The interesting video in this post features F-14 Tomcat (S/N 160694), one of a valiant few that was used in the 1986 Blockbuster Movie, Top Gun, sitting on the deck of the USS Lexington in Corpus Christi, TX. The USS Lexington museum has been working to restore this F-14 to a VF-84 Jolly Rogers paint scheme and protect it before the elements deteriorate this aircraft movie star.
According to David F. Brown’s book Tomcat Alley: A Photographic Roll Call of the Grumman F-14 Tomcat, 160694 was assigned to VF-51 during the making of the movie and received full Top Gun movie markings. The aircraft featured the fictious VF-1 badge, which was actually the insignia for VAW-110, an E-2C Hawkeye squadron based at Naval Air Station (NAS) Miramar. During the movie Top Gun, this Tomcat displayed Lt. Mitchell’s name and callsign plus that of his new RIO, Ltjg. Sam “Merlin” Wells. It was also equipped as a camera ship and shot many of the dramatic air-to-air ACM footage. This Tomcat was stricken on Sep. 26, 1994.
160694 is currently on display aboard USS Lexington and is on loan from the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Florida.
It was a failed attempt at standardization that resulted in the design of perhaps the most famous fighter of the modern era. When a Navy version of the U.S. Air Force F-111 failed to meet exacting requirements for a carrier-based fighter, the Navy initiated a design competition for a new air superiority aircraft. The result was a design marvel featuring a unique variable sweep wing—the F-14 Tomcat.
Equipped with a weapon control system that enabled the aircraft’s crew to track 24 hostile targets at a range of 195 miles and attack six simultaneously with AIM-54 Phoenix missiles, deliveries to the Navy began in June 1972 with deployment of operational carrier squadrons in 1975.
The F-14 made a brief appearance over Vietnam, flying protective patrols for helicopters effecting the final evacuation of American personnel and foreign nationals from Saigon with no opposition from enemy fighters. The Middle East was destined to become the scene of the Tomcat’s combat initiation during encounters with Libyan fighters during the 1980s.
Upgraded F-14A (plus) and F-14Ds came into service in the late1980s and early 1990s, boasting enhanced avionics and more powerful F110-GE-400 turbofans. The aircraft also proved an outstanding air-to-ground platform employing a capability present from the initial design work, but rarely employed.
At peak employment, thirty Navy squadrons operated F-14s. Tomcats flew combat missions during the Gulf War and in missions over Iraq and Afghanistan from 2001 until the F-14’s retirement in 2006.
Photo credit: USS Lexington Museum
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