The US Navy has begun the official retirement plan of the last Grumman F-14 Tomcat aircraft carrier squadron, with a final sortie from USS Theodore Roosevelt.
At an as-yet unidentified location in the Atlantic Ocean on Friday, an F-14D Tomcat (aircraft number 101), piloted by Lt Chris Rattigan and Lt Paul Dort assigned to Fighter Squadron Three One (VF-31), completed the last scheduled arrested landing of an F-14 fighter aircraft at 16:42.
The F-14 will officially retire in September 2006, after 32 years of service to the fleet. Theodore Roosevelt is completing exercises with USS Dwight D Eisenhower.
The F-14s are being replaced with Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. The eighth USN Carrier Air Wing (CVW8) is the last squadron to operate the F-14Ds.
The F-14s made their debut during the closing days of the Vietnam war, replacing the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, in September 1974 providing air support for South Vietnamese forces. The aircraft have been on active service ever since.
During celebrations to mark the final sortie, another F-14 performed a near-supersonic fly-by past the bridge of Theodore Roosevelt (pictured below).