Century Wings CW001608 US Navy Grumman F-14B Tomcat Fleet Defense Fighter - AD101, VF-101 "Grim Reapers", NAS Oceana, VA, 'Tomato' (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-14B Tomcat Fleet Defense Fighter that was attached to VF-101 "Grim Reapers" during 1995.
Wingspan: 7 inches
Length: 10.5 inches
Release Date: June 2014
Historical Account: "What Ye Sow, So Shall Ye Reep" - VF-101 "Grim Reapers" were the F-14 training unit of the United States Navy for all the east coast F-14's until the mid-1990s when the west coast training unit was disestablished and VF-101 became the sole F-14 training unit at Naval Air Station Oceana until disestablished in 2005.
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.
In April 1958, VF-101 was merged with the Fleet All Weather Training Unit Atlantic and thus stopped being a deployable unit and began to train all weather fighter pilots on both the F4D-1 and the F3H-2 Demon.
In becoming part of the training structure, VF-101 became part of Readiness Attack Carrier Air Wing 4. In June 1960, VF-101 established Detachment A at NAS Oceana which where to operate the F4H-1 and later the F-4 Phantom.
At the end of 1962, the Skyray and the Demon had been phased out in favor of the F-4 and Detachment A was disestablished and the F-4 training moved to NAS Key West. On May 1st, 1966 a new detachment was formed at NAS Oceana which took over the training of replacement pilots and RIO's in the areas of aerial refuelling, carrier qualification and conventional weapons. The Key West unit concentrated on air-to-air combat, missile firing and radar intercept techniques. In August 1967 VF-101 introduced the second generation F-4, the F-4J, to squadron service. VF-101's administrative command, Readiness Attack Carrier Air Wing 4, was disestablished on June 1st, 1970, with VF-101 shifting control of Command Fleet Air Key West, but this moved lasted only a year, and the Grim Reapers moved from NAS Key West was completed with a detachment remaining at Key West. Their third change of control happened in July when they moved under the command of Commander Fighter Wing One at NAS Oceana.