Skip to comments.Thirty minutes to choose your fighter jet: how the Shah of Iran chose the F-14 Tomcat over the F-15
Posted on 02/11/2013 11:44:50 PM PST by sukhoi-30mki
Thirty minutes to choose your fighter jet: how the Shah of Iran chose the F-14 Tomcat over the F-15 Eagle
February 11, 2013
Despite all the skepticism about the actual airworthiness of Irans new stealth fighter Qaher 313″, one thing is certain: Iran is still flying the iconic Grumman F-14.
More than 6 years after its last flight with the U.S. Navy, the Tomcat is still in service in a small number of examples with the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF), to such an extent, Iran has recently tested a brand new air-to-air missile dubbed Fakour, for the combat plane made famous by Top Gun.
In fact, 80 F-14s were ordered by the Shah and 79 were effectively delivered. The procurement of the Tomcat to Iran was very important not only for Grumman, which was facing serious cash flow problems due to the difficult development of the aircraft, but also for the future of the fighter itself, since at the time F-14s program was affected by schedule slippage and cost overruns.
Image credit: Grumman/IIAF
When the Shah announced his intention to replace the old F-4 Phantoms in service with the Imperial Iranian Air Force, it was clear that both the USAFs new F-15 and the Navys F-14 would have had the same opportunity to become Iranians main fighter.
So, after briefings held by USAF and Navy personnel in the Shahs palace in Tehran, Iranian officials decided that it would have been the flight demonstration at Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington DC, scheduled in July 1973, to determine which one between the two fighters, would be the best to satisfy the then Imperial Iranian Air Forces requiremens.
The flight demonstration was scheduled not to exceed 30 minutes from the first take off to the landing of the second aircraft.
The base was closed for that short time in which at the presence of the Shah, the two U.S. fighters had to fly their demonstration: it was decided that the USAFs F-15, piloted by Irv Burrows (McDonnell Douglas test pilot), would have performed first, while Don Evans and Dennis Romano (Grummans test crew) with their F-14, would wait their turn after the Eagle.
While the F-15 taxied onto runway, Don and Dennis started engines of the Tomcat ahead of the schedule and burned down fuel in the warm up area during the Eagle demonstration, to reduce the difference in thrust to weight ratio between the two fighters. However F-15s demonstration was spectacular, not only for the raw power of the aircraft but also for pilots skills: Burrows was a great pilot and that day, he showed all his ability.
Image credit: U.S. Air Force
The flight demonstration was the same for both aircraft: it consisted in a sequence of maneuvers beginning with a high performance take off followed by an Immelman turn and climb-out, then a descent to a high speed fly-by, two high-g low altitude turns followed by a slow speed fly-by in the landing configuration and last, the landing.
Since the F-15 has a higher thrust to weight ratio than the F-14A, the Eagle performed a really impressive flight profile during which it pulled an incredible 7-g 360 degree turn.
After the F-15 had finished its display, everyone was waiting for the underpowered F-14A demonstration: the Tomcats TF-30 engines would have not given to the aircraft the same thrust to weigh ratio of the Eagle.
However, during the F-15s performance, Evans and Romano burned down a great quantity of fuel and now they had only 2,500 pounds of remaining gas: while this little quantity was only sufficient to accomplish their flight demonstration, 2,500 pounds was also one eight of the Tomcats internal fuel capacity and thanks to this fact the Tomcat had the same thrust to weight ratio of the Eagle.
At this point the F-14 had one thing that the F-15 didnt have: variable geometry wings that would have made the difference for the grace of the flight demonstration.
Don and Dennis pushed both throttles to full zone five afterburner (which was the maximum afterburner thrust setting for TF-30 engine) and took off to perform the same demonstration of the F-15: the sequence of the maneuvers was just like the Eagles one, but the Tomcats crew, during the knife-edge pass, decided to sweep the wings from fully swept to fully forward and then they executed a turn at the maximum Tomcats performance, producing a large cloud of vapor off the wings due to the shock wave.
Image credit: U.S. Navy
Then approaching the mid with the wings swept at 40 degrees, the Tomcat went into a full afterburner 360 degree 8 ½ g turn accelerated to 400 knots, very impressive to see. To end the demonstration, Evans and Romano added a touch-and-go landing: when the main landing gears came in touch with the runway they inserted full zone five afterburners and the Tomcat climbed in vertical. At this point, while they had almost ran out of fuel, they made a spectacular carrier landing approach and they fully stopped in one thousand feet of runway.
