Maverick's Favorite Fighter Jet Is Getting Its Own Monument

Nov 17, 2020

Off the waist catapults, launches an F-14B Tomcat assigned to Fighter Squadron THREE TWO (VF-32), (Swordsmen,) during flight operations onboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), on Dec. 26, 2004. (Philip V. Morrill/U.S. Navy)
Off the waist catapults, launches an F-14B Tomcat assigned to Fighter Squadron THREE TWO (VF-32), (Swordsmen,) during flight operations onboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), on Dec. 26, 2004. (Philip V. Morrill/U.S. Navy)

The F-14 Tomcat Monument Association unveiled a paneled monument at the National Naval Aviation Museum, dedicated to 68 service members who died flying the famed aircraft.

Military.com | By Oriana Pawlyk

A new monument dedicated to the U.S. Navy's F-14 Tomcat fighter, made famous by the movie "Top Gun," will be unveiled in Pensacola, Florida, on Wednesday.

The F-14 Tomcat Monument Association will debut a paneled monument at the National Naval Aviation Museum, dedicated to 68 service members who died flying the famed aircraft, according to a news release. The monument, which features laser-etched storyboard panels displaying the Tomcat in action, also honors the maintenance crews who kept the F-14 flying for more than 30 years.

"This new monument will enhance the display of what is not only an iconic aircraft in the history of naval aviation, but an iconic spot on our campus," said Sterling Gilliam, the museum director and a retired Navy captain, in the release. The presentation comes just a few weeks shy of the 50th anniversary of the F-14's maiden flight on Dec. 21, 1970.

The F-14 monument is one of three the association has created. In June, the nonprofit group dedicated the first obelisk-shaped memorial in Virginia Beach's Naval Aviation Monument Park. The third is planned for San Diego, home of the Navy's "Top Gun" Fighter Weapons School.

The featured jet -- converted from an A to D model in the early 1990s -- flew its first combat missions over Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom and its last 224 combat sorties over Iraq before Strike Fighter Squadron 213 of Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia, turned it over to the museum, according to a museum factsheet.

While the F-14 was manufactured to fill a gap created by the Navy's ill-fated F-111B program, a carrier-based offshoot of the Air Force's F-111A Aardvark, it soon became the face of naval aviation. It was an all-weather, variable swept-wing, twin-engine fighter with a strike range of up to 100 miles from its target -- thanks to its AIM-54 Phoenix long-range, air-to-air missiles.

"At peak employment, 30 Navy squadrons operated F-14s," according to the museum. The Tomcat also briefly flew security patrols over Vietnam.

The F-14 gained public prominence in 1986, when actor Tom Cruise portrayed Lt. Pete Mitchell, call sign "Maverick," piloting the aircraft in nail-biting aerial dogfights on the silver screen in "Top Gun."

The F-14 association, which has worked on the monument project for more than two years, is made up of former aircrew, maintainers, civil servants, contractors, and those who "just plain love the F-14 aircraft," according to its website.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

2 Comments

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Riley Sanders

Good to see the WINGSPAN magazine has survived a long drought .
As the Volunteer Captain of 14 years of service 2000-2014,
that gave the WINGSPAN Magazine its name in June 2001 , would be a nice courtesy that my name be added to the mailing list. Very nice Magazine. Riley Sanders

Blake Williams

As an air traffic controller on the USS NIMITZ CVN68 we saw the transition from the F4 to the F14. What a pleasure it was to work an aircraft with a slower approach speed. I was on board watching the TV centerline flight deck camera the night when an F14 hit the round down at the rear of the carrier and broke in half ejecting both crew members. One landed in the water and the other on the flight deck. Luckily both the pilot and RIO survived, but the broken F14 slid across the flight deck and into the ocean. I think the video I was watching is still on You Tube.

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