Grumman F-14 Tomcat Swing-Wing Carrierborne Fleet Defense Fighter Aircraft
Born from the aborted F-111B naval initiative, the Grumman F-14 Tomcat proved itself the naval interceptor-of-choice during the latter stages of the Cold War.
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The Grumman F-14 "Tomcat" was the quintessential United States Navy (USN) fleet defense interceptor of the latter Cold War years. Its existence was brought about largely due to the demise of the failed F-111B initiative, a carrier-based version of the large General Dynamics F-111 "Aardvark" swing-wing fighter-bomber. The B-model was intended to succeed the storied (though aging) McDonnell Douglas F-4 "Phantom II" line but the ballooning endeavor fell to naught, leaving the USN without a suitable replacement. Grumman, already having worked under the General Dynamics banner on the F-111B project, took on a private venture role in developing a future fleet defense fighter for possible sale to the USN. One of the resulting designs became company model "G-303" and, when presented to the USN, beat out a competing submission from McDonnell Douglas. The aircraft fell under the new project acronym of "VFX" ("Naval Fighter Experimental").
VFX called for an aircraft platform with enhanced agility (when compared to the outgoing fleet of F-4 Phantoms). Additionally, it was to serve beyond the interception role and provide its crew with air combat capabilities that the F-111B was never going to match for it proved an overweight, underperforming system at its core. The aircraft would utilize a crew of two (as in the F-111) to help spread the workload and operate the powerful onboard radar, weapons, and general missions systems. The radar of choice became the AWG-9 X-band pulse Doppler radar system for very-long-range search and tracking functionality for engagement of aerial targets - aircraft or cruise missiles. The system offered a range out to 170 nautical miles which provided the aircraft a Beyond Visual Range (BVR) attack capability. In this way, the crew could fire on targets before the enemy ever registered the aircraft on radar. The radar itself was an in-development solution for the proposed, though ultimately abandoned, F-111B. The radar-guided Hughes AIM-54 "Phoenix" - the "Million Dollar Missile" - provided a new, long-range air-to-air missile threat and become the aircraft's primary weapon. It was also initially developed for the F-111B program. Power to the airframe would be served from a twin-engine, side-by-side arrangement through Pratt & Whitney TF30 afterburning turbofans - engines also slated for the failed F-111B. The Grumman product was granted the USN designation of "F-14" continuing the storied relationship between the service branch and the carrier-based fighter concern that stretched back to the days of World War 2 and the F4F "Wildcat" fighter.