Aviation History

Did you know the F-14 Tomcat was meant to be ‘Bombcat’ from the beginning of its development?

The AWG-15 fire-control system of the F-14A Tomcat was always equipped with the CCIP-mode, and the jet was always capable of deploying ‘dumb’ bombs.

For those who still do not know this (and the few that have asked): yes, the AWG-15 fire-control system [AWG-9 only refers to the radar, while AWG-15 is the whole fire-control system of the Tomcat] of the F-14A Tomcat was always equipped with the CCIP-mode, and the jet was always capable of deploying ‘dumb’ bombs.

Indeed, Grumman run the related flight-testing in 1973-1974, as can be seen in the main photo of this post (showing one of 10+1 prototypes armed with Mk.82s, AIM-7 Sparrows and AIM-9 Sidewinders).

That’s also why all the 80 F-14As made for Iran were all manufactured and delivered (minus one that was never delivered) equipped with the CCIP-mode plus all the shackles and other equipment necessary to carry and deploy bombs in combat (i.e. this was no ‘Iranian modification, even if, yes, the Iranians were the first to deploy the F-14A as a ‘bomber’ – either in 1982 or in 1986, seems even they cannot agree about this).

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. Farewell to the Tomcat, VF-32 Swordsmen, 2005

Indeed, VF-32 Squadron of the USN even run some exercises with bombs, shortly after its conversion to the new jet, in 1973-1974.

Only the contemporary ‘flags’ (admirals) of the USN have developed the idea about the F-14 being a ‘pure interceptor’, and this was then repeated in almost all the related English-language publications, until it became a dogma. It was a similar dogma like ‘AIM-54 is only good to kill bombers and cruise missiles’ – while the weapon was perfectly capable (and thoroughly tested, and then proven as such in combat) in deployment against ‘small and nimble’ fighters (which was no surprise: already the AIM-54’s predecessor, AIM-47 Falcon – which was to be armed with a nuke, and then installed on the stillborn YF-12A Mach-3-capable interceptor – scored 7 direct hits in 9 tests).

Unsurprisingly, when a new generation of flags came to their senses, slightly over 10 years later, it was no problem for USN’s F-14-units to (re-)start ‘flight testing’ and even do some training in release of bombs, in the late 1980s – thus opening the way for what eventually evolved into the ‘Bombcat’ of the late 1990s and early 2000s, as youngsters know it.

Ah yes, and….

AGM-53 Condor

When placing orders for its F-14s, Iran was very keen to get these armed with the Rockwell International AGM-53 Condor. Condor was something like ‘predecessor’ of what we nowadays know as ‘precision guided munition’ (PGM): a TV-guided missile with a range of about 60km (over 30 miles), under development for the USN since the late 1960s.

Sure, as such it might sound as ‘not much more than the contemporary AGM-62 Walleye’, but Condor was far more sophisticated and, as indicated above, also had a much better range (AGM-62 was, essentially, a glide-bomb).

Alas, before the Iranians could place any orders, in 1976, Condor was cancelled because of its excessive cost: a single round went at a higher price than AIM-54A Phoenix.

Check out Helion & Company website for books featuring interesting stories written by The Aviation Geek Club contributor Tom Cooper.

Photo credit: U.S. Navy

This model is available from AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS
Tom Cooper

Tom Cooper is an Austrian aerial warfare analyst and historian. Following a career in the worldwide transportation business – during which he established a network of contacts in the Middle East and Africa – he moved into narrow-focus analysis and writing on small, little-known air forces and conflicts, about which he has collected extensive archives. This has resulted in specialisation in Middle Eastern, African and Asian air forces. As well as authoring and co-authoring 560 books and over 1,000 articles, he has co-authored the Arab MiGs book series – a six-volume, in-depth analysis of the Arab air forces at war with Israel, in the 1955–73 period. Cooper has been working as editor of the five @War series since 2017. tom@acig.info

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