Tomcat Tribute

The Navy’s fearsome fighter retires.

Feathers ruffled, a "Turkey" rests on the deck of the Harry S. Truman while a Sikorsky MH-60S Knighthawk hoists in supplies for the carrier population. (PHA Gregory A. Pierot, USN)
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Was it the size? The F-14 was big. At 65,000 fully loaded pounds, it was the heaviest fighter ever to be catapulted from an aircraft carrier. Or was it the fluid maneuverability of an aircraft that large, or its Mach 2-plus speed, or the chest-thrumming roar of two powerful engines? Maybe it was simply the fact that in a movie with one of Hollywood's biggest stars, the Grumman F-14 stole the show. Probably all of those factors account for the Tomcat phenomenon: Though it rarely got the chance to prove its air superiority, the F-14 is wildly popular with aviation enthusiasts around the world.

They have the Soviets to thank. Were it not for the Tupolev Tu-95 Bear bomber and increasingly capable anti-ship weapons, there would have been no need for a supersonic fleet protector. With a radar and missile suite powerful enough to destroy a threat from 100 miles away, the F-14 was built to whup the Bear and its formidable fighter escorts. In its 34-year career, however, the F-14 shot down only five enemy aircraft, four of them Libyan fighters opposing in 1981 and 1989 the U.S. presidents' carrier-backed contention that the Gulf of Sidra was international, not Libyan, waters.>>> The Editors

Some statements were compiled for the book Grumman F-14 Tomcat: Bye-bye Baby by Dave Parsons, George Hall, and Bob Lawson (Zenith Press, 2006) and are used with permission.


[Carrier Operations]



You are on the Landing Signal Officer platform of the USS Kitty Hawk, off the coast of California. It's a warm December night in 1993. Out of the starry black sky comes an ungodly roar followed by an enormous slab of a wing and huge vertical stabilizers. Thirty tons of Tomcat hurtles by, eclipsing the stars, trailing fire, feeling for the 3 wire. The beast slams onto the deck and instantly goes to full power (in case the hook misses), which rattles your very bones and literally takes your breath away. The airplane has just conveyed the message, "I am the biggest, baddest Grumman cat ever to fly off a carrier. YOU GOT THAT, you miserable civilian scum?">>> Patricia Trenner, Air & Space


How the Tomcat Got Its Name

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