The Navy's fearsome fighter retires.
- Air & Space magazine, September 2006
PHA Gregory A. Pierot, USN
(Page 3 of 6)
I always thought of the Phoenix as a crazed little Kamikaze hanging under your belly. Send it at someone and it's like a mad dog: You are bound to see some bellies after it enters a fight.>>> Tom "Sobs" sobieck, VF-1
Two explosive charges push it away from the aircraft, so when you launch it, you hear "thump, thump." It drops away and you don't see it for a few seconds-but you're so excited, time has slowed and you wonder if something's wrong. Then you see this huge arcing contrail out in front of the airplane. It climbs to about 100,000 feet and you lose sight of it. You just watch for the explosion in the distance. A 1,000-pound missile coming down from 100,000 feet-that's an enormous amount of kinetic energy, never mind the warhead.>>> Dave "Hey Joe" Parsons, VF-102, -32, -101
LANTIRN: The Cat Is Back
After Desert Storm, things looked bad for the F-14 until the Navy fixed it up with a precision weapon delivery system. First built by Martin Marietta in the 1980s for the Air Force F-15E, the Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night system allowed a pilot and RIO to detect a target on the ground in infrared, lock onto and track it, and drop laser-guided and GPS-aided weapons with deadly accuracy. Now F-14 pilots could fly close to the ground, at night, or in bad weather during precision-attack missions. Introduced in 1996, the Tomcat's version of LANTIRN not only included an infrared sensor and laser rangefinder but added inertial navigation and GPS equipment, improving accuracy. In some ways, the F-14's system was superior to that flown on the F-15E or F-16C; the F-14 RIO had a bigger cockpit display, which resulted in better target recognition. LANTIRN-equipped Tomcats saw action in Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan.>>> Paul Hoversten, Air & Space
Shock and Awe
I remember my first flight out of Pax River with a RIO. He fired up that radar, and I nearly fell out of the seat. It seemed like you could see the whole East Coast. I started to get the feeling for the power the Tomcat would bring to the fight.>>> Curt "Dozo" Dose, NAVAL AIR TEST CENTER
First time I actually saw the airplane was when I went up to Grumman [for Navy acceptance trials]. I had seen drawings, and we'd been keeping track of it. It looked beautiful. You were just counting the days until you could get the chance to fly it. Down low, going real fast, there was nothing that could keep up with it. And it was rock steady. Just rock steady.>>> Jay "Spook" Yakeley, Commander, CVW-14, CCG-3
The Achille Lauro Incident
In 1985, the U.S. Navy sent F-14s to intercept an Egyptian airliner carrying four Palestinians who had hijacked a passenger liner. After murdering one passenger, the hijackers sailed to Egypt and negotiated safe passage in return for the safety of the remaining passengers.
After the Saratoga got word from the Pentagon via the 6th Fleet to find the 737, the carrier's airwing and crew scrambled to fire Tomcats into the darkness. Once we intercepted the airliner, Ralph Zia in the E2 told the Egyptian pilot to proceed to Sigonella, Italy [a NATO base], not his intended destination, Libya. Ralph got your basic 'It's too hard, and who are you, anyway?' Steve "Spoon" Weatherspoon and his RIO Woody Widay got up close, flipped on their lights, and the pilot became much more cooperative. We all know how big the Tomcat looks up close, even to an airliner.
We headed east down the Med at about .88 Mach, cruise speed for the 737 but a gas burner for us. We were covering huge distances and out of direct comms with the ship. The E-2 was rattling and shaking as it drove past its speed limit to stay within radio contact with us. Things got more hectic as we reached Sigonella. The 737 was way too low on his first approach and almost bought it until we flew past him to make him go around. He finally put it down. Thanks to outstanding tanker pilots and the Saratoga's skipper, we hit a tanker on the way home and got safely back to the carrier 500 miles away.>>> Ken "Frog" Burgess, VF-74
One hijacker was jailed; two paroled. The last, captured in Iraq in 2003, died in custody.