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Weapons of the Tomcat
AIM-9 SIDEWINDER: The highly agile Sidewinder is used against maneuvering targets. It homes on heat - for example, from the enemy's jetpipes. Range 5 miles.
AIM-7 SPARROW: The Sparrow homes on radar energy reflected from the target, which must be illuminated by the F-14's radar for the whole of its flight. Range 28 miles.
AIM-54 PHOENIX: Weighing in at almost 1,000 lb., costing $2 million and with a range in excess of 90 miles, the AIM-54 is the world's biggest, most costly and longest-range air-to-air missile. Tomcat can launch six AIM-54s simultaneously against separate targets. The missile's onboard radar fits the F-14 turn away after launch. Range 90 miles.
BOMBCAT: The Tomcat can carry a range of dumb (unguided) bombs for use against ground targets. Tomcat squadrons began training in the bombing role in 1991.
Grumman F-14A Tomcat
The main threat to U.S. Navy carriers is posed by long-range bombers armed with sea- skimming missiles. Only Tomcat can intercept the bombers before they get within lethal range.
Power to protect
The F-14's high-thrust TF-30 turbofans and swing wing allow it to operate from short carrier decks. Takeoffs are made using a powerful steam catapult.
The F-14 opened its score on August 19, 1981, when F-14 pilots Lt. Larry Muszynski (above) and Cdr. Hank Kleeman of VF41 "Black Aces" squadron destroyed a pair of marauding Libyan Sukhoi Su-22 "Fitters." Two MiG-23s fell to F-14s in a similar incident during 1989.
The F-14 has Mach 2+ performance, a sparkling rate of climb, good maneuverability - all the hallmarks of a great fighter.
Detecting the enemy
As well as its own radar, the F-14 operates with an E-2 Hawkeye, a flying radar station with a huge rotating antenna above the fuselage.
FACTS AND FIGURES
▶ The Tomcat's AWG-9 radar can detect, track and engage targets at ranges of more than 100 miles.
▶ One Tomcat can engage the same number of targets as three F/A-18 Hornets.
▶ The AIM-54C Phoenix is the world's longest-range air-to-air missile.
▶ The Tomcat's high magnification TV camera enables visual target identification at more than 30 miles.
▶ Forming the outer edge of a battle group's defenses, the Tomcat can engage enemy bombers and missiles more than 500 miles out from its home carrier.