The Virginian-Pilot reported on May 25, 2020 that a monument honoring the F-14 Tomcat fighter jet will be installed on Virginia Beach’s oceanfront.
The monument will remember the iconic Grumman’s fighter jet as well as those who gave their lives flying it and those who built and sustained the aircraft.
The monument will be a four-sided granite obelisk. Panels will show different images of the plane in action along with descriptions of its service and those who maintained the jet.
A panel in fact will honor 68 people who died flying the planes.
Perhaps the most widely recognized US Navy fighter thanks to its starring role in Top Gun, the F-14 Tomcat served as an advanced interceptor and air superiority fighter, capable of attacking six enemy aircraft simultaneously at a range of over 100 miles with the AIM-54 Phoenix missile.
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. According to the National Naval Aviation Museum, the iconic F-14 Tomcat was Grumman’s answer. 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.
The Navy’s search for an advanced carrier-based air superiority fighter led to evaluation of General Dynamics’ F-111B, an aircraft that would promote the Department of Defense’s aim of commonality with the Air Force and its F-111A. The F-111B, having been modified to meet Navy mission requirements, was deemed too heavy for carrier operations and the contract was cancelled in April 1968. Subsequently, the Navy inaugurated a new design contest for what was termed the VFX program, the two primary competitors being McDonnell Douglas and Grumman.
While McDonnell Douglas evaluated a navalized version of the F-15, Grumman’s Model 303 proposed a variable-geometry, two-seat, twin-engined design built around the Hughes AWG-9 weapons system. Grumman had gained considerable experience with “swing-wing” technology from its earlier XF10F Jaguar that had been built only as a prototype. The need for rapid development and fielding of the aircraft dictated adoption of Pratt & Whitney TF-30 turbofans similar to those used in the F-111.
Following Grumman’s tradition of naming its aircraft after cats, the new “Tomcat” made its first flight in December 1970. After a number of changes following flight testing, the first F-14As were delivered to the Navy in June 1972, with Fighter Squadron (VF) 124 designated to provide crew training. On the West Coast, VF-1 and VF-2 were the first operational squadrons to receive the new aircraft, while on the East Coast VF-14 and VF-32 became the first Atlantic fleet Tomcat squadrons. In 1974, the Marine Corps prepared to stand up VMFA-122 at NAS Miramar, but the program was cancelled when the Marine Corps decided to retain modified versions of the dependable F-4J Phantom II.
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-14s were retired from active service in 2006.
Photo credit: U.S. Navy
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