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"End of an era: USN's Tomcats make their final approach before decommissioning"



 
 
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  #1  
Old March 21st 06, 04:44 PM posted to rec.aviation.military.naval
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Default "End of an era: USN's Tomcats make their final approach before decommissioning"

JANE'S NAVY INTERNATIONAL - MARCH 01, 2006

End of an era: USN's Tomcats make their final approach before
decommissioning

The US Navy is set to decommission its F-14 Tomcats this month. Robert
Hewson takes a look at some of their final deployments and the force's
transition to the Super Hornet

It is end of an era in US naval aviation as the withdrawal of its last
Grumman F-14 Tomcats draws near.

Only two F-14 squadrons survive in US Navy (USN) service today. Both
are flying as part of Carrier Air Wing 8 (CVW-8) aboard the USS
Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), deployed to the Persian Gulf for
operations over Iraq. On 7 February 2006, CVW-8 flew its last scheduled
mission in support of Operation 'Iraqi Freedom' and began preparations
to head home for Norfolk, Virginia. Once back at NAS Oceana the Tomcats
will be progressively decommissioned and disappear forever from US
service.

During the four months that they were on station, the VF-31
'Tomcatters' and VF-213 'Blacklions' flew F-14D 'Bombcats' on close
air-support taskings - a world away from the fleet-defence mission the
aircraft was built for. Instead of engaging Soviet Tu-22 'Backfires'
with massed launches of the extremely long-range Phoenix air-to-air
missiles, the last Tomcats carry LANTIRN targeting pods and Joint
Direct Attack Munitions, to conduct airborne forward air-control
missions hundreds of miles inland.

Gulf missions

When the Roosevelt arrived in the Gulf it brought more combat aircraft
to the region than the entire US Air Force (USAF) presence there.
Twenty-two Tomcats - 11 per squadron - went to war alongside CVW-8's
two F/A-18C Hornet units (VFA-15 and VFA-87). The carrier came on
station on 5 October 2005, and its jets flew (almost) daily combat
missions on a 24-hour cycle.

During the deployment a small handful of between six and eight Hornets
and Prowlers were sent ashore to Al Asad air base. The rest of the Air
Wing's operations were flown from the ship, with the greatest area of
interest being northern Iraq. For the crews this meant a continuum of
six- or seven-hour missions, tasked mostly in support of the US Army
and marines. However, as one F-14 crew member noted: "We end up bombing
for the marines more because they seem to end up where the action is."

Routinely, the Tomcat squadrons are launching 12 to 16 sorties a day.
The overall sortie rate was not a high one, but the duration of
missions was at least twice as long as usual. A VF-213 pilot described
the typical day: "After we launch we tank en route to the target area.
We get on station and then we tank again. We return to station and then
we tank again before heading back to the ship. We spend about four
hours in the AOR [area of responsibility], with an hour or an
hour-and-a-half transition each way. We might send a section of jets to
Mosul and a section to Baghdad or wherever they are needed. They stay
there until replaced by the next set of jets from the ship." CVW-8 does
no organic tanking for its strike aircraft. The carrier's
tanker-configured S-3 Vikings are used as recovery tankers only.

Like the Tomcats, the Vikings have come to the end of the road, at
least with CVW-8. The next time the Air Wing goes to sea the S-3s will
have been retired.

Air Wing 8 did not deliver the same level of ordnance demanded during
the peak of fighting in Iraq but, between them, its four squadrons
attacked about one target a day throughout the deployment. The F-14Ds
were cleared to carry the GBU-38 JDAM in September 2005 and this
quickly became the preferred weapon for virtually all missions. One
F-14D pilot noted: "Why would you use a GBU-12 [Paveway II laser-guided
bomb] if you have a GBU-38? If you have the target co-ordinates, use
it. You know the bomb will go straight there and it has a steeper
impact angle than the GBU-12 so it is more effective."

Collateral damage

One serious issue faced by the Air Wing, and all air forces in the
region, is the realisation that standard 500 lb weapons, once thought
of as very small bombs, are now too big to be used safely against the
target set found in Iraq, or Afghanistan. One experienced USN combat
aviator described the situation in Iraq today as one where, "we are
being asked to hit that group of guys over there but try not to hit the
other bunch of people beside them". The collateral damage risk from a
500 lb bomb in an urban or semi-urban environment is becoming
unacceptable and the USN has a particular dilemma because it is not
part of the small diameter bomb (SDB) programme - a 250 lb-class
precision weapon to be fielded by the USAF later this year.

