The Sunday Times claimed in July 1984 that the US Government had decided to suspend the shipment of a consignment of 15 second-hand F-14 aircraft to Greece.
By the late 1970s, several nations had evaluated the F-14 Tomcat, but none of these evaluations resulted in a sale. Israel, Saudi Arabia and Japan considered the aircraft as an alternative to the F-15, but all opted for the single-seat McDonnell Douglas fighter.
With the F-14 in widespread US Navy service, and in at least limited Iranian service, the Grumman fighter’s story seemed likely to be a dull one, with none of the variants or spectacular sales associated with the F-4 Phantom.
Although offered to the Australian, Canadian and Spanish air forces—three nations in the market for new fighters around the end of the 1970s—all opted for the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A Hornet.
As explained by Doug Richardson in his book Grumman F-14 Tomcat, cost seems to have been the main factor which told against the Tomcat, although Israel is reported to have considered the type too large and complex for its style of operations. One Israeli pilot is reported to have counted the moving parts in the Tomcat’s wing and glove system, then decided that he’d prefer to go to war in something simpler. Tomcat’s capabilities were beyond the pocket of most nations.
Silliest story in the Tomcat sales saga must be the alleged Greek order. Much to the surprise of the world’s aviation Press (and one suspects, to the surprise of Grumman), the British newspaper the Sunday Times claimed in July 1984 that the US Government had decided to suspend the shipment of a consignment of 15 second-hand F-14 aircraft to Greece. The article alleged that Washington had frozen delivery of the Tomcats as part of a series of measures intended to show US displeasure at the Papandreou Government’s opposition to the deployment of US nuclear missiles in Europe.
Greece was at the time shopping for new fighters to match Turkey’s planned acquisition of the F-16 Fighting Falcon, and had repeatedly postponed selection of a new aircraft, but Tomcat was never a serious contender—the shortlist of types under consideration was soon reduced to the Mirage 2000, F-16, F/A-18A Hornet and Panavia Tornado. At no rime had the Grumman warplane been a contender, and within days of the article appearing, Greek Government spokesman Dhimitrios Maroudhas stated that the story bore ‘no relation whatsoever to reality. Our country has never ordered F-14 aircraft from the United States. It must also be emphasized that what the Sunday Times reports on the so-called freezing of the sale of military aircraft to Greece by the United States is also untrue. No order from the United States is pending.’
Photo credit: U.S. Navy