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UPDATED: 10:02, September 23, 2006
U.S. navy retires Cold War "top-gun" jet
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The U.S. navy will formally retire the F-14 Tomcat jet Friday, which is the "top gun" in its Cold War arsenal and one of the most recognizable warplanes in history.

The U.S. navy will hold a ceremony for the retirement and then mothball some F-14s in the Arizona desert and ship others to aviation museums, according to The USA Today.

The reason of its retirement is the raising maintenance costs, and the replacement, the F/A-18 Super Hornet, is more versatile and cheaper to maintain.

However, the Super Hornet is unlikely to surpass the F-14's capability.

Furiously fast, deafeningly loud and lethal to enemy aircraft, the Tomcat had attained legendary status by the 1980s.

The 1986 film Top Gun, in which Tom Cruise portrayed an F-14 pilot in training, cemented the supersonic warplane's reputation in the popular culture.

The Tomcat was designed in the late 1960s with one enemy in mind: the Soviet Union.

The jet was typically launched from an aircraft carrier, and its twin engines could propel it at twice the speed of sound.

Its armaments deterred Soviet bombers designed to fire missiles at U.S. navy ships.

However, after the Cold War, the F-14 was something of a stray cat. It had no real enemy in a world with one superpower.

Eventually, the U.S. navy armed it with precision bombs and targeting systems and added attack missions to its resume.

Tomcats, with their two-member crews of a pilot and a backseat radar officer, flew missions in Desert Storm, in the Balkans and, until February, in Iraq.

Source: Xinhua

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