Typically, the Tomcats flew with just two 500 lb bombs. To carry any
more the aircraft have to be fitted with the ventral weapons pannier.
This configuration is never used today, because it adds another 1,800
lb to the F-14 and presents great difficulties with landing weight for
recovery aboard the carrier.

Ground strafing

The F-14Ds are also armed with a 20 mm M61 Vulcan cannon and,
extraordinarily, these guns were used for ground strafing on two
occasions by VF-213 (and also by F/A-18Cs).

The pilot for one of these attacks talked about the mission, flown
against insurgents in Husbayah, during November's Operation 'Steel
Curtain'. "We dropped both our bombs on parts of a housing complex but
some guys with RPGs made it out and ran to another section. We were
asked to hang on by the JTAC [Joint Terminal Attack Controller, a
forward air controller] on the ground and we told him we had 500 rounds
in the gun. We did two runs - roll in from 10,000 ft, shoot at 4,000 ft
and pull out at 2,500 ft." The after-action report filed by the US
Marines who had been under fire noted that the target building was
completely destroyed by the gunfire.

Super Hornets

When CVW-8 returns to the US in March the Tomcats will give way to
Super Hornets. VF-31 will transition to the F/A-18E and VF-213 will
transition to the F/A-18F. A VF-31 pilot summed up his feelings about
handing in his Tomcat: "Our F-14Ds are working better than ever now.
The F/A-18E/F is an aircraft with several known issues but it will be
great when it is finished. I am confident that our brand-new E/Fs will
be just as capable as our F-14s."

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  #2  
Old March 22nd 06, 07:06 PM posted to rec.aviation.military.naval
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Mike,

That's a really interesting article - not only from the Tomcat
retirement point of view, but in general. Thank you for posting it!


The carrier came on
station on 5 October 2005, and its jets flew (almost) daily combat
missions on a 24-hour cycle.


Well, that is great they did not forget to add the word "almost". Is it
possible for a CVW to operate day and night at the same readiness
level? I guess the flight ops ran mostly one half of the day, with only
some CAS alert aicraft during the other...


During the deployment a small handful of between six and eight Hornets
and Prowlers were sent ashore to Al Asad air base.


Official Navy News said that was during the carrier's port call. I
wonder if it was made for the first time, or is it a common practice?


CVW-8 does
no organic tanking for its strike aircraft. The carrier's
tanker-configured S-3 Vikings are used as recovery tankers only.


That's interesting. How the Navy is going to provide organic tanking
with only about four of F/A-18E/F configured for that mission, whereas
they cannot do that with 6 or 8 Vikings?


The F-14Ds are also armed with a 20 mm M61 Vulcan cannon and,
extraordinarily, these guns were used for ground strafing on two
occasions by VF-213 (and also by F/A-18Cs).


Reportedly the gun is one of favourite air-to-ground weapons of USMC
Hornet drivers (no VMFA embarked for this cruise), but never before I
heard about Tomcats doing ground strafing. Was it too heavy?

Best regards,
Jacek Z.

  #3  
Old March 23rd 06, 12:03 AM posted to rec.aviation.military.naval
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Default "End of an era: USN's Tomcats make their final approach before decommissioning"

The F-14Ds are also armed with a 20 mm M61 Vulcan cannon and,
extraordinarily, these guns were used for ground strafing on two
occasions by VF-213 (and also by F/A-18Cs).


Reportedly the gun is one of favourite air-to-ground weapons of USMC
Hornet drivers (no VMFA embarked for this cruise), but never before I
heard about Tomcats doing ground strafing. Was it too heavy?


Very nice strafe aircraft, gun and sight. Of course, putting the jet into
the strafe environment puts it in the ground fire environment as well. Not
recommended for heavily and properly defended targets.

R / John


  #5  
Old March 23rd 06, 09:58 PM posted to rec.aviation.military.naval
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Default "End of an era: USN's Tomcats make their final approach before decommissioning"

wrote in message
oups.com...
Mike,

That's a really interesting article - not only from the Tomcat
retirement point of view, but in general. Thank you for posting it!


The carrier came on
station on 5 October 2005, and its jets flew (almost) daily combat
missions on a 24-hour cycle.


Well, that is great they did not forget to add the word "almost". Is it
possible for a CVW to operate day and night at the same readiness
level? I guess the flight ops ran mostly one half of the day, with only
some CAS alert aicraft during the other...


We had, if I recall, a grand total of three no-fly days the entire time we
were in-theatre. For three months, damn near non-stop, we flew planes from
1100 to 0100 or 0200. I know this because I was on that deployment, working
in one of the avionics shops. When we weren't flying, we had the alert 15s
posted on cats 1 and 2. If we weren't flying, we were ready to. So, to
answer your question, yes, it is quite possible for a CVW to maintain at
least a 75% FMC (fully mission capable) status flying day after day after
day after day after FRIGGIN DAY. It wasn't fun though. I'd like to think us
ATs in AIMD had something to do with that :-).



