The Grumman F-14 Tomcat is a two-seat carrier-based multi-role fighter that incorporated a number of advanced design features including a variable-geometry wing, an advanced fire control system, and excellent performance for its primary role of fleet air defense and adequate for its secondary air-to-ground mission. Its primary construction materials are aluminum and titanium, with limited use of boron composites and steel.
Controversy followed the F-14 during its history. The crash of the first prototype on its second flight dealt a public relations setback to the program, although it actually had little real effect on the flight test series. Being the recipient of the last DoD large-scale fixed-price development contract guaranteed that cost overruns would haunt the Tomcat during the inflation plagued 1970s, almost forcing Grumman into bankruptcy. A government backed loan was seen as ‘bailing out big business’ and ended up being cancelled. A deal between cash-strapped Grumman and an Iranian bank exploded in the press, causing embarrassment for everybody.
Congress began to take several long looks at both the F-14 and F-15 programs during 1971 with the goal of eliminating one of them to save money. The aircraft were compared against each other and also against the Soviet MIG-25. Admiral Thomas Moore, Chief of Naval Operations and General John P. McConnell, Air Force Chief of Staff, agreed to present a unified view to Congress that the two aircraft were designed for different missions (fleet defense versus air-superiority). Nevertheless, several alternatives to the F-14 and F-15 were proposed, including acceptance of one type by both services, or limited procurement of each, augmented by purchases of cheaper, less capable, lightweight fighters. This eventually led to the design and flight testing of the YF-16/YF-17 prototypes, and the ultimate procurement of the F-16 by the Air Force and the F/A-18 (derived from the YF-17) by the Navy.
A compromise was finally reached in March 1973 where Grumman would produce 134 aircraft under the original contract, at a loss of some $220 million. The Navy would then negotiate prices on a yearly basis. However, Grumman was still unable to secure commercial financing to make up the shortfall, so the Navy ‘advanced’ Grumman the money under an ‘advance payment agreement’ with a somewhat reluctant agreement from Congress. With the financing provided by the advance payment agreement, Grumman was able to complete its contractual obligations.
The first of the new F-14 contracts was negotiated in August 1973 (FY74) and contained a basic requirement for the continuation of the advance payment agreement consistent with the terms of the March settlement. The contract was signed by both parties In September 1973 and provided that it would become effective only if the Authorization and Appropriations Acts were passed without any restrictions inconsistent with the contract terms. The FY74 request for an increased limit (from $54 to $100 million) in the advance payment agreement was submitted for review and approved by both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees. Subsequently, on 3rd July 1974. the House Armed Services Committee held hearings and indicated that the proposed increase was acceptable. On 24th July, the Senate Tactical Air Power Subcommittee conducted similar hearings and suggested further changes in the advance payment agreement that would increase the Interest rate, permit loan repayments on a daily basis, and establish more stringent controls regarding the use of funds. These changes were agreed to by Grumman and incorporated info the contract.