The US military retired the Tomcat in 2006 when the E/F Super Hornet variants of the F/A-18 were introduced. It had served for decades in the US Navy, often deployed for air-to-air combat from carriers, among other purposes.
The jet is still in service with Iran’s air force after Iran’s Mohammad Reza Shah purchased the aircraft from the US in 1976. The jets were engineered with a “variable sweep design,” which allows planes to alter the shape of the aircraft during flight by changing the position of the wings. Difficulties in developing this technology led the aircraft to flip, as shown in the gut-wrenching clip above. Fans of “Top Gun” will recognize this unfortunate tendency of the Tomcat as the cause of Lt. Nick “Goose” Bradshaw’s death in the 1986 film.
“Air was not flowing smoothly over the F-14’s wings while it was configured for landing, creating an opportunity for the plane to suddenly yaw from left to right,” Popular Mechanics’ Kyle Mizokami explained. NASA conducted 200 spin tests on the jets to help resolve the issue.