Tomcats On Last Tour

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The F-14 Tomcat is going down fighting. The last operational deployment of the big swing-wing fighter began earlier this week with the last remaining squadrons VF-31 Tomcatters and VF-213 (Blacklions) flying aboard the carrier Theodore Roosevelt for a tour to the Persian Gulf. "Epic, historic, I'm looking for words," said Cmdr. Rick "Twig" LaBranche as he led the pilots and crew aboard the Roosevelt. "They understand that being the last Tomcat squadron is a historic event." The F-14 first saw service in the early 1970s and has seen action in all major conflicts since. Described by LaBranche as the Harley Davidson of fighter aircraft, it is giving way to the leaner and more efficient FA/18 Super Hornet. For every flight hour, an F-14 needed up to 60 hours of maintenance. The Super Hornet gets by on 10 to 15 hours and takes up a lot less room, with wingspan a full 20 feet shorter than the Tomcat's.