Naval Air: December 18, 2001

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One of the more successful post-Cold War conversions was the transformation of the F-14 Tomcat from a fleet defense fighter to a ground attack aircraft. The Tomcat became the Bombcat. The conversion enabled F-14s to drop laser guided bombs. That was not a very expensive modification, but because of the longer range of the F-14 (longer than the newer F-18 that was designed to drop bombs) and a two man crew. The extra guy in the airplane, previously used to control the powerful radar and long range air-to-air missiles, made it possible to further upgrade the F-14 so that it would have the same precision bombing of the two seater F-15E. The navy didnt want to pay for this, seeing the 30 year old F-14 as at the end of its service life. But the Bombcat performed well, for the first time, in 1995 in Bosnia. Later it was used over Iraq and then over Afghanistan. But 53 Bombcats were further upgraded to take advantage of the high performance F-14 radar (for use against ground targets.) The navy is also reluctant to spend anything on aircraft that will detract from the F-35 (JSF) program. So the Tomcat/Bombcat will fade from the scene in the next decade as F-35s reach the fleet.


 


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