Erusea remains as one of the largest operators of the F-14, with variants operated both by the Navy and Air Force. The bulk of the these aircraft are more than two hundred elderly F-14A models which have been slowly replaced or upgraded to F-14B and D standard since the 1980’s. Despite this modernization effort, FEAF and FEN Tomcats lagged behind the technology curve of their contemporaries. This was proved true after considerable losses during the debacle of the Continental War. With a less than stellar combat record and high attrition, the situation for Erusea’s F-14 community seemed dire. The withdrawal of the aging fleet was planned to start in 2008.
However, a proposal for a substantially upgraded version of the Tomcat was one of the incidental results of the Wyvern Project. The Erusean Air and Space Administration (EASA), saw the potential of integrating some of the X-02’s new technology and systems into an existing airframe. In an attempt to keep the Cats in front line service, EASA’s proposal was to modernize the remaining F-14 fleet under new specifications. By all accounts, the upgrade project would incorporate the new technology and design know-how from the Wyvern. Support from the Erusean Government and Tomcat community was considerable and the go-ahead was given shortly after.
Dubbed, the F-14ER, (ER stands for Erusea) this indigenous upgrade aimed to keep the Erusean Tomcats competitive for the foreseeable future. It is essentially a rebuild of the entire airframe with most major structures replaced with lighter composite materials. It offered a reshaped wing glove for enhanced supersonic and dogfighting capability. A newer and lighter canopy was also introduced, improving visibility. Additional modifications were also made in various parts of the airframe, with revised panels, reshaped flaps and other aerodynamic improvements. The type’s avionics (based from the X-02) were also upgraded accordingly, with a modern glass cockpit, an upgraded APG-71 and an integrated FLIR system. The engines were replaced by a variant of the Halberd ST-160N Engine. It provides thrust vectoring and supercruise capability. Later blocks of the F-14ER received AESA Radar, which is now standard in the upgrade.
Over ninety airframes have been converted to ER standard with more to follow in the next several years. Despite the relatively high cost of the upgrade, it is considerably less when compared to a single new-build X-02.