Why F-14s Must be Crushed


For months, Defense Tech has been keeping a close eye on developments over the issue of F-14 Tomcat spare parts. Theres fear that Iran could get its hands on enough aftermarket material to keep its aging Tomcats alive for years posing a threat to U.S. naval interests in the Persian Gulf.

One of the countrys best-sourced aviation industry analysts a man with whom Ive worked at previous publications has put together an informative narrative on the nefarious world of backroom deals and bureaucratic incompetence that permeates the jet parts aftermarket.

Iran’s aerospace industry and intelligence services then embarked on what has become a nearly three-decade shell game of trying to find ways to covertly or illegally procure parts for the F-14. Not surprisingly, incidents of spares “disappearing” from storehouses at Subic Base in the Philippines and other Navy installations worldwide became regular occurrences.

Numerous middlemen operating from shadowy front companies ordered parts for the Iranian Tomcats.Some of these fronts have ended up in the U.S. courts over the years, but the Iranians have had far more successes than failures in getting their hands on what they need. During Iran’s air show last year–27 years after the embargo was first imposed–several Iranian aerospace enterprises openly displayed overhauled components for the F-14 that they manage to keep acquiring parts for up to this day.

Rueben Johnson pulls no punches in his article, published in this weeks Weekly Standard, making the Defense Logistics Agency look particularly bad. He demonstrates that the Iranian parts rope-a-dope has had the unintended effect of hamstringing legitimate foreign weapons and parts makers wanting to do business with the United States.

In one publicized incident, the paperwork from an Iranian agent for illegally purchased F-14 parts passed under the DLA’s nose, but the parts were then seized by Customs agents before they could be shipped to Iran. The spares were sent back to DLA, which, instead of putting them under guard, promptly sold them to another middleman working on behalf of the Iranians. The fact that these spare parts were now identified as being on Iran’s wish list should have warranted some extra scrutiny when a second buyer came looking for them. What’s more, the Customs Service evidence tags from the first seizure were still attached to these items–they were literally red-flagged–which makes the act of selling them to a second Iranian agent inexcusable.

This all stands in stark contrast to the bureaucratic zeal with which the U.S. government controls military technology flowing into the United States. Try importing foreign military spare parts and other materiel from foreign nations into the United States, and U.S. government oversight suddenly becomes ruthlessly efficient.

U.S. companies that operate as Foreign Materiel Acquisition (FMA) agents currently purchase millions of dollars’ worth of foreign military hardware and spare parts each year. Some items are used for training U.S. forces, while others are used to equip the newly established and coalition-trained security forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. In every one of these sales, there are reams of paperwork–including end-user certificates, copies of the company’s U.S. government-issued license that permits it to trade in armaments–all of which must be properly authenticated, notarized, and signed by government officials on both sides.

So the answer is to simply destroy all the F-14s in the bone yard, essentially eliminating the spare parts issue for good? Way to sweep the issue right off the table, USG…

— Christian

  • Max

    Doubt if the Tomcats are worth much. Their avionics are way out of date, and would be a nightmare to keep running. I think the Navy was probably glad to see them go, in favor of more modern planes. I think they are right to crush them all, to keep them out of the hands of Iran.

  • Olav

    Why not make fake spare parts that will just fail or cause problems because with respect to the Iranians won’t know which is good and which is bad. Or add a tracking circuit in a spare part. Use the spare parts game against them.
    That would be cool.

  • George Skinner

    I agree with Max – not a lot of value left in the Tomcat fleet for the US military. The design is almost 40 years old, supply chain was becoming a nightmare with many suppliers having gone out of business or the components manufactured with obsolete processes, and the airframes were showing their age after years of carrier operations. On top of that, putting the Tomcat back in service would probably take 3-5 years in order to train up the new aircrew & maintenance personnel. Faster to just order more Super Hornets.

  • springbored

    Yeah, well, if we’re crushing F-14s now, what will we be doing with the F-16s later? (owned by Venezula, Pakistan, Saudi, etc., etc…)
    We’re solving the problem by eliminating a symptom, but not the ultimate cause..

  • Harry Canyon

    Why not sell Iran all the spare parts they need to get their F-14s flying? Then we can shoot ’em down and be done with it.

