This is a discussion on F-14 Tomcat Makes last carrier flight within the Air Force & Aviation forum, part of the Global Defense & Military category; ABOARD THE USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (Reuters) - The U.S. Navy's F-14 Tomcat, built to protect the fleet from Soviet bombers, ...
ABOARD THE USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (Reuters) - The U.S. Navy's F-14 Tomcat, built to protect the fleet from Soviet bombers, took its last flight off an aircraft carrier on Friday, closing one of the final chapters in its 32-year history.
The retirement of the Tomcat, made famous in the movie "Top Gun," clears the way for the Navy to start using new military aircraft that supporters say can meet post-Cold War requirements more affordably.
But for Tomcat pilots and aircraft enthusiasts, the end of the F-14 does not just mark an end of an aviation era -- it signals a trend in U.S. government weapons spending that favors cost-cutting over performance.
"It's a Cold War icon with modern-day lethality," said Cmdr. Jim Howe, commander of the Navy's last Tomcat fighter squadron and the pilot on the last Tomcat to make the two-second, 150 mile-per-hour (240 kph) catapult launch off the carrier.
Lt. Justin Halligan, the pilot who dropped the last bomb from a Tomcat over Iraq earlier this year, said the plane was "at the top of its game or better, but times are different, money's different."
Pilots and machinists aboard the USS Roosevelt aircraft carrier, off the coast of Virginia, echoed those sentiments this week. So did industry analysts.
"We're kind of retreating from an era of best you can build and moving to an era of best you can afford," said Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with the Teal Group aerospace and defense consultancy.
"There's no better sign of that than the retirement of the F-14."
Beyond reflection about the aircraft's powerful image, supersonic speed and unmatched dog-fighting capabilities, many sailors and analysts agreed the Navy just doesn't need the Tomcat anymore.
While some in the Navy criticize Washington, analysts say there is a lot more room for further cuts in the military aircraft budget given the changing face of war.
Simple but deadly ground-based threats such as the roadside bombs used against U.S. forces in Iraq, difficulties securing access to foreign bases and the near total lack of a rival in the air, raise questions over the need for maintaining high spending levels.
Many critics point to the Air Force's plans to buy the F-22 -- the next generation of aircraft aimed at maintaining America's military superiority in the skies -- for a hefty $130 million each.
The Tomcat had outlived its mission once the Cold War ended, and the federal government was quick to decide the cost, at more than $60 million per plane, was outweighing the benefit. The first Bush administration terminated new F-14 production in its fiscal 1990 budget, and the Navy in 1991 ended its plans to convert older versions, saving $6 billion.
The Tomcat will be fully retired in September, with planes going to museums and a war reserve. The Navy has already begun transitioning to Boeing Co's F/A-18 Super Hornets, and it will then move to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, being built by a team led by Lockheed Martin .
But there is little agreement when it comes to the F-22. The Government Accountability Office urged Congress in June to delay funding the program, saying the Air Force had not made a business case for it.
John Pike, director of security Web site globalsecurity.org, argues the Air Force should start to depend on unmanned vehicles to conduct long-range missions.
"There's got to be a point over the next decade or two that the pencil pushers, the accountants, are going to say piloted aircraft are a luxury we can no longer afford," Pike said.
F-14s never got the Real Chance Prove themselves as there was no combat with Soviet Maritime Bombers.
But F-14 still admired by many for its long range weaponry, dog fighting ability etc.
Strangely There will be no F-14s to fight off The Migs, when they would soon would be deployed in India Ocean unlike fictional Mig-28 on Top Gun.
I am talking about Indian Navys Mig-29K on their Gorshy Carrier. Navy would obviously deploy carrier in India Ocean but this time no F-14s to face them.
Post Cold war Saw death of yet another good machine.
I wouldn't pray to god that cold war should come again. But Cold war Showed the Real war Fighting Capabilities of two most powerful Countries with such wonder weapons being developed and designed.
Best example being B-2 itself.
Some 120 B-2s were to be procured by US AF purely for Nuclear Strike Missions over Soviet Union.
But now they end up with only 20 B-2s, even procuring those was heavily argued because of its high cost.
if cold war did no end, Nobody would have opened their mouth against B-2.
don't you people think importance of Military Forces/weapon system has decreased from cold war.
Common people would always worry about how his nations Military is performing as there was threat from Soviet.
After Soviet Collapse, thing turned towards these stupid and coward terrorists who fight cowardly hiding behind civilians.
much different the Professional Soviet Forces during Cold war.
One thing the USN could have done is keep a squadron of Tomcats for the Aggressors unit in Nevada. Those birds are very similar to SU27 Flankers and MIG31 Foxhound and could have been useful for F18 and F15 pilots (or even F22). Russia is gradually becoming more assertive and it can't be totally excluded that one day USAF and USN will have to chase top of the line Russian jets again...