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In the 1980s, Iran Outfitted F-14s as Heavy Bombers
War is Boring ^ | 04/28/2014 | Jassem Al Salami

Posted on 04/29/2014 4:30:27 PM PDT by sukhoi-30mki

One Iranian Tomcat lobbed a 7,000-pound munition

Nearly 30 years, ago, the Iranian air force modified its U.S.-built F-14 Tomcat fighters to carry air-to-ground ordnance—including, in one spectacular case, a massive, 3.5-ton bomb.

Iran’s bitter enemy Iraq actually inspired the idea of outfitting the twin-engine, swing-wing F-14s as bombers. Iran and Iraq fought a bloody war between 1980 and 1988.

Iraq’s most notorious interceptor and recon jets were also its most prolific bombers. Baghdad’s Soviet-supplied MiG-25 Foxbats could carry free-fall bombs and still reach Mach 2.5 at 60,000 feet.

Using the advantage of speed and altitude, a MiG-25RB could release its bombs 50 kilometers from the target and accelerate to Mach 3 for the dash back to base.

The Iranians were desperate to stop the Foxbats. They prepared ambushes along probable approach routes with Chinese HQ-7 and American-made I-Hawk surface-to-air missiles. They even examined Syrian MiG-25s hoping for insight into possible defenses.

But despite all their efforts, the Iranians never could counter the Iraqi MiG-25 bombers. Iran did shoot down a few MiG-25s—but only through sheer luck.

In 1983, the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force decided that if it couldn’t stop the Foxbats, it should at least have an equivalent weapon. Iran’s F-4 Phantom fighter-bombers could carry a heavy load at high altitude, but only at reduced speed.

And the old Phantoms lacked sophisticated bomb-aiming computers, rendering long-range drops inaccurate.

Iran had acquired 79 of the powerful F-14s before the 1979 Islamic revolution that resulted in Tehran and Washington severing ties. The Tomcat has a central under-fuselage canal that reduces the drag effect from large bomb loads.

The F-14 also has a much more powerful computer than the F-4 does, meaning Tehran’s engineers could modify the Tomcats with automatic bomb-release algorithms. What the Iranian F-14s lacked was bomb racks.

The IRIAF’s self-sufficiency office claimed for years that the program to add bombs to F-14s was a fully domestic project. Now we know that’s not true. During a recent air show at 8th Air Base in Isfahan, the air force displayed an F-14 with a dozen free-fall bombs hanging in its central canal.

The bomb racks were not Iranian, but American BRU-34s and BRU-42s bearing U.S. Air Force markings.

The U.S. Air Force first used such bomb racks during mid-’80s, around the same time Iran started its Tomcat-bomber project. Because there were so few of the racks in existence, it’s highly improbable that the Iranians got them through the black market and without the knowledge of the U.S. Air Force.

At the time, Washington was trying to repair its relations with Iran through secretive arms deliveries. In an affair later dubbed “Irangate,” the U.S. delivered stockpiles of artillery shells and anti-tank weapons to Iran.

The latest information suggests that during the Irangate affair, Washington also delivered to Tehran the equipment necessary to convert F-14s to bombers. This development implies direct military contact between Iran and the U.S., through which American officials understood the immediate strategic needs of the Iranian air force.

According to official records, the first F-14 bombing run took place in 1985. The pilot was one of the IRIAF’s best—Gen. S. Rostami, the first Iranian to target a MiG-25.

To maintain project secrecy, the first flight took place from 5th Air Base, even though the Tomcats squadrons were located at the 1st, 2nd, 6th, 7th and 8th Air Bases. The target was the field headquarters of an Iraqi division near the front line.

The mission went according t0 plan, but the bombs fell wide and the target sustained only minor damage.

The next step was to develop a heavyweight bomb. The IRIAF prepared a whopping 7,000-pound munition—one of the biggest air-to-ground munitions ever deployed. This time, Gen. Abbas Babaei, the IRIAF’s commander in chief, traveled to a front-line observation post to see the effect for himself.

The F-14 pilot signaled the bomb release. The estimated time on target passed … and nothing happened. As Babaei was getting ready to return to his jeep, a powerful blast shook the ground—admittedly far from the target, but with an obvious psychological effect.

Toward the end of the war, the Iranian air force struggled to keep its fighter fleet operational. Relations with the U.S. again soured and the IRIAF couldn’t acquire spare parts. Tehran tasked its ballistic-missile forces to take over long-range ground strikes, while the F-14s returned to air-combat duties.

Three decades later, the IRIAF is again showing interest in using Tomcats as fighter-bombers. Iranian F-14s have participated in recent air-to-ground gunnery exercises and the air force command has announced the integration of new land-attack weapons on the classic fighters.


TOPICS:
KEYWORDS: aerospace; f14; iran

BRU-32 bomb racks on an Iranian F-14. Photo via the author

1 posted on 04/29/2014 4:30:27 PM PDT by sukhoi-30mki
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To: sukhoi-30mki

2 posted on 04/29/2014 4:48:36 PM PDT by ClearCase_guy
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To: sukhoi-30mki
I may be mistaken but didn't the US Navy attempt to convert the F14 to an F/A role, but never could make the conversion work.
3 posted on 04/29/2014 4:59:33 PM PDT by quadrant (1o)
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To: sukhoi-30mki

I guess the obvious question is: Now that the kenyan has paved the way for his muzzie bros too complete their bomb, will a F-14 converted to a bomber be able to reach Israel or any American bases in the mideast?