  • Galls

    While everyone has sentimental feelings towards the tomcat, curse tom cruise and his boyish good looks, it is still not beneficial to the Navy at this point.
    The only old air frame that should be re invested in is the A-10.

  • Ward

    I like Harry’s idea . . .

  • George Skinner

    Yeah, but why stop with shooting down the F-14s? I think a nice big fighter sweep to liquidate Iran’s air force would be a well-deserved vacation for the bored fighter jocks who’ve been flying bombing missions over Iraq for years.

  • C

    a considerable reduction in Iran’s air power is inevitable. i do see the value in trying to limit a parts supply to potentially hostile nations in the meantime, if only to make sure that the spares they have didn’t come from us. it wouldn’t be too terribly difficult to reverse-engineer an entire F14 aside from the software and start fabricating parts in these countries.

  • G

    Or better yet, screw up the parts to an inoperative degree, then sell it to them outright. Get their money and then laugh when the Iranian Air Force is grounded and penniless.

  • diablotakahe

    why not give all the airframes to iran as part of the iraq deal?
    one less big order for sukhoi.
    then everybody’s happy!

  • Ken

    I think it’s a waste of time and effort worrying about OLD F-14s in Iran.
    The ‘Cat is easy to find, either by Radar, Sigint, imagery or just lookin’ for the smoke.
    It was a great fleet defense weapon in it’s time, it’s time has passed it by. It’s like the MiG 23s, etc the Iraqis had, easy to find, easy to kill, and provides a false sense of security for the owners.
    If the the time ever comes for us to face them, we know exactly how to find and kill Tomcats.
    Nobody has more time on that system than us.
    If the Iranians don’t “smuggle” spares from us they’ll build them in-house or get the Chinese to build them.
    Not a big problem, I could build spare parts for my Model T but the guy in the Mustang will still smoke me.

  • Chris Johnston

    So, is every single last one being destroyed, or are a few going to kept flyable for airshows?

  • polandspring

    whats everyone so worried about? f-22 anyone?
    then again i wouldnt put it past the iranians to do some kamikazi missions with those rusted out boneyard tomcats

  • Quackstacker

    Why don’t we just sell them the old F-14s.
    My computer that I have has a faster processor in it.
    Plus the Iranians have the 35 year old blocks not the newer versions that we were running when we decomissioned them.
    If I’m not mistaken those older ‘CATS couldn’t be retrofitted to even compete with any of our aircraft we have out today.

  • Quackstacker

    Why don’t we just sell them the old F-14s.
    My computer that I have has a faster processor in it.
    Plus the Iranians have the 35 year old blocks not the newer versions that we were running when we decomissioned them.
    If I’m not mistaken those older ‘CATS couldn’t be retrofitted to even compete with any of our aircraft we have out today.

  • new

    Sure they would lose in an engagement with us, but they might not be used against us. No sense in giving bad regimes deadly weapons. How hard can it be to just mothball them somewhere where the Iranians will never get them?

  • Bruce

    They’re defensive weapons. Don’t attack and everything will be ok.

  • GeorgePlunkett

    Sell them all the parts they want. We can use the money. The Tomcats they have are antiquated and are no match for any of our warbirds.

  • S. Robertson

    How about we use our B-2 Bombers and destory the Iranian F-14s. This will serve two purposes. 1. They no longer have a fleet of airplanes that need spare parts. 2. Show them that we have the better IEDs, can’t see the planes, they fall from the sky, they pack a bigger punch than the honmemade version killing our troops in Irag. Can you say “JDAM” !!!

  • Scotty

    The Iranians would have an even tougher time finding a pilot that could actually handle a Tomcat in normal flight much less in a combat situation. If they want to take us on using a bird we sold to the Shah in the 70’s let them try.

  • tuj

    The Iranians use the F-14 as a sort of mini-AWACS since it has such a powerful radar. That capability is still quite important to them, even if they can’t out-fight an F-22. Denying them a powerful airborne radar system would certainly be to the advantage of the US in any type of conflict.
    The US needs to be more thoughtful when it sells weapon systems. The fact that the Israelis have a US-made airforce is not lost on the rest of the mid-east.

  • Zeffman

    I think that the US should send in a covert oops team to put a time delay explosive device that works when teh plane is fired up-small enough to not be seen but big enough to blow the SOB up-that way we take teh planes and their “pilots” all at the same time!!!!

