F-14 Tomcat "Jolly Rogers" Wood Model Airplane
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The F-14 first flew in December 1970 and made its first deployment in 1974 with the U.S. Navy aboard USS Enterprise (CVN-65), replacing the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II. The F-14 served as the U.S. Navy's primary maritime air superiority fighter, fleet defense interceptor and tactical reconnaissance platform. In the 1990s it added the Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night (LANTIRN) pod system and began performing precision ground-attack missions. The Tomcat was retired from the active U.S. Navy fleet on 22 September 2006, having been supplanted by the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. As of 2012, the F-14 was only in service with the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force, having been exported to Iran in 1976 when the U.S. had amicable diplomatic relations with the then government of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Beginning in the late 1950s the U.S. Navy sought a long-range, high-endurance interceptor to defend its carrier battle groups against long-range anti-ship missiles launched from Soviet jet bombers and submarines. The Navy needed a Fleet Air Defense (FAD) aircraft with a more powerful radar, and longer range missiles than the F-4 Phantom II to intercept both enemy bombers and missiles. The Navy was directed to participate in the Tactical Fighter Experimental (TFX) program with the U.S. Air Force by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. McNamara wanted "joint" solutions to service aircraft needs to reduce development costs, and had already directed the Air Force to buy the F-4 Phantom II, which was developed for the Navy and Marine Corps. The Navy strenuously opposed the TFX as it feared compromises necessary for the Air Force's need for a low-level attack aircraft would adversely impact the aircraft's fighter performance. However, weight and performance issues plagued the U.S. Navy F-111B variant for TFX and would not be resolved to the Navy's satisfaction. The F-111 manufacturer General Dynamics partnered with Grumman on the Navy F-111B. With the F-111B program in distress, Grumman began studying improvements and alternatives. In 1966 the Navy awarded Grumman a contract to begin studying advanced fighter designs. Grumman narrowed down these designs to its 303 design. Vice Admiral Thomas F. Connolly, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Air Warfare, took the developmental F-111A variant for a flight and discovered it had difficulty going supersonic and had poor carrier landing characteristics. He later testified to Congress about his concerns against the official Department of the Navy position, and in May 1968 Congress stopped funding for the F-111B, allowing the Navy to pursue an answer tailored to their requirements. The name "Tomcat" was partially chosen to pay tribute to Admiral Connolly, as the nickname "Tom's Cat" had already been widely used by the manufacturer, although the name also followed the Grumman tradition of naming its fighter aircraft after felines.