F-14 Tomcat operational history

F-14 Tomcat operational history
F-14 Tomcat
Role Interceptor/Air superiority fighter, multirole fighter
Manufacturer Grumman
First flight 21 December 1970
Introduction September 1974
Retired US Navy: 22 September 2006
Status Active service with Iran
Primary users United States Navy (former)
Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force
Number built 712
Unit cost US$38 million (1998)

Since its inception, the Grumman F-14 Tomcat has been widely used in action by both the United States Navy and the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force, although knowledge about the combat service with Iran is disputed. The F-14 did not see the amount of aerial combat envisioned by the Navy and Grumman when the plane was conceived; this was due to lack of combat opportunities.

The F-14 evolved into a long-range strike fighter in the 1990s, and was used successfully as a strike platform in the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Iraq until its final deployment in 2006. In air-to-air combat, US Navy F-14s have shot down five enemy aircraft with no losses, although one was lost to a surface-to-air missile.


U.S. Navy service


Operation Frequent Wind

The F-14 made its first combat sortie flying cover during Operation Frequent Wind in April 1975. The fighter squadrons VF-1 and VF-2 were deployed on board USS Enterprise (CVN-65) with Carrier Air Wing 14. The cruise began on 17 September 1974 and ended 20 May 1975. The two squadrons flew combat air patrols over Saigon and the evacuation route during the operation, but did not encounter any Vietnam People's Air Force aircraft, although they were fired upon by enemy anti-aircraft guns[citation needed].

Soviet intercepts and American hostages in Iran

An F-14A Tomcat intercepting a Soviet Tupolev Tu-95 Bear D bomber over the Pacific Ocean in 1984

During the rest of the 1970s, the F-14 did not see any combat; F-14s primarily intercepted Soviet aircraft approaching too closely to carrier groups. On 23 April 1976, VF-142 was the first Atlantic Fleet F-14 squadron to intercept a Soviet Tu-95 "Bear" bomber. In 1980, VF-84 and VF-41 participated in efforts to free the American hostages in Iran.


First kills by the U.S. Navy

In the 1970s, Libya had claimed a 12-mile (19 km) extension of its territorial waters in the Gulf of Sidra, which prompted US naval forces to conduct Freedom of Navigation operations in that area. Those operations increased during Ronald Reagan's presidency; in the summer of 1981, he authorized a large naval force, consisting of three aircraft carriers, to conduct operations in the area.

The Libyan Air Force responded by sending aircraft over the Gulf of Sidra to monitor the American activity. There were several intercepts over the Gulf in which both sides maneuvered aggressively but fired no weapons, but this ended just a few days later on 18 August 1981. Two VF-41 F-14s intercepted two Libyan Su-22s. Only a few seconds before the crossing, at an estimated distance of 300 meters (980 ft), one of the Libyan fighters fired an AA-2 "Atoll" at one of the F-14s, which missed. The short range—well inside the missile's range—and the inability of AA-2 to target-lock in frontal engagements indicate that this may have been an accidental firing.[original research?] Then the two Sukhois tried to escape. The American pilots fired AIM-9L Sidewinders, hitting both targets. Both Libyans ejected.[1]

Less than an hour later, while the Libyans were conducting a Search and Rescue operation of their downed pilots, two fully armed MiG-25s entered the airspace over the Gulf and headed towards the US carriers at Mach 1.5, conducting a mock attack in the direction of USS Nimitz (CVN-68). Two VF-41 Tomcats and one VF-84 Tomcat headed towards the Libyans, who then turned around. The Tomcats turned back toward the ship, but had to turn around again when the Libyans once again headed towards the US carriers. After being tracked by the F-14's radars, the MiGs finally headed home. One more Libyan formation ventured out into the Gulf towards the US forces later that day.[2]

Libyan fighters and Somali anti-aircraft artillery fire

In April 1983, two Tomcats operating from the carrier USS America (CV-66) were fired upon by Somali troops while flying over the port of Berbera on the Gulf of Aden. The F-14s were on a prearranged mission, but the Somali forces apparently mistook the Tomcats for Ethiopian attackers. Neither Tomcat was hit.

