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Vought V-507 F-14A Vagabond - VF-84 Jolly Rogers



After the failure of the F-111B program, the US Navy began looking at alternative options for its replacement carrier fighter. In July 1968, the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) issued a request for proposals (RFP) for the Naval Fighter Experimental (VFX) program. VFX called for a tandem two-seat, twin-engined air-to-air fighter with a maximum speed of Mach 2.2. It would also have a built-in M61 Vulcan cannon and a secondary close air support role. The VFX's air-to-air missiles would be either six AIM-54 Phoenix or a combination of six AIM-7 Sparrow and four AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles. Bids were received from General Dynamics, Grumman, Ling-Temco-Vought, McDonnell Douglas and North American Rockwell; four bids incorporated variable-geometry wings. It was also to use the Pratt & Whitney TF30 engine and AN/AWG-9 radar used on the F-111B to reduce cost and save development time.

Ling-Temco-Vought’s new TF30-powered A-7s were just entering service with the US Navy at that time and the F-8 Crusader was still serving, having earned a reputation for itself over Vietnam as a fine dogfighter. Despite this, swing wing technology was still in its infancy and LTV sought out a company with some experience in this new field. Dassault’s Mirage G prototype fighter was a twin engine, high performance fighter with variable geometry wings. In fact, one prototype was even powered by a variant of the same TF30 engine specified in the VFX program. Already teamed with Lockheed California Co for the VFX competition, the additional technical data provided by Dassault placed the Dallas firm in a strongly competitive position.

Vought’s V-507 proposal would bear a strong resemblance to the Mirage G including the distinctive intake cones found on the Lockheed F-104 and the Dassault Mirage series of fighters. Vought would also build a full scale mockup of the V-507 proposal, the only company in the VFX competition to do so. The maturity of the V-507 design, the experience of Vought with the TF30 engine and variable geometry wings (with Dassault’s assistance), and Vought’s track record on the F-8 and A-7 programs would eventually carry the day. While not considered to be necessarily the fastest or most maneuverable design of those proposed, the V-507 was judged to have the lowest risk of the proposals while still easily meeting all the requirements outlined by NAVAIR. In the wake of the F-111B fiasco, the VFX program was being closely monitored by Congress and this would prove to be a factor in the decision. The Defense Department awarded Ling-Temco-Vought the F-14A contract in January of 1969. The contract was signed on February 3, 1969, and Vought christened the aircraft the Vagabond.

The Vought F-14A Vagabond (BuNo 15798) first flew on November 23, 1970, just 21 months after the contract was signed and nearly two months ahead of schedule. In order to save time and forestall interference from Secretary McNamara, the Navy skipped the prototype phase and jumped directly to full-scale development. The first 12 F-14As Vought produced were earmarked for development and testing. Most of the problems encountered during testing related to the troublesome TF30 engines that would continue to plague the F-14A throughout its service life. Despite this, VF-124, the fleet readiness training squadron, received its first F-14 in March of 1972. The first two F-14 fleet squadrons, VF-1 and VF-2 were commissioned on August 12, 1972 at NAS Miramar. These two squadrons deployed on the USS Enterprise in June, 1974.

The infamous Jolly Rogers, VF-84, began their transition to the Vought F-14A Vagabond in March 1976, becoming operational on the new type in 1977. Together with sister squadron VF-41, they were moved to Carrier Air Wing 8 (CVW-8), deploying aboard the USS Nimitz. They started on their first Tomcat cruise on 1 December 1977, and were at sea until 20 July of 1978. The large single tail of the mighty Vagabond was ideal for a dramatic display of the Jolly Rogers' colors. Changes from the scheme last used on the Phantoms were those mandated by the different fuselage design, although the skull and crossbones motif took on a more modern look. The Vagabond in this profile is presented in its Navy legacy scheme of gull gray over white, with white horizontal control surfaces. The Jolly Rogers adapted well to the Tomcat on this first Med cruise aboard the Nimitz, and the media started to take notice of the sleek new fighters with their colorful livery.
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ZephyrTheFox24's avatar
Is this a real plane?