What if Israel Picked the F-14 Tomcat over the F-15 Eagle?
Bought in the mid-1970s to secure air superiority for Israel in the Middle East for decades to come, the F-15 Eagle has indeed been the unrivalled master of the skies since its arrival in December 1976.
In 1974 the IDF/AF had a requirement for 50 next generation fighters, and in June of that same year Israeli Ministry of Defence Shimon Peres forwarded a request to evaluate the two main candidates. A large Israeli delegation, including IDF/AF and IAI test pilots and engineers, arrived in the US in September. The delegation’s mandate was simple — to evaluate and then recommend which fighter (the F-14 or the F-15) was more suited to fulfil the IDF/AF requirement.
From an Israeli point of view, the Tomcat could not match the three principal virtues of the Eagle — the F-14 had a framed rather than a bubble canopy, its thrust-to-weight ratio was significantly inferior to the F-15’s and the Grumman jet’s weapon system was optimised for BVR scenarios.
As a result of the evaluation, the Israeli Air Force selected the F-15.
According to Tomcat_Hunter Instagram Page, ‘Talking about the HYPOTHETICAL Israeli Airforce (IAF) F-14… Now before everyone gets their undies all bunched up let me just say for what the IAF needed the Eagle was the right choice but…
‘But if the Tomcat was selected here’s how the future might have panned out at least in my mind and basing this off the Eagles career with the IAF.
‘First off the Tomcat would be serving with a current friendly nation. That allows the doors for Grumman to remain open. The IDI (Israeli Defense Industries) would probably make favorable electronic and airframe modification which Grumman might find useful for future airframes, think ST21.
‘The US Navy would probably still be flying them since production and parts would be available dropping maintenance hours and cost… all about supply and demand.
‘Also, the legacy 14s would probably hang around longer giving way to the Super Cat 21 and there would be no BS that parts and airframes have to be destroyed to keep them out of unfavorable hands.
‘Ok I can keep going but this is just a quick overview of a scenario I see if the Israeli bought the Tomcat Over the Eagle. In the end the better fighter for Israel needs and requirements went to the F-15.’
However, there’s no doubt the F-15 Eagle was the right choice for the Israeli Air Force as there’s no doubt the F-14 Tomcat was the right choice for Iran. John C. Bierwirth, chairman and chief executive officer of Grumman back in the 1970s, said to Arthur Reed for his book F-14 Tomcat published in 1978:
‘The F-15 and the F-14 are both first-class aircraft. They’re both very good, and they have slightly different purposes. The F-14 is basically designed to give you air superiority to handle any threat, be it missile of aircraft by itself. It is bigger than the F-15, because it had to carry more, and the F-15 is a little faster. The F-15 is designed to fly over the ground you control. And if you control the ground underneath, you can then supply your own missile capability from the ground, and your own computer in the control centre on the ground. The F-14, being a navy ‘plane and flying over the water, has to carry this capability with it.
‘It’s very logical the Iranians, with the mountains and the deserts, would buy the F-14, and the Israelis, with little need to go away from home base, would buy the F-15. It makes sense. It makes sense for NATO to buy the F-15, and it makes sense for the Canadians to fly over the Arctic with the F-14. There’s place for both planes, and the Defense Department tries to make sense in where the planes go.’
Photo credit: DCS and U.S. Navy