Born out of the US Navy’s Naval Fighter Experimental programme, the Tomcat first flew in December 1970 and was instantly recognised as the best fleet defence fighter and long range interceptor in the world. With its heavy armament of guns and air to air missiles, including the massive long range AIM-54 Phoenix missile, when combined with its powerful Hughes AWG-9 radar it gave the Tomcat the capability of engaging targets at up to 100 miles.
Aside from its excellent service with the US Navy and interestingly, the Iranian Air Force, the Tomcat also found fame as a movie star, firstly in The Final Countdown and later in the Tom Cruise blockbuster Top Gun.
This issue of Aviation Classics will tell the complete story of the aircraft, its development, service career and retirement from the US Navy as well as take the reader backstage to find out how the movie Top Gun was made, the story told by the aircrew who flew the aircraft in the film. 8 Why move the wings? 14 TFX and VFX – failure and success 20 Testing and development 30 The Tophatters 44 Tomcat squadrons of the United States Navy 50 Tomcats versus Eagles 56 Flying the Tomcat 64 Solving the problems and extending the envelope 72 Top Gun viewing companion: The F-14 scenes 82 Tomcat tails 90 The AIM-54 Phoenix 96 Refining the breed 102 The Gulf of Sidra 106 In the cockpit 114 Quickstrike to ASF-14 116 Goodbye to the big bird 120 The Iranian F-14 – the last Tomcat 124 Survivors – museum Tomcats 129 Dale ‘Snort’ Snodgrass