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Did the tomcat ever carry 6 phoenixes as a standard loadout?


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Going from memory, I think it was an unlikely load as the weight was a factor (for the boat). I don’t think it could bring back all six, and I don’t think jettisoning a few were an option as I believe it was close to $1M per missile?

Victory205 will know further, but I remember hearing this when I was serving. Although that was quite a few years ago.

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In the B, carrying 6PH+Sidewinders will get you above max trap weight, even with 0 Fuel. The A being a little lighter, you still get about 1500lbs of fuel to land with, which however gives you very little room to deviate from your fuel planning or doing bolters.

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From my understanding it was an acceptable War Load when you expected to be returning to the boat with those weapons expended with near 100% certainty... Think multiple waves of bombers firing vampires (anti ship missiles) at Mother (the boat)

 

It was more theoretical than a load out used in practice. Mainly because the hordes of bombers war the Tomcat was designed for never came to fruition. Of the bombers that were encountered, F-14s that generally were already on BARCAP patrols would be vectored to greet the inbound bombers or reconnaissance or maritime patrol or electronic warfare aircraft. The idea being shooting the archer lobbing the arrows in the air would in probability yield far more better results than trying to shoot the arrows (vampires) on their way to Mother or the rest of the battle group surface ships.

 

Now... with all that said, one of the major strengths of the Tomcat was its on CAP station loitering time, more so apparently with the F-110 engines which increased F-14 range. Carrying 6 AIM-54 missiles on the stations would not only increase weight but also drag and reduced stability at high AOA, in particular on the wing mount stations not so much the 4 tunnel stations beneath the fuselage. This would also reduce the on station loiter time, so if there was no immediate threat to be vectored to, the aircraft was required to loiter and having such a load is impractical.

 

furthermore, a common extended CAP load out for maximum loiter time was 4x AIM 9 and 4x AIM 7 in the tunnel under the fuselage. The Tomcat was intended fight the outer air battle in the fleet defense role some 100-300 nm away from the aircraft carrier depending on threats.

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Called the Doomsday loadout, for reasons well explained above.

 

Loadouts including phoenixes were usually limited to 2. 2x3x2 etc wasnt uncommon to my knowledge.

 

In DCS that's a different story ofc. DCS has naturally a tendency to create doomsday scenarios, not only regarding vampyres, but the general threat factor/ density. An online PvP server is doomsday 24/7... Many missions are, too. You encounter stuff most pilots never get to see in their entire lifetime, where daily routines rather consist of long hours of loitering at max fuel conserve speeds (read slow), intercepting aircraft and not so much shooting at stuff.

 

Don't forget that real life wars also consider something like "conflict-escalation", means the warring parties need to be clear how far they want to take it. And as atrocious and horrifying as any war is, most wars today are not "total wars" or better: are limited wars. In that sense you will choose your targets carefully, which alone is a reason that most enemies would not even consider attacking a carrier. The repercussions of that would be immense, a maybe up to that point critical US public might start calling for utter revenge, a favourable position in the UN could quickly get lost, and the retaliation would escalate the conflict on a totally different level. Imagine if during the Vietnam war, Russia would have actually tried and sunk a carrier: history would likely look entirely different today.

 

Fortunately, irl pilots are not generally exposed to the kind of scenarios we dream up in DCS.


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Seems more than 2 was extremely rare. I was surprised from Bio's Tomcat Rio book that one of VF-2's standard loadouts for Earnest Will was an asymmetrical 3 sidewinder, 2 sparrow and 1 phoenix.

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Thing to remember is NAVY Tomcats never made a kill with a Phoenix EVER. They only have like 5 confirmed kills at all 2 SU-22, 2 Mig-23, a Mi-8 and possibly but not verified Iranian F4. All with Sidewinder and Sparrow. Until the Bombcat the threat of 6 Phoenixes was good enough that you didn't actually have to bother loading Phoenixes. Most of the F-14's body count was all Ground attack and recon. Ironically its biggest success came as being exactly the Navy F-111 it was originally conceived to be.

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Well, in all honesty the USN doctrine of utilizing the Phoenix missiles was primarily to save the inventory for destroying inbound bombers... While, yes the missiles could physically be fired against maneuvering fighter sized targets as live fire testing of the phoenix clearly demonstrated. The actual fleet doctrine was to engage those such targets with Sparrow and Sidewinder missiles. You have to remember that at that time period, the threat aircraft didn’t carry active radar missiles such as AMRAAM and was not a factor. Also the Sparrow missiles were quite different from their original debut versions in Vietnam.

 

So, to reiterate doctrine: in peacetime the Phoenix was saved for downing large bombers that posed a considerable threat to the fleet out at ranges where the outer air battle would occur

 

once the Tomcat closed into its intercept if criteria was met for weapons release, Sparrow and Sidewinder missiles would be the primary means of employment against a fighter sized maneuvering targets.

