Shahram Sharifi / Wikimedia Commons
The movie Top Gun is probably responsible for introducing non-aviation enthusiasts to the concept of jet fighters and F-14 Tomcats in particular. Although not the best movie in retrospect, it was still a great marketing tool that draw hordes of new recruits through the Navy’s doorsteps.
On that note, Tomcats were designed and built by Grumman in 1974 (introduction) specifically for the Navy and served faithfully until 2006 when the F/A-18 Super Hornets fully replaced them. They were the Navy’s primary superiority fighters, interceptors and some were even used for aerial reconnaissance.
Now, here’s where people, well, some Americans, lose track of the service span of these awesome warbirds. Back in 1976 when Iran and the U.S. were still buddy-buddy, Richard Nixon authorized the sale of either the F-14 Tomcats or F-15 Eagles to Iran with the stipulation that classified equipment would be removed. Iran chose the F-14s (a mistake in our opinion and we’re sure you folks would agree) and was sold 80 examples.
Over the years, some of these were shot down or lost in accidents. The supply of parts was cut off to Iran of course as well, so as of today, there are about 44 operational Tomcats that are used by the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force.
Politics aside, we’re glad to know that someone out there is still maintaining and using these fine warbirds. For us they were one of the most unique looking jet fighters of the era, not to take anything away from the Falcons and Eagles, of course.