It's just so sad to see the majority of the population never realize just who was responsible for it's demise, and how it never should have been able to happen. Cheney had an axe to grind and to this day he has never been held accountable for the cancellation of a program that was funded and approved by Congress, wanted by the US Navy, and in full rate production. My question still remains: how could one guy named DICK get away with going against so many checks and balances and how could the Super Hornet mafia get away with bypassing Congressional approval for the entirely new platform?
The F-14 will forever be known as the greatest plane that never really was.
F-14s' symbolic last flight prematurely ends Grumman years of building, designing and flying warplanes
BY KATURIA D'AMATO
Katuria D'Amato is a trustee of the American Airpower Museum at Republic Airport in Farmingdale
June 13, 2006
On Thursday, two Grumman F-14 Tomcats will take their final victory lap across the skies of Long Island, where they were conceived and built, landing at the American Airpower Museum at Republic Airport in East Farmingdale, so that the public may inspect these aircraft one last time.
F-14s will leave America's arsenal as iconic aircraft that not only defended our fleet during the height of the Cold War but changed aerial warfare by being able to use their sophisticated radar to kill a half-dozen enemy targets at once.
With its huge swing wings and angular fuselage, the F-14 became the poster child of what a lethal supersonic fighter should look like. Its starring role in the Hollywood movie "Top Gun" only added to its popularity. Now, after decades of accolades, the Tomcat is being retired from service.
There was a time when the Tomcat defined Long Island. Some 8,000 Long Islanders worked directly on the aircraft, and thousands more supplied various subcomponents. Everyone knew someone who was involved with Grumman Aerospace Corp., which was manufacturing not only the F-14 but its aircraft carrier "stablemate," the A-6 Intruder bomber. Military acceptance tests were regularly flown off Long Island's coast, bringing a knowing look to those whose windows would rattle from the sound of the engines at full throttle.
When virtually every other Long Island aircraft manufacturing company had closed its doors in the early 1980s, Grumman soldiered on, putting the region's considerable intellectual capacity to work on behalf of the nation's defense. It was a rock-solid base for the region's economy, and any number of families had a third-generation member working at Grumman.
Then, the world fell in about 1990. The F-14 became the victim of a Washington ambush launched by now long-retired Pentagon brass and congressional critics. Embarrassed over the debacle of a failed stealth fighter design built by a Grumman competitor, Congress decided to build a Super Hornet F-18 rather than upgrade the clearly capable Tomcat.
The F-18 didn't have the range of the Tomcat. It couldn't launch half a dozen missiles at once to protect against Soviet bombers. It didn't have the endurance to fly patrols keeping enemy aircraft far from our carriers. In short, it was barely half a Tomcat.
A filibuster, led by then-Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, now my husband, sought to derail the strategy of killing Long Island's Tomcat production. In the end, there was a compromise extending Tomcat production for a year but effectively preordaining the aircraft's premature retirement.
Like other companies dealing with a cutback in defense spending, Grumman needed to merge; in 1994 it joined with the capable Northrop Corp. Manufacturing of the F-14 was halted, and Grumman was told to shut down the A-6 production line at Calverton as well. With that announcement, the final curtain came down on aircraft manufacturing in the region after nearly 75 continuous years of Long Islanders designing, building and flying fighters and bombers. The legacy was enormous, but so was the loss.
Without a manufacturing base to generate the repair kits needed to keep the Tomcat flying, their last carrier tour has been completed, and the remaining 22 F-14s left flying are heading for museums or the scrap yard. Curiously, the last days of this incredible plane come at a time when emerging military powers are beginning to flex their muscles on the Asian mainland, and few can predict where the next nuclear threat will come from.
Although profoundly changed, the Island's defense industry didn't disappear altogether with the loss of the F-14. Today there is a score of firms manufacturing hardware for the large defense companies. Northrop Grumman still has a presence in Bethpage, and its engineers are credited with being some of the most creative in the industry, producing electronics critical to a new generation of aircraft. Yet, more than a decade after the Tomcat's fate was decreed, Americans have an obligation to hear and heed the lessons of Long Island's enormously successful F-14 and how congressional action can destroy an effective weapons system. If they do, they may also want to ask whether the Tomcats now being sent to museums can still be returned to flight.
Copyright 2006 Newsday Inc.
[Edited 2006-06-25 05:23:17]