In late summer 1983, due to the Chadian-Libyan conflict, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) had entered the Gulf of Sidra. On 1 August, two VF-142 F-14As encountered two MiG-23s heading towards the carrier group; they were quickly intercepted and forced away. Four days later, VF-143 intercepted five MiG-23s some 220 kilometers (140 mi) south of the battle group. No weapons were fired during these encounters, but the situation was "very tense".[3]

Operations in Grenada and Lebanon

Later that year, F-14s were heavily involved in combat once again. VF-14 and VF-32 aboard the USS Independence (CV-62) flew TARPS missions and combat air patrols in support of Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada. The United States and a few Caribbean nations invaded the island following the execution of the island's prime minister. The United States wanted to evacuate American citizens and medical students from the island after the communists took control, and topple the Marxist government. F-14s aided the effort by providing reconnaissance imagery as well as providing cover in the event Cuba decided to interfere, because communist forces on Grenada had ties with Cuba.[4]

In November, USS Independence (CV-62), along with its air wing, moved to the Mediterranean Sea to support the multinational peacekeeping force in Lebanon, a country shaken by civil war. VF-14 and VF-32 flew combat air patrols over Lebanon. On December 5, 1983, in response to numerous surface to air missiles fired at VF-32 TARPS equipped Tomcats performing reconnaissance missions over Lebanon, The Independnce and USS John F. Kennedy air wings conducted a classic alpha strike on Syrian positions in the hills east of Beirut. Two Independence A-7 Corsair II's were hit, one was lost, its pilot, Cdr. Edward Andrews was rescued by a fishing boat and returned to Independence. The other A-7 landed safely on the Indy with most of its tail blown off. One A-6 from the JFK was shot down with one pilot killed and the other taken prisoner and later released with the help of Jesse Jackson. The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) (with VF-142 and VF-143) and USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) (with VF-11 and VF-31) also participated in the operation.

The multi-national peacekeeping force was threatened by both Lebanese military groups and Syrian forces, resulting in the deployment of these carrier groups. During these missions, US aircraft, including F-14s, were under fire from Syrian Surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft artillery. VF-11 engaged eight MiGs over Lebanon; the section flew cover for a TARPS F-14 and was ready to open fire at four MiGs, but the MiGs executed a split S and ran for Syria. Four more MiGs emerged and flew through without engaging. These incidents resulted in US air strikes against Syrian positions near Hammana. During the attacks, one A-7 Corsair and one A-6 Intruder were shot down.[4]

Some Russian sources claim Syria downed nine F-14s and A-6s by ground fire in 1983,[5] but this has been denied by Western sources.[citation needed] On 10 November 1983, US Navy F-14s from VF-11 and VF-31 were under fire from Syrian Surface-to-Air missiles (SAM) and Anti-Aircraft-Artillery (AAA) positions in Lebanon, but no losses were reported.[6] However, a single F-14[N 1] was reported lost on 9 April 1983 off the coast of Lebanon, due to an accident during a night approach to USS Carl Vinson.[7]

Achille Lauro incident

On 7 October 1985, the Italian cruise liner Achille Lauro, with some 100 passengers on board, was hijacked off the coast of Egypt by terrorists from the Palestine Liberation Front. The ship's captain was ordered to sail for Tartus in Syria. The hijackers informed Egyptian authorities of their action by radio, demanding the release of 50 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. Syria denied the ship permission to dock, and the terrorists responded by killing one of their hostages. They pushed the elderly, wheelchair-bound, Jewish-American passenger Leon Klinghoffer to the side of the ship, where the terrorist leader shot him in the head and chest and threw his body overboard. The Syrians still denied the ship permission to dock in Tartus; the terrorists intended to execute a second passenger, but the terrorists received a radio message from PLF leaders instructing them to leave the passengers unharmed and head to Port Said in Egypt. Once there, the Egyptian government—unaware that Klinghoffer had been murdered—provided the hijackers with safe passage in exchange for freeing the ship and its passengers.[8]

Soon, the murder was discovered, and the US Ambassador to Egypt demanded that the Egyptian government prosecute the terrorists, but the Egyptians stated that it was too late to do so, as the hijackers had already left the country. Through intelligence work, the US National Security Council determined that the terrorists were still in Egypt and were about to be flown to Tunisia on an Egypt Air Boeing 737. A plan was devised where USS Saratoga (CV-60) would launch F-14s to intercept the 737 before it could reach Tunisia.[citation needed]

