Home » F-14 test pilot recalls when his Tomcat was scorched after a Mach 2+ test sortie

F-14 test pilot recalls when his Tomcat was scorched after a Mach 2+ test sortie

by Till Daisd
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The F-14 Tomcat

In the 1986 movie “Top Gun,” the F-14 Tomcat had a key part. The Navy required an aircraft to defend its surface fleets from hostile aircraft and long-range anti-ship missiles. The Air Force’s F-111 fighter bomber’s naval version was not suitable for aircraft carrier operations, so its radar and long-range AIM-54 Phoenix air intercept missile systems were moved to a completely new design, the F-14, which could engage multiple enemies over a distance of 90 miles.

Because this heavy weaponry required an interceptor to move quickly, Grumman created the F-14’s extremely efficient variable-sweep wing, which allowed the aircraft to fly at a range of air speeds.

Mach 2+ test sortie

Doyle Borchers, a former US Navy F-14 test pilot, recalls on Quora an exhilarating Mach 2+ test sortie flown in a Tomcat.

‘I was a Navy Test Pilot on the F-14A project, so I got lots of supersonic time in the Tomcat. When I commanded an F-14 squadron on a test flight, I took a new Radar Intercept Officer supersonic for his first time. It was a neat thing to go Mach 2 also.

‘The F-14 was limited to about 1.7 indicated Mach. The Mach meter got squirrely in that region. The airframe was limited to a much higher true Mach. I looked up the meteorology info for that morning and checked out the temperature at 45000 feet. (True Mach is a function of air temperature).

F-14 Tomcat scorched after a Mach 2+ test sortie

‘Anyway, I saw that if I got us to 1.72 indicated Mach that morning, we would exceed a true Mach 2 at that altitude. So, we launched and got to altitude and lit the burners, and accelerated to 1.72 indicated Mach. Mission accomplished.’

Borchers concludes;

‘We landed and as I was taxiing into the line the plane captain seemed excited. I got out and post flighted the airplane. The whole rear end of the airplane was scorched. Got in to debrief and rechecked the air temp at 45K and metro had screwed up. At the temp that we actually flew at, we must have exceeded Mach 2 considerably since the epoxy paint on the airplane was designed to withstand temperatures up to 2.4M.’

Photo by Dave “Bio” Baranek

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