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Tomcat out of its den — an F-14 walkaround

15 July 2013

Tomcat out of its den — an F-14 walkaround

25º 38′ 57″ N / 80º 26′ 02″ W

The Wings Over Miami Air Museum has often been written of in this blog, along with its variety of aircraft. Recall, as well, that this is a dynamic museum with aircraft visiting for shipping assembly or disassembly, restoration and even simply renting space in the hangar — making it worthwhile to drop by from time to time.

— photo by Joseph May

Grumman F-14D Tomcat of the U.S. Navy’s VF-13 at the Wings Over Miami Air Museum (the black wingtip float of the PBY-5a “Supercat” is above) — photo by Joseph May

Recently, another visit was made to the Wings Over Miami Air Museum to a welcome surprise — the Tomcat was away from its normal spot in a dark corner along the hangar’s western wall. The F-14D, the latest Tomcat variant, is now spotted on the apron and more fortune came by way of a cloudy sky making for nicely diffused lighting. Yes, a walkaround was now possible and with the best sort of light to capture images of Grumman’s last “cat” U.S. Navy fighter design in its grey and black livery. Walking around this aircraft is the best way to appreciate how large this aircraft is, not appreciably smaller than a heavy bomber of World War II. Primarily the Tomcat was a fleet defense aircraft missile platform capable of carrying as many as six of the Hughes Aircraft designed AIM-54 Phoenix extremely long rang air-to-air missiles — though four or less would commonly be carried aloft as the aircraft could not recover to an aircraft carrier with six. The crew would maneuver to best position their aircraft with the aid of airborne early warning Grumman E-2 Hawkeye aircraft as well as the powerful on-board air intercept radar with the capability of tracking and sorting out several targets simultaneously.

The Tomcat could mix it up in a dogfights, though, as long as the crew stayed away from a turning fight which it could normally do with the pair of Herculean General Electric afterburning (reheat) turbofan jet engines. Grumman designed many innovative features into the F-14 but, perhaps, the two most notable are the Tomcat’s swingwing and fuselage pod. The wings are mounted onto an almost two-dimensional plane (also a lifting surface) with two underslung engine boxes (nacelles) and the fuselage pod containing the tandem crew positions as well as avionics. AIM-7 Sparrow and AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles would also be carried for self-defense as well as air intercepts of lesser, or closer, threats than cruise missiles. A 20mm rotary cannon completed the armament though the Tomcat was not a strafing aircraft — this was the proverbial “gun to get home on.”

— photo by Joseph May

The Tomcat’s pointy end, though declawed the look is intuitively predatory (Phoenix and Sparrow missile stations are on the belly with Sidewinder mountings under the wing pylons) — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

Starboard side of the tandem cockpit where the pilot was seated forward and the Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) was seated aft — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

A view often seen by an aircraft carrier deckhand — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

The 20mm cannon port above with the dual TV/IR equipment below (note the two pairs of rectangular light panels which would be illumed during night deck operations, these are also found along the length of the Tomcat) — photo by Joseph May

Super ace fighter pilots Chuck Yeager and Hans-Joachim Marseille were, in no small part, succesful due to their gifted flying skills as well as acute eyesight. The crews of the F-14 Tomcats had this acutely gifted eyesight in spades, courtesy of modern invention. Mounted beneath the nose is a characteristic dual tube apparatus which gave extended sight in two realms. The starboard (right side) half of the apparatus was a TV camera able to detect large aircraft from up to 60 miles (97km) which was paired with an infrared detector on the port side.

— photo by Joseph May

The TV camera is on the left and the IR seeker is on the right with the chemical compound indium antimonide giving the sensor surface a galena-like mirror quality — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

Closer view of the emergency canopy jettison mechanism (starboard side) — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

Detail of the starboard engine nacelle warning — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

Looking into the starboard main landing gear bay — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

A closer look at the hydraulic and electrical routing in the starboard landing gear bay — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

The main landing gear on the port side — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

Looking aft on the port side, note the ventral strakes and the all moving tail surface — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

A narrow platform which makes the Tomcat partially a lifting body (nearly half the lift, plus or minus depending upon wing sweep) connects the pair of engine nacelles with the fuselage pod extending forward (note the arresting hook and fuel dump port in center foreground) — photo by Joseph May

— photo by Joseph May

“Felix the Cat” was the logo of VF-31 when this Tomcat was stationed aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) — photo by Joseph May

More on the tail of this Tomcat in the next post!

Note: the Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina “Supercat” is a unique aircraft — place the term into the search window to discover why 🙂

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 1 December 2013 05:23

    That was my favourite aircraft….

  2. 26 June 2014 20:52

    Sad to see her declawed though.

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