 

This was even emphasized greatly in TopGun training when sidewinders developed into all aspect versions, the emphasis was placed on taking “face shots” prior to entering a merge. This gave an advantage to Tomcat crews against other fighters armed with only rear aspect heat seekers such as for example the R-60 missiles commonly used on Eastern fighters.

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I think it is important to keep an eye on scale. According to Soviet doctrine, US carrier battle groups were to be attacked with one maritime missile strike division (2-3 bomber regiments) per carrier. So we are talking of a simultaneous attack of up to 60 Backfire and Badger missile carriers per CV. While the "shoot the archer, not the arrow" tactic was to decimate as many bombers as possible in the outer air battle, in my opinion it would have been almost certain that a number of bombers would reach a missile launch point. A single carrier could simply not keep a sufficient number of Tomcats with a sufficient number of missiles airborne to prevent that. That is why the strategy was to operate multiple carriers per theater for mutual protection. For example it was planned to use 3-4 CVBG to operate in the Norwegian Sea, and at least 2 (better 3) in the East Mediterranean. But then again, the Soviets would have assembled additional maritime missile strike divisions to attack such forces.

 

In my opinion, the outer CAP would probably fly a loadout of 2 SW, 2 SP and 4 PH as a balance between firepower and loiter time. I think the 6 Phoenix loadout makes sense for alert aircraft, which are launched during an attack to intercept the missiles which are launched by the bombers that leaked through the outer air battle. They would not need to loiter and were certain the expend their missiles, so fuel burn and recovery weight is not an issue.

 

Any ASM that would make it through that would then be engaged by Standard-ER and Standard-MR SAM from the cruisers and destroyers in the battle group, and ultimately by Sea Sparrow and Phalanx from each ship in self-defense.

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Actually, a common Alert Aircraft F-14 load was simply 1 SW, 1 SP, and 1 PH for Alert 5 on Deck in peacetime.

 

And also, the outer air battle is not the complete air battle picture, you have picket destroyers and cruisers which were supposed to intervene as were shorter range aircraft such as the Legacy Hornets when those were around. The doctrine was fairly simple, the less archers there are in the sky the less arrows are on their way.

 

The Sparrow was also used on the surface combatant ships, known as the Sea Sparrow.

 

Funny enough, Tomcat crews hated baking in the sun like an egg for Alert 5 while on deck and the same could be said for night time alerts with sleep deprivation. I think there is Alert 5, 15, and 30... When one was launched the other alerts moved up, so for example the alert 5 is ordered to launch... The alert 15 guys who would be chilling in the squadron ready room now get bumped up to alert 5 and the alert 30 gets moved to alert 15 and another jet and crew is tasked to take alert 30.

 

Here is a picture of the loadout here at this website

 

https://www.historynet.com/f-14-tomc...aws-topgun.htm

 

I also wanted to point out a blurb I read on there, from "Bio"... Granted this is TopGun training, against simulated MiG-21s with rear aspect heat seeking missiles only.

 

"We immediately recognized this tactic from our classes. While we were dealing with the Wild Card, some bandits performed a tight delaying turn that put them a few miles behind the lead. This would complicate our decision-making: We couldn’t dogfight the first bandits, or the trailers would easily shoot us, but we couldn’t ignore the lead bandits either. If we could use the Tomcat’s vaunted AIM-54 Phoenix missile, we could each launch missiles at some targets, then attack the others with our other weapons. But in those days AIM-54s were “reserved” for defending the carrier against a Soviet bomber raid, so we had a real challenge—especially since we were required to visually identify all aircraft before shooting."

 

and a bit further down...

 

"I turned to the radar again and took a radar lock on the lead bandit, which would allow us to shoot an AIM-7 Sparrow missile. Once I saw the two small green lights indicating a good lock, I said over the radio, “Jaws, locked lead, 10 miles, lined-out right.”

 

Jake said, “Boomer, trailers at 16 miles, angels 15, line-abreast.” So the second group had sped up a little, and they were a little below us.

 

Jaws turned our fighter to the right to put the targets on the nose. He looked through the head-up display on his windscreen, and a green diamond showed target location based on our radar lock. Jaws had good vision and called, “Speck in the diamond.” This let everyone know he could see something where the bandits were supposed to be, which was good.

 

I divided my attention between ensuring the radar lock stayed good, checking Boomer’s position, checking fuel and making notes for the debrief. If the radar hiccupped, I could manually get another lock, but that didn’t happen on this run. I didn’t write a lot of notes during intercepts, but the Topgun debrief was always in the back of my mind.

 

“Fox One, lead A-4, 18,000 feet.” Jaws squeezed the trigger on his stick, and a tone indicated that the simulated AIM-7 shot registered on the TACTS instrumentation. He had identified the aircraft type and altitude to show he was not just taking a wild shot.

