Grumman F-14A Tomcat

Last revised February 13, 2000

The winning Grumman design (Design 303E) featured engines in separate nacelles, set well apart from each other so that damage to one of them would have minimal effect on the other.

Most of the aircraft structure was made of conventional aluminum alloys, with some components being made up of steel. About 25 percent of the empty weight was made up of titanium alloy, which was used for the wing box, wing pivots, upper and lower wing skins, the intakes, rear fuselage skins, as well as the hydraulic lines.


The main central and rear area of the fuselage consisted of two separate engine nacelles joined together by a shallow flat area known as a "pancake". At the extreme rear of the aircraft, this pancake is little more than a decking between the engine pods. This leaves a deep tunnel between the engines which imposes a drag penalty. However, it adds to overall lift, gives an extra attachment area for weapons pylons, and provides some additional fuselage space for fuel and equipment. The rear part of the broad between-engines pancake is gently curved upwards to reduce both the supersonic trim drag and the negative zero-lift supersonic pitching moment.

A similar arrangement was used in the Soviet MiG-29 and Su-27 fighters, which were designed much later. One of the problems with this configuration is that it puts the thrust line of each engine rather far outboard from the centerline, producing sudden and violent nose slices (rotation in yaw) in the event of a single engine failure.

Air is admitted to the engines via two large, rectangular-shaped, sharp-lipped intakes, one mounted on each side of the fuselage. The edges of the intakes are swept sharply backward from top to bottom, ensuring that adequate amounts of air get into the engine at high angles of attack. These intakes are mounted well outboard of the fuselage sides, far enough away that turbulent boundary layer air is kept from entering the engine without the use of complex diffuser systems such as those fitted to the F-4 Phantom. Because of the overall dihedral of the wing glove box, the intakes are canted outwards at the bottom. However, even at the top of the intakes where they are closest to the fuselage, the inner wall of the intake is still at least 8 inches away from the fuselage.

The intakes are of multi-ramp wedge configuration and offer a straight path for the air entering the engines. Each intake has a pair of adjustable ramps attached to the upper part of the inner intake. Hydraulic actuators in the upper part of the intake adjust the positions of the first and second ramps in the upper surface of the inlet and of the diffuser ramp located further aft, reducing the inlet air to subsonic velocity before admitting it to the engine. A gap between the back edge of the second ramp and the leading edge of the diffuser ramp allows bleed air to escape from the inlet, passing overboard via a bleed-air door in the outer surface of the inlet. The inlet ramps are under the automatic control of a computer, which calculates the optimal position for the ramps based on engine speed, air temperature, air pressure, and angle of attack. At supersonic speeds, the hinged panels narrow down the throat area while diverting the excess airflow out of the ducts through aft-facing spill doors at the top of the intakes. At low speeds (especially during takeoff) when more engine air is needed, this airflow is reversed and extra air is sucked in via the spill doors.

The single-wheeled main landing gear elements retract forwards into wells inside the wing glove box, rotating 90 degrees to lie flat. The twin-wheeled nose unit retracts forward into a well in the nose.

Integral fuel tanks are provided between the wing spars of the outer section, holding 295 US gallons each. The tapering section of the rear fuselage aft of the wing carry-through structure carries an additional 648 US gallons of fuel, and a 691-US gallon tank is fitted between the cockpit and wing carry-through structure. Two feeder tanks combined offer a 456-gallon capacity, bringing total internal fuel capacity to 2385 US gallons. A 267-gallon external drop tank can be carried on hardpoints underneath each air intake. The Tomcat is equipped for in-flight refuelling via a retractable probe on the starboard side of the fuselage.

There are door-type speed brakes at the rear of the pancake both above and below, the lower brake being split in two to accommodate the arrester hook. The brakes can be extended at angles as great as 60 degrees. The use of brakes both above and below the fuselage minimizes the trim changes when they are deployed. The lower airbrake does have a danger of scraping on the carrier deck upon landing, so it is restricted to extension angles of only 18 degrees when the landing gear is down. At the extreme end of the decking are a large fuel dump pipe and housings for electronic warfare equipment.

The Tomcat does not have fly-by-wire or artificial stability mechanisms. The control system consists of conventional rods and cables, springs and weights, servos and boosters. All of the control surfaces (including the variable sweep) have direct mechanical linkages, and only the spoilers have electrical drives.


