On January 15, 1969, Grumman announced that it had been selected as winner of the design competition for a carrier-based fighter aircraft for the United States Navy. During the competitive phase of the programme the aircraft was designated as the VFX, after which is was renamed as the F-14. The first aircraft, the F-14A Tomcat, took of for the first time on December 21, 1970. Unfortunately the aircraft was lost in a non-fatal accident later the next year, and flight testing was resumed on May 24, 1971 with the second aircraft.
The F-14 is designed to fulfil three primary missions. The first of these involves clearing contested airpsace of enemy fighters and protecting the strike force. The second mission is to defend carrier task forces via combat air patrol (CAP) and deck launched intercept (DLI) operations. The third role of the F-14 is the secondary attack of tactical targets on the ground, supported by electronic countermeasures and fighter escort.
The F-14 is configured with variable-geometry wings, small foreplanes (glove vanes) which are extended automatically at supersonic speeds to control centre-of-pressure shift, manoeuvring slats and flaps to create a lower effective wing loading, and twin outward-canted fins and rudders. The wings are swept to an optimum angle automatically by a Mach sweep programmer, which relates sweep to Mach number and altitude.
Carrier trials started in 1972 with initial deployment with the fleet beginning in October that same year. By early 1982, the US Navy received a total of 420 F-14A's with 27 more being scheduled for delivery during the remainder of the year.
During 1979, the United States Navy awarded the Northrop Corporation a $4 million contract to manufacture pre-production television camera sets (TCSs) for installation on F-14 aircraft. The TCS, developed by Northrop's Electro-Mechanical Division, is a closed-circuit TV system, offering both wide-angle and telescopic fields of view. It is mounted beneath the nose of the F-14 and automatically searches for, acquires and locks on to distant targets, displaying them on monitors for the pilot and flight officer.