The iconic F-14 Tomcat served in the US Navy for more than 30 years before retiring at the end of 2006.

Despite the initial difficulties, the US Navy eventually overcame the problems with the F-14, and the Tomcat became the ultimate anti-aircraft fighter. After all, it can even take on ground attack missions. Constant design changes, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the success of the Super Hornet made the Tomcat redundant in the 2000s.

The Tomcat drew its first blood during the Gulf of Sidra incident, in which two F-14’s destroyed two Sukhoi Su-22s belonging to the Libyan Air Force. The F-14 continued to see regular use throughout the 1990s and 2000s as a strike escort, and reconnaissance and surveillance platform, taking part in Operation Desert Storm, the NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia, and the Iraq War. But the title of all-time most successful F-14 pilot goes to Iranian ace of aces Jalil Zandi, who is credited with downing as many as 11 Iraqi aircraft during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War.

F-14 Tomcat
F-14 Tomcat

The F-14-B revision, introduced in 1987, brought an updated engine and partially enhanced avionics. The final F-14 variant, the F-14-D, incorporated a glass cockpit as well as a slew of new and updated electronic warfare and targeting systems.

Upwards of seven hundred F-14 models were produced through the early 1990s. The Tomcat was formally retired in 2006 following a final strike mission over Iraq, capping off the career of one of the most iconic fighters in U.S. naval aviation history.

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