June 27, 2019

Death Match: U.S. Navy F-14 Tomcat vs. Air Force F-15 Eagle (Who Wins)?
Having spent his entire career flying USAF F-15Cs in Europe, Robert “Scout” Winebrenner never flew the Tomcat but during the 1980s he had the opportunity to fly Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT) with 6th Fleet F-14s in the Mediterranean.As he explains in Issue 13 “Grumman F-14 Tomcat” of Aviation Classics magazine, innumerable discussions have been made about which was the better fighter, but although both the aircraft replaced the F-4 Phantom, the F-15 and the F-14 were built to satisfy totally different operational requirements, hence the two fighters could be more or less effective in the different missions they could have performed because of their respective strength and limitations.For instance, the F-14 was the best aircraft to defend U.S. Navy aircraft carriers against a multiple target engagement. In fact thanks to its beyond visual range (BVR) capabilities and assisted by E-2C Hawkeyes, the Tomcat could inflict severe losses to an incoming enemy bombers formation. In fact, in comparing BVR performance, the Tomcat’s AWG-9 had true multiple target track and multiple target engagement with the AIM-54 Phoenix, while the Eagle did not gain a multiple target engagement capability until the late 1980s with the introduction of the AIM-120 AMRAAM. Moreover, as told by Scout, the AIM-7 Sparrow didn’t possess the range of the Phoenix and the Eagle could only get one or two shots before the merge. So, due to the lack of multiple target engagement capability, the Eagle was not effective in this role.By contrast, the constant mixing of friendly and enemy aircraft typical of a Central European Defensive Counter-Air (DCA) would have rendered the Phoenix unusable in most of the engagements because of the dynamic environment faced by the fighters. Moreover, the agility deficit of the then TF-30 powered F-14 could have caused problems during the several dogfights that crews could have faced in such a complex scenario.Another role where the Tomcat could be very effective was a sweep mission were BVR missiles could be freely shot: this would be the case of a sweep ahead of a carrier-based attack package, a kind of mission where the F-14 would have been able to launch its AIM-54s without limitations due to the absence in the area of any friendly aircraft. Actually, the mission would have been also accomplished also in the case the enemy aircraft had left the area refusing to engage the Tomcats.



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