, the VF-31 Tomcatters and the VF-213 Black Lions, both flying the "D" models, arrived for their last fly-in at Naval Air Station Oceana on March 10, 2006.
The F-14 Tomcat were removed from service and officially stricken from the inventory on September 22, 2006.
The last F-14 combat mission was completed on February 8, 2006, when a pair of Tomcats landed aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) after one dropped a bomb in Iraq.
The plane was part of VF-31 and the last pilot credited with a bomb drop in combat was Lt. Bill Frank USN.
An F-14D from VF-213 was the last F-14 to land on an aircraft carrier after a combat mission; it was piloted by Capt. William G. Sizemore USN.
During their final deployment with the USS Theodore Roosevelt, VF-31 and VF-213 collectively completed 1,163 combat sorties totaling
6,876 flight hours, and dropped 9,500 pounds of ordnance during reconnaissance, surveillance, and close air support missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
On March 10, 2006, the 22 planes from these squadrons flew in formation into Naval Air Station Oceana, home from the last combat deployment of the F-14.
VF-213 pilots and radar interception officers who have made the transition to the Super Hornet continued F/A-18F (double seat) training as of April 2006.
The squadron is operational, or "safe for flight," as of September 2006.
VF-31 pilots who were making the transition began F/A-18E (single seat) training in October 2006.
The squadron will be safe for flight in April 2007.
This has made VF-31 the last official Tomcat squadron in the Navy.
Retired F-14 aircraft are mothballed at the Davis-Monthan "Boneyard."
The F-14 Tomcat was officially retired on September 22, 2006 at Naval Air Station Oceana, with a final flight and retirement ceremony.
Two F-14's were readied for the ceremonial final flight; after the primary plane experiencing mechanical problems, a backup was flown instead.
The failure was a reminder of one reason for the retirement, which was its high maintenance costs.
Imperial Iranian Air Force / Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force
The sole foreign customer for the Tomcat was the Imperial Iranian Air Force (since 1979 Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force) during the reign of the last Shah (King) of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
In the early 1970s, the Imperial Iranian Air Force (IIAF) was on a search for an advanced air superiority fighter.
An in-depth study of its situation revealed that the IIAF was in a need of a fighter with a powerful radar and long-range armament, particularly in order to allow it to shoot down Soviet MiG-25 reconnaissance flights.
After a visit of US President Nixon in Iran, in 1972, during which Iran was offered the latest US military technology, the IIAF narrowed its choice to the F-14 Tomcat and McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle.
Following preliminary negotiations with the Pentagon, and basing their decision on the performance of the AWG-9 radar and weapons system, as well as the AIM-54 Phoenix missiles, the Iranians selected the Tomcat.
Having no knowledge about Iranian selection, almost a year later, the Grumman Corporation issued a formal offer to the Shah of Iran, and eventually arranged a competitive demonstration of the Eagle against the Tomcat.
Following a flying display of two fighters to the Shah, in January 1974, Iran issued an order for 30 F-14s and 424 AIM-54 Phoenix missiles, initiating the Project "Persian King", worth $300 million.
Only a few months later, this was expanded by an order for 50 additional
F-14As and 290 AIM-54s.
The Iranian order for 80 Tomcats and 714 Phoenix missiles, spare parts, and replacement engines for ten years, complete armament package, and support infra-structure
(including construction of the huge "Khatami Air Base", in the desert near Esfahan) finally totalled $2 billion, and was considered at the time to be the highest value, single foreign military sale in US history.
The first F-14 arrived in January 1976, modified only by the removal of classified avionics components, but fitted with the TF-30-414 engines.
The following year, 12 more were delivered.
Meanwhile, training of first groups of Iranian crews was underway in the USA, and one of these conducted a successful shoot-down of a drone flying at 50,000 feet with an AIM-54 missile.
Additional tests were undertaken in 1977, and in October 1978, two Iranian Tomcats intercepted a Soviet MiG-25 underway along the Iranian coast of the Caspian Sea, convincing Moscow to stop overflights of Iran.
By late 1978, 79 Tomcats and 284 AIM-54 Phoenix missiles
(ten of these were ATM-54A training rounds) were delivered.
By 1979, 120 pilots and radar intercept officers had been trained in the
United States and Iran, with an additional 100 still in training.
At the same time, maintenance technicians were being trained by
Pratt & Whitney and Hughes on the engines, avionics, and weapons systems.
Following the overthrow of the Shah, the regime of Ayatollah Khomeini cancelled most of the Western arms orders.
Large shipments of spares
(including several AWG-9 radars, 40 additional AIM-54As, and at least 20 engines)
were held back in the USA, together with the last Tomcat built for Iran.
Of the 80 aircraft ordered, 79 were delivered.
The last unit was embargoed and turned over to the United States Navy.
Most Iranian F-14 pilots and technicians trained in the U.S. fled from Iran, fearing their association with the Shah's regime, and their time in the U.S. would endanger them.
