Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Where Have All The Tomcats Gone? Part II

Atlantic Fleet Tomcats were based at NAS Oceana, VA. For most of their career, the Tomcats shared the huge base with the A-6 Intruders of the Atlantic Fleet.

When the Tomcat's career started winding down, NAS Miramar in San Diego was transferre
d to Marine control, and the remaining Tomcat squadrons were sent to Oceana. So, for a time, both Atlantic and Pacific fleet Tomcats were based out of one location. (For purposes of this posting, only the Atlantic Fleet squadrons will be covered.)

F-14B 163227 was VF-11's CAG bird during the squadron's last days as a Tomcat squadron, seen here at the Alliance Airport TX airshow in October of 2004. Renamed, VFA-11 is now flying Super Hornets out of Oceana. 163227 survived its service, and retired to AMARC under the inventory number 1K0188.

The Top Hatters of VF-14 owned this jet, 159023, when it was seen on a cross country flight in 1986. The scuzzy grey paint scheme was typical of how typical fleet Tomcats looked - not very pretty to look at, but effective in helping disguise the aircraft in an air combat environment. This particular aircraft finished its flying days with the NATC at Pax River, and was stricken from the inventory on April 2, 1992.

VF-31's 161862, seen here at an airshow at Carswell AFB in 1990. This throwback paint scheme honored the markings carried by the squadron when it first got F-14s. The red tails, black noses, and Felix the Cat running with a bomb were spectacular. VF-31 was the last US Navy squadron to operate the Tomcat, relenquishing their D models in 2006. This aircraft was converted to B model standards, survived its service, and was retired to AMARC as 1K0182.

VF-32 was known as the Swordsmen. F-14A BuNo 162694, the squadron's CAG bird, is seen here at Dallas in 1988 on approach to RW17. It was later modified into a F-14B. It was written off on October 3, 2002, while serving with VF-101. VF-32 has become VFA-32, and now flies the F-18F Super Hornet at Oceana.

VF-33 was known as both the Tarsiers and the Starfighters, depending upon who and when you asked. BuNo 159427, an early production A model, is seen here at Oceana during 1986. The aircraft survived its service to become the 43rd Tomcat retired to AMARC, delivered there in 1991. It was scrapped in 1994.

VF-41 Black Aces F-14A 160381 taking off from RW35 one morning at NAS Dallas in 1987. 160381 crashed on August 26, 1994, while flying with VF-84. It suffered an inflight engine fire and went down off of the NC coast - both crew members were safely recovered.

The VF-74 Bedevilers flew both the A and B models of the F-14. F-14B 162922 is seen during a Dallas refueling stop during 1989. VF-74 was disestablished on April 30, 1994. 162922 finished its flying days with VF-32, and was retired to AMARC as 1K0164.

My favorite Tomcat squadron markings of all time - the VF-84 Jolly Rogers. Nothing quite epitomized the Tomcat like the Skull and Crossbones on a black tail - pirate stuff to be sure. BuNo 162702 is seen here on the NAS Dallas transient ramp during a November 4, 1989 stopover. The jet crashed shortly after this photo was taken, on June 5, 1990. VF-84 was disestablished on October 1, 1995. VF-103 took the lineage of the Skull and Crossbones (see below), but it just wasn't the same!

F-14D 164342 of VF-101, seen at an airshow at Alliance Airport, TX during October of 2004. This was one of the Tomcat's last airshow appearances. The aircraft carried sharp tail markings and a mean looking sharkmouth as it approached retirement. When VF-101 shut its doors, the jet transferred to VF-31, and was part of that squadron until the very end of US Navy Tomcat operations. It is now preserved at the Wings over Miami museum. VF-101 was the Atlantic coast training squadron, keeping a roster of up to 40 F-14s on the Oceana ramp to support training requirements.

VF-102's CAG bird landing on RW 17 at NAS Dallas. This Diamondbacks' jet was transiting through the base between cruises in 1987. BuNo 162695 was a combat veteran of the First Gulf War, and survived its service to retire to AMARC as 1K0171. VF-102 became VFA-102, and now flies the F-18F Super Hornet.

VF-103's 160390 seen landing on RW 17 at NAS Dallas in 1988. -103 had a confusing career in the F-14. First known as the Sluggers, it went through three different types of tail markings (the first of which, an arrow, is illustrated here). When VF-84 was disestablished, VF-103 then took the Jolly Rogers name and heritage, and started using the VF-84 tail markings. The Navy's explanation was that they wanted to keep the long lineage of the Jolly Rogers going - but that didn't make a lot of sense. If the lineage was that important, why didn't they get rid of -103 and keep -84? I don't know ... 160390 was one of the most famous/infamous Tomcats. While flying with VF-41, it downed a Libyan SU-22 on August 19, 1981. Later, while with VF-213, it crashed while approaching the USS Lincoln on October 25, 1994. The crash claimed the life of Lt. Kara Hultgreen, one of the first two female Naval Aviators assigned to a fleet squadron.

VF-142 Ghost Riders flew the F-14A until they were disestablished on April 30, 1995. -142 was always paired with -143 during carrier deployments. BuNo 161427 is seen here on the Oceana ramp during 1986. This aircraft was lost on July 30, 1998, while flying with VF-103.

VF-143 is known as the Pukin Dogs, a backhanded compliment for the squadron's insignia, which is supposed to be a griffon - but actually looks like a dog throwing up. The Dogs were one of the last F-14 squadrons in service receiving F-18E Super Hornets after retiring their Tomcats to AMARC. AG-114, BuNo 162924, was a B model assigned to the squadron when this photo was taken of it arriving transient at Carswell AFB in 2001. The squadron had just come back from a deployment aboard the USS JFK. This aircraft was struck from the inventory on Sep. 15, 2004.

All Photos by yours truly.

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