Century Wings CW586727 US Navy Grumman F-14A Tomcat Fleet Defense Fighter - NF101, VFA-154 "Black Knights", USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63), 1999 (1:72 Scale)
"Obsolete weapons do not deter."
- British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
The F-14 Tomcat program was initiated when it became obvious that the weight and maneuverability issues plaguing the U.S. Navy variant of the Tactical Fighter Experimental (TFX) (F-111B) would not be resolved to the Navy's satisfaction. The Navy requirement was for a fleet air defense fighter (FADF) with the primary role of intercepting Soviet bombers before they could launch missiles against the carrier group. The Navy also wanted the aircraft to possess inherent air superiority characteristics. The Navy strenuously opposed the TFX, which incorporated the Air Force's requirements for a low-level attack aircraft, fearing the compromises would cripple the aircraft, but were forced to participate in the program at direction of then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara who wanted "joint" solutions to the service aircraft needs to reduce developmental costs. The prior example of the F-4 Phantom which was a Navy program later adopted by the USAF (under similar direction) was the order of the day. Vice Admiral Thomas Connolly, DCNO for Air Warfare took the developmental F-111A for a flight and discovered it was unable to go supersonic and had poor landing characteristics. He later testified to Congress about his concerns against the official Department of the Navy position and in May 1968, Congress killed funding for the F-111B allowing the Navy to pursue an answer tailored to their requirements.
NAVAIR shortly issued an RFP for the Naval Fighter Experimental (VFX), a tandem two-seat fighter with maximum speed of Mach 2.2 and a secondary close air support role. Of the five companies that submitted bids (four of which incorporated variable-geometry wings as on the F-111), McDonnell Douglas and Grumman were selected as finalists in December 1968, and Grumman won the contract in January 1969. Grumman had been a partner on the F-111B, and had started work on an alternative when they saw the project heading south, and so had an edge on its competitors. Their early design mock-ups and cost projections were floated among Navy brass as an alternative to the F-111B.
The winning Grumman design reused the TF30 engines from the F-111B, though the Navy planned on replacing them with the F401-PW-400 engines then under development by Pratt and Whitney for the Navy (in parallel with the related F100 for the USAF). Though lighter than the F-111B, it was still the largest and heaviest U.S. fighter to ever fly from an aircraft carrier, its size a consequence of the requirement to carry the large AWG-9 radar and AIM-54 Phoenix missiles, also from the F-111B and an internal fuel load of 16,000 lbs (7300 kg). The F-14 would also share a similar inlet duct, wing, and landing gear geometry with Grumman's A-6 Intruder.
The F-14 first flew on December 21st, 1970, just 22 months after Grumman was awarded the contract, and reached Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in 1973. While the Marine Corps was interested in the F-14 and went so far as to send pilots to VF-124 to train as instructors, they were never fully sold on the aircraft and pulled out when the stores management system for ground attack munitions was left undeveloped, leaving the aircraft incapable of dropping air-to-ground munitions (these were later developed in the 1990s).
Pictured here is a stunning 1:72 scale diecast replica of a US Navy F-14A Tomcat flown by VFA-154 "Black Knights", NF100, then embarked upon the USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63).
Wingspan: 7 inches
Length: 10.5 inches
Release Date: July 2007
Historical Account: "Crescendo" - Strike Fighter Squadron 154 (VFA-154), also known as the "Black Knights", are a United States Navy strike fighter squadron stationed at Naval Air Station Lemoore. The Black Knights are an operational fleet squadron flying the F/A-18F Super Hornet. They are currently attached to Carrier Air Wing Nine and deployed aboard the USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74).
The lineage of the present "Grim Reapers" squadron (which shares only the name with VF-10) goes back to May 1st, 1952, when VF-101 was commissioned at NAS Cecil Field.
VF-101 flew the FG1-D Corsair and participated in the Korean War and later in 1952 VF-101 received the jet powered F2H-1 Banshee and deployed to the Mediterranean Sea. In 1956 they transitioned to the F4D-1 Skyray, their first radar equipped aircraft.
After the cruises with Constellation, CVW-15 moved to the USS Independence (CV-62) with this carrier, VF-154 and VF-21 became the first F-14 squadrons to arrive in the Persian Gulf as part of Operation Desert Shield, although they never took part in Operation Desert Storm and Independence returned to the US before the war started.
In August 1991, the USS Independence become home based at Yokosuka, Japan, to replace the USS Midway. VF-154 stayed with the carrier for this, but moved from CVW-14 to Carrier Air Wing 5 and from NAS Miramar to NAF Atsugi, thus becoming the first forward deployed F-14 squadron. At the same time as joining CVW-5 VF-154 became the first F-14 squadron to deploy with an air-to- ground bombing capability. Along with the USS Nimitz (CVN-68), Independence and her air wing were involved in operations to demonstrate US resolve in support of Taiwan. The 1995 Chinese military exercises once raised tension in the region and signalled China's opposition to Taiwan’s Presidential Election.
With the cut back on F-14 squadrons VF-154 sister squadron, VF-21, was disestablished, leaving the Black Knights as the only F-14 squadron in CVW-5. As well as keeping their TARPS role VF-154 have become very active in the air-to-ground role. Regular deployments aboard the Independence have continued. VF-154 conducted carrier qualifications on board the boat during November 1996.