Welcome to a new section of Tomcat Alley. "The Gouge" is best described as a news section, here I shall try and post, on a regular basis, the latest news and events from the world's of the F-14 and U.S. Naval Aviation (and perhaps even further afield if they are of interest). I'm also happy to post appeals for help, reunions and other events. Stories are posted in date order, with the new items being added to the top. Dates are of a story's posting date, not the date of the event.
If you've a story or information you think should be featured here please send it to my e-mail address on the main page.

This page will be as up to date as possible-thus errors/mistakes may happen.

01/06/99 Tomcat gets sharper eyes in recon role

Raytheon Systems have recently begun delivery of the Fast Tactical Imagery (FTI) System to the Navy's F-14 squadrons. The system is another upgrade to the valuable TARPS pod and adds a TEAC Hi 8mm recorder and transceiver. The FTI system enables a Tomcat crew not just to perform near real time recon, but to do it at a stand-off distance, something previously impossible. This is possible becuase the FTI system can take input from almost all of the F-14's cockpit screens, including the LANTIRN imagery, TCS pictures, TARPS DI digital photos, HUD video and imagery from the RIO's PTID display. Images are burst transmitted via the ARC-182 UHF radio to a download station, most often a carrier but just as easily a land based centre, over a range of 200+ miles. images of interest can be electronically 'marked' by the RIO. FTI has been in use onboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt over Kosovo during the last few months. 176 F-14A/B/D are due to be upgraded with the new cameras. The system's uselfulness will increase further with the incorporation of T3 software tapes into the LANTIRN pods. The major change is to add GPS coordinates to the LANTIRN display, giving a precise location on the target viewed. Using this system F-14's could perform pre-strike recon for TLAM missiles or precise guidance for incoming strike packages on mobile target location.

05/99 CVW-8/CVN-71 involved in Operation Allied Force

CVW-8, including VF-14 Tophatters and VF-41 Black Aces began their 1999 cruise within days of airstrikes against Serbia becoming a reality. As a result the carrier made a speed transit to the Adriatic and was launching strikes from it's first night on station. VF-14 and VF-41 have been instrumental in the airwing's role, providing night precision attack against hardened targets. As the air campaign moved on the squadrons were involved in daytime CAS sorties, including missions close to the Albanian border, working with USAF A-10A Warthogs. With Allied Force having come to an end the Roosevelt is due to move to the Persian Gulf, where she was originally due to have been on station. Her place for the last few weeks has been filled by the USS kitty Hawk annd CVW-5, including VF-154 Black Knights. Moving Kitty Hawk left the USN with no carrier on station in the Western Pacific and necessitated reinforcement of that area with USMC and USAF assests. With the recent Korean dispute over fishing rights it is unlikely Kitty Hawk will have to wait long before being called on once more.

15/03/99 VF-14 80th Anniversary Bird

VF-14 celebrates it's 80th Anniversary in 1999, having been stood up as Air Detatchment, Pacific Fleet in September 1919. One of the Tophatter's F-14A's has been painted up to celebrate the anniversary.

21/02/99 VF-32 and VF-213 in action in the Persian Gulf.

As you can't help but have noticed last December saw the biggest US and Allied air strikes in the the 7 years since the Persian Gulf war ended. Heavily involved in the Desert Fox operation was VF-32 and the rest of CVW-3. The first combat operations with LANTIRN were extremely successful. Indeed it was LANTIRN video most seen on the later news reports. Main weapons employed by F-14's were LGB's. At least one F-14B was painted up with mission markings. As of writing the carrier and wing are in the Adriatic, part of a large NATO force poised to begin airstrikes over Serbia if peace negotiations in France fail. If called into action this will be the first time a F-14 unit has been involved in two separate conflicts on the same cruise.
After VF-32 left the Persian Gulf in late Decmeber the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70), with VF-213 took her place. The Iraqis had moved to a policy of actively opposing the No-Fly zones and as a result several aircraft, including, I believe, MiG-25s, violated the Southern fly zone on consecutive days. F-14D's from VF-213 were among the aircraft that opened fire, employing the AIM-54C Phoenix missile for the first time ever in anger. No hits were recorded, due to the long range nature of the engagment, but it was believed one Iraqi aircraft crashed into the ground due to running out of fuel.

