VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (NNS) -- The F-14 Tomcat was officially retired after 36 years of service at the Final Flight Ceremony held at Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana Sept. 22.
More than 1,300 former and present F-14 aviators, maintainers, and support personnel attended the ceremony.
"The Tomcat helped maintain freedom and democracy around the world," said Aviation Support Equipment Technician 2nd Class Christopher Kaelin, a support equipment maintainer with Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department (AIMD). "When you see it come off the flight deck, you know it's a force to be reckoned with."
According to Corporate Vice President and President of Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems Scott Seymour, the Final Flight Ceremony is as much a dedication to the aircraft as to the people who contributed to its legacy.
"We are here to salute the vision that conceived the aircraft," Seymour said, "as well as the intellectual capital that engineered it, the pride of those who built it and the dedication of the Sailors who have maintained it and the raw courage and icy nerve of the flight crews that flew it in defense of our country."
Seymour said although the F-14 is being retired, the human qualities that brought it about are still as vital as ever.
The Navy's new F/A-18E/F "Super Hornet" will replace the F-14.
"The Tomcat lives on to its enduring mission and to the men and women committed to those missions," said Adm. John Nathman, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command. "It's a transition from one superb aircraft to another; the Tomcat to the Super Hornet."
A small number of F-14s will be departing NAS Oceana through Sept. 30 to their final destinations at museums or be placed in war reserve at Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.
To further recognize the F-14 retirement, Virginia Beach Mayor Meyera E. Oberndorf publicly dedicated Sept. 22 as "Tomcat Day" in Virginia Beach.
"We love the Navy," Oberndorf said. "And today, the Tomcat is at the top of the list."
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