    • milad

      This comment is showing what montsters are U amricans!

  • Pau

    I think we should empty the Smithsonian and
    Wright-Patterson Air Museums before those pesky
    terrorist get really big ideas. Imagine Al-Queda
    getting their hands on a X-15, Mach 6.8, baby!
    Or the first Wright Bros. ORIGINAL stealth
    fighter. Wood and canvas, the pilot takes off his watch & bingo, no RADAR return! Better still,
    hook the controls up to a PS2 and *BAMM*, a RPV!
    At nearly a million dollars each to de-mil a TomCat, we should just leave then in the Arizona
    sun. Sooner or later the UV, Ozone, Gamma rays
    and yahoos with 22 LRs will reduce these once
    magnificent airplanes to dust. Or, simply douse
    them with JP8 and turn them into pools of aluminum!

  • Roy Smith

    There are a lot of people here who’s jaws will drop to the floor when those “simple” Iranians, armed only with tiny speedboats &/or “civilian” boats & Mach 2.5 SS-N-22 Sunburn &/or C-801 anti-ship missiles,sink one or more of our aircraft carriers,& accompanying destroyers,in the Persian Gulf right now.The F-14 Tomcat was the ONLY naval aircraft armed with the long range AIM-54 Phoenix air-to-air missile which would have kept our ships out of the Persian Gulf & harms way.The Super Hornet cannot carry this missile & so the navy naturally “retired” it.Don’t believe the crap about our superior weapons & technology.If superior weapons & technology won wars then Israel SHOULDN’T have lost to Hezbollah last year.I mean,they sure didn’t win & those 3 Israeli soldiers are STILL hostages.

  • Leon Marino

    Clearly the problem is not that there’s a retired fleet of F-14s sitting at Davis-Monathan, or that Iran is trying to buy parts for their fleet. No, the problem is that the DLA is incapable of monitoring who it sells the parts to!
    How many other countries, coporations, or individuals operate F-14s? Right! Howabout we don’t sell any parts to anyone? That would solve the problem right there.

  • Ken R

    Perhaps we could end the “problem” by a couple of flights of stealth bombers dropping thousands of bomblets on the old Tom’s. Let the Iranians know we are not pissing around with them anymore. The only thing is the Iranians are spending a great deal of their resources trying to get the f-14’s airworthy. Take that away from them and they will divert those resources to getting newer fighters elsewhere and we may be facing a more advanced Soviet or French built aircraft.

  • doubtsoft

    It is actually in the best interest of the US to allow Iran to continue to use the F-14s instead of cutting off all parts and support, because if they did, Iran would just upgrade to a more advanced Soviet system that is harder to shoot down.
    Of course, no official arms deals are allowed, so things just “disappear”.

  • George Skinner

    The F-14 and Phoenix would never have kept US carriers out of the Persian Gulf. The reason the carriers are IN the Gulf is to increase the ability of the strike aircraft on those carriers to hit targets in the area. With the carriers operating outside the Gulf, you’d either have a reduced sortie rate because of the long transit time to target, or you might even be out of range altogether.
    Superior weapons & technology don’t win wars by themselves, but they make a pretty big difference in combination with effective training and doctrine. Israel had the technology, but it’s become obvious that they had problems with training and doctrine. It’s also fairly obvious that Hezbollah’s “victory” amounts mainly to not having been wiped out – they lost a lot of people, weapons, and political support in the region.

  • Roy Smith

    Those aircraft carriers have no defense against Mach 2.5 anti-ship missiles like the Sunburn & the C-801 missile.Keeping them in the gulf exposes them greatly to this danger.Putting them safely in “blue” water over-the-horizon makes them safer.Crappy obsolete planes with good anti-ship missiles can cause just as much havoc & the Sunburn & the C-801 missiles can be carried by aircraft in addition to being launched by ship(or small craft) & land.The Chinese are converting old obsolete fighter jets into UCAVs.They can both launch anti-ship missiles & then crash into ships like a kamikase.An F-14 with Phoenix missiles could stop them well before they came in range to harm U.S. ships.But,you know the story about where F-14s & Phoenix missiles are today.