The carrier group was steaming northward through the Adriatic Sea for a port call at Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia on the afternoon of 10 October 1985, after the completion of a major NATO exercise in the central Mediterranean. The carrier received orders from Sixth Fleet headquarters to reverse course and launch its alert combat air patrols. F-14s from VF-74 and VF-103, along with an E-2C Hawkeye, were airborne, and it was soon known that they were after the hijackers—although the 737’s exact takeoff time from Egypt, route, and altitude were unknown.[9]

The plan was for F-14s to make night intercepts and identifications of air contacts in the skies crisscrossing the central Mediterranean, as they flew east toward a common airway intersection point south of Crete. After four interceptions the F-14s found the correct aircraft. At about 22:30, 48 km (30 miles) southeast of Crete, they formed up on a Boeing 737 with the tail number 2843. A Navy air controller aboard the E-2C spoke with the airliner's pilot; the presence of F-14s and the controller's implied threat of a shoot-down convinced the 737's pilot to land at the NATO base in Sigonella, Sicily. Upon landing, the airliner was quickly surrounded by American soldiers. The terrorists were ultimately taken into Italian custody.[10]

Operations against Libya

On 24 March 1986, F-14s came under fire from Libyan SA-5 missiles over the Gulf of Sidra, but the missiles fell harmlessly into the water. Later the same day, F-14s from VF-33 encountered Libyan MiG-25s, who were ordered to shoot down at least one of the F-14s. The Libyans were outmaneuvered by the Tomcats, who managed to get behind the Libyan fighters, but the Americans did not have permission to open fire.[11][unreliable source?]

These and other incidents prompted the US Navy in the region to conduct air strikes under Operation Attain Document against Libyan air defenses and naval vessels. F-14 Tomcats from VF-33 and VF-102, on board USS America (CV-66), provided air cover during these strikes.

On 15 April 1986, VF-33 and VF-102, along with VF-74 and VF-103, participated in Operation El Dorado Canyon, a series of air strikes against Libyan targets due to Libya's support of terrorism.

F-14s and the Tanker War

During the Tanker War between 1987 and 1989, several US Navy carrier groups deployed to the Persian Gulf to protect international shipping. On several occasions, F-14s intercepted Iranian fighters over the Persian Gulf. In August 1987, an Iranian F-4 Phantom II engaged an US P-3 Orion, which provoked a VF-21 F-14 to open fire with AIM-7 Sparrow missiles—although these launches were all well out of parameters and scored no kills.[12]

On 18 April 1988, the United States retaliated against Iran following the 14 April incident where USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58) struck an Iranian mine while in international waters. Air strikes were conducted by Carrier Air Wing Two against Iranian oil platforms that had been identified as support bases for Iranian attacks on shipping in the Persian Gulf. VF-1 and VF-2 provided air cover; F-14s scared away an F-4 formation during the strike.[12]

Libya again: Gulf of Sidra

On 4 January 1989, two F-14As from VF-32 "Swordsmen" assigned to USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) fired on two Libyan MiG-23Es with AIM-7M Sparrows, which failed at distances of less than 30 kilometers (19 mi); then another was fired, and this time one of the MiGs was shot down. The MiGs were in missile firing position for several minutes before the F-14s concluded that they were under attack and outmaneuvered the Floggers.[13] Both of the Flogger pilots were seen to have ejected. The AIM-7 misses were probably either a failure to track the target, or a failure for the motor to ignite, since the failure was noted almost immediately after launch and the second AIM-7 was launched about seven seconds later.[improper synthesis?] A missile was unsuccessfully launched at the F-14s just before the AIM-7 hit its target.[14]


Operation Desert Storm

When Iraq invaded neighboring Kuwait on 2 August 1990, the carriers USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) and USS Independence (CV-62) were the first carriers on station to support Operation Desert Shield. When Operation Desert Storm started, VF-1, VF-2, VF-14, VF-21, VF-32, VF-33, VF-41, VF-74, VF-84, VF-102, VF-103, VF-142, VF-143 and VF-154 all participated in either the buildup to the war or the war itself. A total of 4,125 sorties were flown by the 99 F-14s present in the Persian Gulf. During the war, F-14s provided escort protection for attack aircraft, long-range air defense of ships, and combat air patrol missions. TARPS-capable F-14s also flew photo-intelligence missions.

