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  • Iranian F-14 Tomcat discussion

    Issue 13 - F-14 Tomcat: The Iranian F-14 – the last Tomcat
    Published: 12:01PM Nov 22nd, 2011
    By: David Oliver

    The last operator of the F-14 in front line service is also the only export customer for the aircraft. David Oliver tells the story of Iran’s acquisition and combat use of the Tomcat.

    An Imperial Iranian Air Force (IIAF) F-14A on a test flight off the east coast of the US in 1976. Luigino Caliaro

    In 1941, Iran’s pro-Axis stance led to an Anglo-Russian occupation of the neutral nation to protect the oilfields belonging to the British-controlled Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, forcing the ruling Shah to abdicate in favour of his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
    A decade later Shah Pahlavi’s position was threatened when the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company was nationalised by his Prime Minister, Mohammed Mosaddegh, who was removed from power in a coup codenamed Operation Ajax in August 1953, organised and carried out by the United States’ CIA at the request of the British MI6.

    After the 1953 coup, British influence in Iran began to wane and the country became one of the client states of the United States. During the following two decades, the grateful Shah began to spend his ever- increasing oil revenues on expanding his armed forces with the latest American equipment, and state-of-the-art combat aircraft for the Imperial Iranian Air Force (IIAF) in particular.

    Since the early 1970s, Soviet MiG-25R Foxbat supersonic interceptors had regularly overflown Iran with immunity from attack by the IIAF. The search for a new fighter/interceptor began with senior Iranian pilots test flying virtually every Western fighter aircraft available at the time, plus covertly flying MiGs in other ‘friendly’ countries.

    In the end, the Grumman F-14A Tomcat armed with Hughes AIM-54A Phoenix AAM, unquestionably one of the most potent warplanes in the world at that time, was selected in August 1973 as the IIAF’s principal interceptor. The importance to US foreign policy of the Shah was indicated by the fact that Iran was the only export customer for this sophisticated and expensive package.

    An initial order signed in January of 1974 covered the purchase of 30 F-14s, but in June an additional 50 Tomcats were added to the contract. The Iranian Tomcats were virtually identical to the US Navy F-14A variant, with only a few classified avionics items being omitted.

    The base site for Iranian Tomcat operations was Khatami Air Force Base at Isfahan and 1 Squadron at Shiraz Tactical Fighter Base. Imperial Iranian Air Force aircrew, mainly experienced F-4 pilots, began to arrive in the US for training in May of 1974, the first pilots going to Naval Air Station Miramar in California and the second group to Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia. After completion of F-14 training in USA, they returned home to become IIAF F-14 instructor pilots with one of them remaining in the US to test fire the Phoenix missile. After returning to Isfahan, the qualified instructors started training the rest of the pilots with the co-operation of four American F-14 instructors who were part of the original contract.

    The Iranian Tomcats were fairly late on the production line and were therefore delivered with the Pratt & Whitney TF30-P-414A after-burning turbofans, which were much more reliable than the compressor-stall-prone P-412A engine. The first two of 79 Tomcats arrived in Iran in January of 1976, one of which was flown by an IIAF pilot. By May of 1977, when Iran celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Royal House, 12 had been delivered.

    During this period Soviet MiG-25 Foxbats were still overflying Iran and the Shah ordered live firing tests of the Phoenix to be carried out as a warning. In August of 1977, an IIAF Tomcat crew shot down a BQM-34E drone flying at 50,000 feet and the Soviets took the hint and promptly ended the Foxbat overflights.

    The IIAF Tomcats bore the US Navy serial numbers of 160299/160378 and were assigned the IIAF serial numbers 3-863 to 3-942, later 3-6001 to 3-6080. The 79th F-14 was delivered to Iran in 1978 with the last Tomcat, BuNo 160378, being retained in the US for use as a test bed. Iran had also ordered a total of 714 AIM-54A Phoenix missiles, but only 284 were ever delivered.

    However, the Shah’s westernisation of his country and authoritarian rule alienated the powerful mullahs and following massive demonstrations and the imposition of martial law, he was forced to flee from the country in January 1979. A Revolutionary Council presided over by the exiled cleric Ayatollah Khomeini took over the reins of power and established the Islamic Republic of Iran and set about eradicating the relationship with the West, and the United States in particular. The defence budget was severely curtailed and all outstanding orders placed by the Shah’s government, including an additional order for 400 AIM-54A Phoenix missiles, were cancelled.

