Century Wings CW587199 US Navy Grumman F-14A Tomcat Fleet Defense Fighter - AJ203, VF-84 "Jolly Rogers", USS Nimitz (CV-68), 1978 (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.
Upon being granted the contract for the F-14, Grumman greatly expanded its Calverton, Long Island, New York facility to test and evaluate the new swing-wing interceptor. Much of the testing was in the air of the Long Island Sound as well as the first few in-flight mishaps, including the first of many compressor stalls and ejections. In order to save time and forestall interference from Secretary McNamara, the Navy skipped the prototype phase and jumped directly to full-scale development; the Air Force took a similar approach with its F-15.
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 VF-84 "Jolly Rogers", AJ203, then embarked upon the USS Nimitz in 1978. Only 1,000 pieces produced.
Wingspan: 7 inches
Length: 10.5 inches
Release Date: July 2007
Historical Account: "Skull & Crossbones" - Strike Fighter Squadron 103 (the Jolly Rogers) is a Strike Fighter Squadron that now flies the F/A-18F Super Hornet and is based at NAS Oceana.
Three U.S. Naval Aviation squadrons have used the name and insignia of the Jolly Roger: VF-17/VF-5B/VF-61, VF-84 (est. 1955), and VFA-103, the subject of this article. While VFA-103 is not the lineal descendant of either of the prior squadrons, it has assumed their insignia and name and carries on their traditions.
The VF-84 Vagabonds, flying the FJ-3 Fury, was established on July 1st, 1955, at NAS Oceana. After deactivation of VF-61, VF-84's new commanding officer, formerly with VF-61, requested to carry on the name and insignia of the Jolly Rogers. His request was approved on April 1, 1960. VF-84 F-8C Crusaders carried the skull and crossbones, VF-84 was on the USS Independence CVA during the Cuban Crisis and the bay of pigs incident, the squadron made several mediterainen cruises on board the Independence.The squadron flew the F8UD Crusaders for several years prior to being introduced to the F-4B during 1964.
In 1964 VF-84 transitioned to the F-4 Phantom II and flew the F-4B, F-4J and the F-4N until they transitioned to the F-14 Tomcat in early 1976. In 1965 the squadron deployed for 7 months on board Independence in the Gulf of Tonkin and flew 1507 combat sorties, logging 2200 flight hours over both North Vietnam and South Vietnam.
After its transition to the F-14 was completed, the squadron embarked on its first cruise on Nimitz in December 1977. In 1979 the unit was the first TARPS capable squadron of the fleet. In 1980 it participated in the motion picture The Final Countdown which propelled the skull and crossbones and the F-14 to international stardom. The movie featured a memorable scene involving two VF-84 Tomcats engaging two Japanese A6M Zeros.
In January 1980, Nimitz diverted from the Mediterranean to take up station in the Arabian Sea in response to the Iranian hostage crisis and in April participated in the failed hostage rescue attempt. In November 1983, the squadron embarked on an extended deployment off the coast of Beirut, Lebanon, in support of a multinational peacekeeping force. During 1985, VF-84 spent 68 days off the coast of Lebanon in response to the hijacking of TWA Flight 847.