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F-14 50th Anniversary Celebration

Come see our F-14 and new Special Exhibit!

The Cradle of Aviation Museum and Education Center is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the F-14 Tomcat, one of the most iconic Navy fighters ever built on Long Island and of all time!  Few types of aircraft owe their celebrity status to Hollywood to the extent that the F-14 Tomcat does, first with the time travel Pearl Harbor film,  The Final Countdown and later with the hit movie, Top Gun. While Hollywood may have cemented the F-14 in the public eye it was Grumman engineers on Long Island that fortified the aircraft into the mind of naval aviators. When the F-14 retired, with considerable ceremony, in 2006 after 36 years of service it was not because its capabilities had been eclipsed. Rather, it was because the aircraft was deemed too expensive to operate in an era following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Even today there are many in the naval aviation community who yearn for the Tomcat to still be a part of the fleet.

The F-14 Tomcat, designed for fleet air defense and strike force protection, was the last in a long line of Grumman fighters for the U.S. Navy. The Tomcat was the world’s first operational air-superiority fighter with a variable-sweep wing, which could be automatically positioned for the best lift performance at various speeds. This versatility, and its AWG-9 weapons-control system, make the F-14 a true multi-mission fighter. Carrier-based, it had the sophisticated equipment to cope with high-speed, high-altitude aircraft and missile threats, yet was agile enough to win a dogfight. Its range was adequate to provide protection for today’s far-reaching attack aircraft.

The Tomcat was manned by a crew of two; the pilot and the radar intercept officer, who operated the weapons-control system, the most capable ever carried by a fighter aircraft. It could detect hostile aircraft at ranges over 100 miles and had the ability to launch missiles at six different targets at once. It also had the ability to “see” and shoot down extremely small targets and to operate in a hostile electronic environment. The F-14 carried long-range Phoenix missiles, medium-range Sparrow missiles, and short-range Sidewinder missiles, as well as an M-161 Vulcan cannon.

In February 1969 the Navy selected Grumman to build this new fighter and the first one flew in late 1970. The first Tomcats were deployed with the fleet in 1974, and more upgrades followed, most notably the F-14A+ and the F-14D. A Total of 804 F-14s were built through 1994, all at Calverton, with subassembly in Bethpage. F-14s remained in Fleet service through 2006, at which time they were honorably retired.

The aircraft on display is the third F-14 built, and the oldest surviving. First flown in 1971, it remained in service until 1990, used primarily for flight testing of various improvements and determining flight characteristics under extreme conditions. The museum obtained it in 1995 and moved it by road from Calverton.

The Cradle of Aviation Museum is home to a robust F-14 collection with a full-size aircraft and two F-14 cockpits, nose and flight suits. To enhance the collection in honor of the anniversary a temporary exhibit is running with never before seen artifacts taken out of storage such as concept models and photographs. Objects will be on display through December 2020.  

Soon to travel to the museum for restoration, and permanent display, is the last to ever fly F-14, number 711 of 712 made, coming from the Grumman Memorial Park in Bethpage. In addition to the exhibit, the museum will host a celebratory dinner followed by a discussion with distinguished guests - date to be determined. 

More about the F-14 Tomcat

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