10/06/98 VF-2 CAG Bird

A new design for VF-2's CAG bird was noted at NAS North Island in May. The design combines the Langley stripe and Bounty Hunter skull. The Battle E and Safety S are prominently displayed. In line with the new regulations all markings are confined to the tail. Many thanks to Phillip Hino for these.

02/06/98 Clifton Award Winner

VF-14 Tophatters were recipients of the Clifton Award this year, recognising the unit as the best fighter squadron in the U.S. Navy.

30/05/98 News from NAS Oceana

After visiting NAS Oceana for the first time I must start by expressing my most sincere thanks to the many people who made it possible and so rewarding.
Over 100 F-14 slides sit beside me, awaiting scanning, but I must ask you to be patient, they will be online as soon as is possible.
The most interesting idea brought up during the visit was that in the near future F-14 squadrons may well begin to operate a mix of variants to try and close the capability gap between units. The general conscensus was that units are most likely to use a mix of F-14A's and F-14B's, for once both have undergone the F-14A/B Upgrade there is relatively little difference between them except for the engines. In their recently published book, "Warplane Classics-Grumman F-14 Tomcat", Jon Lake and others express the view that the mixed units will be composed of F-14B's and F-14D's, primarily because of the engine commonality. When I mentioned this sources stated that while the B and D do have the same engine virtually everything else in the airframe (ejection seats, avionics, radar, cockpit, TCS) is different. It is thus too early to say for certain which variants will be mixed, but it does look likely to happen.
Recent Wing policy has dictated that many F-14 units tone down their aircraft, even the CAG birds. Regulations now state that unit markings will be restricted to the tail only and painted in shades of grey. Units differ in the speed and extent to which they are applying these rules. VF-102 Diamondbacks have repainted all their aircraft in a new scheme, which sees the return of the 'AB' code inside a diamond (last used on the F-14A). The aircraft also have a line of diamonds at the top and bottom of the fin. VF-31 Tomcatters have lost the gloss black tail on their CAG bird, but at present retain Felix inside a yellow circle on a rainbow stripe. VF-103 Jolly Rogers deployed onboard Ike with all their aircraft carrying white skull and crossbones on a matt black tail. There was no sash across the front fuselage. VF-211 Fighting Checkmates recently repainted NG 101 with Bluto, the squadron's mascot when it was first formed over 50 years ago. Bluto, dressed in a Santa suit, made flights in the Persian Gulf as part of VF-211's last cruise. It is not confirmed whether he will be a permament addition to the aircraft or not. VF-41 Black Aces have changed style, losing the red tail stripe. Instead of placing '41' inside the Ace, it now features a stylised 'AJ' for CVW-8.

30/05/98 First VF-11 F-14B Images

In another first the Alley is proud to display the first images of VF-11 Red Ripper's F-14B's. Thanks to CDR Carlos Lozano of the NAS Oceana AIMD and Mike Burgoyne for providing these. The Red Rippers are currently in the middle of a round the world cruise onboard USS John C. Stennis, with VF-143 Pukin dogs, and are presently enforcing the Southern Watch No-Fly Zone against Iraq. Both squadrons have LANTIRN and TARPS (DI). Once duty there is complete the carrier will cruise to NAS North Island, which will become it's permanent home as part of the Pacific Fleet.

19/04/98 CVW Round Up

CVW-1 with VF-102 Diamondbacks returned to NAS Oceana on the 2nd of April, the squadron is now taking leave prior to restarting the work up process.
CVW-14 with VF-31 have been completing pre-cruise work ups with a short deployment onboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), off the San Diego coast. The squadron will return to Oceana in late April and deploy on the 2nd of May to WESTPAC.
CVW-17 and VF-103 are due to deploy onboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) on the 27th of April. This will be "Ike's" first cruise in the last 2 years, having emerged from overhaul in late 1997.

04/03/98 CVW-7 Begins World Cruise

USS John C. Stennis and CVW-7 recently left the USA to begin their round the world cruise. This is Stennis's first operational cruise. CVW-7 presently includes two squadrons of F-14 Tomcat's, VF-11 Red Rippers and VF-143 Pukin' Dogs. For both squadrons this is their first cruise equipped with LANTIRN and digital TARPS capable aircraft. It is also VF-11's first cruise since converting from the F-14D to the F-14B.
In related CVW news, USS Nimtz and CVW-9 have recently returned from extended duty in the Persian Gulf. VF-211 Fighting Checkmates are at NAS Oceana, undergoing a well earned rest before beginning the turnaround process. USS Independence, with CVW-5 and VF-154 Black Knights, has taken Nimtz's place in the Gulf.
VF-31 Tomcatter's are presently at NAS Key West, undergoing ACM training in preparation for their next cruise as part of CVW-14 onboard USS Abraham Lincoln. The squadron's next det will be to NAS Miramar in April, when they will take part in full AirWing work-ups.

