|Soviet bomber escort|
|Libya I: VF-41 Black Aces F-14As shoot down 2 Libyan Su-22 Fitter-Js in 1981|
|Libya II: VF-32 Swordsmen kill two Libyan MiG-23 Floggers in 1989|
|Lebanon: VF-31 Tomcatters F-14As under fire from Syrian SAMs and AAA in 1983|
|The 1985 Achille Lauro affair|
|Gulf War I: The war between Iraq and Iran from 1980 to 1988|
|Gulf War II: 1991, Free Kuwait|
|Missions over former Yugoslavia|
|Gulf War III: Peace Keeping Missions|
|... Bad News for the Bad Guys: The F-14 is still in the game!|
|There was an ever lasting game in the skies over this world's oceans ... the game was called "Catch that bomber!" Since the F-14's primary mission was to defend the fleet from attacking Soviet long-range bombers with air-launched anti-ship missiles, the nature of the game called for the Tomcat crew to train ... and which training is better than the real thing? Whenever Soviet bombers or fighters closed in on the carrier battle group, F-14s were there to "welcome" them according to the rules of engagement. The goal was not to shoot the "enemy" down, but to escort him away from the carrier and to take a look at the weapons they carry.|
|Moammar Gadhafi, leader of Libya, extended the territorial claims over the Medirannean Sea to twelve nautical miles instead of the international accepted 2 miles. Playing the role of the "World Wide Police Force" the US started a challenge against the Libyan leaders' territorial policy: US aircraft carrier battle groups exercised close to the Libyan twelve mile zone while US Navy fighters often entered the Libyan "territorial waters". Often US Navy aircraft were tracked by Libyan radar and Libyan fighter aircraft were launched against US fighter aircraft, heading in their direction and turning away before coming into too short range. But sometimes it came to air combat maneuvering missions between Libyan and US Navy aircraft. The morning of 19 August 1981 began for two patrolling VF-41 F-14As just the same way: Fast Eagle 102 and Fast Eagle 107, flown by CDR "Hank" Kleeman / LT D. Venlet and LT "Music" Muczynski / LTJG "Amos" Anderson respectively were flying Combat Air Patrol (CAP) mission for USS Nimitz aircraft conducting a missile exercise. A patrolling E-2A Hawkeye made radar contact with two Libyan Sukhoi Su-22 Fitters which had taken off from the former Wheelus Air Force Base near Tripoli and were now heading towards the VF-41 F-14s. As the Fitters were closing in on the Tomcats, the lead Su-22 pilot fired an AA-2 Atoll air-to-air missile at the F-14s. The missile failed, the Su-22s were declaired hostile and the Tomcats were cleared to engage. CDR Kleeman went for the Fitter wingman while LT Muczynski went for the Su-22 leader. Soon thereafter, when the Su-22 turned clear of the sun CDR Kleeman got a lock-on with an AIM-9 Sidewinder missile and fired, hitting the Su-22's tailpipe. The Libyan pilot ejected successfully from his burning Fitter. Meanwhile, LT Muczynski fired on his lead Fitter at very close range an AIM-9 air-to-air missile and destroyed the Su-22. The F-14 and its crew had proven itself superior to the Su-22s.|
|"Navy Two, Libya Zero"|
|The day is January 4, 1989. The airspace close to the Libyan coast. Two VF-32 F-14As from USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) fly a mission as Combat Air Patrol when a pair of Libyan Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23 Floggers were detected. The MiG-23s had taken off from Al Bumbaw Airfield near Tobruk and they continued their flight towards the US fighters, even though the F-14s radar had locked on the bogeys. It's a common procedure under such circumstances to lock the powerful AWG-9 radar on the incoming Libyan fighters, to give them the possibility to turn around and head back home. Usually this procedure was impressive enough to drive the Libyans back since the radar warning tone resulting from an armed F-14's radar was fearsome enough. But this time it did not work. For the second time US Navy F-14s were engaged by Libyan fighter aircraft under hostile conditions. During the 8 minutes engagement, the MiGs kept turning in on the Tomcats to maintain a firing solution for their Soviet built air-to-air missiles. As later examination of F-14 still photography resolved, the MiG-23s were armed with AA-7 Apex missiles. After several evasive maneuvers by the Tomcats and aggressive maneuvers by the Floggers, the incoming pair of MiG-23s were declared hostile and the F-14 crews were cleared to engage. The crew of the lead F-14A, AC202 fired an unsuccessful AIM-7 Sparrow missile, while the second F-14As, AC207 AIM-7 found its target and destroyed one MiG-23. Thereafter, the lead F-14 closed in on the remaining MiG-23 and launched an AIM-9 Sidewinder heat-seaking missile. The missile exploded in the tailpipe of the fleeing Flogger. The pilot of this MiG-23 also managed to eject from his destroyed aircraft. Both pilots were seen with good chutes. After this engagement, the victorious Tomcats headed north for the carrier.|
