The F-14 is equipped with eight external stores stations: stations 1A and 8A are the upper pylon stations, and are capable of carrying AIM-9 missiles; stations 1B and 8B are the bottom pylon stations, and can carry AIM-7, AIM-9, AIM-54 missiles, or LANTIRN pods. In addition to some ground attack ordnance; station 2 and 7 are located on the air intake trunks, and can carry external fuel tanks only; stations 3, 4. 5, and 6 are on the bottom of the fuselage and can carry AIM-7 or AIM-54 missiles, and a variety of ground attack ordnance. It should be noted that the references to stations are logical rather than physical, and refer to the wiring and switch positions used to interface to weapons. This is particularly true of stations 3, 4, 5, and 6, where the physical location can vary depending upon the store that is carried.
Hydraulic rams are fitted at the fuselage Sparrow stations to ensure the missiles separate cleanly. An AIM-120A can replace any of the wing-mounted AIM-7 and AIM-9s on F-14DS only. Station No. 5 is used to carry the TARPS reconnaissance pod on aircraft so capable.
Fixed armament consists of one General Electric M61A1 20mm Vulcan rotary cannon in the port side of the forward fuselage. On F-14As prior to Block 85 , the gun gas purge vents consisted of seven grills on the top, bottom, and back of the nozzle blister. Effective with Block 135, these were replaced by two larger grills, providing roughly the same area and shape. Many of the earlier aircraft have received the new grills as the aircraft have gone through depot level maintenance.
Beginning with the first F-14B, a new gun gas purge system was incorporated, externally evidenced by three flush NACA ducts around the nozzle blister, and a vent on the blister immediately aft of the nozzle blister.
The first version of the Sparrow III to be used by the F-14A was the AlM-7E-2, which had been developed during the latter stages of the Vietnam war. The A1M-7P is usually carried in pairs on the bottom rail of the wing glove pylons of the Tomcat, but up to four additional Sparrows can be carried semi-recessed in slots underneath the belly. After Sparrow missile launch, the F-14 must continue to illuminate the target with its radar in order for the missile to home in for a kill. For the F-14, this means staying within a 65-degree cone so that the antenna of the AN/AWG-9 will be able to follow the target.
The F-14 can carry four AIM-9 Sidewinders (two on each wing glove pylon), but the usual load is two, mounted one each on outboard shoulder pylons attached to the fixed wing glove section. Early F-14As carried the AIM-9J, which was the first major post-Vietnam improvement of the Sidewinder missile – AIM-9G.
A maximum of six Phoenix missiles may be carried by all models of the F-14. The F-14 can also carry an ATM-54A captive flight training missile (CFTM) which is identical to the AII^-54 in appearance and weight. CFTMs consist of functional guidance and control sections and Inert armament and propulsion sections. The CFTMs are easily identified by the blue bands around the war head and propulsion sections, signifying the inert status of those components.
In January 1989, two F-14s from the USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) were patrolling over the Mediterranean when two Libyan MiG-23 ‘Floggers’ closed on them. After several attempts to discourage combat, the lead F-14 fired two Sparrows which missed because the missiles wouldn’t hold lock. The second F-14 downed one of the MiGs with a Sparrow while the lead F-14 downed the second MiG with an AIM-9 Sidewinder.
During 1980-81, a total of 65 F-14s were allocated to carry the tactical air reconnaissance pod system (TARPS), containing a KS-87B frame camera, KA-99 low altitude panoramic camera, and AN/AAD-5A infrared reconnaissance equipment in a special pod that attaches to the aft left AlM-54 fuselage station. The pod is 17.3 feet long and weighs 1,825 pounds. It is attached to the aircraft by an integral adapter that provides the pod with sensor control signals, data annotation signals, electrical power, and environmental systems support from the aircraft. The pod is carried on the #5 station, and is not jettisonable. All F-14Ds are equipped to carry TARPS.
To accommodate a variety of weapons, a system of pre-loaded weapon rails was devised. By attaching the ordnance to a rail, then attaching the loaded rail to the aircraft, weapon loading time is greatly reduced. Individual rails can carry either a Phoenix missile or a 30-inch bomb rack, and a built-in hoist mechanism within the hardpoint lifts the rail into place. Air-to-ground armament can include ten Mk 82 500 pound bombs, plus two AIM-9s for self defense. The F-14 can also carry Mk 83 1,000 pound and Mk 84 2,000 pound bombs. Various other combinations, including two Mk 84s on the rear fuselage stations and two AlM-54s on the forward fuselage stations, are also possible. VF-122 dropped the first bombs from a Fleet Tomcat on 8th August 1990 during a training exercise.
The addition of LANTIRN targeting pods to the F-14 in mid-1996 also added the capability to use precision-guided munitions such as the GBU-12 and GBU-16. A typical strike load includes two GBU-16s on the forward fuselage stations, two AIM-9s. and one AIM-54 and one AIM-7 on the bottom pylon stations. The GBU-16s are generally released towards their targets while the F-14 is flying at approximately 450 knots and 11,000 feet.
On the other end of the spectrum is the 5-inch Zuni unguided rocket. A four-rocket pod can be mounted on stations 1B and 8B (bottom wing pylon station on each side). The pod is mounted to the pylon using the same adapter developed for the LANTIRN pod. Existing Sidewinder missile-launch pulses from the AN/AWG-15 weapons control system are used for firing single rockets. The use of Zuni’s allows the F-14B to be used in the FAC-A (forward air controller – airborne) role.
The F-14 is also capable of using Catseye Night Vision Goggles in conjunction with both the IRST and LANTIRN systems.