F-14s Head to Scrap Yard

The Defense Department is having its old F-14 Tomcats destroyed.

A mechanical monster grabs the F-14 fighter jet and chews through one wing and then another, ripping off the Tomcat’s appendages before moving onto its guts. Finally, all that’s left is a pile of shredded rubble — like the scraps from a Thanksgiving turkey.

The Pentagon is paying a contractor at least $900,000 to destroy old F-14s, a jet affectionately nicknamed “the turkey,” rather than sell the spares at the risk of their falling into the wrong hands, including Iran’s. Within a workday, a $38 million fighter jet that once soared as a showpiece of U.S. airpower can be destroyed at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Ariz., the military’s “boneyard” for retired aircraft.

“There were things getting to the bad guys, so to speak,” said Tim Shocklee, founder and executive vice president of TRI-Rinse Inc. in St. Louis. “And one of the ways to make sure that no one will ever use an F-14 again is to cut them into little 2-by-2-foot bits.”

The Defense Department had intended to destroy spare parts unique to the F-14 but sell thousands of others that could be used on other aircraft. It suspended sales of all Tomcat parts after The Associated Press reported in January that buyers for Iran, China and other countries had exploited gaps in surplus-sale security to acquire sensitive U.S. military gear, including F-14 parts.

You’d think they could just take them to a junk yard and put them in a car crusher. Leave it to the Pentagon to spend a million bucks having things turned to scrap.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    I know neighborhoods in Chicago where you can have it done for free. Just park it by the side of the road.

    Of course, that’s probably what they’re trying to avoid.

  2. jeff b says:

    Just the scrap aluminum and titanium in these aircraft is worth a mint. Any scrap dealer would pay the government for the privilege, instead of us paying them.

  3. Bithead says:

    The question becomes, would the scrap dealer supply the technology to folks who shouldn’t have it?

  4. An F-14 is a lot bigger and heavier than a car. Without knowing more about what destroying the planes costs, e.g., documentation requirements, environmental impacts, special handling requirements, etc., how can you be sure that $900,000 isn’t reasonable. The costs may be entirely unreasonable, but there isn’t enough information to tell. This isn’t necessarily another case of $400 hammers.

  5. pudge says:

    Much like the closing of USAF bases, these kinds of stories alway sadden me. Still, isn’t it somehow heartening to know that our bone yards are filled with more innovation and creativity than all of the “top of the line” equipment of most of the rest of the world ?

    I’m sure its just due to capitalistic greed and hedonism, but it sure is swell to know we are blessed with those great and productive minds and not our enemies.(Gee,we’ve sure been “lucky” on that account so far,don’t you think ?)

    This has been todays “Capitalistic Pig” affirmation moment.