Monday Eye Candy: Tomcats and Sukhois. What!?


Here are some images I wasn’t expecting to see this century. It shows the Su-27s of the Russian Knights aerobatic team being escorted by Iranian F-14 Tomcats and F-4 Phantoms. Talk about bizarre. Two of America’s legendary Cold War fighters being flown by one of its biggest 21st Century adversaries alongside two Soviet-designed jets that were meant to shoot them down.

Click through the jump for more great pics.

Images via Alert5.

  • steve

    I think I;am gonna be sick…

  • RunningBear

    Odd that the Iranian “Tom Cats” are flying in the “wing forward position”. Are they not able to retract the wing in flight? I doubt the Su’s are flying that slow! :)

    • David

      That’s not uncommon or out of the ordinary at all. It’s just the standard flight configuration. Cruising speed for a fighter isn’t really all that much more than a standard jet airliner so there’s no need for the auto-sweep to kick in and reduce drag in order to go faster.

      However, if you look at the trail F-14 in the second picture, you’ll see his wings are slightly swept back, not full forward.

    • Greg

      Really? Why do you propose they have adjustable whings?

    • tiger

      You can’t fly faster than the photo plane.

    • Dirt

      All Tomcats had four wing positioning modes: Auto; Bomb; Manual and Emergency. The latter was used to place the wings in the Oversweep position (75 degrees) after flight. While in flight, the most common mode was to leave the wings in the Auto position and let the computer control the most efficient wing sweep angle for optimal flight configuration. The Manual mode was used mostly to place the wings all the way aft (68 degrees) to make the aircraft look really shit-hot. She was a dream to fly -a truly magical airplane!

      OBTW, I personally delivered two Tomcats to Iran in 1975-6. We flew them from the Grumman Plant in Long Island to Esfahan with a stop at Torrejon AFB in Madrid. Each leg was about 12 hours long. Flew back business class on Pan Am compliments of the Shah.

  • Riceball

    Wow, they’re really pulling out all of the stops by escorting the Russians with a couple of their precious few working Tomcats. I imagine that those Tomcat pilots must have been ecstatic to actually get an opportunity to actually get some flight time in them since with the shortage of parts I imagine that these Tomcats spend most of their time grounded.

  • Dfens

    This seems like a fitting photo to me as the Sukois are basically just a fixed wing copy of the Tomcat. Too bad we didn’t learn as much from the success of the F-14 design as the Russians did.

  • cozine

    Both are beautiful planes and both will go down aviation history as hallmarks of aircraft design and engineering. Political hot heads – relax and enjoy this rare sight.

  • Fred Murre

    IIRC the Iranians were rumored to have given the Soviets an F-14 or two after the revolution in return for manufacture of reasonable spare parts.

  • Taggert

    Surprised they didn’t try to put the RQ-170 up there as well.

  • TonyC

    The Iranian F-14’s probably can’t fire the AIM-54 Phoenix missiles, but could still pose
    a serious threat to the US Navy F-18’s in a dog fight. The problem with selling military hardware to precarious allies is they can change sides in an instant. Now the
    Iranians have an adavnced airframe to use as a template for their own design.

    • cozine

      In fact these F-14s CAN fire AIM-54. 424 phoenix missiles were ordered along with the 80 tomcats. How many are there left operational is a different question; but if my memory serve me right, the Iranian did manage to modify the Tomcats so that they can fire Hawk SAMs.

    • mpower6428

      “precarious allies” you could have just said “dictatorships”, brutal ones. like saudi arabia.

    • Matt

      No only are the Iranian F-14 air frames and avionics vastly out dated compared to USN Super Hornets, Iranian pilots also have much less air time and combat experience than their American counterparts.

      • Riceball

        Not to mention that they’re almost certainly not in first rate operating condition. Tomcats in US service were known as maintenance hogs requiring a lot of time being serviced, now imagine trying to keep a bunch of Tomcats flying without a steady supply of spares and no access to Northrop/Grumman engineers when something goes wrong and you don’t know what to do.

    • Anthony Kiggins

      After years flying both the U.S. Navy’s F-14 and FA-18, I can say without reservation that the Iranian F-14A’s would pose no threat the the U.S. Navy/Marine Corps FA-18’s.

  • cozine

    “Template of their own design” – you mean the twin tailfin F-5s?

  • Lance

    Makes me miss the Tomcat. The F-14D and proposed F-14F had got ride of all the problems of the old A models in engines troubles. The F-14 could kick a F-18s but most of the time. Too bad politics killed them.

    Hate to admit the F-14 looks awesome in Desert camo just as it did in the grey yellow and back of the old VF-84 Jolly Rogers squadron.

