Unveiled on Nov. 18, 2020, the F-14 monument is placed feet away from a prototype of the same famed jet that has greeted museum visitors at Naval Air Station Pensacola for three decades.
The F-14 Tomcat, perhaps the most widely recognized US Navy fighter thanks to its starring role in “Top Gun,” has now its own monument at the National Naval Aviation Museum following the monument unveiling Wednesday.
Unveiled on Nov. 18, 2020, the monument is placed feet away from a prototype of the same famed jet that has greeted museum visitors at Naval Air Station Pensacola for three decades.
“The F-14, quite simply, it embodied American strength,” said Museum Historian Hill Goodspeed Wednesday to a socially-distanced crowd of about 50 people. Advancements during the Cold War in Soviet long range patrol and bomber aircraft dictated a requirement for a fleet defense fighter that could engage high-altitude bombers from well beyond visual range. The iconic F-14 Tomcat was Grumman’s answer. Equipped with long range AIM-54 Phoenix air-to-air missiles, F-14s could engage multiple hostiles over 90 miles away. Needing an interceptor’s high speed while carrying this heavy ordnance, Grumman produced the highly effective variable sweep wing of the F-14, enabling it to operate at a wide range of airspeeds.
Wednesday’s dedication came just a month before the 50th anniversary of the F-14’s first flight, which happened in December 1970. 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 F-14 saw its first combat in August 1981, downing two Libyan Su-22 fighters over the Gulf of Sidra. It saw considerable duty in the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan. The last F-14 retired from active service in 2006.
US Navy Cdr. Bert Seither manned the cockpit of the F-14 from the late 1970s until the mid-1980s. As reported by Pensacola News Journal, Seither, who swapped stories with other pilots after Wednesday’s dedication, said the F-14’s attributes were the stuff of legends.
“It had more power than you could handle,” Seither said. “It would go anywhere, it would do anything. It would fly high, it would fly fast. The variable wing let it be a fast airplane, a slow airplane, and it was a big airplane. We called it the flying tennis court.”
Each laser-etched panel on the monument shows different images of the F-14 in action with brief descriptions of its service. As we have already reported, one of those panels is dedicated to the 68 servicemen who died flying the aircraft.
The F-14 Tomcat Monument Association selected three locations to place the monuments; the first was installed in Virginia Beach, the second in Pensacola on Wednesday and the third is slated to go up in San Diego in the near future.
Photo credit: U.S. Navy