Once the show ended, the Shah literally ignored the Eagle and walked directly towards the Tomcat speaking for some minutes with the crew still sat in the cockpit of the fighter: hed chosen the Tomcat, saving the Grumman and assuring a future to the F-14.
The thing with the F-14.....1 Aircraft, one bullet.
Correct me if I am wrong however, Doesn't the F-15 have the "perfect" record?
” the Tomcat is still in service “
Can any of them still fly?
Did Iran get the Phoenix missile? That thing gave a new meaning to “Reach out and touch someone!”
Iran military aviation ping.
The assumption is that (1), Iran procured replacement parts in the Black Market way back when and (2), they cannibalized many of their F-14’s to keep a lesser number operational.
The fact that they are still flying says a lot about the Sturdiness of the Airframe and the skill level of the Iranian Mechanics servicing them.
there were opinions that we should have modernized our F-14’s rather than replace them with F-18’s way back when.
We like to think that the Iranians are unable to accomplish things that we Americans have done, but it is a false assumption. There are many well Educated and talented individuals within their Population, many whom were Educated in American Universities.
But let’s remember, Pharaoh Obama said we have nothing to fear from those “small” Countries. So it is written, so it shall be done.
They did. Apparently they used them to good effect against the Iraqis during the war - ironically the only real example of the Phoenix missile being used effectively in combat.
Thanks. That was a bad missile to be on the business end of.
Here's a picture of an Israeli F-15 that lost its right wing in a collision with an A-4 during a training exercise in 1983. The pilot could not see the extent of the damage due to the stream of leaking fuel, so he flew ten miles to the nearest base and landed.
Friend of mine had an Iranian roommate in college. He said the Iranian's father was a army general. After the Shah was deposed, all of Iran's military leaders were called to meet with the Ayatollahs government. His father went got tired of waiting so he went down the hall to the restroom. From the meeting room he heard machine gun fire. He then escaped out the bathroom window, the only survivor of that meeting. The General got his family out to America.
The cavemen who took over Iran would print what looked like a yearbook. Would have a picture of a military leader taken at their graduation from a Western military course or school, taken from their files. The next page would be a picture of that person's gruesome execution. The books circulated heavily throughout the Iranian exile community. People wanted to make sure their relatives or friends weren't in the book.
Iran has recently tested a brand new air-to-air missile dubbed Fakour, >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
In 1977 students at Air Command and Staff College have three mixes about 3 months long over the course of the year. The exchange officer in my first mix was Iranian. Very nice and pleasant fellow. Unfortunately he had progressed too far up the chain when the Shah fell after his return and he didn’t “escape out the bathroom window”.
I witnessed this exhibition from about 100 yards away from the runway. Those things were awesome at takeoff and turns. The Shah was said to be about another 200 yards away and was thunderstruck. The whole base stopped and watched (if they were outside).
Nice back then when we had friends in the Middle East (other than Israel). I hope Jimmy Carter is proud of what he’s done.
Yes, however I have heard it said in the halls of aerospace that in terms of being a customer the Navy will always break your heart.
For the life of me I don't know why Pratt didn't do a follow on to the TF-30 or at least a FADEC upgrade.
Having the pleasure of seeing a F-14D @ Reno give an incredible flight demo w/ the GE engines, it did things no F-14 ever did before.
The proposed Upgrade beyond the F-14D never made it past the proposal phase, dang shame.
We should have sold them to the Israeli's for a $1 and let them do a continuous improvement program, they'd still be flying and kicking @$$ IMHO...
I had a former co-worker in the early 90's who's dad was someone high in the Intel and or Military and got out before it hit the shan. He noted it was an incredible country before the Ayatollah took over, much like America and for a young man a great deal of fun, then again he was probably of the privileged class.
Now one can only imagine what a cesspool the country and culture is, and our dear leader Chumpolini turned his nose to their begging for liberation and one wonders how many more were "purged". The worse part is he is Carter part Duex and his Iran will be Egypt for starters if no more countries...
You would think upgrading would be cheaper, but its not always I guess.
Could we have rebuilt the B-1 with composite skin and radar-absorbing material? Could we have done that with other old aircraft? I guess it would require so much testing it’d be cost prohibitive?
Just visited the AMARG in Tucson. On the tour they said that all non museum Tomcats were scheduled to be destroyed to stop parts from being delivered to Iran.
Naval aviators made the difference.
