Last of the Grumman Cats: The F-14 Tomcat

Part 1: The Early Years

By Chris Banyai-Riepl

The F-14 Tomcat came about at the beginning of the 1970s as an all-around fighter and interceptor. Incorporating a swing-wing and a very powerful radar-missile duo of the AWG-9 and AIM-54, the Tomcat proved that it could more than handle itself in combat, first with Libya, and later over the Gulf.

The F-14 has carried a wide variety of markings throughout its career, and depicted here are some of the early schemes before everything went gray and dreary.

F-14A 157983
NMC, Pt. Mugu

This F-14 was used by the NMC to test the missile systems of the AWG-9 and AIM-52 Phoenix. It is finished in the typical early scheme of Gull Gray over white. All of the flying surfaces are painted white. The nose is white, with a radome tan front.

F-14A 159862
VF-114 'Aardvarks'
NAS Miramar/USS Kitty Hawk

Mirimar has been called Fightertown, USA, and with a name like that the F-14 was right at home there. VF-114 decked its Tomcats out with orange and black colors, with a diagonal stripe on the front fuselage, the lower fin orage outlined in black, and an orange aardvark on the tail. The camouflage of Gull Gray over white extends out onto the radome.

F-14A 159344
VF-143 'Pukin' Dogs'
NAS Miramar/USS America

Another Miramar Tomcat, this one from VF-143 is the Squadron commander's bird, as can be seen from the multi-colored tail plumage. The odd winged animal on the tail most likely has some Greco-Roman heritage, but someone thought it looked like a vomiting canine, and the name "Pukin' Dogs" was here to stay.

F-14A 159859
NAS Miramar/USS Kitty Hawk

Not as flamboyant in their markings as some of the other F-14 squadrons out there, VF-213 has its own unique way of standing out from the crowd. The squadron mascot of a lion can be seen on the tail of this Tomcat, and like the F-14, the lion is sporting two tails....

F-14A 159017
VF-14 'Tophatters'
NAS Oceania/USS John F. Kennedy

The beginning of the end. Before the true low-viz schemes came to being, the Navy adopted an overall Gull Gray scheme, with diluted unit markings. This example from VF-14 shows this off well, with only a hint of red on the tail and bottom fin, and a small top hat on the tail.

VF-33 'Tarsiers'
NAS Oceania

Low viz meets high viz. A subdued F-14 in overall Gull Gray with gray insignia is offset by the black spine and tail and the yellow lightning bolt down the fuselage side. The yellow markings on the black tail really stand out and turn this otherwise drab bird into a very striking plane.

This particular profile can be seen on the back of Revell-Monogram's Snap-Tite F-14 kit.

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