Tomcat Users

Besides Iran, six foreign countries were initial­ly briefed on the F-14, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Japan opting Instead for the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle; while Australia, Canada, and Spain decided on the McDonnell Douglas/Northrop F/A-18 Hornet. The major reason for the decisions was cost, both of ini­tial procurement, and the recurring mainte­nance and training expenses to properly care for such a complex weapons system.

 The British Royal Air Force (RAF) was briefed on the F-14 as a potential replacement for the Tornado Air Defense Variant (ADV – then called the Tornado F.2) during 1976. The RAF received the briefing along with ones regarding the F-15 and F-16, and concluded that only the F-14 truly met the service’s needs for a long range interceptor.  The decision went to the Tornado based as much on cost and national pride as anything else, the F-14 being over twice the expected cost of the Tornado. In the late 1970s the issue was raised again as Tornado development lagged, and possible costs savings might have come from purchas­ing used US Navy F-14As, or even purchasing non-flyable aircraft from Iran and refurbishing them. Since the Tornado was, in theory, only a few years away, the issue was again dropped. The RAF lived to regret not purchasing the Tomcat since the Tornado continued to fall behind its development schedule and ended up being many millions of dollars more expen­sive than projected. Instead of a fleet of new F-14s, the RAF ended up with some surplus McDonnell Douglas F-4J Phantom IIs until the Tornado finally became operational in late 1986, seven years after its full-scale develop­ment had been initiated.

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