27/02/98 1998 Battle E Winners Announced

On the 26th of February 1998 Commander Naval Air Forces Atlantic (COMNAVAIRLANT) announced that VF-14 Tophatters and VF-2 Bounty Hunters were the Atlantic and Pacific Fleet receipents of the Battle E, awarded to the best fighter squadrons in each Fleet. VF-14 and VF-2 will now compete for the Clifton award, results of which are expected shortly.

17/02/98 Appeal for Help Regarding U.S. Naval Postal History

Randy Kimes is currently undertaking research into the postal history of U.S. Navy squadrons-in particular the study of postal markings used by each U.S. Navy unit. Information on any VF, VB, VC, VS, VT, VH, VR, or VU unit in the period between WW1 up to the end of WW2 would be appreciated. If you have any knowledge which could be of help please e-mail Randy at the above address.

16/02/98 First VF-213 F-14D Images

Courtesy of Jose M. Ramos these are among the first images of VF-213's F-14D's. The shots were taken during a detatchment to NAS Key West in autumn 1997 and show 'NH101' and 'NH102', the latter aircraft not yet having been painted. The markings on 'NH101' differ slightly from those applied to VF-213's last F-14A's-the horizontal lines above and below the Black Lion have gone and the 'NH' tailcode is reduced in size. Please note both these images are copyright Jose M. Ramos and cannot be used without his express permission.

03/02/98 1997 Fighter Fling Results

Every Year Fighter Wing Atlantic hosts an annual award ceremony to announce the results of various competitions. As well as great parties this year's Fling produced the following results, presented on the 2nd of August 1997:-

VF-14 TophattersSports TrophyVAdm. Richard Allen Precision Strike Trophy
Air Combat Maneuvering DerbyVF-102 Diamondbacks
Bombing DerbyVF-31 Tomcatters
ECM Competition
Fred Dillingham Tactical Reconnaissance TrophyVF-32 Swordsmen
Grand SlamVF-143 Pukin' Dogs
High Noon CompetitionVF-31 Tomcatters
Mutha TrophyVF-103 Jolly Rogers
VF-101 Grim Reapers
VF-102 Diamondbacks

09/02/98 First VF-32 F-14B Image

VF-32's move from the F-14A to the F-14B has been public for several months, however until now pictures of the new aircraft have been absent. Tomcat Alley is now proud to be able to display the first images of VF-32's new aircraft. The top image shows the CAG bird, 'AC100', overflying USS Enterprise (CVN-65) in October 1997. A separate sighting of this aircraft in October 1997 gives it BuNo.161434, originally a F-14A but converted to F-14B as KB-25. It's previous assignment had been to VF-143 as 'AG106'.
The other four are of 'AC102' being catapulted from Big 'E', again taken in October 1997. Many thanks to Dennis Johnson for providing these first shots. To see larger images just click on the thumbnail.
Continuing the story of F-14's being re-worked two F-14's were seen leaving Davis-Monthan AFB (for MCAS Miramar) on the 21st of January 1998. Neither had any unit markings applied, and the type is not known for certain, although it is possible that one is F-14B BuNo.161851, seen in rework in October 1997. Alternatively the aircraft may both be F-14A's, going to Miramar to join a west coast squadron on at the start of a cruise, although it is hard to figure out which one this would be, as VF-211 is presently in the Persian Gulf and VF-154 had aircraft replaced in mid-1997. Any further information on this would be appreciated.

17/01/98 VF-33 Appeal

If you are an ex-Starfighter or have any information/photos about VF-33 please contact Dudley He is the keeper of the VF-33 History/Album Book. Whilst information from any era of VF-33 is welcome, particular interest is centered on the period of 1979 to 1989. All help is gratefully received and goes toward preserving the memory of a fine fighter squadron.

