The Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force(IRIAF) is the only operator of the F-14A Tomcat, and they recently conducted a large exercise involving the aircraft. Air Forces conducting training exercises using their aircraft are very common, so what is the fuss about? Well, the exercise in itself is not a big deal, but it is in this case, the aircraft used in the exercise.
To Aviation Enthusiasts, the words ‘Top Gun’ immediately paint a picture within the mind, of a very young Tom Cruise Flying around in a F-14A Tomcat, manoeuvering the US Naval aircraft like a movie hero really should. The two things one can take away from the movie, to be remembered forever probably are, the realistic dogfight simulations, and of course the F-14A Tomcat itself.
The F-14A Tomcat was an Interceptor aircraft manufactured by Grumman Aerospace corporation and designed to suit the requirements of the US Navy at the time – An Interceptor and Fleet defence aircraft which could be based off an aircraft carrier and could easily take on the Soviet fighter aircraft, Mainly the MIG-21 and MIG-25, and successful it was, very successful. In the 1980’s F-14 Tomcat’s were used by the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force in the Iran-Iraq war, in which they shot down at least 160 Iraqi aircraft, while only around 12 Tomcats were lost. The F-14 first flew at the end of 1970, and went on to become a legend, having served mainly with the US Navy, and to an extent with Iran.
The last flight of this legend with the US Navy was just over a decade ago, on 22nd September of 2006, but the Tehran based engineers have managed to keep the legendary bird alive and kicking, with a few avionics and weapons upgrades developed locally in Iran, and the IRIAF plans to keep the aircraft going till 2030, which makes it seem like they are asking for a lot from the nearly half-a-century-old design, especially given that just 35 of the 62 F-14s in IRIAF possession were air worthy as per a 2013 report.
The 62 F-14A Tomcats are based out of TFB.8 (Tactical Fighter Base 8) near Eshahan in central Iran. Even though they have 35 airworthy aircraft, only 6 were actually used in these exercises which went on for three days. Through this exercise, pilots has a chance to renew their skills of launching the AIM-9 and AIM-7 air-to-air missiles from the aircraft – a first in nearly 10 years.
On the first night of the exercise, the F14s simulated HVACAP(High-Value Asset Combat Air Patrol), BARCAP( Barrier Combat Air Patrol) and CAP(Combat Air Patrol) and also Escorted F-4Es. On the second morning, the F-14s engaged with MIG 29s and on the third day, they fired missiles and escorted air-tankers.
Though a legend of the past decades, the effectiveness of the F-14A Tomcat in today’s age might be very questionable, with more modern aircraft in Air Forces all over the world, but it definitely is nice to see the F-14 A back in the air.
Image Credits : Google Images, The Aviationist
Info Credit : The Aviationist