Carrier Classic: F-14 Tomcat -Top Cat

Now who doesn’t like the F-14 Tomcat. Well, except for an opposing pilot who sees this look in their rear view mirror.

Is it more ominous in B&W or color?

The aircraft we have here is the USS Hornet’s F-14A Tomcat air superiority fighter and naval long range interceptor. There are many Tomcats on display around the country however ours is one of five that the Navy deems historical and requires full protection. Besides being in the first Gulf War this Tomcat and the other four are the only ones that are fully complete. This aircraft was flown into SFO in 2000 and the only part removed were the ejection seat rockets. She was then barged over to the Hornet from SFO. The other four Tomcats are on Navy bases.

I stumbled into this photo up on my Carrier forum on Facebook and my eyes caught the Tomcat on the right. Yes, 101 that is our plane as part of The Grim Reapers VF-101 NAS Oceana.

Then I just stumbled across this shot below.

On to the particulars. The Tomcat was developed for the Navy after the collapse on the F-111B project when Vice Admiral Thomas F. Connolly flew the F-111A and said it was poorly suited for carrier use. The F-111B was being developed for Fleet Air Defense but weight and performance issues doomed it. The air war over Vietnam also pointed out that it was poorly suited for aerial combat. It was developed between General Dynamics and Grumman. I remember this in the news back then. The Navy then requested proposals for the Naval Fighter Experimental Program (VFX). VFX called for a twin seat, twin engine air to air fighter with a maximum speed of Mach 2.2. Five aircraft manufacturers, remember when we had five, submitted proposals with four using variable wing design. McDonnell Douglas and Grumman were the finalists in December 1968 and Grumman the winner in January 1969. Should note that this is actually an F-14A+ as the engines on all the A series were updated from the originals.

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2 (Pilot and Radar Intercept Officer)
  • Length: 62 ft 9 in (19.13 m)
  • Wingspan: 64 ft 1.5 in (19.545 m)
  • Lower wingspan: 38 ft 2.5 in (11.646 m) swept
  • Height: 16 ft (4.9 m)
  • Wing area: 565 sq ft (52.5 m2) wings only
    • 1,008 sq ft (94 m2) effective area including fuselage[35]
  • Airfoil:
    • Grumman (1.74)(35)9.6)-(1.1)(30)(1.1) root
    • Grumman (1.27)(30)(9.0)-(1.1)(40)(1.1) tip[181]
  • Empty weight: 43,735 lb (19,838 kg)
  • Gross weight: 61,000 lb (27,669 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 74,350 lb (33,725 kg)
  • Fuel capacity: 16,200 lb (7,348 kg) internal fuel; 2 × optional 267 US gal (222 imp gal; 1,010 l) / 1,756 lb (797 kg) external tanks[41]
  • Powerplant: 2 × General Electric F110-GE-400 afterburning turbofans, 16,610 lbf (73.9 kN) thrust each dry, 28,200 lbf (125 kN) with afterburner


  • Maximum speed: Mach 2.34 (1,544 mph, 2,485 km/h) at altitude
  • Range: 1,600 nmi (1,800 mi, 3,000 km)
  • Combat range: 500 nmi (580 mi, 930 km)
  • Service ceiling: 53,000 ft (16,000 m) plus
  • g limits: +7.5[N 2]
  • Rate of climb: 45,000 ft/min (230 m/s) plus
  • Wing loading: 96 lb/sq ft (470 kg/m2) [179]
    • 48 lb/sq ft (230 kg/m2) effective[35]
  • Thrust/weight: 0.89 at gross weight (1.02 with loaded weight & 50% internal fuel)


This aircraft is heavy. Heavy enough to actually have a set of wheels break through our teak deck in a vulnerable area. Once she is down on the thick hanger deck, as per the Navy, we won’t have to worry about that again.

The pictures used in this story are all film based. Only one is digital as noted. The first early pictures when barged over and loaded I don’t recall the camera. The B&W I think were shot by a late 1940s 6×9 folder. The color probably a Minolta XE7. Outside of those the rest were taken on my Minolta Maxxum/Alpha 7, with AF Minolta 35-105mm lens, using original Fuji Acros and developed by and scanned by me. The color were taken by my Nikon N80, with AF Nikkor 28-80mm lens, using Kodak Color Max film.

Arrival from SFO

The top secret radar array which to be honest, doesn’t look so special but apparently was. Oops, Maxxum 7D.

Flight deck 2020 and twenty years later.

Sparrow and Sidewinder. Both donated after a former pilot contacted the manufacturers for dummies. He was told not to mount them as the plane officially belongs to the Navy in perpetuity, and once on, become the property of the Navy. He didn’t believe until the Navy requested their yearly photo update, saw them, and said thank you.

Shame about the rust stain

Finally the crew that cares for the aircraft

Some might prefer the F-4 Phantom and I’d have to say it is one of my favorites but the Tomcat has to be the top dog, err top cat, on a carrier. We have an F-4N on board that supposedly was the last F-4 to trap aboard a carrier prior to phase out. It has been on the ship for maybe 10 years and never got the work promised by the person who found the aircraft at NAS North Island. The plane needs work underneath due to the use of magnesium by the Navy. Magnesium corrodes far differently than other metals used.