The variable-sweep wing panels are supported by a massive wing carry-through structure which spans the upper center section of the aircraft, terminating at each end in a large pivot point for the outer moveable wing panels. This carry-through structure is made from electron-beam welded titanium alloy. The fixed wing glove structure forms a diamond-shaped surface. The beam has slight dihedral to reduce the cross sectional area of the central fuselage, reducing drag and assisting in the area-ruling of the fuselage. In order to maintain a snug fit between the trailing edge of the wing and the upper surface of the rear fuselage, the rear edges of the fixed wing glove uses a set of inflatable canvas bags. Teflon paint on the underside of the wing help to ensure that there is minimal abrasion of these bags as the wings are extended or retracted.

The wings feature variable sweep, ranging from a minimum of 20 degrees to a maximum of 68 degrees. At maximum sweep, the wing trailing edges are aligned with the leading edges of the horizontal tails. For carrier deck storage, the wings can be set manually to an "oversweep" of 75 degrees. This is possible because the wings are set slightly higher than the horizontal tails. This makes it unnecessary for have a folding wing for carrier stowage.

Wing sweep angle is automatically controlled by an AiResearch CP-1166B/A central air-data computer. For takeoffs and landings, as well as for low-speed flight, the wings are set at a minimum sweep of 20 degrees, which gives an overall span of 64 feet. For supersonic dash, the wings sweep back to 68 degrees. Throughout the entire speed/maneuver regime, an automatic wing sweep program matches the sweep angle to the optimal position. However, the system can be manually overridden by the pilot in an emergency. Should the wings get stuck in the fully-aft position, the F-14A can still land safely at 200 mph with 4000 pounds of fuel or at 166 mph with 2000 pounds of fuel, in spite of the fact that the wing flaps are inoperative when the wing is swept.

The wing has no conventional ailerons, roll control being provided at low speeds by wing-mounted spoilers and at high speeds by the differentially-moving horizontal tailplane. When wing sweep is greater than 57 degrees, the wing spoilers are automatically locked down, and roll control is provided completely by the differentially-moving horizontal stabilizers.

The full-span trailing edge flaps have a small inboard section and a larger outboard section. The normal two-section flap can be extended at angles of 35 degrees for landing or can be extended up to 10 degrees when used for maneuvering in order to generate more lift and permitting tighter turns. Initially, the maneuver flaps were manually controlled by a thumbwheel on the pilot's control column, but on production block 90 aircraft, the maneuver flaps were placed under the control of the air data computer. The normal two-section flap can be used at wing sweep angles of up to 50 degrees, with the air-data computer automatically locking out the flaps as the wing is swept further aft. Auxiliary flaps are located even farther inboard, and are actually on the trailing edge of that part of the wing that retracts into the fuselage. These auxiliary flaps can only be used when the wing is fully swept forward.

Leading-edge maneuvering slats occupy virtually the full span of the outer wing panel leading edge. The leading edge slats are power-driven to 7 degrees for air combat maneuvers and to 17 degrees for landing. To improve combat maneuverability, the slats and outboard flap sections can be deployed while the wing is in the fully-forward position.

Two small triangular-shaped vanes were mounted on the leading edge of the wing gloves. These vanes are normally retracted, but are extended at supersonic speeds under the control of the air-data computer. The purpose of these vanes is to generate additional lift ahead of the aircraft's center of gravity, which helps to compensate for a nose-down pitching moment that takes place at supersonic speeds. These vanes are automatically deployed when the speed exceeds Mach 1.4 in order to push up the nose and unload the tailplanes, giving them enough authority to pull 7.5 g at Mach 2. The vanes can be manually deployed between Mach 1 and Mach 1.4, but will not operate when the wing sweep is less than 35 degrees because that would lead to too much pitch instability at low speeds. However, the benefit of the vanes proved in practice to be only marginal at speeds below Mach 2.25, and since they added weight and complexity, in the field they were locked shut and their actuators were removed.

The F-14 employs a system known as Direct Lift Control (DLC) for automatic control of attitude during carrier landings. When DLC is engaged, the spoilers on the upper wing pop up into what is known as the "neutral" position. When these spoilers are lowered, instant lift is generated with no need for an attitude change.

The Tomcat does not have fly-by-wire or artificial stability mechanisms. The control system consists of conventional rods and cables, springs and weights, servos and boosters. All of the control surfaces (including the variable sweep) have direct mechanical linkages, and only the spoilers have electrical drives.

Vertical Tails

The original Grumman Design 303E featured a single tall vertical fin and a folding ventral strake. At Navy insistence, Grumman switched to a twin-tail configuration at the last minute and replaced the large folding strake with two smaller fixed strakes mounted underneath each engine nacelle. Each of the twin tail fins holds a conventional rudder for yaw control. The twin tail fins provide an effective means of countering destabilizing flow generated by the air intakes during sustained flight at high angles of attack. In addition, the dual rudders have the added advantage of reduced height for carrier stowage.