 

In the next 30 seconds things happened fast, and there was a lot of information to process. Boomer made a radio call that he saw both bandits in the lead group. Jake made a radio call about the trail group; he had a radar lock. I updated Jaws on Boomer’s position (9 o’clock low, one mile). The bandit we shot was called dead by the TACTS controller. Jaws selected a Sidewinder heat-seeking missile, got a tone and called a shot on the second bandit in the lead group. That one was also a kill; the lead group was gone. Jaws gave Boomer the lead to get us to the trailers, only eight miles away now. From looking out and forward to acquire the bandits, I went back to the radar and took a lock on the second bandit of the trail group.

 

“Fox One, northern F-5, 15,000 feet.” Boomer had identified and shot one of the trailing bandits. On his call the entire formation was considered hostile, so Jaws also launched a missile: “Fox One, southern bandit that group.”

 

The TACTS controller announced both of those bandits killed, then said, “Knock it off, knock it off. Jaws, knock it off. Boomer, knock it off, state 10.8.”

 

So, granted it is in training but last I checked people generally train like they will fight... In this case the weapon of choice was the Sparrow missile and not the Phoenix for example.

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AFAIK CVW-11 did fly with the 6x Phoenix loadout on their cruise on the USS Enterprise in the mid 80s, when Robert L. "Crazy Bob" Leuschner was the skipper of the Enterprise and made the Tomcats do that to "train as you fight". Hence the 6x Phoenix loadout is sometimes referred to as the "Crazy Bob loadout".

He was reliefed of command when he drove the Enterprise onto a rock in 1986 though.

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I guess once the hook mechanics are refined and return to carrier weight is more critical to successfully trapping hopefully we will see more realistic loadouts carried by people, that or more than a few people complaining the hooks are now bugged...

 

He was reliefed of command when he drove the Enterprise into a rock in 1986 though.

 

I have not know many crazy Bobs in my life but that seems like quite a crazy Bob thing to do.

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Thing to remember is NAVY Tomcats never made a kill with a Phoenix EVER.

 

That was because of ROE requiring visual ID, which meant the Phoenix wasn't the right tool. No doubt they could have a good number of kills if unleashed.

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In the B, carrying 6PH+Sidewinders will get you above max trap weight, even with 0 Fuel. The A being a little lighter, you still get about 1500lbs of fuel to land with, which however gives you very little room to deviate from your fuel planning or doing bolters.

so flying they always would have to make allowance for landing with everything unshot and kept onboard? interesting

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Called the Doomsday loadout, for reasons well explained above.

 

Loadouts including phoenixes were usually limited to 2. 2x3x2 etc wasnt uncommon to my knowledge.

 

In DCS that's a different story ofc. DCS has naturally a tendency to create doomsday scenarios, not only regarding vampyres, but the general threat factor/ density. An online PvP server is doomsday 24/7... Many missions are, too. You encounter stuff most pilots never get to see in their entire lifetime, where daily routines rather consist of long hours of loitering at max fuel conserve speeds (read slow), intercepting aircraft and not so much shooting at stuff.

 

Don't forget that real life wars also consider something like "conflict-escalation", means the warring parties need to be clear how far they want to take it. And as atrocious and horrifying as any war is, most wars today are not "total wars" or better: are limited wars. In that sense you will choose your targets carefully, which alone is a reason that most enemies would not even consider attacking a carrier. The repercussions of that would be immense, a maybe up to that point critical US public might start calling for utter revenge, a favourable position in the UN could quickly get lost, and the retaliation would escalate the conflict on a totally different level. Imagine if during the Vietnam war, Russia would have actually tried and sunk a carrier: history would likely look entirely different today.

 

Fortunately, irl pilots are not generally exposed to the kind of scenarios we dream up in DCS.

 

well said.

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Well, in all honesty the USN doctrine of utilizing the Phoenix missiles was primarily to save the inventory for destroying inbound bombers... While, yes the missiles could physically be fired against maneuvering fighter sized targets as live fire testing of the phoenix clearly demonstrated. The actual fleet doctrine was to engage those such targets with Sparrow and Sidewinder missiles. You have to remember that at that time period, the threat aircraft didn’t carry active radar missiles such as AMRAAM and was not a factor. Also the Sparrow missiles were quite different from their original debut versions in Vietnam.

 

So, to reiterate doctrine: in peacetime the Phoenix was saved for downing large bombers that posed a considerable threat to the fleet out at ranges where the outer air battle would occur

 

once the Tomcat closed into its intercept if criteria was met for weapons release, Sparrow and Sidewinder missiles would be the primary means of employment against a fighter sized maneuvering targets.

