F-14 Tomcat

Even though the AIM-120 was successfully tested on the F-14, the AMRAAM integration into fleet Tomcats was scrapped. Here’s why.

AIM-120 AMRAAM tested but not integrated on F-14 Tomcat.

Taken in September 1981, the interesting photos in this post feature a US Navy F-14A Tomcat, near the Pacific Missile Test Center (PMTC), Point Mugu, California, carrying and launching an AIM-120 advanced medium range air-to-air missile (AMRAAM) air-to-air missile.

A US Navy Grumman F-14A-65-GR Tomcat (BuNo 158625) from the Pacific Missile Test Center at Naval Air Station Point Mugu, California (US), in flight before launching an AIM-120 AMRAAM missile on Sep. 23, 1981.

Noteworthy, as explained by the website Home of M.A.T.S., F-14A/B/D did not have the capability to carry and fire the AIM-120 because – even though missile tests were conducted – the integration of the AMRAAM into fleet Tomcats was rated as too cost intensive.

The F-14 Tomcat, your fav AIM-120 AMRAAM platform

‘I want to know which jet is your favorite AIM-120 (AMRAAM) platform,’ “Virus,” the callsign of a former F-14 RIO with VF-211 Checkmates in the late 90s/early 2000s, says on his Instagram Page Tomcat_cockpit_pov.

An advanced medium range air-to-air missile (AMRAAM) after its launch from an F-14A Tomcat aircraft, near the Pacific Missile Test Center (PMTC), Point Mugu, California.

‘I’ll go first: the Tomcat. Yeah you heard me, and yes I want to fight about it. The Navy actually tested the AIM-120 on the F-14…successfully! Indeed, in a 1994 Congressional report, the Director of National Security stated, “The Navy does plan to add the capability to launch the [AMRAAM] to F-14Ds when their computer software is updated.” That same report concluded, however, that the projected costs of many other planned upgrades to the Tomcat were not justified in light of the Hornet’s and upcoming Super Hornet’s capabilities. Eventually, plans to arm Tomcats with AMRAAM were scrapped.’

Virus concludes;

‘I refuse to cry (in public) about this, though, because the Tomcat had the Phoenix. Why would we want a Diet Phoenix, too?’

An AMRAAM after its launch from an F-14A Tomcat aircraft, near the Pacific Missile Test Center (PMTC), Point Mugu, California.

The AIM-120 AMRAAM

The AMRAAM program completed its conceptual phase in February 1979 when the US Air Force (USAF) selected two of five competing contractors, Hughes Aircraft Co. and Raytheon Co., to continue into the validation phase.

During the 33-month validation phase the contractors continued missile development by building actual hardware to demonstrate their technological concepts. The program phase concluded in December 1981 after both contractors demonstrated that their flight-test missiles could satisfy Air Force and Navy requirements. The Air Force competitively selected Hughes Aircraft Co.’s Missile System Group, Canoga Park, Calif., as the full-scale developer.

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.F-14A Tomcat VF-211 Checkmates, AB101 / 161603 / 2004, Final Tomcat Cruise

During the full-scale development phase, Hughes Aircraft Co. completed missile development and Raytheon was selected as a follower producer. A production contract to both vendors was awarded in 1987. More than 200 of the test missiles were launched during flight tests at Eglin AFB, Fla.; White Sands Missile Range, N.M.; and Point Mugu, Calif.

Photo credit: US Navy

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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