  • George Skinner

    Yeah, we know the story with the F-14 and Phoenix missiles. They’re a late ’60s design that have finished their useful lives with the fleet and have been retired. The Navy botched development of the AAAM and NATF, so there’s no direct replacement.
    As I pointed out before, putting the carriers in blue water limits their ability to attack targets, or keeps them from attacking at all. Blue water is great for fleet battles, but a purely blue water fleet can’t do much when the job is pounding targets on land.
    Also, are you sure that the fleet is defenseless against those missiles? The F-18 and AMRAAM don’t have quite the stand-off range of F-14/Phoenix, but they’re not useless either. And there’s still AEGIS and Phalanx.

  • Roy Smith

    Concerning the Sunburn missile.I remember when we sunk the USS America aircraft carrier after it was retired.I was totally opposed to that. They just blew holes in it & sunk it.However…..,if the U.S. could get hold of a couple of Sunburns &/ other of these mach 2.5 anti-ship missiles(from what I understand the exocet & harpoon missiles can’t even travel above mach 1,if they can even reach a speed of mach 1),that would justify sinking the Forrestal aircraft carriers as a test of defenses against these mach 2.5(I read that India & Russia are working together on a anti-ship missile that can travel at mach 3).From what I read,these missiles skim the surface of the water & then rise up & hit the decks(I was never navy,so I’m not sure what you call the top surface of the ships) of the ships.They can also be nuclear tipped,which would be a great problem with China if we ever come to blows over Taiwan.That would be the only justification for ‘sinking” the Forrestal Aircraft carriers,the USS Constellation,& the JFK.I know about the AAAM.I also read that when the navy discontinued it,that is when they discontinued the upgrades of the F-14.They are still building F-16s,& except for the fact that they are not “stealth”,they could still compete with the Eurofighter,the Rafale,& the Gripen.The F-16 Sufa & or F-16E/F Block 60 would be top notch,but we don’t seem to want to buy them.
    I remember the trials between the F-22 Raptor & the F-23 Black Widow & I still wonder how the F-23 lost the “competition.”

  • andy hunter

    The F-22s left here for Japan on Friday but were forced to turn back when a “software issue” affecting the navigation system was discovered, the Air Force said Tuesday.
    No reason was given when officials first announced on Sunday that the most expensive fighter planes in the world had been sent back to Hawaii.
    kode monkeys = virus hardrives .made in china best of luck in the next battle for oil

  • Steve

    The F-14 is an outstanding aircraft. The specs published were with those junk P&W engines.
    The truth be known, Cheney wanted to spend $330 million each for the F22 instead of $50 million for an F14, so now we spend $50 million for F18’s.
    The Soviets have re engined the aircraft, and the last time I checked have an aircraft insuring that its speed is much higher than the 1976 listed speeds, manufacturing business in Russia that can make spares for them. However it seems that the GAO found the Pentagon selling spares to Iran anyway.
    By crushing and shredding the F14 you only insure that the Iranians have them, and we have nothing that can compete with them.
    You guys are either Traitors or something else.

  • Bob Tiller

    Forget about the Iranians. Sell the Israelis the F-20 Tigersharks. Have Northrop go into production and make them, 2 squadrons. In my estimation,they are twice the F-14s, in speed and manueverability, and they almost can’t be shot down by Sidewinders. If a pilot stops stunt flying and lays it out in a straight plane, or better, a dive, the sidewinder can’t close the distance. If they get close to the mountains or earth, the sidewinder gets confused at the heat signature and plows into the ground. They fly 2.34 Mach, and they don’t lose speed in the turns like the Tomkats, which have 42% more weight. That’s their yahoo, the turns. The Tomkats in a tight turn will slow down. Also, the tightest 90 degree turn is only made in 7 miles. The F-20’s can make them in 4, so whose better? The F-20’s. They’ll see themselves investing in an inferior fighter in replacement parts and seek new fighters, and Israel will stay safe for a long time.

    • milad

      U are covering israil that is killing people in gaza and leobnan? ! amazing amricans!

  • CPU64

    Since everyone is talking about destroying my favorite man made machine, how about they give me one so I can display it in my front yard??? That cool?

  • milad

    Why amricans are joking about iran?! Some body tell me since now Iran atacked any country? !? but us atacked many country so thats not Iran big problem is us!

  • Julio

    DISCONTINUING F14 was a big mistake; today russia has a similar air plane as a light bomber. Stupidity can no be FIX.