Imperial Iranian Air Force|
First and only foreign country to fly the F-14 was Iran. Back in the early '70s the shah was about to buy new fighters for the Imperial Iranian Air Force. The choice was either the MDD F-15 Eagle or the Grumman F-14 Tomcat. After a competetive show and certainly a lot of talks about the pros and cons of both fighters, Iran decided to go for the F-14 Tomcat.
BuNos 160299 to 160378 (F-14A-90/95-GR) were built for Iran with the last one (BuNo 160378) remaining in the US after the islamic revolution in Iran. This particular aircraft was put into storage at Davis-Monthan AFB until it was refurbished and used at the PMTC at Point Mugu, CA.
After the islamic revolution (Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force) and reorientation of Iran and its good relations to the USSR the Navy was quickly changing its AN/AWG-9 radar and AIM-54 missile systems. That way any data fallen into the hands of the enemy would be useless to them.
In the 1990s some 20 of 79 F-14s are said to be still in flying condition, with the other airframes serving as spare part platforms.
According to the Flight International magazine (Sept. 1999), Iran has managed to keep operational a large number of its F-14 fleet until today. Iran - with the help of Russian experts & technology - is comprehensively upgrading its F-14 fleet involving a new radar, engine and a glass cockpit. This will not only keep their F-14s operational but will give Iran also a potent F-14 force well into the next century. (Not mentioned by Flight International is the major problem of airframe fatigue. Even with Russian technology, this problem cannot be solved and remaining airframe hours will certainly end the Iranian F-14 era some day.)
Also, the following article appeared in the World Air Power Journal (Winter 1999):
"In the early 1970s, at the height of the Cold War, Soviet MiG-25s began to make high-speed, high-altitude violations of Iranian airspace with alarming regularity. Iranian Airforce F-4Es were no match for the superior speed and operational ceiling of the Soviet MiGs. The pro-Western regime in Iran placed an order for 80 F-14A Tomcats in 1973 to counter the Soviet threat. The 79th Tomcat was delivered just before the Iranian Islamic Revolution. The Islamic Republic of Iran severed ties with the US and, in so doing, lost US technical support, while becoming the subject of an arms embargo that is still in force today. IRIAF F-14s were at first kept aloft by the large stockpile of spare parts inherited from the previous regime. Iran also procured parts from US Naval stores covertly; in 1987 the US Navy had to cancel several F-14 flights due to a shortage of spare parts which later mysteriously reappeared in Iran. Embroiled in a war imposed by Iraq, the IRIAF was left with no alternative but to ground part of its Tomcat force for cannibalisation of spare parts to keep the others flying.
The remaining IRIAF F-14s were distinguished in air combat patrol work and air defence, and were even operated as AEW platforms. Iranian F-14s claim between 35 and 40 Iraqi fighters, and the presence of one or two Tomcats was usually enough to send the Iraqi jets scurrying away. Only one Iranian Tomcat was confirmed as shot down in air-to-air combat in eight years of war, caught off-guard by a flight of Iraqi Mirage F.1s while returning to its base. More F-14s were lost to the quirky Pratt & Whitney TF30-414A engines, which suffered fan blade losses, compressor stalls and flame-outs during air combat, combined with the Tomcats tendency to flat spin before the re-light procedure could be initiated.
Today, the IRIAF retains some 50-55 F-14s, but only 28-30 are active. Iranian Aviation Industries undertake the servicing and overhaul of these aircraft; indeed, to keep the Tomcat flying has become a matter of pride and a symbol of Iranian defiance. IRIAF F-14s are no longer stationed at Isfahan, but have been relocated further south to Bushehr to protect Iran's vital oil installations. There are persistent rumours in Iran of a major life extension programme for the F-14 Tomcat. This is said to involve an avionics upgrade from analogy to digital, replacement of the AWG-9 radar with an equivalent system and an engine replacement. These improvements may sound ambitious for a developing nation, but given the types popularity with IRIAF aircrews, combined with the recent achievements of the Iranian Aviation Industries, they cannot be easily dismissed.
Iran is said to have showed interest in the MiG-31M as a possible replacement for its F-14s on several occasions. It is interesting to note that an aircraft that has its origins in the MiG-25, could possibly become the replacement for the F-14 in Iranian service."
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