The F-14 Tomcat has for over 50 years held the title of the world’s heaviest fighter jet, and in the course of the Chilly Battle was extensively thought-about the foremost plane for air to air fight fielded by any nation. Deployed by the U.S. Navy from 1974, and acquired by the Iranian Air Drive simply two years later, the F-14’s excessive value and excessive upkeep wants even in comparison with different Chilly Battle heavyweights just like the F-15 meant that it noticed few gross sales abroad. The sensitivity of its applied sciences meant that it was not supplied to the massive majority of American export shoppers, with the F-5E and F-16 being the usual export fighters within the Nineteen Seventies and 80s. Various international locations did contemplate the F-14, most notably Japan, Saudi Arabia and Israel, though for a lot of causes all ultimately chosen the F-15 in its stead which was less expensive each to function and to accumulate and simpler to take care of however was very considerably much less succesful in past visible vary fight.
Choices on acquisitions of U.S. allies have been fairly often influenced by the necessities of the U.S. Navy for joint operations, and with the F-15 forming the spine of the U.S. Air Drive’s air superiority fleet Japan and Saudi Arabia each got here underneath strain to decide on the Eagle for interoperability causes, together with to make sure that the U.S. Air Drive would have the ability to use their amenities within the occasion of a serious struggle. For Israel the nation’s small dimension and extra restricted funds made the F-15 a extra appropriate selection since engagements have been more likely to happen at nearer ranges and the Israeli Air Drive had a a lot smaller territory to manage. The U.S. Air Nationwide Guard notably additionally thought-about the F-14, concluding that it was essentially the most appropriate fighter for its wants, however finally opted for the F-15 attributable to its decrease value and the comparatively restricted menace from Soviet intercontinental vary bombers on the time.
The F-14’s AN/AWG-9 radar offered a a lot better diploma of situational consciousness than any rival fight plane, apart from the Soviet MiG-31, which used the world’s first electronically scanned array radar for air to air fight. The Tomcat’s most notable different function was its entry to AIM-54 air to air missiles, nevertheless, which have been the one ones within the Chilly Battle with ‘fireplace and overlook’ capabilities offered by energetic relatively than semi-active radar steering. The missiles had a staggering 190km engagement vary, in comparison with simply 70km for the AIM-7 utilized by the F-15 and 130km for the R-27 utilized by trendy Soviet fighters such because the Su-27. The missiles carried warheads massive sufficient to destroy complete formations of plane as demonstrated by the Iranian Air Drive towards Iraqi MiG-23s. The F-14’s capabilities notably drew the eye of the British Royal Air Drive (RAF), when the nation was struggling to fund an air defences variant of the Twister variable swept wing fighter as prices continued to mount. The Twister was a lighter and far much less succesful fighter, however was distinguished by a comparatively highly effective sensor suite comparable in vary to that of the F-15 though nonetheless far inferior to that of the Tomcat. A British acquisition would haven’t been unprecedented, with the nation beforehand having come closet to buying F-111 strike fighters and having acquired F-4 Phantoms for its service teams.
Within the Nineteen Seventies the RAF’s fighter fleet fell to underneath 100 serviceable plane, with the service subsequently contemplating the American F-14, F-15 and light-weight F-16 to type new items. The RAF reportedly discovered the F-16’s capabilities, specifically its brief vary, comparatively weak radar and low weapons payload, to be inadequate, whereas the F-14 was favoured over the F-15 attributable to its superior means to take care of digital warfare countermeasures. The excessive value of the F-14, nevertheless, finally prevented the sale though inquiries have been made into buying Tomcats second hand both from the U.S. Navy or from the Imperial Iranian Air Drive. The outbreak of the Iran-Iraq Battle in 1980 eradicated the opportunity of acquisitions from Iran, whereas progress with the Twister program made it beneficial to buy a domestically developed fighter even when its capabilities fell very far brief.
The Twister program would pay dividends within the type of worthwhile exports to Saudi Arabia, whereas additionally boosting the British defence business, which was seen to greater than compensate for the F-14’s efficiency benefits. As well as the Tomcat, even when bought second hand, nonetheless had great operational prices and upkeep wants properly above these of the Twister which can have led the RAF to understand the home fighter as being less expensive. Thus whereas the F-15 retained the title of by far essentially the most succesful fighter fielded by a Western air drive in the course of the Chilly Battle, this title may have probably gone to the F-14 had it been acquired by the RAF. Tornadoes would see restricted air to air fight in the course of the Gulf Battle in 1991, when one was engaged and shot down by an Iraqi MiG-29, however had capabilities extra properly suited to strike operations. The fighters have been lastly retired by the RAF in 2019.