In the January 1970 issue, Popular Mechanics laid out the details of the Navy's newest jet fighter: the F-14 Tomcat. A fast and nimble jet capable of Mach 2+ speeds, the F-14 would serve for decades as the U.S. Navy's fiercest jet fighter until it was replaced by the F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet. But in 1970, we got the details about how this new Navy plane actually worked. A plane of revolutionary design was conceived some years ago, a plane meant to be all things to all military men. It would fly high or skim treetops, fly slow or faster than sound. It would fire missiles, shoot cannons or drop bombs, and it would operate from landlocked airfields as well as carriers far at sea. It was the F-111, a craft that caused a ruckus, political and military, that has yet to fully subside. Some dubbed it \u201cMcNamara's Folly," a slap at the former secretary of defense who championed it. Nevertheless, the F-111 found a home with the United States Air Force. But the Navy, also slated to adopt it, finally said no. Among other complaints, the Navy said the plane was too hefty for carrier service. The Navy went hunting for a substitute\u2014and Grumman came up with the F-14. First and foremost, the Navy explains, the F-14 will not try to be a plane that does everything. It will be just what its designation implies, a fighter\u2014a dogfighter in the old tradition. It will turn and roll with the best of them, even at supersonic speeds, keep up with most of them straight-and-level, and outshoot any of them with guns, rockets and missiles. It will fly fast and it will fly long. In short, the F-14 is an air-superiority fighter, designed to clear the skies of anything that might threaten the fleet. Of course, the Navy quickly adds, with the boys from the budget bureau breathing down their necks, the F-14 will also be able to strap on extra "garbage," like bombs, for air-to-ground missions, thus proving its versatility. Are we back to the F-111? Not quite. The F-111 is a superior air-to-ground attack aircraft and, as such, probably should have been designated the A-111. But, in the air, the F-14 could probably run rings around it. What, then, will the F-14 have that the Navy wants, and that the F-111 lacked? In any study of this newest of aircraft, you almost have to start with its looks. It is, indeed, a beautiful bird, with one of the cleanest and most impressive configurations in years. Grumman abandoned the side-by-side seating of the F-111, and went back to tandem seating for the pilot and the missile-control officer, slimming the fuselage and reducing drag. A one-piece bubble canopy further streamlined the fuselage while giving the crew 360\u00b0 visibility. The engines are slung in pods from the wing roots and offset about a foot from the fuselage. This was an important element in Grumman's plans. The F-111, with its two engines almost flush against the sides of the fuselage, in the beginning had problems at some speeds; boundary-layer air from the fuselage became too turbulent and caused compressor stalls when it entered the engine intakes. Grumman believes it has eliminated this problem by moving the air intakes away from the fuselage and canting them slightly away from the plane's body. Thus, air will have a straight-line flow, through the intake and straight back to the compressor. Grumman calls it a "two-dimensional flow," meaning that there's no "dirty air" coming in and that the clean air has no curves to go around. The engine pods go back to the tail section and support the twin vertical stabilizers and the horizontal stabilizers, which double as ailerons at certain speeds. Grumman had toyed with the idea of a single vertical stabilizer, but gave it up. By mounting twin stabilizers on the engine pods, engineers eliminated any bulky structural buildup between the pods. All that connects the pods at the tail is a thin "pancake" section that holds the tail hook for carrier landings and four speed brakes. Also, a single vertical stabilizer would have been too tall for the between-deck space available on carriers. The wings of the F-14, perhaps its most important feature, are both similar to and different from those of the F-111, the first of the swing-wing planes. Like the F-111, the wings swing from front to rear for subsonic, transonic and supersonic speeds, and have full-span slats and flaps for lift control, and spoilers (no ailerons) for roll control at subsonic speeds. The horizontal stabilizers, which are mounted below the wings even when they are fully swept, double as ailerons at supersonic speeds. The wings, in fact, are "double jointed"; they also swing up over the stabilizers to cut down on carrier storage space required to park the planes. The F-14's wings differ from the F-111's in several respects. The outer (swinging) panels are shorter than those on the F-111 because the inner wing root is much larger. The pivot points are twice as far apart, to make room for the engine pods and the main landing gear, so the swing wings are stubbier and don't need to swing as far. In normal operation, they'll rotate from 20\u00b0 full forward to 68\u00b0 fully swept, compared to 16\u00b0 to 72\u00b0 on the F-111. Also, the mechanisms for swinging the wings on the two planes work differently. Each aircraft has a yoke, which rides the back of the fuselage and holds the pivots for the swing wings. Grumman calls its a "carry-through structure.