The F-14A's two crew members sit in separate tandem cockpits, which gives a lower drag profile than would be possible in a side-by-side arrangement. The two-seat, tandem cockpit is enclosed by a single-piece upwardly-opening clamshell-type canopy. The pilot is in front, and the radar intercept officer is in the rear. The crew members sit on Martin-Baker GRU-7A rocket-propelled ejector seats which can be used from zero altitude/zero airspeed up to 450 knots airspeed.

There is minimal duplication of controls and instruments for the pilot and the radar intercept officer. The pilot has three displays for viewing flight, navigation and tactical data, including armament controls and flight instruments. The aft cockpit has controls and displays for the AWG-9 fire control system. The aft cockpit does have some basic flight instruments, but is not equipped with any flight controls and the F-14 cannot be flown from the back seat. The back-seater operates the radar, identifies the adversary, and guides the pilot in making an effective interception. Unlike in the Phantom, either crew member can fire a missile.


The engines for the F-14A were initially a pair of Pratt & Whitney TF30-P-412 axial flow afterburning turbofans, each rated at 12,350 lb.s.t. dry and 20,900 lb.s.t with afterburning. The TF30-P-412 was essential similar to the TF30-P-12 that had been used for the F-111B. The TF30 has a total of 16 stages of compression. The three stage fan rotates on the same shaft as the six-stage low-pressure compressor and the seven-stage high-pressure compressor. The annular combustion chamber has 8 flame cans, each with four dual-orifice burners. The single-stage high-pressure turbine is made of cobalt-based alloy and can stand temperatures as high as 100 degrees Celsius. The three stage low pressure turbine is of nickel-alloy construction. The augmentor consists of a five-zone afterburner mounted within the inner liner of the outer duct. The exhaust features a variable-geometry nozzle with movable petals which slide on curved tracks to close down to minimum area for subsonic cruise and fully opened to a convergent and then divergent profile for afterburning flight during takeoff and at supersonic speeds.


For its primary interception role, the F-14 is equipped with the Hughes AN/AWG-9 radar fire control system. The AN/AWG-9 was derived from the AN/ASG-18 radar and fire control system developed for the abortive F-108 Rapier project, and then further developed for the Douglas Missileer and the F-111B. The AWG-9 has the ability to carry out near-simultaneous long-range missile launches against up to six targets while tracking 24 more. The antenna is a 36-inch flat plate unit. The IFF antennae are mounted directly on the plate and take the form of an array of dipoles. The output power is 10.2 kilowatts. The AWG-9 can look down into ground or sea clutter, detecting and tracking small targets flying at low level. The clutter is removed by a signal processor which uses analog filtering.

The AWG-9 has the ability to carry out near-simultaneous long-range missile launches against up to six targets while tracking 24 more. The set incorporates a lightweight 5400B digital computer. The antenna is a 36-inch flat plate unit. The IFF antennae are mounted directly on the plate and take the form of an array of dipoles. The output power is 10.2 kilowatts. The AWG-9 can look down into ground or sea clutter, detecting and tracking small targets flying at low level. The clutter is removed by a signal processor which uses analog filtering. In pulse Doppler search mode, the radar has a range of 125 miles or more.

Early Tomcats were equipped with a gimbal- mounted AN/ALR-23 infrared detection set mounted underneath the nose that could be slaved to the radar or used independently to scrutinize areas not searched by the radar. Its indium antimonide detectors were cooled by a self-contained Stirling-cycle cryogenic system. In practice, this IR sensor proved to be ineffective, and was replaced by the Northrop AAX-1 Television Sight Unit (TSU), which consists of a television camera fitted with a stabilized telephoto lens. Displays appear on both the pilot's and the WSO's control panels. The system can be used to spot an enemy visually and to identify him early, hopefully preventing Tomcat pilots from shooting down friendlies. The first production installation of the TSU was incorporated in 161597, the first Block 125 aircraft.

The Central Air Data Computer (CADC) is an AiResearch CP-1166B/A. It uses data from sensors which measure pitot and static pressures, air temperatures, and angle attack to select the optimal wing sweep angle and sends commands to the control surfaces. It also passes to the Air Inlet Control Systems (AICS) the information it needs to set the inlet ramps to their optimal positions.

The AN/ARA-63 aircraft approach control system uses the AN/SPN-41 and the AN/TRN-28 transmitting sets. It provides primary or backup instrument approach capability.

