Vampires Retire The Cat

SINCE THE merger in 1993 of US Navy Air Test and Evaluation Squadrons 4 (VX-4) Evaluators and 5 (VX-5) ‘Vampires’ to form Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 9 (VX-9) ‘Vampires’, based at NAWS China Lake, California, the squadron has maintained a permanent F-14 Tomcat detachment at NAS Point Mugu, California. Under the direction of the Commander Operational Test and Evaluation Force (COMOPTEVFOR), the VX-9 F-14 detachment has supported US Navy fleet operation of the F-14 Tomcat. Underlying its key role of operational test and fleet support, VX-9 also had a reporting line to the Commander Naval Air Forces Pacific, who provided the aircraft and parts support.

As the F-14 Tomcat enters the twilight of its service career the requirement for further upgrades to the aircraft is diminishing and this, combined with the harsh budgetary environment of the modern Navy, has spelled the end for the VX-9 F-14 test unit.

VX-9 F-14 Detachment held its formal disestablishment ceremony at Naval Base Ventura Country (NAS Point Mugu) on June 22, and the remainder of the unit’s aircraft were subsequently dispersed, including F-14D BuNo 164604 Vandy 1′, the last F-14 built. Because of their role, many of the VX-9 jets carried test instrumentation which rendered them incompatible with current fleet aircraft. Consequently, despite their relatively modest airframe flight hours, only one aircraft will continue flying. The rest will be retired to the Aerospace Maintenance And Regeneration Center at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona.

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