The Tomcat’s contribution to the war was minimal compared to other aircraft. The F-14 did not have the needed systems and procedures required to integrate Navy aircraft as part of a joint air component, as the Cold War–era tactics stated that the Navy would operate on its own: the US Navy did not expect to have allies fighting alongside them in any conflict with the Soviet Union. F-14s were unable to solve the strict rules of engagement (ROE) that would allow them to engage aerial targets using their onboard sensors. Instead, they relied on USAF E-3 Sentries to give them clearance to fire. Conversely, F-15 pilots could solve all the required ROE criteria for identifying an enemy aircraft.

On 21 January 1991, an F-14B crewed by pilot Lieutenant Devon Jones and Radar Intercept Officer Lieutenant Lawrence Slade from VF-103 was shot down, possibly by an SA-2 surface-to-air missile. Lt. Jones was recovered the following day, but Lt. Slade was captured and held as a prisoner of war until his release on 4 March 1991.[citation needed]

The only air-to-air kill during the war credited to the F-14 was an Iraqi Mil Mi-8 helicopter shot down by VF-1 using an AIM-9 Sidewinder.

The F-14 was on the verge of early retirement due to budget cuts, and 10 F-14 units were decommissioned due to its limited ground-attack capabilities. However, due to the accelerated retirement of the A-6 Intruder, the US Navy realized that they lacked long-range strike capabilities, and the F-14 was soon converted into a long-range multi-role strike fighter.

Operation Deliberate Force

In August and September 1995, NATO launched Operation Deliberate Force, and the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) and its air wing supported the operation. F-14s from VF-14 and VF-41 participated in strikes. VF-41 is credited with being the first F-14 unit to drop laser-guided bombs in combat when, on 5 September 1995, two F-14As attacked an ammunition dump in eastern Bosnia. The bomb's targets were identified by laser indicators from F/A-18s because the F-14 was not yet cleared to carry the LANTIRN pod. VF-41 alone logged 600 combat hours and 530 sorties during this cruise.

Operation Desert Fox and a close kill

With Iraq’s failure to cooperate with United Nations inspections, Operation Desert Fox was launched on 16 December 1998. F-14Bs from VF-32 took part in a 33-aircraft strike package on 16 December. The first night of the four-day operation was conducted by the US Navy only. VF-32 dropped 111,054 pounds (50,373 kg) of munitions during 16 strike missions and 38 sorties. During Desert Fox, many Tomcat firsts were achieved, including the first GBU-24 "Paveway III" laser-guided bombs dropped in combat by the US Navy, the first multiple GBU-24 drop by any platform in combat, the first combat use of the LANTIRN, the first autonomous F-14 delivery of a GBU-10/16/24, and the first use of night vision devices in combat.[citation needed] On 19 December 1998—the last day of the operation—the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) arrived in the Persian Gulf, and VF-213 joined the air strikes, taking the F-14D into combat for the first time.

During the 1998/1999 cruise, VF-213 executed 19 strikes, dropping 20 laser-guided bombs with a 64-percent success rate, supporting 11 combined strikes, flying 70 missions, logging 230 sorties and over 615 combat hours, as well as 45 reconnaissance missions imaging more than 580 targets. On 5 January 1999, two F-14Ds on patrol over Iraq encountered two Iraqi MiG-25s. The Tomcats each fired an AIM-54 Phoenix missile, the first combat Phoenix launch by the US Navy. The Iraqi jets turned back north and the missiles failed to hit their targets.[15]

Operation Allied Force and another close kill

VF-14 and VF-41 took part in Operation Allied Force, NATO's aerial campaign against Serbian operations in Kosovo, between 9 April 1999 and 9 June 1999. F-14s of VF-14 dropped 350 laser-guided 1,000-pound (450 kg) bombs, in addition to other air-to-ground ordnance. F-14s flew combat air patrol, escort, and strike missions; acted as Forward Air Controllers; and performed TARPS missions. VF-41 dropped the last bombs of the war on a dummy SA-9 surface-to-air missile launcher inside the Kosovo border near the peace-signing site on 9 June 1999. On 9 September 1999, a VF-2 F-14 engaged an Iraqi MiG-23 with an AIM-54 Phoenix missile. Neither aircraft was damaged. F-14s also patrolled the no-fly zones in Iraq during Operation Northern Watch and Operation Southern Watch from the 1990s until 2003.

First decade of the 21st century

Operation Enduring Freedom

An F-14D from VF-213 prepares to refuel over Afghanistan.