The spine of the Tomcat contains blade antennae for the UHF/TACAN and data link/IFF. Radio and navigation equipment on board the aircraft include the APX-71 IFF transponder, AXX-76 IFF interrogator, ARC-51 (later switched to ARC-159) UHF radios, ARR-69 auxiliary receiver, KY-58 cryptographic system, ASN-92 CAINS II (Carrier Aircraft Inertial Navigation System II) inertial navigation system, APN-154 beacon augmenter, APN-194 radar altimeter, Gould ARN-84 TACAN and ARA-50 automatic direction finder.

A Harris ASW-27B digital datalink provides high speed data communication between the Tomcat and ship-based command and control systems. This system can also be used to link to the Airborne Tactical Data Systems of Grumman E-2C Hawkeye early warning aircraft. This system can be used to pass target data back and forth between aircraft, extending the effective radar range. It helps the Tomcat crew to get a broader picture of the tactical situation, and allows the aircraft to operate without using its own sensors when tactically appropriate to do so.

The Tomcat initially carried AN/APR-25 and AN/APR-27 radar warning receivers. These were subsequently replace by the AN/ALR-45 and -50 and later by the AN/ALR-67. These units are designed to warn crews of SAM launches. A major upgrade updated this equipment to deal with the SA-6 Gainful missile and its associated Straight Flush radar. The Tomcat is equipped with the Goodyear AN/ALE-39 chaff and flare dispensing system, which has replaced the AN/ALE-29 originally carried. The Tomcat initially entered service with the Sanders Associates AN/ALQ-100 noise deception jammer, but this has been replaced with the Sanders AN/ALQ-126A. The latter unit formed part of the PRIDE defensive avionics suite, along with the ALR-45 and the ALR-50 radar warning receivers. Plans to fit the AN/ALQ-165 Advanced Self-Protection Jammer (ASPJ) were cancelled when this equipment failed to pass its development tests.


Even today, the armament of the F-14A Tomcat remains the most potent of that of any interceptor currently in service. It has four basic components--an internal cannon and Sidewinder infrared homing missiles for short-range encounters, Sparrow semi-active radar homing missiles for intermediate-range encounters, and Phoenix missiles for long-range encounters. All of these weapons are directed and controlled by the powerful AN-AWG-9 fire control system.

Production Line Changes

As production of the F-14 got underway, several changes were introduced on the production line.

Block 70 (beginning with 159978) introduced the production standard wing glove fairing with shorter outboard wing fences on the top.

The beaver tail and air brake were modified from BuNo 159241 onward (the first Block 75 Tomcat). Earlier aircraft had their beaver tails cut down (with dielectric fairings removed) to a similar shape. The last Block 85 aircraft (159588) introduced the new AN/ARC-159 UHF radio in place of the AN/ARC-51A.

From 159825 (the first Block 90), a small angle of attack probe was added to the tip of the nose radome. High angle of attack performance was also improved by the provision for automated maneuvering flaps.

From Block 100 onward, a slip clutch and coupler installation was added to the flap/slat system, fuel system changes were made, AN/AWG-9 reliability improvements were incorporated, and numerous anti-corrosion measures such as seals, baffles, and drain holes were introduced.

The last aircraft of Block 110 (BuNo 161168) introduced AN/ALQ-126 antenna to the beaver tail and above and below the wing gloves.

10 early Block 60/65 F-14As (BuNos 158613/158618, 158620, 158624, and 158626/158637) were refurbished and modified to Block 130 standards for service with VF-201 and VF-202 at NAS Dallas.

Serial numbers of Grumman F-14A Tomcat:

157980			Grumman F-14A-1-GR Tomcat
157981			Grumman F-14A-5-GR Tomcat
157982			Grumman F-14A-10-GR Tomcat
157983			Grumman F-14A-15-GR Tomcat
157984			Grumman F-14A-20-GR Tomcat
157985			Grumman F-14A-25-GR Tomcat
157986			Grumman F-14A-30-GR Tomcat
      				modified as F-14B and then as F-14A(Plus).
157987			Grumman F-14A-35-GR Tomcat
157988			Grumman F-14A-40-GR Tomcat
157989			Grumman F-14A-45-GR Tomcat
157990			Grumman F-14A-50-GR Tomcat
157991			Grumman F-14A-55-GR Tomcat
158612/158619	Grumman F-14A-60-GR Tomcat
				158614 modified for TARPS pod.
				158613/158618 later modified to Block
				130 standards.
158620/158637	Grumman F-14A-65-GR Tomcat
				158620,158637 modified for TARPS pod.
				158620,158624,158626/158637 later modified
				to Block 130 standards.
158978/159006	Grumman F-14A-70-GR Tomcat
159007/159025	Grumman F-14A-75-GR Tomcat
159421/159429	Grumman F-14A-75-GR Tomcat
159430/159468	Grumman F-14A-80-GR Tomcat
159588/159637	Grumman F-14A-85-GR Tomcat
				159591,159606,159612 modified for TARPS pod.
				159630(DR-18) converted to F-14D(R).
159825/159874	Grumman F-14A-90-GR Tomcat
160299/160378	Grumman F-14A Tomcat - for Iran under serial numbers
				3-863/3-892 and 3-6001/3-6050.  Last one not 
160379/160414	Grumman F-14A-95-GR Tomcat
160652/160696	Grumman F-14A-100-GR Tomcat
				160696 modified for TARPS pod
160887/160930	Grumman F-14A-105-GR Tomcat
				160910, 160911,160914,160915,160920,
				160925,160926,160930 were TARPS capable
161133/161168	Grumman F-14A-110-GR Tomcat 
				161134, 161135,161137,161140,161141,
					161164,161168 were TARPS capable
					161133(DR-11),161154(DR-13) were converted
					to F-14D(R).
161270/161299	Grumman F-14A-115-GR Tomcat 
					161277,161280,161281,161282,161285 were
					TARPS capable.
				161287(KB-5) converted to F-14A(Plus), later
					redesignated F-14B.
161416/161445	Grumman F-14A-120-GR Tomcat 
				161435(KB-26),161438(KB-27) converted to
				F-14A(Plus), later redesignated F-14B.
161597/161626	Grumman F-14A-125-GR Tomcat 
				161624,161626 were TARPS capable.
				161610(KB-30) converted to F-14A(Plus), later
				redesignated F-14B.
				161623 used as F-14D testbed and later
					redesignated NF-14D.
161850/161879	Grumman F-14A-130-GR Tomcat 
				161873(KB-32) converted to F-14A(Plus) and
				later redesignated F-14B
				161867 modified as F-14D testbed, later 
				redesignated NF-14D.
				161865 modified as F-14D testbed.
162588/162611	Grumman F-14A-135-GR Tomcat
				162595 modified as F-14D testbed.
162688/162717	Grumman F-14A-140-GR Tomcat
				712/717 cancelled

Specification of the Grumman F-14A Tomcat:

Engines: Two Pratt & Whitney TF30-P-412A/414A turbofans, each rated at 12,350 lb.s.t. dry and 20,900 lb.s.t with afterburning.. Maximum speed: 1544 mph (Mach 2.34) at 40,000 feet, 912 mph at sea level. Cruising speed 610 mph. Initial climb rate 32,500 peet per minute. Service ceiling 55,000 feet, maximum unrefuelled range 2400 miles. Landing speed 132 knots. Minimum takeoff distance 1400 feet. Radius on combat air patrol with six Sparrows and four Sidewinders 766 miles. Dimensions: wingspan 64 feet 1 2/1 inches (swept forward), 83 feet 2 1/2 inches (swept back), length 62 feet 8 inches, height 16 feet 0 inches, wing area 565 square feet. Weights: 40,104 pounds empty, 59,7614 pounds loaded, 74,349 pounds maximum takeoff. Fuel: Maximum internal fuel 2385 US gallons. A 267 US-gallon drop tank can be carried on a hardpoint underneath each air intake. Armament: One 20-mm General Electric M61A1 Vulcan in the nose with 675 rounds. Provision for six AIM-7F/M Sparrow and two AIM-9L/P Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, or six AIM-54A/C Phoenix long-range air-to-air missiles and two AIM-9L/P Sidewinders, or four AIM-54A/C Phoenix missiles underneath the fuselage and two AIM-7F/M Sparrow and two AIM-9L/P Sidewinders on the wing glove pylons.


  1. Grumman Aircraft Since 1919, Rene J. Francillon, Naval Institute Press, 1989.

  2. Grumman F-14 Tomcat, Doug Richardson, Osprey, 1987.

  3. F-14 Tomcat: Fleet Defender, Robert F. Dorr, World Airpower Journal, Vol 7, 1991.

  4. Grumman F-14 Tomcat Variant Briefing, World Airpower Journal, Vol. 19, 1994.

  5. The American Fighter, Enzo Angelucci and Peter Bowers, Orion, 1987.

  6. Encyclopedia of World Military Aircraft, Volume 1, David Donald and Jon Lake, AirTime, 1994.

  7. The World's Great Interceptor Aircraft, Gallery Books, 1989.

  8. Grumman F-14 Tomcat, Jon Lake, AirTime, 1998.