U.S. F-15 Eagle Kill Records:
5 Iraqi Mig-29 Fulcrums
7 Iraqi Mirage F-1’s
8 Iraqi Mig-23’s
2 Iraqi Mig-21’s
1 Iraqi ll-76
2 Iraqi SU-25 Frogfoots
3 Iarqi SU-7/17
1 Iraqi MI-24 Hind
2 Iraqi SU-22 Fitters
2 Iraqi MIG-25 Foxbats
4 Serbian Mig-29 Fulcrums
1 Afghan MI-24 Hind (F-15E)
2 U.S. UH-60 Blackhawks (fratricide)
Israeli F-15 kill records:
80-92 Mig-21 Fishbeds
several MIG-25 Foxbats
Royal Saudi Air Force F-15 kill records:
2 Iranian F-4E Phantoms
2 Iraqi F-1 Mirages
1 Iraqi Mig-25
Japanese F-15 kill record:
1 Japanese F-15J (accidental shooting by another Japanese F-15J)
U.S. F-14 Tomcat kill records:
2 Libyan SU-22 Fitters
2 Libyan Mig-23 Floggers
1 Iraqi MI-8 Hip
Iranian F-14 Tomcat kill record:
Iranian F-14 losses:
1 killed by an Iraqi MIG-21
The pilot Zivi Nedivi said that if he had actually seen the damage he would have more than likely ejected.
The aircraft was fully repaired, and saw further combat service.
While the F-15 taxied onto runway, Don and Dennis started engines of the Tomcat ahead of the schedule and burned down fuel in the warm up area during the Eagle demonstration, to reduce the difference in thrust to weight ratio between the two fighters.When I saw the title of this article I was gonna contribute that story, which Don Evans told me in my office at Grumman years after the event.
The last time I saw an F-14 in flight, it was flown by a Navy crew back to Long Island and landed at the Westhampton Beach (Gabreski) field. The Tomcat was on its way back to Calverton and AFAIK is still on static display beside the fence of the old Grumman facility there. As such the plane was old and tired, and was limited to non-maneuvering flight, so the crew simply landed it with no demonstration. The contrast between that and the kind of show Don Evans (or any of the test pilots) would sometimes put on was depressing. Sic transit gloria. I can only imagine what kind of flying shape the last of the Iranian F-14s must be in.
Don said on one occasion that his physical turned up an anomaly which threatened his flying status; it was a question of whether that anomaly was going at some time to unexpectedly cause severe pain - which would be unsafe if he was flying a plane at the time - or whether that had already happened and not been identified. Exploratory surgery would have messed up his career just as bad as not knowing the status of the anomaly - but his problem was solved by a new medical procedure known as an MRI. Which showed that he had already gone through the painful episode. It had happened, he decided, while he was moving heavy cartons around in preparation for temporarily moving to Iran to train pilots for the Shah.
Don loved to fly. Asked what he thought of the F-111B (variant made by Grumman), he said it was a fine aircraft - as long as you didnt get in it thinking it was a fighter plane. It had even more internal fuel capacity than the F-14, which itself had about half again as much internal fuel capacity as an F-15. The F-14 and the F-15 were both fighter aircraft, and both highly capable in that role. Its just that the F-14 had so much more legs. Even in the A configuration with TF-30 engines, Don thought that with the wings in the minimum sweep position it could have set a time-to-climb record. Of course in the D variant (only developed in about 1985), it had fully competitive engines as well as variable wing sweep.
Im not sure that there has ever been built that wouldnt go down if hit in exactly the right spot. An A-10, maybe. But the record is that neither the F-15 nor the F-14 has ever been in a situation where air-air combat casualties have been incurred - unless Iran lost some against Saddam, but I dont think we know about that.
I think the worst technical problem with the Tomcat was maintenance, there were more things to go wrong. I also think that when the F-14 finally got modern engines it was too late for the program, because of politics.
The money required to build the F-18 and its variants (the F-18E has some commonality with earlier models, but generally it is a different plane made to look the same in and labeled the same in order to allow people who didnt want to know better to act as if it were the same plane) would have bought the Navy a awful lot of F-14Ds with all that would mean in terms of range and endurance. Even the F-18E/F doesnt have comparable range to an F-14D - and that means that the carriers have less capability, and that means the Navy is less capable.
I had known while I was still at Grumman that Don had brain cancer, so I assumed that he was dead by now - but Im surprised to learn that he passed away before I left, without my hearing of it.
I was there as well. Made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. It impressed me almost as much as the F-22 demos do now.
I was there as well. Made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. It impressed me almost as much as the F-22 demos do now.
04:13 shows actual stills of the Israeli F-15 after it landed.
A few years ago at a town hall meeting with Wayne Allard, I suggested we Lend-Lease a handful of our mothballed B-1s to Israel. He stood silent, with his mouth open for a moment and then went on to call on another waving hand.