After the September 11, 2001 Attacks, no less than eight F-14 squadrons participated in Operation Enduring Freedom, flying long-range missions from the Indian Ocean to strike targets around Afghanistan and conducting reconnaissance and ground support missions. From the start of Operation Enduring Freedom to the end of Operation Anaconda, F-14s from VF-14, VF-41, VF-102, VF-211, and VF-213 dropped more than 1,334,000 pounds (605,000 kg) of ordnance on targets.[citation needed] VF-11 and VF-143, alongside CVW-7, dropped 64,000 pounds (29,000 kg) of ordnance, both the "Red Rippers" and the "Pukin' Dogs" making history as they dropped JDAM bombs from the F-14 for the first time during combat.[citation needed] VF-103 arrived in Afghanistan in June 2002 when combat was scarce, and the "Jolly Rogers" didn’t get the opportunity to drop any bombs during the operation.

During the war, VF-213 logged over 500 combat sorties, 2,600 combat hours and dropped 435,000 pounds (197,000 kg) of ordnance (452 bombs) during their 10 weeks over Afghanistan;[16] the "Black Lions" also had the distinct honor of dropping the first bombs of Operation Enduring Freedom.[17] VF-102 dropped more bombs—680 of them, totaling 420,000 pounds (190,000 kg)—and logged more combat hours (more than 5,000) then any other F-14 unit that took part in the operation, and the unit dropped an additional 50,000 pounds (23,000 kg) of ordnance.[18][19] VF-211 flew 1,250 combat sorties, logging 4,200 combat hours and dropping 100,000 pounds (45,000 kg) of ordnance.[20] VF-14 led more strikes then any other squadron in CVW-8, and dropped 174 laser guided bombs, totaling 179,324 pounds (81,340 kg) and buddy-lased 28 AGM-65 Maverick-missiles and 23 laser guided bombs,[21] and like their sister squadron VF-41, they flew the oldest jets in the fleet. VF-41 dropped more than 200,000 pounds (91,000 kg) of bombs (202 laser guided bombs) with an 82-percent hit rate, which was a level of accuracy that had never previously been achieved in the US Navy.[22]

Operation Iraqi Freedom

An F-14 launches an AIM-54 Phoenix during training in 2002

F-14s from VF-2, VF-31, VF-32, VF-154, and VF-213 participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The F-14s flew 2,547 combat sorties and dropped 1,452 GBU, JDAM, and MK-82 bombs with just one lost jet (from engine failure). F-14s led strikes on Baghdad, attacking targets such as the Iraqi Ministry of Information's Salman Pak radio relay transmitter facility at Al Hurriyah (southwest of central Baghdad) with JDAM bombs. Another notable mission involved TARPS-equipped F-14Ds dropping four Mark 82 bombs on Saddam Hussein's Presidential yacht Al-Mansur (The Victor). F-14s also supported ground troops during the war and acted as Forward Air Controllers for other aircraft. An aircrew from VF-32 was involved in the worst friendly-fire incident in the war when the crew attacked a U.S. Special Forces convoy in northern Iraq, believing they were Iraqi forces.

During the F-14's last three years in service, the remaining units all deployed to the Persian Gulf region in support of the US forces in Iraq. The final deployment for the F-14 was between September 2005 and March 2006 with VF-31 and VF-213. These two units collectively completed 1,163 combat sorties, totaling 6,876 flight hours. They dropped 9,500 pounds (4,300 kg) of ordnance during reconnaissance, surveillance, and close air support missions in support of the war in Iraq.[citation needed]

Iranian service

There is no information about any significant combat for Iranian F-14s during 1970s, as the main reason Iran purchased F-14s was to intercept Soviet aircraft flying into Iranian airspace. In October 1978, two IIAF F-14As intercepted a high-and-fast–flying Soviet MiG-25 over the Caspian sea, forcing it to abort a reconnaissance run over Iran, in turn possibly ending similar Soviet operations over the country.[citation needed]

By September 1980, however, the Iranian Air Force—renamed the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF)—managed to make an increasing number of airframes operational, despite immense problems due to repeated purges of its officers. Some of those officers were executed; others were imprisoned, forced into exile, or forced to take early retirement. The IRIAF survived these times, and its Tomcats were to become involved in the war against Iraq, scoring their first kill on 7 September 1980.[23]