\u201d On the F-111 a single actuating arm in front of the yoke pushes out and in, swinging the wings backward and forward. On the F-14, two actuating arms behind the yoke perform the same function. At high speeds, new control surfaces called glove vanes will swing out from the leading edge of the wing root to help stabilize the plane when the wing sweeps back, shifting the aircraft's aerodynamic center. Without it the stabilizers would require larger trim angles, increasing drag. The most important part of the structure of the F-14, however, isn't readily apparent. Grumman, which has been studying titanium for years, claims that about one-fourth of the structural parts are made of the lightweight, high strength metal. It also claims the F-14 is about 30,000 pounds lighter than the F-111 because of it. Weight was a big factor in the F-111's final rejection by the Navy for carrier use. All of these factors\u2014the clean lines, the efficient air intakes and the big savings in weight\u2014will permit the F-14's engines, identical to those of the F-111, to operate much more efficiently, giving more thrust per unit of weight, more loiter time or range, and better rate-of-climb than the F-111. Though exact performance characteristics are classified, it's known that the plane will be a Mach-2-plus fighter and operate up to around 70,000 feet. Exact specifications are also classified, but it's obvious that the F-14 is smaller than the F-111 and considerably lighter. Its role can be assumed from some of the planned armament. First of all, the Navy insisted that the F-14 carry an internally mounted, 20-mm machine gun. This was in response to complaints from combat pilots; they said that other aircraft they flew left them nothing to defend themselves with after they'd expended their externally mounted weaponry. On the F-14 they will always have a gun with them. Additional weapons will be carried externally. Four Sparrow missiles for medium-range attacks will be partially buried in the flat underside of the fuselage. But other weapons will have to be hung. Two pylons on the wing roots can carry either medium-range Sidewinder missiles or extra drop tanks for fuel. (The normal fuel supply is carried in the fuselage and wings.) The long-range, and very secret, Phoenix missile system will be attached to the underside of the fuselage on special streamlined pallets that will house the missiles' auxiliary systems. And, as mentioned earlier, provisions will also be made to strap air-to-ground weapons on the F-14\u2014500, 1000 or 2000-pound bombs or rocket-launching pods. For all the air-to-air weapons, the F-14's electronic systems, housed in the nose, can detect and track multiple targets at extremely long ranges and attack on a priority basis. A major feature of the Grumman design is that 80 percent of the necessary maintenance can be done from ground level; that is, the easily reachable hatches can be opened by a member of the ground crew standing with both feet on the ground. Even the engines are interchangeable, meaning any engine coming off the assembly line can go in either the left or right pod. All of this makes the F-14 a "quick turn-around" plane. It can go out on one mission, return to the carrier and be fueled up, and rigged for an altogether different mission with a minimum of lost time. And the F-14 has a future. Both B and C models now planned require no major configuration changes. The F-14B will have new, smaller and more powerful engines, giving even more thrust to weight, using basically the same pods as the A model. And the F-14C will accept new, not-yet-built electronics for even more sophisticated attack capability, again with no basic change in the configuration. So the Navy hopes the basic F-14 will clear the skies for our fleet well into the 1970s. The F-14 is expected to fly in 1971 and join the fleet in 1973. Primarily, it will replace the F-4 Phantom II, a craft dating back to the mid-fifties, that has reached the saturation point so far as improvement goes. The Phantom was a great warhorse in its day. The Navy hopes the F-14 will carve out an even finer record.