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 from 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 57th anniversary of another Paramount Pictures movie, “Wings,” winning of the first Academy Award for Best Picture.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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 38,188 pounds (17,322 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 72,566 pounds (32,915 kilograms).

The fighter was initially powered by two Pratt & Whitney JTF10A (TF30-P-412A) afterburning turbofan engines. The JTF10A is a two-spool axial-flow 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). The engine has a Maximum Continuous Power rating of 10,800 pounds of thrust (48.041 kilonewtons) at 14,300 r.p.m. (N2); Intermediate Power, 12,350 pounds (54.936 kilonewtons) at 14,800 r.p.m. (45-minute limit); and a Maximum Power of 20,900 pounds (92.968 kilonewtons) at 14,780 r.p.m., with afterburner (45-minute limit). The engine is 18 feet, 7.59 inches (5.679 meters) long, 4 feet, 2.5 inches (1.283 meters) in diameter, and weighs 3,971 pounds (1,801 kilograms).

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 497 knots (572 miles per hour/920 kilometers per hour). It has a maximum speed of 805 knots (926 miles per hour (1,491 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level (Mach 1.22) and 1,314 knots (1,512 miles per hour/2,434 kilometers per hour) at 38,000 feet (11,582 meters) (Mach 2.29). The airplane’s service ceiling is 41,000 feet (12,497 meters), and its combat ceiling is 57,600 feet (17,556 meters) at 1,030 knots (1,185 miles per hour/1,907 kilometers per hour), Mach 1.80. The Tomcat has a combat radius of 741 nautical miles (853 statute miles/1,372 kilometers), and its maximum ferry range is 1,840 nautical miles (2,117 miles/3,407 kilometers).

The Tomcat is armed with one 20 mm General Electric M61A1 Vulcan six-barrel Gatling gun with 676 rounds of ammunition. It can carry a combination of Hughes AIM-54A Phoenix long range air-to-air missiles, as well as AIM 7E Sparrow and AIM 9H Sidewinders. The F-14 has the capability of simultaneously engaging six independent targets with the Phoenix missile. The AIM-54A is a radar-guided Mach 5 missile with a range of 115 statute miles (185 kilometers). It has a 135 pound (61.2 kilograms) proximity-fused blast fragmentation warhead.

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)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes