Friday Cat Blogging – Twin Cats

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The F-14 Tomcat made its final public appearance as an active part of the Navy over the September 17th weekend in an air show at Naval Air Station Oceana, Va.

The classic Northrup Grumman fighter jet that rose to prominence in the 1986 hit film “Top Gun” and has worn U.S. Navy colors since its first test flight in 1970 attracted a legion of fans from around the world at its public goodbye.

“It’s basically a bittersweet day for us,” said Lt. Cortney Kinna, an F-14 naval flight officer from Amarillo, Texas. “It was our favorite airplane. I just think it’s the sexiest looking airplane out there. It’s unique, big, powerful and loud.”

The Tomcat will be retired after the USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT returns from her current deployment to the Persian Gulf area next spring. The last two Tomcat squadrons, VF-32 “Swordsmen” and VF-101 “Grim Reapers” VF-31 “Tomcatters” and VF-213 “Black Lions”, are aboard the ‘Big Stick’ and will transition to the F/A-18 Super Hornet when they return.

Radar intercept officers (RIO) said they will particularly miss the concentrated teamwork needed between the pilot and “backseater” to let the F-14 do its job. Unlike the F/A-18 Super Hornet, one said, pilots do not have the same cockpit controls in the front seat to operate the radar and fire all weapon systems.

“The Tomcat is a RIO’s airplane,” said Lt. Tim Henry, a Gettysburg, Pa., native who took his last F-14 flight during the airshow. “It’s sad. I caught myself looking around the cockpit.”

Retired Capt. Phil Grandfield, of Virginia Beach, said he favored the Tomcat over the F-4 Phantom and the F/A-18 Hornet in his 26 years of flying Navy jets.

“I’m most proud of having flown the F-14,” said Grandfield, who has more than 2,000 flight hours in the aircraft and made his 1,000th carrier arrested landing in the jet. “It’s a unique airplane. It’s respected around the world.”

The AIM-54 Phoenix missile, the Tomcat’s long range ‘fleet defender’ missile, was retired about a year ago, leaving the AIM-120 AMRAAM as the longest-range air-to-air missile in the Navy’s inventory.

Also posted at Winds of Change.

Here are some more pics. Click each (as well as the one at the top of the post) to reach the Navy.mil site with a link to a high-res version.

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Isn’t that simply glorious?

Here are a couple from the ROOSEVELT’s deployment:

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This last one is the ship passing through the Suez Canal earlier this week.

The last hurrah for the F-14 is under way. Continue mission.

Also posted at Winds of Change.

UPDATE: I had originally misidentified the two squadrons aboard the ROOSEVELT. They’re really the VF-31 “Tomcatters” and VF-213 “Black Lions”. I mistakenly listed the two squadrons which performed at the air show, both of which have just turned in their ‘Cats. Hat tip to commenter Robin for the correction.

Comments

  1. Thanks for the links! Nice pictures… pretty much all taken with a Nikon D2H, like a lot of other Navy pictures I’ve seen. You can tell they had to use a high ISO to get a fast shutter speed with the action shots because they’re a bit grainy.