F-14D History and Specifications

F-14D History

While the F-14A+ cured the Tomcat's long standing engine difficulties it was becoming clear that new developments in threat aircraft from the USSR meant that a major upgrade for the F-14 was needed to keep it ahead of the threats. This upgrade result lted in the F-14D, originally planned to be the standard Tomcat for the '90s, but actually serving in smaller numbers than any other variant.

Historians note:the designation F-14D was originally used to describe a downgraded version of the F-14 proposed to the Navy in the 1970's when rising costs made it seem that the Navy would be unable to afford a fleet of full capability aircraft. Nothing g came of the proposal, however, in part because the 1973 Arab-Israeli war persuaded the Navy it had best equip its people with the best equipment possible. Another factor was that Grumman and the Navy worked to keep the cost down, Grumman's financial situation being helped by the sale of 80 F-14's to Iran and a loan from an Iranian bank.

The first flight of an F-14D took place on the 23rd of November 1987, when a modified F-14A (BuNo:161865) took off from Grumman's Calverton plant. It was equipped with TF-30s rather than F110's, but featured much of the new electronics of the F-14D. During the test programme this aircraft was used to evaluate the AN/APG-71 radar, communications system, navigation and datalinks.

The second F-14D, BuNo:161867, flew from the start with GE F110's, the only prototype that was so equipped. Flying for the first time on the 28th of April 1988 and was also used to evaluate the radar, along with the avionics, environmental systems and TARPS systems.

The third prototype, BuNo:162595, flew on the 31st of May 1988. As with aircraft 1 it had TF-30's, not F110's. It was used to test ECM systems, sensors and weapons integration.

The fourth and final prototype, BuNo:161623, again with TF-30's, was used to test the new JTIDS (Joint Tactical Information Distribution System), ECM and RWR testing, live weapons firing, radar and stores management integration. It flew for the first time on the 21st of September 1988.

The first production F-14D was flown on February the 9th, 1990 and officially rolled out in a ceremony at the Calverton plant on the 23rd of that month.

The first delivery to a Navy unit was in May 1990, to VX-4 at Point Mugu, California. Among other tests they carried out the first carrier landings of the new variant.

The biggest change to the F-14D was the introduction of the AN/APG-71 radar, made by Hughes. This is a development of the AN/APG-70 used in the F-15E and so shares many similar features. Whereas the AWG-9 of the F-14A and B is an analogue unit the AN/APG-71 is fully digital. Its 5kWpower output gives it an extremely long range, in an ideal situation the unit is able to track targets up to 740km away, but the F-14's antenna design limits this range to 370km. Use of datalinked data allows two or more F-14D's to operate the system at its maximum range. Due to the radar's increased range and better target descrimination the F-14D is able to launch its AIM-54 missiles from over 100 miles away. The digital microprocessors of the system allow it to process data at six times the speed of the AWG-9 and using information from the radar prioritise the most threatening targets.

The AN/APG-71 features high and low rates of pulse repetition. High PRF is used for long range search while low PRF enables ground mapping and single target tracking. Like most modern radars the AN/APG-71 probably incorporates NCRT (Non-Cooperative Recognition Technology) using the raw radar return to help identify the type of aircraft targeted. As with the radar's ability to fuse data from other sensors, including the IRST, TCS and ECM systems, this is a very sensitive technology.

After the radar the most significant difference between the F-14D and the A is the D's use of General Electric F110 engines in place of the Pratt and Whitney TF-30's. The F110's produce 72.95kN of thrust in dry power and 121.87kN in full afterburner. This compares to the TF-30's 54.90kN in dry and 92.96kN in afterburning and gives much better maneuverability. Even more important than the increased thrust is the extra endurance the F110 gives, allowing F-14's to either extend their patrol range consider ably or to stay on station for much longer. In the overland attack role this gives the F-14 a much greater striking range. The performance increases are quite astonishing, with the F-14D having sixty percent more range or one third more time on station. Rate of climb is increased by sixty-one percent. The extra thrust of the F110 allows almost all carrier take offs to be made in dry power. While this does result in fuel savings the main reason why F-14D's do not tend to use afterburner during carrier launches is that if an engine failed the huge thrust of an F110 in full afterburner would produce an unrecoverable yawing motion in too short a time for the pilot to react. Thus for an F-14D an afterburner launch is rare, whereas the F-14A requires full afterburner unless very lightly loaded. On an aircaft carrier, where every drop of fuel is precious, the improved performance of the F110 is loved by all.