There is limited information available about the service of F-14s in the Iran–Iraq War. Western intelligence indicates that the IRIAF was in decline at the onset of the war in September 1980, and it is rumored that some level of sabotage was committed on the F-14s by either Americans or Iranians loyal to the Shah, during the Iranian Revolution.[24] Following the overthrow of the Shah, most Iranian F-14 pilots and technicians trained in the United States fled from Iran, fearing their association with the Shah's regime, and their time in the United States would endanger them. Only two pilots out of the original flight class chose to remain in Iran. Their fears proved correct, and many of the original Iranian F-14 crews and technicians who remained were jailed or executed by the new regime. Eventually, several jailed F-14 pilots were released when war broke out with Iraq.[25]

The United States estimated that the IRIAF was able to keep between 15 and 20 F-14s operational by cannibalizing parts from other F-14s. The IRIAF claims a higher figure, and was able to assemble 25 aircraft for an 11 February 1985 fly-over of Tehran. Despite the embargo,[further explanation needed] Iran was able to acquire parts for its American aircraft, including the F-14, F-4, and F-5. Sources[who?] indicate these came from the Iran-Contra arms deal, collusion with Israel, or domestic production. Iran has claimed that they have been able to produce all of the parts required, though US intelligence indicates that total is about 70 percent.[citation needed]


GlobalSecurity indicates that Iran flew the F-14 in an AWACS-type role. To counter, Iraqi Mirage F1-EQs flew low-altitude profiles, popping up briefly to illuminate and launch missiles against the F-14s; several Tomcats were lost in this manner. GlobalSecurity also reports that less than 20 aircraft were still airworthy as of 2000, and cited one report that only seven can be airborne at one time.[26]

It was thought[by whom?] for many years that Iran used the fighter primarily as an airborne radar controller, escorted and protected by other fighters, but later information indicates this was incorrect.[citation needed] While IRIAF did husband their fleet of F-14s, the aircraft were used aggressively when needed, even escorting strike packages deep into Iraqi airspace. Initially, the IRIAF F-14s flew intensive CAP patrols, some lasting nine hours, over main bases. IRIAF F-14s often escorted tankers supporting strike packages heading into Iraq, scanning over the border with their radars and intercepting inbound Iraqi aircraft. With the AWG-9 radar and long range AIM-54 and AIM-7 missiles, the Tomcats could be used as offensive weapons without leaving Iranian airspace.[citation needed]

United States AWACS aircraft observed the downing of an Iraqi Tupolev Tu-22 "Blinder" bomber, and the downing of at least one F-14. Western sources estimate four kills against four to five losses; the official Iranian estimate is 35-45 kills, and 12 losses, all reportedly due to engine failure during combat.[24]


Also unresolved is the extent of usage of the AIM-54 Phoenix missile. Most Western sources[who?] indicate that sabotage prevented their use, although other sources[who?] claim that up to 25 planes were downed by AIM-54s before Iran's supply ran out. The Iranian F-14s used the AIM-7 Sparrow and AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles as primary armament; Iran is reportedly developing a domestic copy of the Sparrow.[by whom?]

Combat history

In 2004, Tom Cooper published Iranian F-14 Tomcat Units in Combat, based mainly on primary interviews with Iranian pilots. The book makes many claims that contradict previous reports. In particular, Cooper claims that Iran's F-14s had up to 159 kills, and that in one incident, four Iraqi aircraft were shot down with one AIM-54.

By 1980, with the prospect of war with Iraq becoming ever more likely, most of the 77 surviving F-14 airframes were found to be in non-operational condition, or at least had non-functioning radars. As a result, F-14 pilots were forced to rely on ground control for their first wartime patrol and intercept missions. Within a few days of the start of the war, a dozen or so F-14s were made operational.
—Tom Cooper, "Persian Cats", Smithsonian Air & Space[25]

The first confirmed kill by an F-14A during the Iran–Iraq War occurred before the formal start of hostilities: on 7 September 1980, a IRIAF F-14A destroyed an Iraqi Mil Mi-25 (export version) Hind helicopter using its 20mm Vulcan cannon. Six days later, Major Mohammad-Rez Attaie shot down an Iraqi MiG-21 with an AIM-54 Phoenix while flying border patrol.[25] A single AIM-54 fired in July 1982 by Captain Hashemi may have destroyed two Iraqi MiG-23s flying in close formation.[25]