    This was followed by the imposition of a strict arms embargo against Iran by the West which caused a severe shortage of spare parts and skilled personnel, in addition to which many experienced pilots and maintenance personnel had followed the Shah into exile. As a result, by 1980, the air force was only a shadow of its former self. This embargo was to have an especially severe long-term effect on the Tomcat fleet, since the embargo prevented the delivery of any airframe or engine spares, and air-launched weapons.

    The shortcomings of the new Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF) were highlighted when the sporadic war with neighbouring Iraq gained momentum in 1982 when Iran launched an offensive to regain much of the border area occupied by Iraq in late 1980. Air power did not play a dominant role in the Iran-Iraq war but during the early phase of the war, Iranian aircraft had the fuel, armament and the endurance to win most of the aerial encounters, either by downing Iraqi aircraft with their first shot of an AIM-9 sidewinder or else by forcing Iraqi fighters to break off the engagement.

    Iranian pilots initially had the edge in training and experience, but as the war dragged on, this advantage was gradually lost because of the repeated purges within the ranks of the IRIAF that removed experienced officers who were suspected of disloyalty to the Islamic regime. As the stalemated war continued, the IRIAF could not generate more than 60 sorties per day, whereas the number of sorties that Iraq could mount steadily increased year after year, reaching a peak as high as 600 in 1986-88.

    It is extremely difficult to get any reliable estimates of just how many Iranian F-14As were in service at any one time during the war, with some having to be cannibalised to keep others flying. In the summer of 1984, it was estimated that only 15 to 20 IIRAF Tomcats were operational. However, although few of them were available for air combat, several were used to good effect serving in a mini-AWACS role by virtue of their powerful AN/AWG-9 radars and two-man crew.

    Those that were able to engage the enemy during the war, scored most of their kills with AIM-54A Phoenix missiles, losing only one Tomcat in combat when it was caught off-guard while operating as a singleton by an Iraqi MiG-21, apparently a Fishbed modified to fire Magic Mk.1 AAMs, after which all the Tomcats operated in pairs. Another was lost when its crew ejected after losing control when the aircraft entered in spin and a surface-to-air missile (SAM) hit another F-14 over the disputed Kharg Island in the Persian Gulf. Iraq’s late model Mirage F.1EQ-6 fighters with Super R-530 AAMs were the closest it had to match the Tomcat, finally downing a pair just before the end of hostilities in the summer 1988.

    The IRIAF’s top-scoring pilot was Brigadier General Jalil Zandi who served for the full duration of the Iran-Iraq war. His record qualifies him as an ace and the most successful pilot of that conflict. Described as ‘brazen’, he began his career in the Shah’s IIAF and stayed on to serve in the IRIAF when it was somewhat dangerous for pilots to continue their military service. While a major, he often clashed with his superior Col Baba’ie, the officer responsible for keeping Iran’s Air Force in the skies. He spent at least two periods in prison, one under a threatened death sentence that was decreed by revolutionary Mullahs.

    Nevertheless, he was reliably credited with shooting down nine Iraqi aircraft and three probable kills. These included two MiG-23s, two Su-22s, one MiG-21 and three Mirage F1s. His record made him the most successful F-14 Tomcat combat pilot ever. He was shot down once, in February 1988, when his Tomcat was hit by missiles fired from Iraqi Mirage F-1EQ. He tried to return to base but his remaining engine failed and he was forced to eject. He rose to the rank of Brigadier General and his last official post was Deputy for Planning and Organisation of the IRIAF. He died in a car accident near Tehran in 2001.
    Last edited by Gonjeeshk; 05-14-2014, 09:05 PM.

  • #2
    In spite of the Western arms embargo, Iran has been able to maintain a more-or-less steady supply of spare parts for its fleet of Tomcats from several sources including the Iranian Aircraft Industries based at 1st Tactical Air Base in Tehran. Some may also have been smuggled into Iran by Israel and it has been rumoured that the Russians provided assistance to upgrade Tomcat’s ageing airframe, and it has been experimentally fitted with a Russian-built engine and ejection seat. The US government also supplied a limited amount of arms to Iran in exchange for its assistance in getting hostages held in Lebanon released although these were unlikely to be F-14 spares. However, as a result of the notorious Iran-Contra scandal, Iran was reported to have received Tomcat landing gear equipment and avionics.

