Fars news agency affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has showcased an American article about how well Iranian pilots used the F-14 Tomcat fighters.
The article published by a US-based website 19FortyFive re-told the story that the first air-to-air kill by an F-14 was not accomplished by American pilots, but by an Iranian on September 7, 1980, one day after the long Iran-Iraq war began that lasted eight years.
Fars tells its readers that an American website has given credit to pilots of the Islamic Republic for the first air-to-air F-14 victory, one year before US pilots shot down Libyan planes in a punitive engagement. Fars said that the American publication recognized the unique abilities of Iranian pilots with the heavy American fighter designed to face Soviet bombers at long distances.
What Fars does not say is that these fighter pilots who engaged the Iraqi air force one year after the 1979 revolution and the establishment of the Islamic Republic were in fact officers recruited by the Imperial air force during the monarchy and trained by the US Air Force.
It also does not mention how Iran’s last king, Mohammad Reza Shah had been able to get 70 Grumman F-14 Tomcats, a fourth-generation sophisticated fighter, in the 1970s from the United States. In fact, it was President Richard Nixon who approved the sale to one of the most trusted US allies outside NATO at a time when the United States was losing the war in Vietnam and the power and influence of the Soviet Union was on ascendancy.
Iranian F-14 Tomcat’s M61A1 Vulcan gun
The Shah’s son, Reza Pahlavi was also sent to the United States to be trained on the F-14 right before revolution broke out. He currently lives near Washington DC and is an influential political figure for many Iranians opposed to the Islamic Republic.
“On September 7, 1980, five Mil Mi-25 (export model of the Soviet Mi-24) attack helicopters in Iraq’s Army Air Corps penetrated Iranian airspace and attacked a few border posts. In response, two F-14 Tomcat pilots intervened in an attempt to take out the aircraft,” the article in 19FortyFive says.
Citing another source, The Aviation Geek, the article explains that the Tomcat pilot failed to hit the MI-25 helicopters with his AIM9P Sidewinder missiles, but “Selecting ‘GUN’ on his control column, he put the gunsight pipper over the rearmost Mi-25 and opened fire. The aircraft’s M61A1 Vulcan gun gull spewed out 400 rounds. Many found their mark and the Iraqi attack helicopter exploded in a brilliant ball of fire.”
There are still around 40 F-14s in the Islamic Republic’s air force that have been somehow maintained, although periodically some have crashed. One Tomcat crashed in June and another in 2019. Some have been used for parts to maintain the others, since the United States severed relations with Iran in 1980 and imposed sanctions on export of US technology to the country.
Iran has also tried to build parts for the Tomcats and adapt homegrown Russian-model air-to-air missiles, but it there is no independent confirmation of their effectiveness.
Still, after nearly 50 years, the F-14 Tomcats are an important part of Iran’s air force, which has a hodgepodge of old Russian, Chinese and even French warplanes that Iraq sent to Iran faced with an imminent US attack.