During the deployment a small handful of between six and eight Hornets
and Prowlers were sent ashore to Al Asad air base.


Official Navy News said that was during the carrier's port call. I
wonder if it was made for the first time, or is it a common practice?


EA-6Bs have been forward deployed for a while, I know our Shadowhaks
(VAQ-141) replaced another group of prowlers from the carrier we relieved
(can't remember which one) and the prowlers from the Reagan replaced ours.
Forward-deploying the hornets, though, was new. As far as I know, we're the
only carrier that's done that.


CVW-8 does
no organic tanking for its strike aircraft. The carrier's
tanker-configured S-3 Vikings are used as recovery tankers only.


That's interesting. How the Navy is going to provide organic tanking
with only about four of F/A-18E/F configured for that mission, whereas
they cannot do that with 6 or 8 Vikings?


KC-10s and KC-135s can hold a hell of a lot more fuel than an S-3 or a KA-18
can. However, the KA-18 (my name, don't know if that's the real name) can
hold a surprising amount of fuel. They look pretty funny with 5 fuel tanks
on them.


The F-14Ds are also armed with a 20 mm M61 Vulcan cannon and,
extraordinarily, these guns were used for ground strafing on two
occasions by VF-213 (and also by F/A-18Cs).


Reportedly the gun is one of favourite air-to-ground weapons of USMC
Hornet drivers (no VMFA embarked for this cruise), but never before I
heard about Tomcats doing ground strafing. Was it too heavy?


The CO came on the 1MC the night the first strafe was done. We were all
pretty impressed. I talked to the pilot that did the strafing and he said it
was probably the coolest thing he's ever done, ever. Tomcats don't usually
strafe because they don't usually need to. When's the last time you've heard
about any (navy, marines are crazy) plane using its gun? It just doesn't
happen very often, but the irony is that a tomcat using its gun to strafe a
ground target was about the last thing the designers EVER thought it would
do. Air-to-ground offense is the very antithesis of its intended role,
air-to-air defense. It just goes to show what a fantastically great aircraft
the Tomcat was. The ground crews refused to clean the gun blast off the
nose, it was a badge of honor! They went as far as to tape over it while
they were washing the bird. I sobbed like a little girl when the final
Tomcat fly-by went down. I have the video if anybody's interested, I shot it
myself :-).

The strafing wasn't the only new thing the tomcats did this cruise. They
also came up with a way (called JEDI or RANGER or some other stupid acronym)
for forces on the ground to beam video straight into a Tomcat cockpit. The
pilots could look at the target the same way marines were looking at the
target and it increased situational awareness a thousandfold because then
the pilots could tell exactly where the marines were and they didn't have to
guide the pilots into the target by talking any more.

Oh, and S-3s can go to hell. VS-24 especially, if you're reading, learn how
to use goddamn ISAR, retards!

V/R
AT2(AW) Jason Hartberger
USS Theodore Roosevelt CVN-71




Best regards,
Jacek Z.



  #6  
Old March 23rd 06, 11:04 PM posted to rec.aviation.military.naval
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Default "End of an era: USN's Tomcats make their final approach beforedecommissioning"

Jason H wrote:
snip
The CO came on the 1MC the night the first strafe was done. We were all
pretty impressed. I talked to the pilot that did the strafing and he said it
was probably the coolest thing he's ever done, ever. Tomcats don't usually
strafe because they don't usually need to. When's the last time you've heard
about any (navy, marines are crazy) plane using its gun? It just doesn't
happen very often, but the irony is that a tomcat using its gun to strafe a
ground target was about the last thing the designers EVER thought it would
do. Air-to-ground offense is the very antithesis of its intended role,
air-to-air defense. It just goes to show what a fantastically great aircraft
the Tomcat was. The ground crews refused to clean the gun blast off the
nose, it was a badge of honor! They went as far as to tape over it while
they were washing the bird. I sobbed like a little girl when the final
Tomcat fly-by went down. I have the video if anybody's interested, I shot it
myself :-).

snip

Ah, memories!

This takes me back thirty-four years, when the first article weapons
test F-14 arrived at VX-5.

The first time the M61 was fired inflight, the hot gas hit the pitot
tubes and static ports and the computer tried to turn the aircraft
inside out, beginning with instantly programming the wings full forward.

That got the crew's attention!

