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Why the Navy Misses the F-14 Tomcat

TNI Staff


Despite some serious problems. 

China is building a potent air launched anti-ship cruise missiles along with aircraft to carry those weapons. Meanwhile, the once-dormant Russian bomber force is back—though not in the numbers of the Soviet era. Moreover, with the emergence of new adversary stealth aircraft—some of which have the capability to fly very high and very fast—which are also armed with cruise missiles, the Navy will need the range and speed that the Tomcat offered to fend off those threats. The F/A-18E/F can do the job—but only to an extent.

The United States Navy retired the venerable Grumman F-14 Tomcat in 2006 after more than three decades in service. However, the Tomcat’s demise has left gaps in the carrier air wing that are only now being felt.

With the end of the Cold War and declining budgets, the Navy simply could not afford to keep the incredibly maintenance intensive and unreliable Tomcat on the carrier flight deck. Moreover, with the demise of the Soviet threat, the Tomcat’s primary mission of fleet defense has fallen by the wayside and the venerable jet was increasingly used in the strike role. But while the F-14 proved to be a competent strike aircraft, the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet was superior in most respects to the aging Tomcat as a strike fighter in the post-Cold War era. Particularly, the Super Hornet was far more reliable and cost effective—and with its much more modern avionics, it was mostly a more capable aircraft. However, there are still some gaps that the Super Hornet could not fill.

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