 

This was even emphasized greatly in TopGun training when sidewinders developed into all aspect versions, the emphasis was placed on taking “face shots” prior to entering a merge. This gave an advantage to Tomcat crews against other fighters armed with only rear aspect heat seekers such as for example the R-60 missiles commonly used on Eastern fighters.

 

Ive read in top gun that face shots wouldnt be creditted as a kill however? for whatever reason only shots after the merge? course this may have been at the dawn or before all aspect sidewinders and a reflection of a poor pK

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Ive read in top gun that face shots wouldnt be creditted as a kill however? for whatever reason only shots after the merge? course this may have been at the dawn or before all aspect sidewinders and a reflection of a poor pK

 

For Topgun, yes, that was to teach BFM, so they emphaise how poor the weapons were to force you to go for rear aspect kills.During one exercise (earnest will? I cant remember) they cited the Tomcat as having a far larger PK than the Eagle, because the Tomcat could kill before it got to the merge, simply because of the radar/missile combination.

 

There was one interesting Janes book that suggested in the latter half of the 1980's they were increasingly carrying at least one Phoenix to make use of this standoff capablity against fighters particularly as the Soviets were finally coming up with Jets that had a good forward aspect engagement capability.

 

Ive read they could bring 6 phoenix back to the boat, but that to do so you would probably be rather tight on fuel to make the weight limit.

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For Topgun, yes, that was to teach BFM, so they emphaise how poor the weapons were to force you to go for rear aspect kills.During one exercise (earnest will? I cant remember) they cited the Tomcat as having a far larger PK than the Eagle, because the Tomcat could kill before it got to the merge, simply because of the radar/missile combination.

 

There was one interesting Janes book that suggested in the latter half of the 1980's they were increasingly carrying at least one Phoenix to make use of this standoff capablity against fighters particularly as the Soviets were finally coming up with Jets that had a good forward aspect engagement capability.

 

Ive read they could bring 6 phoenix back to the boat, but that to do so you would probably be rather tight on fuel to make the weight limit.

 

ya I knew it was only for topgun. I figured it was for the reasons you cited - i mean, they dont want the engagements to end right off. They want dogfights to teach the skills needed. Though of course, no kills are real, so one sorta wonders why. OTOH Im sure in a prearranged merge to have a dogfight everyone has a prime chance at a face shot, and sidewinders are fire and forget, so itd just be easy kills for all. I understand the reasoning.

Also theres the culture... people arent actually dying so sportsmanship comes into play. its probably seen as a little 'cheap' to do that instead of chasing em down and taking em from behind.

Of course this is 100% me talking out of my ass

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We never carried Phoenix on the wings in VF-41, and I never saw any other squadron that did during my time (86-95). We had two standard loadouts, 2/2/2 and 4/4/0 (four AIM-7, four AIM-9). The coolanol that the AIM-54 A’s needed was a big factor. The Phoenix was much more highly valued for its launch and leave capability than it was for its range during my years, from what I remember of the way our crews talked about it.

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so flying they always would have to make allowance for landing with everything unshot and kept onboard? interesting

 

You have to keep in mind that even during combat ops, you never know what ordnance you are gonna expand. So you have to plan your loadout such that you are still below maximum trap weight with all your stores still on AND enough reserve fuel (at least 2000lbs for daytraps, 3000lbs at night). Thats why 4PH was a rare configuration, especially for the B, which has a higher empty weight and thus lower "bring back" capability.

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On 11/29/2020 at 10:42 AM, sLYFa said:

so flying they always would have to make allowance for landing with everything unshot and kept onboard? interesting

You have to keep in mind that even during combat ops, you never know what ordnance you are gonna expand. So you have to plan your loadout such that you are still below maximum trap weight with all your stores still on AND enough reserve fuel (at least 2000lbs for daytraps, 3000lbs at night). Thats why 4PH was a rare configuration, especially for the B, which has a higher empty weight and thus lower "bring back" capability.

thanks for your reply

It makes sense, its just interesting. ever heard of John Chesire?  He flew Phantoms 2 tours in Nam, was in VF2 on the 2nd F14A cruise. I talk to him sometimes, on quora mostly.

He has some epic stories, let me know if you want a free link. especially his account after top gun in his 72 tour, and a 1975 many on many f14A vs F15A furball which was amazing to read really happened.

I digress though - apparently in Nam they just ... didnt land with ordinance. Well bombs.  they didnt have Aim54s which admittedly are more bomb weight.

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The logistics issue never really comes up and no way to track in game,  but how many Phoenix would a carrier have?  Could they equip both Tomcat squadrons with 6 Phoenix and still have any reload capacity?

 

Bio's book said they crossdecked new AIM-54C in the turnover from Constellation to Ranger for Earnest Will in May 1987, but that was a new missile then... or did they always do that?

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