Super Tomcat 21

Last revised February 6, 2000

The Super Tomcat 21 is a proposed multi-role adaptation of the F-14D Tomcat. It was proposed as a low-cost alternative to the Naval ATF, and drew heavily on the work done on Grumman's "Quickstrike" proposal.

Like the "Quickstrike", the Super Tomcat 21 was to have a FLIR, and was to be provided with more modes for its APG-71 radar, such as synthetic aperture and Doppler Beam Sharpening for mapping. The new multimode radar would have a two-dimensional, passive, electronically scanned array giving twice the power of AN/APG-71 of the F-14D. All of the FLIRS would be located on either side of the aircraft just below the nose. Four underfuselage hardpoints would have five munitions substations each, while the two wing glove pylons would have two substations. Navigation and targeting pods could be installed. The Super Tomcat 21 differed, however, from the Quickstrike in making an attempt to reduce its radar cross section by a significant amount. In addition, it was to have been powered by improved F110-GE-129 turbofan engines which offered "supercruise" (the ability to achieve sustained supersonic cruising speeds without the need for afterburning) and would even have included thrust vectoring capability. It was anticipated that the 35 percent increase in thrust would allow the aircraft to supercruise at Mach 1.3 with four air-to-air missiles. The Super Tomcat 21 would also have featured enlarged tailplanes with extended trailing edges giving greater area, plus newly-configured wing gloves housing additional internal fuel. It would also have featured increased-lift slotted flaps and extended-chord leading edge wing slats to allow no-wind carrier takeoffs or conventional carrier takeoffs at higher loaded weights. A new more powerful radar suite would be fitted, and the weapons delivery capability would be markedly enhanced by the adoption of helmet-mounted sights. The crew would have a single-piece canopy.

The combat radius of the Super Tomcat 21 would have been almost twice that of the F-14D. More than twice the expendables would be carried by the Super Tomcat 21, with BOZ chaff dispensers carried on LAU-7 launchers and 135 chaff/flare packets instead of 60 as carried on the F-14D. The revised airframe would have hade 25 percent greater lift and 15 percent lower landing speed.

The Attack Super Tomcat 21 was based on the Super Tomcat 21 but had thicker outer wing panels that carried more fuel. In addition, the aircraft would have provision for carrying larger external fuel tanks. Refinements to the leading-edge slats and the trailing-edge flaps were to give a 18-mph reduction in the landing approach speed. The aircraft was to have had the Norden radar that had been developed for the abortive General Dynamics/McDonnell Douglas A-12 Avenger II. The Attack Super Tomcat 21 has received quite a bit of attention as a potential alternative to the cancelled A-12.

However, in the present military drawdown mode, both of these Tomcat 21 proposals were never proceeded with.


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

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

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

  4. Feline Claws--The Nine Lives of the F-14, David Baker, Air International, Vol 49, No 5, p. 285 (1995)

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