  • Nicky

    So this proves the point of so many Aces that this planet has, that no matter the type of plane, It all boils down to the skill of the Fighter pilot. You can have a very high tech fighter, but have a crappy pilot vs having a very crappy fighter and a very skilled pilot. It just boils down to how good is your fighter pilots. Judging by how the Iranians fly and fight in the air, I doubt they would not be a match for any western Fighter pilot, who is a graduate of Either Top Gun school or Red Flag or maple flag. Even though the Iranians have F-14’s, we have pilots that are experienced enough to take them down in one swipe.

  • Matt Holzmann

    We’re talking aircraft that are at a minimum 25-30 years old at this point which have been poorly maintained. I would think hitting afterburner on either type would result in either one of those little farts we used to see in the cartoons or complete immolation.

    Flying them in combat is a great way to meet Allah and their 72 virgins. Poor maintenance, no parts, and limited flying time does not bode well for the IAF.

  • david h

    We’ll see F-15’s posing with Flankers before the next decade is over…

  • blight

    Quick Q:

    Are these F-14’s at Esfahan airport? (Khatami Air Base, built once the Shah received F-14’s),51.861111

    • ABH1 (ret)

      Very close, but I dont think so, the shaow’s dont help with a good ID but something is off a little. wish the pic was a little clearer.

  • Sanem

    on IAF vs USN

    throwing outdated fighters at the world’s most powerful air force would be stupid beyond reason

    if Iran tries something they’ll probably round up Saudi hostages, put them in an airliner, and use it as a human shield
    – shoot, and you kill the hostages and anger Saudi Arabia
    – don’t shoot, and those outdated aircraft can launch all the missiles they want at stand off ranges, or even get close enough to the carriers

    this is the age of insurgent tactics, we better start adapting to it, rather than assume the enemy will try to fight a battle they know they’ll never win

  • blight

    It would have been interesting if the Iranians had gotten their hands on blackbirds. Considering the costs on our end maintaining them and all.

    We’d probably still have our Blackbirds if they still had weaponized ones, or we would have developed missiles fast enough to take down Iranian A-12’s. Nothing like the other guy having really fancy hardware to motivate weapons development.

  • Benjamin

    It would be interesting to see how our tactics would be used in the bvr arena in regards to an AIM-54 launch from one of these Tomcats. More interesting if the Iranians were capable of doing any modifications without us knowing.

    In the end I still think it would be beat

  • mamba

    Raptor was there… sneakskie like.

  • Dave G
  • lilJonny

    here we come WW3…

  • Woody

    If the Military needs F-14’s we have still have hundreds of them, just go to Tucson and drive around the boneyard. Row upon row of mothballed F-14’s among hundreds of other outdated types of the older model F-18’s, F-111’s, A-6’s, F-4’s, F-15’s, A-10’s, B-52’s etc etc etc….just waiting for maybe China to do something stupid…

  • blight

    While looking for more information on the F-14’s, found something interesting, from a website about the Shah-era air force.….

  • crackedlenses

    But if the Iranians are desperate enough……

  • tiger

    Hey how about those F-4’s? Who in St. Louis would have though the Phantom II would still be a combat plane in 2012 back in the day? The F-4 is like the B-52 of the fighter world. I know Japan, Israel, Greece & Iran have them. Any other users still?

  • Quicksaber

    All we have to do would just start flying missions near there air space and make them send up the planes and just have them chase us around for a while and place stress on the planes and crew and eat up the man power and spare parts. It will get to a point where they have to stop flying them just to keep them ready if we ever attack and by the time they figure out it is a real attack they will be sitting on the run way burning or they so far behind on the power curve we will be in and out before they are a threat. Just my 2 cents

  • Gringo Infidel

    Note that only 3 Iranian Tom’s and 2 Iranian Phantoms are shown – perhaps the extent of all they have left that are ‘flyable.’ Certainly less than full mission capable.

    Mostly Iran flies F-5’s and Ex-Sov designed hand-me-downs from China.

    Either way – all good missile bait.

  • TopgunGrad1986

    It doesnt take much to look up what Iran has in their inventory. Janes has pretty good estimates.
    25 of 44 F14s
    10 Mirage F1s (actually stolen from Iraq during Desert Storm)
    25 Mig29s
    65 F4s
    75 F5s
    5 Saeqehs (Iranian twin tail F5) with plans to build 24.
    The F4s are being phased out

  • warchild

    Ahhhhhh yesssss to see those war-birds is so surreal that I forgot that the F-4 was replaced by the F-14. Those Russian birds would leave them behind if they weren’t ordered to take it easy on those old veterans. And the Antronov cargo beast is beyond belief what a monster!

  • Davyd

    That really is an awesome sight. Especially since the US retired their Tomcats. I really believe that the F-14s that Iran owns are not as bad off as we are led to believe. Especially with modern espionage the way it is.

  • Wojo

    Thanks for the sanity!

  • aholt

    why are they escorting a russian airshow team?

  • tiger

    Those Sukhoi SU -27’s are neat looking birds. I’m so tired of grey airplanes.