|"Navy Four, Libya Zero"|
|In 1983 a multi-national peacekeeping force - including some 800 U.S. Marines - did their duty in Lebanon, a country shaken by civil war. In late 1983 the peacekeeping force was threatened by both Lebanese military groups and Syrian forces, resulting in combat mission by aircraft from CVW-3 aboard USS John F. Kennedy. During these missions, VF-31 F-14A were under fire from Syrian Surface-to-Air missiles (SAM) and Anti-Aircraft-Artillery (AAA). None of the F-14s were losts or damaged, but the Syrians' aggressive action resulted in the National Command Authority ordering air strikes against Syrian positions near Hammana. During the attacks, two U.S. Navy aircraft were shot down, one A-7 and one A-6. The A-6 pilot was killed, the B/N taken prisoner (and released a few weeks later) and the A-7 pilot ejected safely and was recovered by friendly forces.|
|In 1985 the Italian cruise liner Achille Lauro was hijacked by terrorists from the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) in an attempt to free political prisoners and terrorists by putting pressure on the Israeli government. During the hijacking of the cruise liner, the terrorists murdered the American Leon Klinghoffer. Therefore, after the end of the hijacking, the US government decided to get hold of the terrorists. US intelligence uncovered the plans of the PLO terrorists and then US President Ronald Reagan ordered the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea to take action against the flight of the terrorists from Egypt to Libya.|
|What followed was condemned by many as an act of "airborne piracy", but it was in fact a well planned precision operation by carrier aircraft launched from USS Saratoga (CV-60) and intelligence aircraft from the USAF: No less than seven F-14As from VF-74 and VF-103 were launched, four to undertake the interception of the B737 plus three to fly top cover for the unlikely event that Libyan fighters would take aggressive action against the US aircraft. Additionally, an E-2C, four KA-6D tankers, EA-6B Prowlers, EA-3B Skywarriors and a RC-135 electronic intelligence aircraft participated in the operation. Once on its way to Libya, the Egypt Air Boeing 737 with the terrorists on board was located by an E-2C Hawkeye which vectored the Tomcats into position to perform the interception. The Tomcats approached the B737 with all lights extinguished in total radio silence, only using modern data link facilities between the participating aircraft. The Tomcats positioned themselves ahead, to the rear and on each side of the airliner. Once in position, the F-14s switched on position ligths and made a call to the B737 pilot to follow. Without another choice the airliner was escorted to NAS Sigonella in Italy, where a Navy SEAL (Sea-Air-Land) team surrounded the airliner and captured the terrorists.|
|In 1974 and 1975 the Shah of Iran had ordered some 80 F-14As as the only foreign customer for the Tomcat. The Iranian F-14s should counter the penetration and overflight of Soviet MiG-25 Foxbats over Iranian territory since the IIAF (Imperial Iranian Air Force) had no other match for the MiG-25. Delivery of the F-14s lasted from early 1976 to July 1978 including some 270 AIM-54 Phoenix missiles. The 80th F-14 was not delivered due to the revolution in Iran and overthrow of the Shah. From early 1979 onwards no more spare parts were delivered to the new Islamic Republic of Iran and the Navy and Grumman technicians had to be replaced by foreign technicians. A great set-back in the Iranian F-14 programm.|
|On 22 September 1980 Iraqi troops invaded Iran to occupy the region of the Schatt Al Arab and some strategic islands in the Persian Gulf. These areas in Iran include some rich oil fields. During the wartime the conflict escalated and both sides commited atrocities by bombing civilians with nerve and poison gas. Not war, but murder.|
|During the war, the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF) was only able to keep a mere seven to ten F-14s operational at any time. A lack of tires and brakes kept most of the F-14s on the ground. Additionally, by 1986 Iran ran out of AIM-54 missiles and from then on the only available armament were AIM-9 Sidewinder and AIM-7 Sparrow missiles. Therefore the F-14 was often used in the airborne radar warning role covered sometimes by F-4Es or F-5Es.|
|Even though the number of operational F-14s was low, the IRIAF claims that the F-14s shot down one Iraqi Mirage F.1 and two MiG-21s. At least three IRIAF F-14s were lost in air-to-air combat with Iraqi Mirage F.1s and MiG-21s. Today it is very unlikley that any F-14s are still operational.|