Other new systems include the AN/ALR-67 RWR (Radar Warning Receivers) and ALQ-165 radar jammer. Both are highly sophisticated and modern systems. As well as standard radar frequencies the AN/ALR-67's capabilities extend into the laser and millimetric bands and has great potential for further expansion. Using data from the AN/ALR-67 the ALQ-165 provides onboard jamming for the F-14D. The ALQ-165 is one of the most advanced jammers fitted to any US aircraft.

The main visual distinction between the F-14A and F-14D is the twin undernose sensor pod of the latter. As well as the same TCS (Television Camera System) of the F-14A the pod also houses an IRST (Infra-Red Search and Track). This system uses frictional heating of an aircraft's skin as well as the engine exhaust to provide a picture of the target to the crew. The IRST allows the F-14 crew to passively identify targets from long range, maximum range being more than 185km. Combined with the TCS and the F-14D's ability to passively pass this information on through its JTIDS terminal the IRST makes the F-14D a highly dangerous opponent. While the IRST, which uses the long wave part of the infra-red spectrum, is primarily intended for air-to-air use it has applications in other areas. The squadrons of VF-11 and VF-31 have been at the forefront of this, using the system to assist overland navigation and targeting. When combined with NVG's the IRST also has uses in the CSAR (Combat Search And Rescue) and FAC (Forward Air Control) roles, giving the aircrew increased night time viewing abilities. While it is not a true all weather system the IRST is giving the squadrons that use it ever greater capabilities.

The F-14D also features an ASN-139 digital navigation system, two AYK-14 mission computers, a digital stores management system and a TDRS (Tactical Data Recording System) tied in to the TCS. This is basically a video recorder wihich takes the place of a more traditional gun camera, allowing near instant viewing of images after flight.

All of the electronic systems in the F-14D are linked together by MIL-STD-1553G processors, enabling them to "talk" to one another. The sum of such systems is much greater than their individual parts working alone.

Other new systems for the F-14D are to be found in the cockpit, the front cockpit features two new multi-function displays and a new HUD (Head Up Display) that is more advanced than that in the F-14A. It is similar to the unit found in the F/A-18 and thus much more suited to the ground attack roles the Fleet's Tomcats are involved in these days. The rear cockpit features a large multi-function display as well as smaller displays whihc replace several analogue instruments. Both cockpits now feature the Martin Baker Mk-14 NACES (Naval AirCrew Ejection System), a zero zero cpability seat.

All F-14D's are wired to carry the TARPS pod, unlike the F-14A and B, of which only selected aircraft are properly wired to do so.

The weapons suite of the F-14D is very similar to that of the F-14A and B, although it has great potential for expansion. The F-14D carries the AIM-54C, AIM-7M, AIM-9M and unguided bombs. Originally slated to carry weapons such as the AIM-120, AGM-88 and AGM-65 the integration of these weapons was postponed and now looks unlikely to ever happen. Some tests with these weapons were carried out as part of the flight test programme, although I am unsure as to how far these tests proceeded. Perhaps the "best wish" weapon among F-14 crews would be the AIM-120, which would provide a quantum leap in capability over the presently used AIM-7. Not only would the AIM-120 improve the F-14's offensive abilities, its newer design makes it a much simpler weapon to maintain and "get off the rail". As well as the F-14D, F-14's that are undergoing the F-14A/B upgrade will receive the necessary software to carry and fire the AIM-120, although present plans do not see the F-14 community ever receiving AIM-120's, instead all Navy AIM-120 money is going into the F/A-18 Hornet.

After Grumman and VX-4 had completed testing of the F-14D the first fleet unit to receive the type was VF-124, the West Coast RAG. The first aircraft was delivered to NAS Miramar on the 16th of November 1990. The first deployable squadron to operate the type was VF-11, receiving its first aircraft in July of 1992. VF-11 were closely followed by VF-31, the other squadron in CVW-14. With limited numbers of F-14D's procured the only other squadron to receive the type was VF-2. This changed in the summer of 1997, when a lack of F-14A's forced the Navy to reorganise squadrons, allowing VF-213 Black Lions to begin conversion to the F-14D. Returning to VF-2, the Bounty Hunter's first aircraft arrived in Spring of 1993 and by June of that year they had six F-14's on strength. When VF-124 disestablished in September 1994 the role of training crews on the F-14D shifted to VF-101, the East Coast RAG. At first they maintained a detatchment of aircraft at NAS Miramar but with the movement of all F-14 squadrons to NAS Oceana during 1996 have now concentrated their F-14D's here.

