There will be no more dogfights for the Tomcat. The last two squadrons
of the sleek, Cold War fighter jet returned home from their final
deployment Friday, two decades after the warplanes were glamorized in
the 1986 Tom Cruise movie Top Gun.

All 22 Tomcats of fighter squadrons VF-213 and VF-31 arrived in
style, flying together in a wedge formation over Oceana Naval Air
Station as hundreds of sailors and their family and friends cheered.
Some wore T-shirts reading “Tomcats Forever” and a banner proclaimed,
“Last Fly-In, Baby!”

“We’re putting the premier fighter to sleep,” said pilot Lt. Jon
Jeck, 32, as he held his 3-year-old son Collin. “It’s a staple of

The Navy plans to replace the F-14, a two-seat fighter with moveable swept-back wings, with the F/A-18 Super Hornets.

The F-14 entered service in the early 1970s to defend aircraft carriers from Soviet bombers carrying long-range cruise missiles.

“If you want to think about airplanes that have defined the air age,
this would have to be on the short list,” military analyst John Pike

After the Cold War, the Navy became less concerned about defending
carrier groups and transformed the F-14 into a bomb-dropping fighter
jet, said Pike, director of, an Alexandria research
center on security issues.

“But it was not designed as a bomb hauler,” Pike said. “They would
rather have a new plane … than try to teach an old cat new tricks.”

The F-14 squadrons that returned Friday were from the aircraft
carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, which has been on a six-month
deployment for the Iraq war. The Roosevelt was to return Saturday to
nearby Norfolk Naval Station.


On the Net:

F-14 information:

Oceana Naval Air Station:

© 2006 The Associated Press