This F-14D close-up shows the last upgrade received by Tomcat before being retired


By Dario Leone
Jan 15 2018
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ROVER capability was added to the F-14D Tomcat On Dec. 10, 2005. It was first used by VF-31 and VF-213 on their last cruise with the Tomcat in 2005 and 2006. 

The photo in this post shows an F-14D Tomcat of VF-213 deployed with the carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) flying with the Remotely Operated Video Enhanced Receiver (ROVER) system (whose blue transmit antenna is circled in red in the image).

ROVER allows ground forces, such as Forward air controllers (FACs), to see what an aircraft or unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is seeing in real time by receiving images acquired by the aircraft’s sensors on a laptop on the ground. There’s little time delay and usage of ROVER greatly improves the FAC on the ground reconnaissance and target identification which are essential to close air support (CAS).

ROVER capability was added to the F-14D Tomcat On Dec. 10, 2005. It was first used by VF-31 and VF-213 on their last cruise with the Tomcat in 2005 and 2006.

Within days of the modification teams arrival on the USS Theodore Roosevelt all F-14 Tomcats had complete ROVER capability. Before ROVER, ground controllers had to rely on “visual talk-ons” to hunt enemy ground forces and would use a map to guide pilots where they needed to go. According to a U.S. Navy news release, a joint VF-31/VF-213 investigation revealed that it would be possible to modify the F-14D Super Tomcat with off-the-shelf technology for only 800 dollars per aircraft.

A team of F-14D experts from the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) F-14 Program Office (PMA-241) staff at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River was presented with this idea in early November 2005 and were able to research, develop and field this technology within a six-week window. Northrop Grumman employees from Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana and members of the fleet support team from Naval Air Systems Command Depot at Naval Air Station Jacksonville performed the aircraft modification.

F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets from VFA-25, VFA-113, VFA-22 and VFA-115 were also modified with ROVER capability for the first deployment of the USS Ronald Reagan in 2006.

During their final deployment with the USS Theodore Roosevelt, VF-31 and VF-213 collectively completed 1,163 combat sorties totaling 6,876 flight hours, and dropped 9,500 lb (4,300 kg) of ordnance during reconnaissance, surveillance, and CAS missions.

VF-213 F-14D Print
This print is available in multiple sizes from – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. F-14D Tomcat VF-213 Blacklions, AJ200 / 164347 / 2006

Photo credit: U.S. Navy

Artwork courtesy of

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Dario Leone

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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  1. Felix Nuts Tomcat says:

    Too bad the F-14D didn’t stick around long enough to see the full benefit of this technology. Only 800 dollars? That isn’t very much to spend for modifying a fighter jet.

  2. Monty8218 says:

    Well, too little, too late for the Tommy. She was just too old. The super hornet still has big shoes to fill.

  3. Uxi says:

    F-14D were all pretty much brand new builds. Cheney had personal beef with Grumman it seems and blocked the acquisition of more.

    Super Bug doesn’t have the range or speed or loiter time to do the job so it’s currently a big hole… Super Tomcat 21 would have had modern components and subsystems in new build airframes with even more fuel and supercruise. Stealth isn’t really as necessary with a fleet interceptor anyway, though you’d probably want it for the strike packages but it would have been the Navy analogy of F-15E. Such a waste.

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