Famed Navy Tomcat Program Draws to an End - Southern Maryland Headline News

Famed Navy Tomcat Program Draws to an End

The world's most recognized aircraft – the fast and lethal F-14 - is roaring off into Naval history.

The people who supported research, development, test and training for the mighty Tomcat will soon shutter the program on Patuxent River Naval Air Station.

The Tomcat program (PMA-241) will host a disestablishment ceremony in Pax River's hangar 2133 April 27 at 2 p.m. Rear Admiral David Venlet, NAVAIR's Program Executive Officer for Tactical Aircraft and a Tomcat aviator, will speak at the ceremony.

The event, which is open to the public, will also serve as a farewell to program manager Chris Frayser, who will transfer his expertise to the E-2/C-2 program (PMA 231). Following the ceremony, the program is hosting a reception at the Flight Deck Lounge.

"We are recognizing a legacy - the effort of sustaining the Tomcat, a mainstay in Naval Aviation for 32 years," said Lt. Cmdr. Bob Hyde, assistant program manager for logistics.

Over the years, the F-14 has been transformed from a single mission air-to-air fighter to a combat proven precision strike/attack aircraft and digital tactical reconnaissance platform. It became an icon in popular culture with the 1986 motion picture "Top Gun," and later regular appearances on the television series "JAG." Its sweeping wings and muscle-plane design are recognized around the globe.

"The F-14 is one of the most storied aircraft in the Navy, and this is our way to honorably retire an airframe that has served our country faithfully," said Lt. Mike Doxey, assistant class desk.

The Tomcat program started in January 1968 with Naval Air Systems Command's decision to conceive a new air-to-air fighter aircraft. The aircraft moved rapidly through development - completing first flight in December 1970. The first production F-14A was delivered in May 1972, and two Tomcat squadrons geared up in October 1972.

A significant improvement was made to the aircraft in November 1987 with the upgrade to General Electric F110 engines. This modified aircraft was designated the F-14B. The F-14D added a new state-of-the-art digital avionics system, one of the most powerful and advanced digital processing air-to-air radar systems at the time, as well as a high performance passive Infrared Search and Track System.

In June 1996, the Tomcat successfully deployed its first Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared and Night (LANTIRN) Squadron, VF-103. With the LANTIRN pod, the Tomcat possessed an accurate autonomous designation and targeting capability for delivery of laser-guided bombs. The system is effective during day or night sorties and at high altitudes. Starting in April 1997, all battle groups were equipped with LANTIRN capable F-14 aircraft.

The grand finale for the F-14's transformation has been the aircraft's performance in Allied Force and Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Tomcats have delivered precision-guided munitions over Belgrade, Kabul, and Baghdad. VF-41 was the first Tomcat squadron to be awarded the coveted McClusky Award as the best "attack" squadron in the Navy for its outstanding performance during Allied Force. VF-102 won the McClusky Award in 2002 for its performance over Afghanistan in Operation Enduring Freedom. In 2003, Operation Iraqi Freedom saw the simultaneous deployment of all three existing F-14D squadrons, and saw the F-14D's first release of a Joint Direct Attack Munition in a combat environment. In late 2005, the Tomcat also became the first Navy platform to be equipped with ROVER compatibility, which allowed transmission of real-time streaming video to troops on the ground.

Two Tomcat squadrons returned in March from a last deployment aboard the USS Roosevelt. With an average service life of 15 years, the aging aircraft proved itself among the best multi-mission aircraft ever built during air-to-ground and close air support sorties while flying alongside the Navy's F/A-18 Super Hornet, which the Navy has chosen as its successor. The program's disestablishment caps three decades of continuous development and improvement to the last.

"This success is part of our team's continuing contribution to the Navy-wide goal of delivering the right force, with the right readiness, and at the right cost," said Venlet, who oversees the efforts of PMA 241. "You'll see much more of this as the Naval Aviation Enterprise continues to streamline development and procurement of the systems we send forward to our fleet warfighters."

The Naval Aviation Enterprise is a partnership among Naval leadership to optimize processes that maintain current readiness while investing in future readiness. The enterprise concept focuses Naval aviation on the single fleet-driven metric of producing aircraft ready for tasking at reduced cost.

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