Tales of the F-14
More recollections of the fabled fighter.
- By airspacemag.com
- Air & Space magazine, September 2006
(Page 4 of 6)
Integrating the head up display was a problem. Given the technology at the time, it was a huge box: the optics were about ten inches in diameter. Being able to fit the reflector plate under the windshield at an angle that would avoid double images was tough. The line of vision is collimated at infinity. The symbology is off in the distance it you don’t know have the HUD and windshield matched correctly: Targets could appear to be where they are not. The HUD has a flat reflector plate, and you end up with refraction problems that can cause double images if the curvature of the windshield is not correct.
We gave the F-14 a flat windshield as opposed to the F-15’s single curvature. A flat window fit into the windshield gave more ballistic protection; it was more bullet-proof than the two side shields.
We got it right because somebody else had made the mistake before we did. The F-111 had a sharply raked windshield for aerodynamic reasons and it created problems. The F-14 windshield is raked at only 30 degrees so you don’t reflect more of the light coming in than you refract. It’s a pull and tug operation: The aerodynamics guys would like no windshield on the airplane. They’d like a bullet. Then we come along and put a bump there.”
An F-14 Every Week
Bob Klein, vice president of logistics and technology at Northrop Grumman, was the company’s last chief engineer of the F-14 program. He worked on an assembly line while in high school, in 1974.
“We built an F-14 once a week. Grumman had a program that took two scholarship winners, and if you were studying engineering you’d work in production for one month, seeing how airplanes are put together. I learned more in that one month (on the assembly line) than in the rest of my career.
We took an F-14 and instrumented it, flew it, and compared (fatigue measurements) to fleet data. We found it had 20 percent more life left in it. We saved the Navy $250 million, and added another life to the nine lives of the Tomcat. Well, I guess it was two lives, since it was 20 percent.
We had this great 8-inch by 8-inch display in the back seat. With that and the (Lightning) pod, the F-14 could carry a 2,000-pound weapon. It became the number one choice for fleet missions...We implemented the Lightning pod, laser-guided and GPS guided weapons very quickly. We went from turning on the pod to implementing it in the fleet in six months...The best way to do something ‘lean’ is to gather a tight group of people, give them very little money, and very little time.”