Later, unrelated to the M61, the first Marine to take the stick of an
F-14 in VF-124 had an inlet guide vane slam shut on a burner takeoff. He
did a fine job of bringing it around and landing it, excreting intake
lining, rivets and various engine parts all the way.

Yes, Virginia, the Marines were scheduled to get the F-14, and had their
initial cadre in the RAG and FRAMP with VF-1, -2, -14, -32 and the
Imperial Iranian Air Force at the time.

Rick




  #7  
Old March 23rd 06, 11:47 PM posted to rec.aviation.military.naval
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Default "End of an era: USN's Tomcats make their final approachbefore decommissioning"


An unrelated to this dicusion but never the less overdue (just saw it in
Naval Aviation News) congratulations on your COC. Nothing beats CO of a
reserve or adversary squadron.

John X


  #8  
Old March 24th 06, 03:09 PM posted to rec.aviation.military.naval
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Default "End of an era: USN's Tomcats make their final approach before decommissioning"

Jason,

What was you job?
I was an AT2 (way back "in-the-day") on the America in '72, in AIMD ECM
shop. I also felt that we contributed to the overall effort off the coast
of RVN.

Thanks for your service.

Jim


  #9  
Old March 24th 06, 09:04 PM posted to rec.aviation.military.naval
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Default "End of an era: USN's Tomcats make their final approach before decommissioning"

Jason H wrote:

We had, if I recall, a grand total of three no-fly days the entire time we
were in-theatre. For three months, damn near non-stop, we flew planes from
1100 to 0100 or 0200. I know this because I was on that deployment, working
in one of the avionics shops. When we weren't flying, we had the alert 15s
posted on cats 1 and 2. If we weren't flying, we were ready to. So, to
answer your question, yes, it is quite possible for a CVW to maintain at
least a 75% FMC (fully mission capable) status flying day after day after
day after day after FRIGGIN DAY. It wasn't fun though. I'd like to think us
ATs in AIMD had something to do with that :-).


Jason, thank you for your answer! It looks it worked very similarly to
USS Abraham Lincoln/CVW-14 scenario from 2002, I've heard a bit of.


EA-6Bs have been forward deployed for a while, I know our Shadowhaks
(VAQ-141) replaced another group of prowlers from the carrier we relieved
(can't remember which one) and the prowlers from the Reagan replaced ours.
Forward-deploying the hornets, though, was new. As far as I know, we're the
only carrier that's done that.


The carrier must have been Nimitz, with CVW-11 (including VAQ-135 Black
Ravens) on board. Some CVWs borrowed their VAQ unit to Al Asad or
Iwakuni, but this was at the time when their whole CSGs were not
deployed.


KC-10s and KC-135s can hold a hell of a lot more fuel than an S-3 or a KA-18
can. However, the KA-18 (my name, don't know if that's the real name) can
hold a surprising amount of fuel. They look pretty funny with 5 fuel tanks
on them.


Yes, but they are a joint asset - neither USN, nor USMC ones.

Best regards,
Jacek

  #10  
Old March 25th 06, 11:10 AM posted to rec.aviation.military.naval
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Jason H wrote:

We had, if I recall, a grand total of three no-fly days the entire time we
were in-theatre. For three months, damn near non-stop, we flew planes from
1100 to 0100 or 0200 [...]
EA-6Bs have been forward deployed for a while, I know our Shadowhaks
(VAQ-141) replaced another group of prowlers from the carrier we relieved
(can't remember which one) and the prowlers from the Reagan replaced ours.
Forward-deploying the hornets, though, was new. As far as I know, we're the
only carrier that's done that.


Well, I think about the Marine Hornets stationed at Al Asad then...
They must have had a very similar role like Tomcats and Hornets from
the Boat? Or were they operating in the different area of
responsibility?


KC-10s and KC-135s can hold a hell of a lot more fuel than an S-3 or a KA-18
can. However, the KA-18 (my name, don't know if that's the real name) can
hold a surprising amount of fuel. They look pretty funny with 5 fuel tanks
on them.


The tanker-configured Super Hornets keep the same designation - F/A-18E
or F/A-18F - it is only a matter of 480 USGal. fuel tanks and ARS-301
buddy refueling store attached to the weapon stations.

I remember that some years ago there was an idea for land-based
Navy-owned tankers - for example KC-135s configured with the
hose-and-drogue system. KC-10A with its double refueling system (boom
for USAF a/c, hoses for USN/USMC and other NATO fighters) - being able
to switch between those two systems even in-flight somehow improved the
situation.

I wonder if the Navy's new maritime patrol jet (with a good loitering
time = a lot of fuel onboard) could be useful for that role...

Best regards,
Jacek

 




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