F-14 Tomcat Flies Final Mission
An era in military aviation has come to an end: the Navy’s F-14 Tomcat has been mothballed, reports USA Today‘s Steven Komarow.
The F-14 Tomcat, the fighter jet that soared into the national imagination in the movie Top Gun, has flown into the danger zone for the last time. The Navy announced Thursday that the last F-14 combat mission was completed Feb. 8, when a pair of Tomcats landed aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt after one dropped a bomb in Iraq.
Capt. William Sizemore, who flew on that last mission, said the Tomcat will be missed. “This is one of the best airplanes ever built, and it’s sad to see it go away,” Sizemore said in a Navy report from the ship. “It’s just a beautiful airplane. And it just looks like the ultimate fighter.”
Although still swift and deadly, the F-14 is a victim of changing times. For example:
•Sophisticated missiles have made its specialty, aerial dogfighting, obsolete. Opposing aircraft target each other from miles away, often before the pilots can see each other except on radar.
•Precision bombing is the new priority, and despite modification, the Tomcat can’t carry the loads of the new F/A-18 Super Hornet.
•It’s too expensive in the long run. The jet that flew its first combat missions in September 1974 requires 50 hours of maintenance, compared with five to 10 hours for the Super Hornet, for each hour of flight time.
In most cases, it is hard to justify retiring an American military aircraft, simply because no plausible opponent will have a better one. The Tomcat, though, was an exception; it had simply become obsolete.
That doesn’t keep its admirers from getting a bit misty eyed:
Although the Navy is better served by the newer jets, the beautiful F-14 will be missed, Fallon said. “It was the last of the pure fighters.”
You fly jets long enough, something like this happens.