Cooper claims the AIM-54s were used only sporadically during the start of the war, most likely because of a shortage of qualified radar intercept officers, and then more frequently in 1981 and 1982—until the lack of thermal batteries suspended the missiles' use in 1986.[25] There were also rumors[by whom?] that suggested that Iran's Tomcat fleet would be upgraded with avionics derived from the MiG-31 "Foxhound". However, the IRIAF officials and pilots insist that the Soviets were never allowed near the F-14s, and never received any F-14 or AIM-54 technology.[citation needed] Also, the AIM-54 missile was never out of service in the IRIAF, though the stocks of operational missiles were low at times. Clandestine deliveries from US sources and black market purchases supplied spares to top up the Phoenix reserves during the war, and spares deliveries from the USA in the 1990s have also helped.[citation needed] Furthermore, an attempt was made to adapt the MIM-23 Hawk surface-to-air missiles that were also a carry-over from the pre-revolution period, to be used as air-to-air missiles for the F-14; at least two F-14s have been successfully modified to carry the hybrid weaponry.[citation needed]

All in all, the Iranian Air Force was said to have launched possibly 70 to 90 AIM-54A missiles, and 60-70 of those scored.[vague] Of those, almost 90 percent of the AIM-54A missiles fired were used against Iraqi fighters and fighter-bombers. Only about a dozen[vague] victories by AIM-54s were claimed[by whom?] to be against fast, high-flying targets such as the MiG-25 or Tu-22 'Blinder'.

By the close of the war, both sides were unable to obtain new aircraft or parts, and aerial combat had become been rare, since neither side could afford to lose aircraft they could not replace. In particular, the IRIAF F-14 fleet suffered from a lack of trained technicians, and by 1984 only 40 F-14s were still in service. By 1986, that number had dropped to just 25. The F-14 was relegated to protecting Iran's vital oil refining and export infrastructure, where they often encountered French-built Iraqi Dassault Mirage F1EQ fighters attempting to attack Iranian oil pipelines.[25]

One IRIAF pilot distinguished himself in combat by becoming the all-time top scoring F-14 ace. Major Jalal Zandi is credited with shooting down nine Iraqi aircraft.[27][N 2]}[28] He is additionally credited with three probable kills, bringing his total to 12 air victories. These include two MiG-23s, two Su-22s, one MiG-21 and three Mirage F1s.[29]

Another notable Iranian pilot was Major Rahnavard, who on 16 February 1982 is reputed to have shot down four Iraqi fighter jets in two separate encounters over Khark Island.[28] Records indicate that two of his confirmed kills were Mirage F1s.[29] An unknown Iranian also scored a first when, on 7 September 1980, he downed an Iraqi Mi-25 attack helicopter with gunfire.[N 3]

