Recalling his interrogation of an Iraqi Mirage F1EQ officer shot down by Iranian Tomcats in February 1986, Major Kazem, a former Iran F-4 pilot says: “Without hesitation, this man told me that he ‘knows the IRIAF was left with only some 20 [Northrop] F-5s and a dozen or so F-4s, and no operational F-14s and that all our remaining fighters were poorly flown.’ I had to keep myself from explaining [to] him the hard fact that his flight had just been shot to hell by a ‘poorly flown’ and ‘non-existing’ IRIAF F-14A.”
Thinking back on his experiences during the war, Javad has been bemused at what has been reported about the Iranian Tomcat pilots. “In the 1990s, a number of observers declared the F-14 and AIM-54 to be an ‘expensive failure,’ ” he says. “We proved the contrary to be the case. We not only shot down many Iraqi fighters, but we forced hundreds of Iraqi formations to abort their missions before reaching the target.”
Iraqi pilots seemed to have learned respect for the F-14. They faced the aircraft again during Operation Desert Storm, begun only three years after the United Nations-mandated cease fire ended the Iran-Iraq hostilities. U.S. F-14 pilots who flew the fighter on escort and photo reconnaissance missions in Iraq reported that Iraqi aircraft would break off an approach once the Tomcat’s AWG-9 radar fired up.
Today, there are still an unverifiable number of Tomcats, overhauled and upgraded with indigenously developed systems, in the Iranian air force.