Present upgrades for the F-14D are centred on the Block 1 upgrade which will introduce GPS sytems, AN/ARC-210 radios, the capability to carry the AN/ALE-50 towed decoy and a digital flight control system. While the Block 1 upgrade did provide some software to ease LANTIRN integration F-14D's still need to be upgraded with the new cockpit displays, hand controllers, GPS receivers and pylons before they can effectively carry the pods. The LANTIRN pod provides a night and precision munitions capability for the F-14, but does not make it an all weather capable type, as the FLIR is blocked by clouds and precipitation. The system is also of no use in the air-to-air arena, as it uses a narrow field of view, akin to looking through a soda straw. As of July 1997 VF-2 has had LANTIRN capable F-14D's for almost a year and is has returned from the first Pacific Fleet deployment for this system, onboard USS Constellation, in the summer of 1997. VF-31 is due to have received its full complement of LANTIRN F-14D's by the end of 1997.

As the F-14D was produced in such limited numbers, new builds only numbering 37 while 18 F-14A's were converted to F-14D's (known as F-14D(R)), there have been problems keeping the three deployable squadrons, the RAG and the various test units (VX-9, PMTC) up to strength. Thus in mid 1996 it was decided that VF-11 would convert back to the F-14B and shift to join VF-143 as part of CVW-7. VF-11 has now completed this process and is active at NAS Oceana with F-14B's (in the process becoming the only F-14 squadron to have operated all 3 variants of the Tomcat), its first cruise as part of CVW-7 is scheduled for 1998, assuming present plans remain unchanged.

In mid 1997, due to a lack of F-14A's the decision was taken to reduce the size of F-14 squadrons. This freed enough F-14D's for VF-213 Black Lions to begin conversion to the type. As of early 1998 the squadron is still in the midst of the transition, it's air and groundcrew heavily involved in the process of qualifying as Fleet ready in their new type.

While the Navy is continuing to convert small numbers of F-14A's into F-14B's none are being converted to F-14D standard, presumably because of the high extra cost, a great pity given the massive increase in capabilites that the F-14D brings.

F-14D Production Blocks

With the F-14D being a mix of new build aircraft and F-14A conversions some F-14D BuNo's also appear in the list of F-14A's.

[Block 85] [Block 110] [Block 125] [Block 130] [Block 160] [Block 165] [Block 170]

F-14D Specifications

Two General Electric F110-GE-400 turbofans, rated at 14,000lb (62.3kN) dry, 23,100lb (102.75kN) afterburning and 27,000lbst each.
Wingspan (unswept)64 ft. 1 1/5 in. (19.14m)
Wingspan (swept)38 ft. 2 1/5 in. (11.65m)
Wingspan (oversweep)33 ft 3 1/5 in. (10.15m)
Wing Area565.0 sq ft (52.49 sq m)
Length62 ft. 8 in. (19.10m)
Height16ft. (4.88m)
Wheel Base23ft. 1/2 in. (7.02m)
Empty Weight41,780 pounds
Max Weight74,349 pounds
Internal Fuel16,200lb (7348kg)
External Fuel3,800lb in two 267 (US gal) drop tanks
Max Ordnance14,500lb (6577kg)
Max Speed (at altitude)1544 mph (2485km/h)
Max Speed (sea level)912 mph (1468km/h)
Service Ceiling53,000ft
Min Take Off Run1,400ft (427m)
Min Landing Run2,900ft (884m)


Joe Baugher's excellant F-14 history.
F-14 Tomcat in Action:-Squadron Signal Publications no 105
Feline Claws-The Nine Lives of the F-14, Dr David Baker. Air International, November 1995.
Grumman F-14 Tomcat, Dennis R Jenkins. Aerofax 1997
World Air Power Journal Volume 7-F-14 Tomcat:Fleet Defender by Robert F. Dorr

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