Forces of Valor 85037 US Navy Grumman F-14A Tomcat Fleet Defense Fighter - VF-154 "Black Knights" (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 gorgeous 1:72 scale diecast replica of a USN F-14A Tomcat assigned to VF-154, "Black Knights".
Wingspan: 7 inches
Length: 10.5 inches
Release Date: April 2006
Historical Account: "The Black Knights" - Strike Fighter Squadron ONE FIVE FOUR (VFA-154), assigned to Carrier Air Wing NINE, celebrates its 59th anniversary in July of 2005. The squadron was born when a Naval Reserve squadron was called to operational duty for the Korean War and was activated as VFB-718 on the 1st of July, 1946. The squadron's first aircraft was the F-6F Hellcat, soon followed by the F-4U Corsair, then the F9F-2 Panther. The squadron also changed designations twice, becoming VF-68A then VF-837. VF-837 flew their first combat cruise in the Korean War off the USS ANTIETAM (CV-36). On the 4th of February, 1953, while passing under the Golden Gate Bridge onboard the USS PRINCETON (CV-37) and on their way back to Korea for a second combat cruise, VF-837 was officially redesignated VF-154.
After the Panther, VF-154 moved to the F-3J Fury, followed by the F-8 Crusader in 1957. The new F-8 persuaded VF-154 to change their insignia and name. Previously known as "The Grand Slammers" and with the insignia of a flaming panther, a new insignia was designed by Milton Caniff, creator of the Steve Canyon cartoon. The new insignia was the Black Knight, armed with a sword to strike down the enemies of peace and justice and a shield to protect those unable to defend themselves.
After Korea, the next war for VF-154 was Vietnam. Their first combat deployment to the region was in 1965, onboard the USS CORAL SEA (CV-43). Following this cruise the squadron transitioned to the F-4B Phantom II. After a second cruise onboard the CORAL SEA, the Black Knights shifted to the USS RANGER (CV-61), completing five cruises to South East Asia. After their 1970 cruise, VF-154 upgraded to the F-4J version of the Phantom II. With this new fighter aircraft the squadron's final Vietnam tour took place. This last combat tour saw such a high standard from the Black Knights that they were awarded the Clifton Award, recognizing them as the best fighter squadron in the Navy.
The Black Knights received the last Navy version of the Phantom II, the F-4S, in 1979, but two years later, in January 1981, returned to the earlier F-4N version. Several cruises onboard the USS CORAL SEA (CV-43) followed, as this carrier did not have strong enough decks to carry the larger, heavier F-14. VF-154 finally transitioned to the F-14A beginning in October of 1983. The first cruise with the F-14A was in 1985 onboard the USS CONSTELLATION (CV-64). Several subsequent deployments onboard "Connie" followed, taking the squadron to the Persian Gulf and Middle East region. After these cruises, the squadron moved to the USS INDEPENDENCE (CV-62). It was as part of this team that saw VF-154 become one of the first F-14 squadrons to arrive in the Persian Gulf as part of Operation DESERT SHIELD.
August of 1991 saw the USS INDEPENDENCE become home based at Yokosuka, Japan, replacing the CORAL SEA, and the Black Knights move from NAS Miramar to NAF Atsugi, thus becoming the first forward deployed F-14 squadron. During this transition VF-154 became the first F-14 squadron to deploy with an air-to-ground bombing capability. While stationed in Japan, the Black Knights moved onto the USS KITTY HAWK (CV-63) in the spring of 2000. At this point, VF-154 was flying the oldest Tomcats in the fleet off of the oldest carrier in the Navy. In January of 2003, VF-154 was ordered back onto the KITTY HAWK only a few weeks after completing a very successful fall at sea period and subsequently participated in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. VF-154 dropped over 320 tons of ordnance and flew nearly 300 sorties in support of OIF.
In September of 2003 the Black Knights left Atsugi for the last time and ended their proud 13 years in Japan and 20 years in the Tomcat. A month later, VF-154 was redesignated VFA-154 at their new home at NAS Lemoore, California, and began transitioning to the Navy's newest strike fighter, the F/A-18F Super Hornet. They completed their first Super Hornet cruise in the summer of 2005 aboard the USS CARL VINSON (CVN-70). The Black Knights have a very proud tradition of being the best in the air and on the ground. Regardless of platform or home base, one thing has never changed: Black Knights Rule. (courtesy: Black Knights)