Only two pilots out of the original flight class chose to remain in Iran.
Their fears proved correct, and many of the original Iranian F-14 crews and technicians who remained were jailed or murdered by the new regime. Eventually, several F-14 pilots who were jailed were released when war broke out with Iraq.
Contrary to usual reports, no U.S. technicians or "agents" managed to sabotage any of Iranian F-14s before leaving.
Several Hughes technicians did manage to sabotage
18 AIM-54 "ready to use" missiles before they were forced to leave
Khatami AB in February 1979.
Deteriorating relations between the U.S. and Iran lead to the arms embargo on Iran, which includes parts for its western fighters and missiles.
Accounts differ on the ability of the IIAF to obtain parts and operate the F-14 or its AIM-54 Missile.
Some rumors suggest that a few of the AIM-54 Phoenix missiles supplied to Iran before the revolution were sold to the Soviet Union, where they may have strongly influenced the development of the similar
Vympel AA-9 'Amos' long-range missile.
In return, the Soviets may have assisted in returning the Phoenix to service in Iran.
In the Project "Sky Hawk", the Iranians fitted the U.S.-made
MIM-23 HAWK surface-to-air missile on two of their Tomcats.
Another similar attempt resulted in the IRIAF arming its F-14s with
(U.S.-made) Mk.83-series bombs and deploying it as a fighter-bomber in combat.
It is also reported that at least one F-14 crew defected to Russia with their aircraft and that Russian scientists were allowed access to Iranian F-14's to aid in their maintenance and upgrade
- including new Russian radars, engines, and avionics.
The Iranians deny this claim and insist all upgrades are domestically produced.
The Iranian Tomcat patch is a duplicate of the American patch with the word "Tomcat" written in Farsi, replacing the phrase "Anytime Baby".
YF-14A : Prototypes and pre-production aircraft.
F-14A : The original production two-seat all-weather interceptor fighter version for the US Navy.
Modifications late in its service life added precision strike munitions to its armament
F-14A + Plus or F-14B : Upgraded version of the F-14A with GE F110-400 engines.
Much of the avionics as well as the AWG-9 radar were retained.
Later redesignated F-14B.
F-14D Super Tomcat : The final incarnation of the F-14.
The troublesome TF-30 engines were replaced with GE F110-400 engines, giving the F-14 the thrust the airframe was originally designed for
(F-14Bs also received the GE F110).
Also "Digitized" and fitted with a "Glass" cockpit as well as the new
United States Navy (USN) squadrons
(Disestablished September 30, 1993)
VF-2 Bounty Hunters
(Redesignated VFA-2 with F/A-18F July 1, 2003)
VF-11 Red Rippers
(Redesignated to VFA-11 with F/A-18F in May, 2005)
(Redesignated VFA-14 with F/A-18E December 1, 2001)
(Disestablished January 31, 1996)
VF-24 Fighting Renegades
(Disestablished August 20, 1996)
scheduled for redesignation to VFA-31 with F/A-18E in September 2006)
(Redesignated VFA-32 with F/A-18F on October 1, 2005)
(Disestablished October 1, 1993)
VF-41 Black Aces
(Redesignated VFA-41 with F/A-18F, December 1, 2001)
VF-51 Screaming Eagles
(Disestablished March 31, 1995)
(Disestablished April 30, 1994)
VF-84 Jolly Rogers
(Disestablished October 1, 1995)
VF-101 Grim Reapers
(Disestablished September 15, 2005)
(Redesignated VFA-102 with F/A-18F in May 1, 2002)
VF-103 Sluggers/Jolly Rogers
(Redesignated VFA-103 with F/A-18F May 1, 2005)
(Disestablished March 31, 1995)
(Disestablished April 30, 1993)
(Disestablished September 30, 1994)
(Disestablished April 30, 1995)
VF-143 Pukin' Dogs
(Redesignated VFA-143 with F/A-18E in early 2005)
VF-154 Black Knights
(Redesignated VFA-154 with F/A-18F October 1, 2003)
VF-191 Satan's Kittens
(Disestablished April 30, 1988)
VF-194 Red Lightnings
(Disestablished April 30, 1988)
(Redesignated VFA-201 with F/A-18A January 1, 1999)
(Disestablished December 31, 1999)
VF-211 Fighting Checkmates
(Redesignated VFA-211 with F/A-18F October 1, 2004)
VF-213 Black Lions
(Active; scheduled for redesignation to VFA-213 with F/A-18F in May 2006)
VF-301 Devil's Disciples
(Disestablished September 11, 1994)
(Disestablished September 11, 1994)
(Disestablished September 30, 1994)
Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF) squadrons
- 72nd TFS: F-14A,
1976 - 1980
- 73rd TFS: F-14A,
1977 - until mid-1990s
- 81st TFS: F-14A,
1977 - until today
- 82nd TFS: F-14A,
1978 - until today
- 83rd TFS: F-14A,
re-named former 73rd TFS
F-14 in combat
Main article: Combat history of the F-14
F-14s of the U.S. Navy have shot down five enemy aircraft for no losses.
