Tag Archives: Grumman F-14A Tomcat

16 May 1986

“Top Gun” poster (Paramount Pictures)

16 May 1986: The Paramount Pictures motion picture, “Top Gun,” directed by Tony Scott, was released in 1,028 theaters in the United States.

The romance/action movie centered around the lives of U.S. Navy fighter pilots. The featured actors were Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards and Tom Skeritt.

The real “star” of the movie, though, was the Grumman F-14 Tomcat, a supersonic interceptor operating from United States Navy aircraft carriers.

Tom Cruise, Anthony Edwards, Michael Ironside and Tom Skeritt in “Top Gun,” 1986. (Paramount Pictures)

“Top Gun” was widely praised for its flight sequences, although the movie’s plot was fairly juvenile. In TDiA’s opinion, the opening sequence showing activity on an aircraft carrier flight deck, accompanied by Kenny Loggins’ song, “Danger Zone,” is exceptional. Another song in the movie, “Take My Breath Away,” performed by Berlin, won an Academy Award for Best Original Song.

Art Scholl, a famed aerial cinematographer, was killed during the production of the movie.

The film is credited with a striking increase in enlistments in the United States Navy.

“Top Gun” was released on the 59th anniversary of another Paramount Pictures movie, “Wings,” winning of the first Academy Award for Best Picture.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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21 December 1970

Grumman F-14A-1-GR Tomcat Bu. No. 157980, just before its first flight, Calverton, Long Island, New York, 21 December 1970. (Grumman)
Grumman F-14A-1-GR Tomcat Bu. No. 157980, just before its first flight, Calverton, Long Island, New York, 21 December 1970. (Northrop Grumman Corporation)

21 December 1970: At the Grumman Aerospace Corporation plant, Calverton, Long Island, New York, Chief Test Pilot Robert Kenneth Smyth and Project Test Pilot William Howard Miller took off on the very first flight of the F-14A-1-GR Tomcat, Bu. No. 157980.

The F-14 is a long-range fleet defense interceptor designed to operate from the United States Navy’s aircraft carriers. It is a two-place, twin-engine Mach 2+ fighter. The most notable feature are its variable geometry wings (“swing wings”), similar to those of the General Dynamics F-111.

Grumman F-14A Tomcat during flight test.
A Grumman F-14A Tomcat during test flight. (U.S. Navy)

The Grumman F-14A Tomcat (Grumman has a long history of naming its fighter aircraft after various cats, e.g., Wildcat, Hellcat, Tigercat, Panther, Cougar, Tiger) is 62 feet, 8 inches (19.101 meters) long with its wingspan varying from 33 feet, 3 inches (10.135 meters) when swept fully aft (overswept), and 64 feet, 1 inches (19.510 meters) when fully extended. The airplane has an overall height of 16 feet, 0 inches (4.879 meters). It has an empty weight of 40,104 pounds (18,191 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 74,349 pounds (33,724 kilograms).

The fighter was initially powered by two Pratt & Whitney JTF10A (TF30-P-412) afterburning turbofan engines, rated at 20,900 pounds of thrust (92.97 kilonewtons), each, with afterburner. The TF-30-P-412 is a two-spool axial-flow turbofan engine. It has a 3-stage fan section, 13-stage compressor section (6 low- and 7 high-pressure stages) and 4-stage turbine (1 high- and 3 low-pressure stages).

Grumman F-14 A Tomcat, 21 December 1970. (U.S. Naval Institute)
The first Grumman F-14A Tomcat, 21 December 1970. (U.S. Naval Institute)

Cruise speed for the F-14A is 610 miles per hour (982 kilometers per hour). It has a maximum speed of 912 miles per hour (1,468 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level (Mach 1.20) and 1,544 miles per hour (2,485 kilometers per hour) at 40,000 feet (12,192 meters) (Mach 2.34). The airplane’s service ceiling is 55,000 feet (16,764 meters). Its maximum range is 2,400 miles (3,862 kilometers).

The Tomcat is armed with one 20 mm General Electric M61A1 Vulcan six-barrel Gatling gun with 675 rounds of ammunition. It can carry a combination of Hughes AIM-54 Phoenix long range air-to-air missiles, as well as AIM 7 Sparrow and AIM 9 Sidewinders. The F-14 has the capability of simultaneously engaging six independent targets with the Phoenix missile. The AIM-54 is a radar-guided Mach 5 missile with a range of 115 miles (185 kilometers).

The Grumman F-14 was in production from 1970 until 1991, in three variants, the F-14A, F-14B and F-14D. A total of 712 Tomcats were built. The fighter remained in service with the United States Navy until 2006. 79 F-14As were provided to the Imperial Iranian Air Force, prior to the Islamic revolt. An unknown number of these remain in service with the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force.

Grumman test pilot Robert K. Smyth.
Grumman Chief Test Pilot Robert Kenneth Smyth. (Northrop Grumman Corporation)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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