Popular Mechanics looks back at the two engine Naval Fighter Jet the F-14.....
During takeoff and low-speed flight, the wings on the new Grumman F-14 would shift forward at the tips, expanding their overall surface area and providing the fighter with greater lift. At supersonic speeds, however, those wings would tuck backward and minimize the surface area, making it a more efficient high-speed pursuit fighter and granting it a higher top speed and better fuel economy than its fixed-wing counterparts.
And when the Navy said “high speed,” they meant it. Their newly designed F-14 Tomcat (named in honor of its biggest advocate) would still put modern heavyweights like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and F-22 Raptor to shame.
“The [Navy] specs called for Mach 2.34,” said Charlie Brown, a member of the F-14 design team and Gumman test pilot. “We actually tested the airplane for Mach 2.5. I flew it 2.5 a couple times. When you fly a Phantom, it’s built for 2.0, but when you fly that fast, you know it. It’s like sitting on a beach ball; you don’t know which way it’ll go, it’s so sensitive. In a F-14, it’s like sitting in a Cadillac.”
The Navy liked its new fighter so much that it opted to skip the prototype phase altogether, putting the fighter into production in 1969 and taking delivery of its first new F-14s in 1972.
Production continued until 1991, with a total of 712 F-14s built.
Air Superiority, No Compromises
At just shy of 63 feet long and boasting a 64-foot wingspan, the F-14 Tomcat could attain speeds in excess of Mach 1 at sea level and surpass Mach 2.34 at altitude thanks to two General Electric F110-GE-400 afterburning turbofan engines that each produced more than 28,000 pounds of thrust with their afterburners engaged. All told, the F-14 could cover 1,600 miles without refueling, but was generally considered to have a 1,000-mile combat range.
The F-14 was fast—there’s no doubt about it. And while its sweeping wing system, which adjusted automatically for optimal performance at any speed or altitude, made the big, heavy fighter surprisingly nimble, there was more to the F-14 than fancy wings. New technology buried deep within the fighter’s eye-catching exterior made the F-14 a truly formidable opponent….
image…U.S. NAVYGETTY IMAGES