The darling of a whole generation of aviation buffs who grew up watching Top Gun, the Tomcat was a big, sleek machine designed to provide an umbrella against air attack for the USN's carrier groups, a role apparently deemed no longer important in today's post-transformation military. The USA Today article linked above made a statement I found annoying, however:
Although still swift and deadly, the F-14 is a victim of changing times. For example:This isn't quite true. While the Tomcat is indeed a respected dogfighter, its whole reason for being is as a launch platform for the AIM-54 Phoenix; a Beyond-Visual-Range AAM that can swat a bomber, and its load of ship-killing cruise missiles, out of the sky from 100 miles away. The Phoenix isn't a weapon that can just be duct-taped to the underside of any old plane, either; it requires a specialized radar that lives in the nose of the F-14 for target acquisition.
· Sophisticated missiles have made its specialty, aerial dogfighting, obsolete. Opposing aircraft target each other from miles away, often before the pilots can see each other except on radar.
If we're never going to face another opponent with cruise missile-toting bombers, then the F/A-18 Super Hornet can do everything the Tomcat can, and do it better. If, however, protection of our super-expensive CVN's from long-range aerial threats is still a priority, then the Tomcat will be missed. At least during the height of the Vietnam War, when COIN (COunter INsurgency) was the buzzword on everone's lips, we had the Russkies staring at us across the Fulda Gap to keep us honest...