See also


  1. ^ BuNo 160662
  2. ^ The authors write: "Zandi survived... numerous air battles with Iraqi Air Force, to claim a total of nine confirmed (through examination of US intelligence documents released according to FOIA inquiry) and two or three probable kills. It is possible that he scored between 11 and 12 air-to-air victories, thus becoming the most successful F-14 pilot ever, and certainly the leading IRIAF ace."
  3. ^ Quote: "for political reasons, the pilot's name will probably never be known." It has been reliably confirmed that, after missing with several AIM-9P Sidewinders, the pilot turned his M61A1 Vulcan cannon on the target, thus scoring the first ever Tomcat gun victory.[30]
  1. ^ "Fitter Engagement." The USS Biddle Association USS Biddle (DLG/CG-34), 28 September 2007. Retrieved: 10 November 2010
  2. ^ Cooper, Tom. "Libyan Wars, 1980-1989, Part 2." ACIG Journal, Air Combat Information Group, 12 October 2007. Retrieved: 10 November 2010.
  3. ^ Cooper, Tom. "Libyan Wars, 1980-1989, Part 3: Operation 'Manta'." ACIG Journal, Air Combat Information Group, 12 October 2007. Retrieved: 10 November 2010.
  4. ^ a b Peacock 1990, p. 44.
  5. ^ "MiG-23" (in Russian). airwar.ru, Retrieved: 26 October 2010.
  6. ^ Cooper, Tom and Eric L. Palmer."Middle East Database: Disaster in Lebanon: US and French Operations in 1983." ACIG Journal, Air Combat Information Group, 12 October 2007. Retrieved: 10 November 2010.
  7. ^ Anft, Torsten. "F-14A-110-GR." Home of M.A.T.S. Retrieved: 26 October 2010.
  8. ^ Heymann, Philip and Vlad Jenkins. "Achille Lauro Hijacking (Abstract)." JFK School of Government, Harvard University, 1 January 1988. Retrieved: 11 November 2010.
  9. ^ "A Hijack on the High Seas:- Part Two." BBC, 8 May 2002. Retrieved: 11 November 2010.
  10. ^ "The 1985 Achille Lauro affair." Home of M.A.T.S. Retrieved: 11 November 2010.
  11. ^ "Comment by Tom Cooper." Tomcat Sunset Forums. Retrieved: 26 October 2010.
  12. ^ a b According to a post from author Tom Cooper[Full citation needed][unreliable source?]
  13. ^ Thompson 1997, p. 32.
  14. ^ Chaikin, Bill. "Shootdown." Amateur Radio Station KA8VIT, South Euclid, Ohio,26 October 2010.
  15. ^ Rausa, Zeno. "Vinson/CVW-11 report, p. 4." Wings of Gold, Association of Naval Aviation, Summer 1999. Retrieved: 26 October 2010. ISSN 0274-7405.
  16. ^ Holmes 2008, p. 66.
  17. ^ Holmes 2008, p. 27.
  18. ^ Holmes 2008, p. 45.
  19. ^ Holmes 2008, p. 60.
  20. ^ Holmes 2008, p. 89.
  21. ^ Holmes 2008, p. 53.
  22. ^ Holmes 2008, p. 52.
  23. ^ http://www.airspacemag.com/military-aviation/persiancats.html
  24. ^ a b "Iranian Air Force F-14." AerospaceWeb. Retrieved: 26 October 2010.
  25. ^ a b c d e f Cooper, Tom. "Persian Cats." Smithsonian Air & Space, Vol. 21, No. 3, September 2006, pp. 36–39.
  26. ^ "Air Force (Iranian Imperial Air Force)." Global Security. Retrieved: 22 August 2006.
  27. ^ Cooper, Tom and Farzad Bishop. "Fire in the Hills: Iranian and Iraqi Battles of Autumn 1982." acig.org, 9 September 2003. Retrieved: 26 October 2010.
  28. ^ a b Nassirkhani, Farhad. "Samurai in the skies." Imperial Iranian Air Force via iiaf.net, 3 February 2003. Retrieved: 11 November 2010.
  29. ^ a b "Iranian Air-to-Air Victories, 1982." Arabian Peninsula & Persian Gulf Database via acig.org, 16 September 2003. Retrieved: 26 October 2010.
  30. ^ Cooper and Bishop 2004, pp. 22–23.
  • Cooper, Tom and Farzad Bishop. Iranian F-14 Tomcat Units in Combat. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing Limited, 2004. ISBN 1-84176-787-5.
  • Cooper, Tom and Liam F. Devlin. "Iran: A Formidable Opponent?", Combat Aircraft (European Edition), Volume 7, Number 6, 2006.
  • Gunston, Bill and Mike Spick. Modern Air Combat. New York: Crescent Books, 1983. ISBN 0-517-41265-9.
  • Holmes, Tony. US Navy F-14 Tomcat Units of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing Limited, 2005. ISBN 978-1841768038.
  • Holmes, Tony. US Navy F-14 Tomcat Units of Operation Enduring Freedom. Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing Limited, 2008. ISBN 978-1846032059.
  • Peacock, Lindsay. Grumman F-14 Tomcat (Classic War Planes). New York: Gallery Books, 1990. ISBN 0-8317-1400-X.
  • Spick, Mike. "F-14 Tomcat". The Great Book of Modern Warplanes. St. Paul, Minnesota: MBI Publishing Company, 2000. ISBN 0-7603-0893-4.
  • Spick, Mike. F-14 Tomcat, Modern Fighting Aircraft, Volume 8. New York: Arco Publishing, 1985. ISBN 0-668-06406-4.
  • Thompson, Warren. "Seagoing Airstrip: Aboard the JFK, with Carrier Air Wing 8!" Airpower, Volume 27, No. 1, January 1997.
  • Wilcox, Robert K. Black Aces High: The Story of a Modern Fighter Squadron at War. London: St. Martin's Press, 2002. ISBN 978-0312997083.

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