U.S. Jet washes up in Ireland

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Bossdog, May 7, 2006.

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  1. 06 May 2006

    US Navy jet tail fin washes up on Irish shores

    By Dan Buckley, Alan Good and Eoin English
    THERE’S nothing quite like the roar of waves crashing on the beach to wipe away the cobwebs — unless it happens to be the scream of a US Navy F-14 Tomcat overhead.

    Whichever was loudest appears to have masked the moment a piece of combat aviation history fell to earth recently and ended up on a beach in west Cork.

    An investigation was underway last night after what is believed to be a large part of the structure of the US Navy fighter jet was found washed up yesterday by a retired Aer Lingus pilot.

    The piece, about the size of a family car, is thought to be one of the tail fins from a twin-tail F-14 Tomcat — the jet featured in the movie Top Gun.

    Retired Aer Lingus captain Charlie Coughlan made the amazing discovery at Long Strand at Owenahincha, near Rosscarbery.

    “I just couldn’t believe it,” he said. “The paint is still perfect. It appears to have broken off the aircraft. I could see a spar inside — it’s cracked, not cut.”

    The debris, which measures eight feet by four feet, is military grey and features a flying skeleton, the insignia of VF-101 squadron — also known as the Grim Reapers — who up until recently were the US Navy’s F-14 training squad.

    “It is quite a substantial piece; you would think it would have sunk but the inside is layered with honeycomb material and that could have made it buoyant,” said Mr Coughlan.

    “There are no barnacles on it, so I would say it has only been in the water a few months.”

    He notified the Irish Aviation Authority who in turn contacted the gardaí. They sealed off the scene yesterday and handed the investigation over to the Air Navigation Investigation Unit.

    A senior garda said there were no reports of any aircraft missing in the area. The US Navy seems equally mystified.

    A spokesman at the Pentagon said last night that they were not aware of any missing tail fins.

    “We don’t fly F-14s any more,” said Lieutenant Jim Marks. “They were decommissioned earlier this year.”

    The F-14 Tomcat, with its distinctive swept wings, twin vertical fins and engines, and state-of-the-art technology, was one of the most formidable fighter jets in US combat aviation history.

    Designed primarily as a naval air-to-air fighter, the Tomcat also proved adept in ground attack capabilities, tactical reconnaissance and precision strikes. The first prototype flew in 1970 and its first combat deployment began in 1972.

    Both the Tomcat and its fighter squadrons were finally mothballed in January after more than three decades of combat duty.

    A sense of that history can be found on the US Navy website. Wannabe Tom Cruises can download a computer video game designed to test the mettle of those intent on a career with the force.

    Called the US Navy Training Exercise, the website declares it is being “conducted to help us evaluate future recruitment benchmarks”. Naturally, it has a code name: Strike & Retrieve.

    The Navy says: “NTE: Strike & Retrieve presents a mental challenge that requires both sound reasoning and quick- thinking action on your part. At the navy we know the missions of the future will be determined not by who is the strongest but by who is the smartest.”

    And, presumably, whoever manages to hang on to their tail-fins.
  2. Didnt an F14 fall off a carrier in the Irish sea some years ago IIRC? Must be at least 10 though.
  3. And I suppose he retired to Scotland.

    Not Prestwick again!
  4. An F14 did indeed fall off a USN carrier many years ago. The Americans were concerned not so much about the aircraft, but the Phoenix missile it was carrying, and went to great lengths to recover said missile before the Soviet Navy could get their mitts on it.

    The missile was eventually recovered, but the wreck of the F14 was abandoned.

    If my (now fading) memory serves me correctly, this occurred somewhere near Ireland.
  5. The Mig-31 Foxhound/AA-9 Amos system is allegedly heavily based on the Tomcat/Phoenix, to which the Soviets gained access following the fall of the Shah of Iran.
  6. The F-14 was a rugged plane, and losing one vertical stabiliser would not nescessarily be a death sentance for the aircraft. It would be a bitch to get back aboard the ship, so the crew would most likely divert ashore.
    As long as no one was injured, and the plane was otherwise intact any report on the incident could be buried, hence the mystery.
  7. It's entirely possible that, since VF-101 was the East F-14 FRS and only deployed for short training exercises not 6-8 month cruises, that it came from a jet that stuffed in on the other side of the Atlantic years ago (and plenty did over the past 35yrs). It's possible that the structure allowed enough air to remain trapped so that it would float. The Gulf Stream runs right along the Atlantic coast.


    YM- I don't know if the F-14 had the ability to isolate sections of the hydraulic system, but if it didn't, then the loss of one of the fins would have required a return to earth courtesy of Martin-Baker.
  8. Good point. I was an ordnanceman, so I know squat about hydraulics. It may depend on which model it was as well. An F-14D in my CAG lost a stabilator in a midair off the Virginia coast and made it back to NAS Oceana.
    VF-101 being a FRS, they might have had the old "A" model.
  9. Whats the betting the finder will claim salvage rights and it will end up on eBay!! :D
  10. I Ran Away men smuggling aircraft parts!
  11. That was never proved; all of the Iranian F-14's are either still in their inventory, retired from service or lost in combat. :wink:
  12. Going way off thread, but:

    1. The Soviets wouldn't have had time to develop the Amos/Foxhound in that sort of time frame. (Iranian Revolution 1979- Mig 31 entered service in 1983) If they did get any data on the AWG-9/AIM-54 combo, it would have come from infiltrating the Imperial Iranian Air Force or the Spams directly.

    2. There's bugger-all chance of the Islamic Republic co-operating with with the Soviets on something like this. The mullahs couldn't stand communists.
  13. The Mullahs might not be able to stand commies, but the chance to swap some US technology for some bargain deals on new military hardware from their new supplier may well have proved too good to pass over.

    Oh, and if all the airframes are accounted for; what about the spare radars and missiles ?
  14. US Navy is incredibly posessive about its stuff. Claims of Salvage Rights hold no sway, the Navy maintains ownership of anything that was ever once in its inventory. There was a case of a rare WWII fighter which was drug up off the bottom about ten years ago, restored back to flying condition by the private citizen who found it, and the Navy swooped in and claimed ownership. Very uncivilised.

    The rule of thumb ever since has been that if you find something interesting that the US Navy used to have, for God's sake, don't tell the US Navy.

  15. Ain't the US Army the same, I seem to remember the trouble that a fella had to recover one of the DD shermans, lost at slapton sands, which was to be used as a memorial, untold amounts of red tape, think he got told that the wouldn't let him have at first, in the end he paid $1 for it IIRC