10/01/98 VF-201 to lose F-14's in 1998

1998 is to be the last year that the Hunters of VF-201 will operate the F-14A Tomcat. The squadron's aircraft are amongst the youngest, in terms of airframe hours flown, in the Fleet and so will move to active squadrons that are presently flying aircraft almost at the limit of their airframe hours. To replace the F-14A's VF-201 will receive F/A-18A's, presumably being redesignated VFA-201 in the process.
To commemorate their last year of F-14A operations VF-201 repainted their CAG aircraft (BuNo. 160396) in a striking scheme. VF-201 has operated the F-14A since 1987 and was the only one of four Naval Reserve F-14 squadrons to survive the force restructuring of the mid-1990s, which saw the disestablishment of VF-202 Superheats, VF-301 Devils Disciples and VF-302 Stallions.
The change illustrates the difficulties the Navy is having keeping the F-14 fleet at the necessary size. With no new F-14's having been delivered since 1990 and the vast majority of F-14A's having been delivered in the mid to late 1980s a structural upgrade of the remaining aircraft would provide much needed extra life. With the F-14 fleet presently undergoing upgrades to improve their warfighting capability it seems strange that the opportunity is also not being used to extend their lives. This would also provide a fall back if the F/A-18E/F programme slips, as looks likely to happen. Congess has authorised 20 F/A-18E/F's in the FY98 Defence Budget, which I believe to be 4 less than originally planned. Also the flight test programme has yet to choose a cure for the 'wing drop' problem, which hampers maneuverability at high angles of attack, although solutions have been identified and a decision is expected early in January.

08/01/98 VF-154 Becomes the First Fleet Unit to Receive the AN/ALR-67

In September 1997 VF-154 Black Knights became the latest F-14 squadron to begin updating their F-14's. However, unlike previous squadrons, included in their modifications are the AN/ALR-67, Naval Air Systems Command's answer to the SAM and AAR threats of today and tomorrow. The AN/ALR-67's main advantage is that it provides tremendous capability in a very small package, the entire system weighing around 100lbs. Operating in fully automatic mode the AN/ALR-67 can detect, locate, classify and respond to a threat, using the new BOL Chaff/Flare dispensers that are also part of the update package.
The other features the updated aircraft bring are:-LANTIRN targeting pods, turning the F-14 into a precision day/night bomber, a new Programmable Tactical Information Display (PTID) for the RIO, Night Vision Goggles, GPS, radar upgrades (bringing the F-14A's AWG-9 up to the standard of the AWG-15F fitted in F-14B's) and digital systems to tie the items together.
At present VF-102 are the only other squadron to have undergone this full update. VF-2, VF-11, VF-14, VF-32, VF-41, VF-103 and VF-211 have undergone limited updates, giving LANTIRN capability and the new PTID/hand controller (for the LANTIRN pod).
Thanks to Ens. D. Hanselman, VF-154 P.A.O.

30/12/97 F-14 Fleet Cut Back, VF-213 and VF-32 transition to F-14D and F-14B

During the summer of 1997 the U.S. Navy undertook a FLE (Fleet Life Expectancy) study on all F-14's in the Fleet. It produced the disturbing news that nearly all F-14A's were running out of airframe hours faster than expected.
As a result the following actions were initiated:-
Squadron size was reduced from 14 to 10 aircraft. This allowed a number of F-14B's and F-14D's to be freed up. Coupled with refurbishment of F-14B's and D's at AMARC this has given enough airframes fro VF-32 Swordsmen to begin converting the the F-14B. In a similar process VF-213 has begun to receive the F-14D. Reports are not entirely clear as to how far the transition has reached for each squadron. Aircraft are slowly being moved from unit to unit and indicate that VF-213 has already received some F-14D's. At present the air and ground crew for both squadrons are undergoing the necessary schooling to qualify for their new types. Whether any sorties have been flown with the new types is unclear at present.
Aircraft Involved
161434 F-14BVF-143 'AG106'VF-32 'AC100'
161851 F-14BAMARCVF-32

30/12/97 VF-11 nears completion of transition to F-14B

By mid-April 1997 VF-11 had at least 4 F-14B's on strength, possibly as many as 7. At least 1 F-14D was still with the unit. With numbers of aircraft in each squadron fluctuating during the year (as a result of the above story) it is difficult to know exactly how many of each type VF-11 has. By December it can be estimated that the transition to the F-14B is all but complete. It is not known whether the F-14B's all came from other units or whether they may have been converted from F-14A's under a depot modification plan (the latter is only conjecture and not confirmed). VF-11 is now assigned to CVW-7, whose next cruise is due to be on the USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) in 1998.
Aircraft Involved
161419?AG 206
162691?AG 200
162692?AG 201
163410?AG 206

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