Calibre Wings CA721405 US Navy Grumman F-14A Tomcat Fleet Defense Fighter - VF-143 "Pukin Dogs" (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 Fleet Defense Fighter that was attached to VF-143 "Pukin Dogs".
Release Date: February 2019
Historical Account: "Pukin Dogs" - VF-143 was one of the first squadrons to deploy with the F-14A(+) (later renamed F-14B), in March 1990 aboard Eisenhower. When Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, Eisenhower and her battle group rushed to the Red Sea to deter the Iraqis from further advancement into Saudi Arabia. In late August, USS Saratoga (CV-60) relieved Ike. In early 1991, VF-143 was awarded COMNAVAIRLANT's 1990 Battle Efficiency Award as the Atlantic Fleet's finest fighter squadron. In addition, VF-143 was awarded the Chief of Naval Operations Rear Admiral Joseph C. Clifton Award. In May 1991 during the Air Wing's detachment to NAS Fallon, VF-143 dropped air-to-ground ordnance for the first time. In September, the squadron deployed to the Persian Gulf, and participated NATO exercises in the Norwegian Sea.
In August 1992, the Pukin' Dogs and the rest of CVW-7 switched aircraft carriers to the USS George Washington (CVN-73), the Navy's newest aircraft carrier. VF-143 deployed for Washington's maiden cruise and then again for the carrier's first Mediterranean Sea deployment in May 1994 where she took part in the 50th anniversary commemoration of the D-Day invasion and Operation Deny Flight. The VF-143 was awarded the 1994 Battle E, Safety S, Joseph C. Clifton and Golden Wrench awards. VF-143 F-14 tail markings In December 1994, the VF-143 completed departed on their second deployment in fifteen months, operating in support of Operation Decisive Endeavour and Operation Southern Watch. The squadron provided TARPS, Forward Air Controller, air superiority and air-to-ground missions. VF-143 returned to Oceana in July 1996.
In early 1997, VF-143 transitioned to the Navy's newest carrier, the USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74), deploying in 1998. The maiden deployment took them to the Persian Gulf, spending 131 days there in support of Operation Southern Watch. VF-143 played key roles using LANTIRN, night vision goggles and digital TARPS. VF-143 was recognized by COMNAVAIRLANT with the 1998 Battle Safety "S" awards. VF-143 deployed in support of Operation Southern Watch, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom Phase II. The last deployment with the F-14 was in 2004 aboard George Washington in support of Iraqi Freedom, during which time the squadron participated in strikes over Fallujah between April 28th-April 29th.
In 2005, VF-143 transitioned to the F/A-18E Super Hornet, and was designated Strike Fighter Squadron 143 (VFA-143).