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Grumman F-14 Tomcat

Considered by many as the most beautiful jet fighter, at least of its generation, the F-14 Tomcat is also famous for the movie 'Top Gun'. Typically for a fighter designed in the early 1970s the F-14 Tomcat has double vertical stabilisers and rectangular, wedge shaped air intakes at the side of the fuselage. The vertical stabilisers are tilted outwards a bit, while the air intakes are tilted inwards. There is quite some space between the engines.
The F-14 has high mounted, variable sweep wings. The main gear retracts in the wings leading edges. The nose gear has two wheels. Up front is a two seat cockpit with a canopy that opens in one piece.

The air intakes of the Grumman F-14 are wedge shaped when viewed from the side, similar to other fighters from that period.

Only when looking from the front you can see that the air intakes are tilted inwards, while the vertical stabilisers are tilted outwards.

Different versions

The different versions of the F-14 can be distinguished by looking at:

  • the shape of the nozzles (exhausts)
  • the presence of extendable vanes in the wing gloves
  • the number of sensors under the nose

F-14A

The original version of the Tomcat was powered by Pratt & Whitney TF30 engines. Its exhausts have relatively short nozzles. Another key feature of this version are the triangular vanes that can be extened from the wing gloves, i.e. the leading edge extensions that fit over the pivot points of the wings.

F-14A was the first version of the Tomcat, that only received major upgrades in the late 1980s.

Extendable vanes in the wing gloves are another feature of the A model. Here they are retracted, the standard position.

The TF30 engines have exhaust nozzles that like shown here. It is one of the recognition points of the F-14A.

On this photo the vanes in the wing gloves are extended. (photo US Navy/WikiMedia)

F-14B

Several upgrades, including the switch to General Electric F110 engines, lead to the F-14A+, but this designation was soon changed to F-14B. These engines have different exhaust nozzles than the TF30s of the F-14A, with more clearly visible afterburner petals. Another change is the removal of the wing glove vanes. All F-14Bs are converted F-14As.

The F-14B was the first upgraded version of the F-14A. Externally the difference is mainly visible in the exhaust nozzles and the absence of the vanes in the wings leading edges.

The F-14B has a single sensor pod under its chin, as does the F-14A though. But this is the best way to distinguish the F-14B from the F-14D.

From this angle you can better see the different nozzles of the General Electric F110 engines. They have longer plates forming the variable diameter exhausts.

F-14D & F-14D(R) Super Tomcat

At the same time the F-14B was developed as upgrade to the F-14A, Grumman also made the new F-14D. This Super Tomcat shares most of the updates of the F-14B, including the General Electric F110 engines and removal of the wing glove vanes. Additionally, the F-14D has digital displays in the cockpit and a different radar. Multiple other systems were upgraded as well, resulting in a second sensor pod under the nose, nest to the existing one.

While F-14Ds are newly built aircraft, F-14D(R)s are converted F-14As (with the R standing for rebuild).

From the side it is hard to distinguish this F-14D from a F-14B, as the second sensor under the nose is not visible.

Like the F-14B the F-14D and this F-14D(R) have no vanes in the wing gloves. These would have been at the location of text "USS Theodore Roosevelt".

You have to view the F-14D Super Tomcat more from the front to see that it has two sensor pods under its chin.

Confusion possible with

McDonnell-Douglas F-15

f 15c

Being of the same generation, the F-15 Eagle is one of the fighters than mostly resembles the F-15. The F-15 however has cropped delta wings, straight vertical stabilisers, a single nose wheel and straight air intakes. Finally the F-14 always has a two seat cockpit.

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25/MiG-31 

mig 25rbk

The MiG-25 and MiG-31 are also similarly shaped as the F-14. However they have no (long) bubble canopy, but straight vertical stabilisers, fixed wings and air intakes.

Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor

f 22a

The F-22 Raptor also has two outward tilted fins, a bubble canopy and rectangular air intakes, but of a different shape when viewed from the side. Also its has regular, fixed delta wings.

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29

mig 29m

The Fulcrum has the same basic characteristics as the F-15, with one big difference: the wedge shaped air intakes are underneath the fuselage instead of on the side of the fuselage. And of course the wings are fixed. The same applies to the Sukhoi Su-27 family.

Confusion possible with

Grumman F-14 Tomcat

f 14b

Being of the same generation, the F-14 Tomcat is one of the fighters than mostly resembles the F-15. The F-14 however has variable sweep wings, vertical stabilisers tilted outward and air intakes tilted inward. On the F-15 the stabilisers and air intakes are straight. Finally the F-14 always has a two seat cockpit.

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-25/MiG-31 

mig 25rbk

The MiG-25 and MiG-31 are also similarly shaped as the F-15. However they have no bubble canopy, no forward pointing antennas on top of the vertical stabilisers and two wheels on the nose gear.

Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor

f 22a

The successor of the F-15, the F-22 Raptor, also has two fins (but tilted outward), a bubble canopy and rectangular air intakes, but of a different shape when viewed from the side. Also the wings are more of a regular delta shape than a cropped delta.

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29

mig 29m

The Fulcrum has the same basic characteristics as the F-15, with one big difference: the wedge shaped air intakes are underneath the fuselage instead of on the side of the fuselage. The same applies to the Sukhoi Su-27 family.