One has been lost to a surface-to-air missile.
The combat record of the F-14 in IRIAF service is much debated.
In 1980, the downing of a Soviet-built Iraqi Tupolev Tu-22 "Blinder" bomber was observed by AWACS crews, while other incidents remain unconfirmed. Western estimates place the figure at four or five kills;
Iran claims 35-45 kills.
Recent books by Tom Cooper and Farzad Bishop claim nearly 150 kills, though they are based on interviews with pilots and are unconfirmed against independent observers or camera footage.
F-14 in fiction and popular culture
The F-14 played a prominent role in Top Gun, the 1986 film about naval aviators who fly the fighter.
The success of that film spurred a game franchise and a surge in
U.S. Navy recruiting.
The 1980 time-travel film The Final Countdown featured the
VF-84 "Jolly Rogers" F-14 fighter squadron aboard Nimitz.
The F-14 was a primary inspiration for the VF-1 Valkyrie in the
Japanese animated TV series The Super Dimension Fortress Macross
(The Valkyrie piloted by Roy Focker sported a paint scheme reminiscent to that on VF-84's F-14s.)
In the prequel Macross Zero, the lead character Lieutenant Shin Kudo
(played by Kenichi Suzumura) is a qualified F-14 pilot.
F-14s are featured in Stephen Coonts' 1986 novel Final Flight.
The F-14 appears in numerous episodes of the 1995–2005 TV series JAG. The lead character Captain Harmon Rabb (played by David James Elliott) is a qualified F-14 pilot.
A retired airframe was relocated to the airliner storage yard at
Victorville Airport for the filming.
Specifications (F-14D Super Tomcat)
2 (Pilot and Radar Intercept Officer)
18.6 m (61 ft 9 in)
64 ft unswept, 38 ft swept (19 m / 11.4 m)
16 ft (4.8 m)
565 ft² (54.5 m²)
NACA 64A209.65 mod root, 64A208.91 mod tip
19,000 kg (42,000 lb)
28,000 kg (61,000 lb)
Max takeoff weight:
32,805 kg (72,900 lb)
2× General Electric F110-GE-400 afterburning turbofans,
13,810 lbf dry, 27,800 lbf with afterburner (72 kN / 126 kN) each
Mach 2.34, 1,544 mph at high altitude (2,485 km/h)
576 mi combat (927 km)
50,000+ ft (16,000+ m)
Rate of climb:
45,000+ ft/min (230+ m/s)
113.4 lb/ft² (553.9 kg/m²)
13,000 lb (5,900 kg) of ordnance including:
Guns: 1× M61 Vulcan 20 mm Gatling Gun
AIM-54 Phoenix, AIM-7 Sparrow and AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air
2× AIM-9 + 6× AIM-54
2× AIM-9 + 2× AIM-54 + 3× AIM-7
2× AIM-9 + 4× AIM-54 + 2× AIM-7
2× AIM-9 + 6× AIM-7
4× AIM-9 + 4× AIM-54
4× AIM-9 + 4× AIM-7
GBU-10, GBU-12, GBU-16, GBU-24, GBU-24E Paveway I/II/III LGB,
GBU-31, GBU-38 JDAM, Mk-20 Rockeye II, Mk-82, Mk-83 and
Mk-84 series iron bombs
Hughes AN/APG-71 radar
AN/ASN-130 INS, IRST, TCS
Tony Holmes (2005).
US Navy F-14 Tomcat Units of Operation Iraqi Freedom,
Osprey Publishing Limited.
Lou Drendel (1977).
F-14 Tomcat in Action, Squadron/Signal Publications
GRUMMAN F-14, Vol. 25 by
J.P.Stevenson, Aero Series of Tab Books Inc., 1975. ISBN 0-8306-8592-8.
Modern Marvels: the F-14 (History Channel)
The Navy had "a new set of requirements:
Mach 2 speed, great maneuverability, powerful radar and the ability to carry a variety of weapons"
Jane's All The World's Aircraft.
Bill Gunston, Mike Spick (1983).
Modern Air Combat, Crescent Books. ISBN 0-517-41265-9.
Tom Cooper & Farzad Bishop,
"Iranian F-14 Tomcat Units in Combat",
Osprey Combat Aircraft No.49, Osprey, 2004, ISBN 1-84176-787-5
Tom Cooper & Ian F. Devlin,
"Iran: A Formidable Opponent?",
Combat Aircraft Magazine, Vol. 7/No.6, May 2006, p.28-35
Tom Cooper, "Persian Cats",
Air&Space Smithsonian, Vol.21/No.3, September 2006, p.36-39
Tom Cooper & Farzad Bishop,
"Iran-Iraq War in the Air, 1980-1988",
Schiffer Military History Books, 2000, ISBN 0-7643-166-9-9