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The U.S. Navy's F-14 Tomcat fighter, built as a Cold War defense against Soviet bombers and emblazoned on popular imagination as Tom Cruise's plane in the 1986 movie Top Gun, is just weeks away from making its final combat sorties over Iraq before being retired for good.
A pair of Navy squadrons with the last 22 operational Tomcats are still flying bombing and strafing runs on insurgent targets in Iraq, jetting off the deck of the U.S. aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt in the Persian Gulf.
But by next fall, Navy pilots will have completed their switch to the smaller, more reliable F-18 Hornet, said Commander Jim Howe, deputy commander of the Roosevelt's F-14 squadrons.
Despite the dogfighting flash of Top Gun, in real life the Tomcat was so tough to fly and maintain that it became known as the "turkey," said Howe, "because it doesn't look like it should fly."
Its final combat sorties are taking place in coming weeks, before the Roosevelt departs the Persian Gulf early next year, taking the last American F-14s to their retirement in the United States. Howe declined for security reasons to name the date of the Roosevelt's departure for its base in Virginia.
"It was a phenomenal capability when it was developed," Miller said. "It's one of the planes that helped us win the Cold War."
Ironically, the last flying Tomcats may be Tehran's.
U.S. intelligence assessments say five or six of Iran's early model Tomcats can probably still fly, but do so rarely, given the U.S. embargo on the Islamic Republic and the prodigious maintenance and parts the F-14s need, Howe said.
"I have almost no doubt that their F-14s are in such poor shape that I would not call them operational," Howe said.
The F-14 became notorious for the painstaking maintenance it needs: 40 shop hours for each hour in the air, four times the tinkering needed by its F-18 replacement.
"It's been flying on the backs of the maintainers for a long time," Howe said.
The F-18s are also easier to fly, Howe said.
Originally posted by RealisticPatriot
I was actually going to start a thread up for this very question... West Point, you bring up a damn good point. If im not mistaken, neither the JSF, UCAV, Super Hornet, or Raptor can carry the pheonix missile system. (I know its retired, but it wasnt really replaced by something better) Doesnt the Phoenix out do the AAMRAAM's and sidewinders in speed and range ... if the above is true, why are we equipping our cutting edge aircraft with substandard armament??? We no longer have any long range air to air capability, thie phoenix range was 100 miles and the sidwinder and AMRAAM only have a range of 10-20 miles. Not to mention they are both almost half as fast as the phoenix.. why??(manuverability?) Can somone please explain?
For me nothing will ever replace the 14, While the JSF is cool, the 14 will always ahve a place in my heart.
Originally posted by Harlequin
cost mainly , and the fact that AMRAAM is cheaper and can nearly do teh same job ; AIM-54 is something like $1million per shot.