Paying Tribute to the People Who Took Aviation
from the Flight Deck of a Navy Carrier to Man's First Steps on the Moon
On Friday, March 10, 2006, the last two F-14D Tomcat squadrons, VF-31 “Tomcatters and VF-213 “Blacklions” returned to NAS Oceana ending their six-month deployment with Carrier Air Wing Eight aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt. This ended some thirty-plus years of combat deployment for the F-14. Twenty-two Tomcats thundered overhead before touching down.
Since the first aircraft entered operational service the Grumman Aerospace Corporation-built Tomcat has seen numerous upgrades and modifications as the premier carrier-based multi-role strike fighter. Throughout its US Navy service the F-14 has been synonymous with excellence.
The F-14B, introduced in November 1987, incorporated new General Electric F-110 engines. This was a giant step in performance improvements for the Tomcat. An upgrade improvement program in 1995 brought the F-14 new digital avionics and weapon system.
How do you improve on a good thing? Grumman developed the advanced F-14D in 1990. This was a major upgrade with F-110 engines, APG-71 radar system, Airborne Self Protection Jammer, Joint Tactical Information Distribution System and Infrared Search and Track (IRST). Then all F-14A’s, B’s and D’s received the LANTIRN targeting system for precision strike capability, new defensive countermeasures systems, new digital flight control system, and night vision compatibility.
During this last deployment, VF-31 and VF-213 provided invaluable close air support to the troops on the ground, completed 1,163 combat missions totaling 6,876 flight hours and dropped 9,500 pounds of ordnance on enemy positions.
“To see the Sailors of this command perform so magnificently throughout five months of arduous combat operations has been inspirational for me,” said CDR Richard LaBranche, commanding officer of VF-31 Tomcatters. “Team ‘FELIX’ has met every challenge head-on, succeeded in every endeavor and left a legacy befitting our new slogan as ‘The Last Cat Standing’.”
VF-213 will immediately transition to the Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet, while VF-31 will remain the one and only last operational Tomcat squadron until official retirement on September 22 of this year.