|In 1991, half a year after Saddam Hussein's Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait, the Allied forces started a massive air war against Iraq followed by a ground offensive to drive the Iraqi army out of Kuwait and back into its own territory. The Allied air war was highly successful since soon after the beginning of the air war the Allied fighters ruled in the skies over Iraq. A lot of Iraqi fighter aircraft were flown to Iran to escape destruction, several Iraqi fighter aircraft were shot down by Allied fighters. But not a lot of "MiG kills" happened, since the Iraqi Air Force preferred to evade air combat because of an overwhelming superiority of Allied fighters which were supported by airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft from numerous countries.|
|The F-14s' missions during the war were 1. both USN and USAF strike support, including both sweep and combat air patrol (CAP), 2. Suppresion of Enemy Air Defence (SEAD) for USN and USAF aircraft, 3. SCUD strike support, 4. Tactical Air Reconnaissance missions and 5. Fleet Air Defence (FAD) and CAP. F-14 supported strikes were rarely engaged by enemy aircraft and achieved a 100% success rate resulting in zero air-to-air loss of strike/SEAD aircraft. Coalition forces specifically requested F-14s on numerous occasions for escort, High Value Unit CAP and protection for forces during anti-ship operations.|
|The only air-victory of a Tomcat was the shooting down of an Iraqi Mil Mi-8 Hip helicopter on February 6th, 1991. The helo came accross a pair of VF-1 Wolfpack F-14As flying from USS Ranger in the Persian Gulf and was downed by the Commanding Officer of VF-1 CDR Ron McElraft and Lt Stuart Broce with an AIM-9 Sidewinder missile. No Grumman F-14 Tomcat earned a real MiG kill in this war. A rumor says that the Iraqi fighter pilots preferred to reverse course and head for a save place when they were detected by a powerful F-14 radar. If so, the Phoenix weapon system has been worth its money!|
|One VF-103 F-14B was lost on January 21st, 1991 with one crew rescued and one taken prisoner of war.|
|Today, as part of the U.S. presence in the Gulf the F-14s are enforcing the NO FLY zone over Iraq and fly TARPS reconnaissance missions.|
|When the NATO decided to intervene in the war in what was once known as
Yugoslavia, fighter aircraft from various NATO countries flew reconnaissance and combat missions.
The U.S. Navy aircraft carriers were on station in the Adriatic Sea. In support of the IFOR and
SFOR troops in former Yugoslavia, F-14s from several squadrons flew multi-role missions:
Air-to-ground strikes against hostile targets (CAS, Close Air Support), Forward Air Control
(FAC(A)) and TARPS missions. In this conflict the Tomcats delivered life laser-guided
bombs for the first time for real. Also, flying from U.S. carriers, the F-14 represented the only
U.S. photo reconnaissance aircraft in the Adriatic (except for the unmanned recce drones).|
Kosovo Crisis: In late March 1999, NATO decided to strike Serbia due to continuing ethnic expulsion and massacres against the Albanian people in Kosovo. To end Yugoslav terror NATO bombed Serbia for weeks day and night. The US send among others two carriers which also ment launching F-14s. The role of the F-14s could be either enemy fighter suppression, aerial reconnaissance or even air-to-ground attacks.
|Since the end of the Gulf War the UN patrolled the skies of Iraq to control the No Fly
Zones in the north and south.|
From time to time Iraq tried to provoke the UN and especially the USA. At the end of 1998 UN weapon inspectors were again stopped and the US and the UK, finally at the end of their patience, bomb Iraq in what became known as Operation Desert Fox. For several days Royal Air Force and US fighters and bombers - plus US cruise missiles - destroyed targets. Recent intelligence information revealed that the damage to Iraqi installations was greater than first thought.
After Operation Desert Fox the Iraq forbid any more weapons inspections and denied the existence of the UN No Fly Zones.
During the first days of 1999, 2 USAF F-15s and 4 US Navy F-14D (VF-213) were engaged by about 13 Iraqi MiGs and Mirage F.1s above the No Fly Zone in southern Iraq. In accordance with the UN resolutions, both the F-15s and F-14s fired missiles at long distance at the Iraqi. No Iraqi aircraft were hit, but one Iraqi fighter is said to have crashed on approach to its airbase because of a lack of fuel.
After this incident the UN continue to control the No Fly Zones, undisturbed by Saddam's forces ... eventually firing at Iraqi installations if provoked.