4 posted on 04/29/2014 5:10:09 PM PDT by The Sons of Liberty ("Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle?" - Patrick Henry, 1775)
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To: sukhoi-30mki

“...F-14s As Heavy Bombers”

The author’s thinking is about 70 years behind the times, if he thinks the F-14 is a heavy bomber.

By the latter half of WWII many systems designed before the war were hauling heavier loads. And the B-29 - the largest bomber to see action in that conflict - could lift three times the weight of munitions.

Some individual bombs of the early 1940s were several times as big as the 7,000 pound item touted here.

Of course, just about any aircraft hauls a more impressive warload, when the basis for comparison is tiny little short-range fighters.


5 posted on 04/29/2014 5:20:03 PM PDT by schurmann
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To: quadrant

The F-14D fighter bomber variant was probably the most successful plane the USN ever fielded in that role. Politics killed it.
The budgeteers and procurement officers and pols decided the USN should have an airwing almost entirely comprised of F/A-18s. Today we have probably the weakest carrier air punch that we’ve ever had. (in terms of payloads and range it can be delivered)

And they eventually needed to make room for F35s that carry almost nothing, are slow, short legged, and so far aren’t working.


6 posted on 04/29/2014 5:46:42 PM PDT by DesertRhino (I was standing with a rifle, waiting for soviet paratroopers, but communists just ran for office.)
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To: quadrant
Not so, the addition of the attack mission to the F-14 was a success. It came to be as aging A-6s were being retired and the A/X program was canceled (The Flying Dorito). The Tomcat is a stable bombing platform, has great range, is fast, can carry a lot of air-to-ground and air-to-air ordnance, and deliver it accurately. The problem with the F-14 was/is its high number of maintenance manhours per flight hour. The F/A-18 was built with maintenance in mind, and although restricted in range, the Navy couldn't justify the expense of keeping an expensive air superiority fighter flying in the post-Cold War period. The Navy pretty much abandoned the medium range attack mission, after the A-6 & F-14 went away. The Super Hornet restores a portion of that mission. (Former Tomcat RIO and subsequently a driver).
7 posted on 04/29/2014 5:46:58 PM PDT by twister881
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To: quadrant

It would have worked fine, but it was shot down for political reasons. Blame Cheney.


8 posted on 04/29/2014 5:56:37 PM PDT by Ronin (Dumb, dependent and Democrat is no way to go through life - Rep. L. Gohmert, Tex)
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To: sukhoi-30mki

Strapping on ordnance is one thing. . .reprogramming the software to allow weapons delivery, let along ACCURATE weapons delivery, could not happen. . .FMS security deletions would have pulled apart its code like a badly woven rug if tampered with.


9 posted on 04/29/2014 5:59:16 PM PDT by Hulka
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To: DesertRhino
The F-14D fighter bomber variant was probably the most successful plane the USN ever fielded in that role. Politics killed it.

Maintenance killed it. The F-14 (a seriously bad-ass aircraft) needed more than 20 hours of maintenance performed for every 1 flight hour flown.

The problem with Navy fighters is that they have to compromise payload and performance for the structural integrity needed to withstand carrier take-offs and landings. This makes it hard to sell navy fighters to other countries who don't have carriers. The F/A-18 was a compromise. It could perform U.S. Navy missions while still appeal to other non-carrier nations.

10 posted on 04/29/2014 6:07:24 PM PDT by Drew68
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To: quadrant
I may be mistaken but didn't the US Navy attempt to convert the F14 to an F/A role, but never could make the conversion work.

In the teen series, the "A" was really a matter of semantics, as every one of the teen fighters were capable of impressive ordinance loads. The Tomcat always had impressive air to ground capability. Look at this A model during testing in the 80's:



Notice that it's the very same ordinance rack pictured in the Iranian photo. They're American made. Those Pesky Persians just modified the bomb rack to use Soviet bombs.

What prevented the F-14 from being used as a medium strike bird at first? Same thing that prevented the F-15 from carrying bombs at first: the politics of the fighter pilot culture. The F-15's development motto was "not a pound for air to ground". The Navy had a similar philosophy for the Tomcat, especially after the F-111 fiasco. But with the advent of digital electronics in the 70's, suddenly your computers and radar could handle the strike mission just as well as the fighter mission. It was just a matter of adding the software. In the old days, electronics were the limiting factor in such things. You couldn't make a radar/electronics package with both a fighter and bomber profile. Basically, any fighter IS a light bomber now. And the cost issue really is forcing governments to abandon the old paradigm of what fighters do. When your fighter costs a quarter of billion dollars, it has to do multiple missions, as there is less money for dedicated airframes.
11 posted on 04/29/2014 7:00:57 PM PDT by DesScorp
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To: DesScorp

When I was on Connie, I saw bombs hanging off of Tomcats plenty of times. This was 1976 to 1979. They may not have been dedicated bombers, but they could do it.

We have a FReeper who used to drive Tomcats, but I can’t recall his FReep name. If someone remembers, ping him to this thread. He was there for the Bombcat evolution and saw it all happening.

But you’re right. It was the fighter jock mentality that killed the Tomcat. “Hey, we’re fighter guys! Let the A-6s drop the bombs.


12 posted on 04/29/2014 9:51:46 PM PDT by Ronin (Dumb, dependent and Democrat is no way to go through life - Rep. L. Gohmert, Tex)
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