    Iran’s indigenous aircraft industries have kept the AN/AWG-9 radar operational, and the IRIAF Tomcats are capable of firing AIM-9 Sidewinder and AIM-7 Sparrow missiles and anti-ship missiles. Most Iranian Tomcats fly with a missile load of four Sparrows and two Sidewinders for air-to-air operations. Iran is reportedly developing a domestic version of the Sparrow to replace its stock of expended missiles.

    The IRIAF has also experimented with a number of Raytheon MIM-23 Hawk surface-to-air missiles for carriage on its F-14 Tomcat fighters in the air-to-air role under a programme known as Sky Hawk and has recently revealed its own version of the Hawk, the Shahin, which it claims to be under production.

    A number of foreign nationals have in fact been implicated in efforts to illegally smuggle aircraft components from the United States to Iran. Two men were charged in December 2000 for attempting to illegally purchase F-4, F-5, and F-14 parts and ship them to Iran by way of Singapore. A fugitive named Houshang Amir Bagheri is also listed on the US Customs ‘Most Wanted’ list for his attempts to acquire classified F-14 components on behalf of Iran.

    “Given the current situation in Iran” the US Department of Defense announced in January 2007 that sales of surplus spare parts for the US Navy’s recently retired F-14s were to be suspended due to concerns that they could end up in Iran. In July 2007, the remaining US Navy F-14 Tomcats were being scrapped to ensure that F-14 spare parts would not be acquired by governments “considered hostile to the US”. In the summer of 2010, Iran requested that the United States deliver the 80th F-14 it had purchased in 1974 but delivery was withheld after the Islamic Revolution. The request was rejected but it is not clear if this aircraft still exists.

    Iran now claims to have more than 20 operational F-14As and as many again in storage for spare parts. The Iranian aerospace industry has been producing up to 70% of spare parts for several US types including the Tomcat, and IRIAF’s Tomcat Overhaul Centre at Isfahan has been modifying the extant fleet’s wiring and fire control system for compatibility with iron bombs, to become ‘Bombcats’.

    Three Tomcat units, the 81st, 82nd and 83rd Tactical Fighter Squadrons, are all based at the 8th Tactical Fighter Base at Isfahan, the last home of the outstanding F-14 Tomcat, one of the world’s greatest long-range interceptors, the last of Grumman’s fighting felines.
    Last edited by Gonjeeshk; 05-14-2014, 08:41 PM.


    • #3

      "The Grumman challenge"

      The Grumman challenge

      Rare promotional footage of F-14's deployment in Iran in the 70's by the Grumman company. Former IIAF general Abdolhossein Minusepehr also makes an appearance at 09:51.


      • #4
        IRIAF F-14 Tomcat in Combat(Part 1)

        This three-episode documentary depicts the history of IRIAF F-14 Tomcat in action during the Iran-Iraq War(1980-1988).

        With the help of animation, rare war footage and new interviews with pilots who flew Tomcats in combat and achieved aerial kills, this documentary is both unprecedented and interesting.



        • #5
          IRIAF F-14 Tomcat in Combat(Part 2)


          • #6
            IRIAF F-14 Tomcat in Combat(Part 3)



            • #7
              Iran F-14 fighter jets to be equipped with Nasr missiles: Cmdr.

              Thu Feb 11, 2016

              The Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF) plans to equip the country’s F-14 Tomcat fighter jets with the domestically manufactured Nasr (Victory) cruise missiles.

              IRIAF Deputy Commander for Coordination Brigadier General Aziz Nasirzadeh said on Thursday that theair-launched cruise missiles will be mounted on the fighter jets soon.

              The Iranian commander made the remarks on the sidelines of the rallies commemorating the 37th anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution.

              In a ceremony on February 9, the Iranian Defense Ministry delivered the first batch of Nasr missiles to the country’s Air Force.

              Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan said in the ceremony that the cruise missile is precise enough to hit targets and significantly boost the operational and tactical power of the Armed Forces.

              The missile “can be installed on different types of fighter jets,” the minister added.



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