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Ok, I'm a wartime aviation enthusiast who loves, in particular, 3rd-5th generation fighters. I have held an avid interest in them for years, but I've always wondered whether or not I could own one myself. Obviously, it would cost a lot of money to own a fighter aircraft, and the aircraft would come with a lot of restrictions. But, my question is this: Is it possible to own the F-14 Tomcat (demilitarized/used) as an airliner/civilian pilot?

Although I am young right now, I plan to become an airliner pilot and eventually purchase a small plane (single engine turboprop) for myself. After all that, which I assume will take anywhere between 30-40 years, I would like to know if it would be possible to purchase and own an F-14. It is my all time favorite fighter for many reasons, the main one being its variable sweep wings. Assuming that I can acquire the proper training and equipment to utilize its true speed and maneuverability, would it be possible (in roughly 30-40 years) to purchase and fly an F-14 at its full potential, disregarding the costs to own and maintain it.

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    $\begingroup$ In the very unlikely event that a flyable F-14 will be available 40 years hence, it will be even more unlikely to get all spare parts to keep it flyable. But maybe there will be enough demand to create a modern copy - that happened before. $\endgroup$ Apr 5 at 0:18
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    $\begingroup$ If you like variable sweep wings, a Tornado may be more practical. $\endgroup$ Apr 5 at 11:30
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    $\begingroup$ Some were in private hands and it didn't go well: latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2007-mar-07-me-jets7-story.html $\endgroup$
    – Adam
    Apr 5 at 16:40
  • $\begingroup$ To its full potential? Even if you had a working Tomcat, you couldn't fly it supersonic over or near land in most parts of the world, and I doubt the authorities in most places would look kindly on low-level high-speed terrain following exercises even in unpopulated areas. Although IDK enough about aviation rules to be sure. (IDK what you meant by "full potential". I was assuming you weren't including the armament, and weren't planning to become an air pirate out of Porco Rosso.) $\endgroup$ Apr 5 at 17:55
  • $\begingroup$ You may be interested in this video on Youtube: Badass Pilot Buys Own Fighter Jet. It's possible to buy military jets, but they don't let just anyone purchase or fly them. Additionally they're very hard to maintain. $\endgroup$ Apr 5 at 18:03
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I’ve chatted with a few F-14 pilots who are members of the Tomcat Association, aviation museum curators, as well as former NFWS Topgun instructor Dave “Bio” Baranak about the possibility of getting one or two F-14 airframes flying again. The depressing conclusion we have all come to is that it is almost impossible for this to happen. Multiple F-14 pilots, RIOs and maintainers have approached the DOD about doing so, to no avail.

Virtually all Tomcats which did not get donated to museums were cut up and melted down into beer cans, more or less. The Navy destroyed nearly all of its Tomcat fleet to prevent spare parts from winding up in Iran, the last known Tomcat operator. As of 2018, the DoD did maintain at least 11 flyable F-14 airframes in long term storage at AMARC and they are not parting with them. Period. The exact reason the DOD keeps these aircraft is unclear, though I suspect they are retained for limited purposes such as RedAir aggressor aircraft, flight test and research, or similar role that the type is deemed suitable for. F-14s which were donated to museums or for public display as “gate guards” still remain the property of the DoD and the airframes have been mutilated to permanently prevent them from carrying flight loads.

The only other potential source of flyable Tomcats remains Iran and it’s believed that all or nearly all are out of commission due to lack of spare parts. If somebody could purchase an F-14 airframe from Iran, then take it back to the states, it might be possible. However this would almost certainly be seized and confiscated by customs.

And even if you could get the aircraft back into the United States legally, plus find the enormous funding required for this enterprise, you’re still faced with the prospect of finding spare parts for it. It will be very difficult to get anything from the manufacturer i.e. Northrop Grumman as the assembly lines have long since closed, there are ITAR and national security restrictions, and all existing spare parts, aside from those needed for the last AMARC F-14s, have been destroyed.

It’s a great dream, but it looks like if you ever want to see an F-14 fly again, the closest you will get is watching a DVD of Top Gun or Final Countdown.

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    $\begingroup$ The only other possibility might be a private company specializing in providing aggressor aircraft and pilots such as Draken. But I checked and they don't have F-14s in their inventory. Wouldn't make much sense anyway, their specialty is in aircraft the US doesn't have. $\endgroup$ Apr 5 at 10:18
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    $\begingroup$ It’s possible, however very unlikely. For starters, the only source of airworthy Tomcats are the few AMARC birds left, which the DOD will not sell. Second, it would be prohibitively expensive for a private firm to operate and far more economical options are available. $\endgroup$ Apr 5 at 10:22
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    $\begingroup$ Would it be legal for a billionaire to start a company devoted to building new nonmilitary F-14s? Or to pay Northrop Grumman to build one, assuming you could convince them? $\endgroup$ Apr 5 at 16:08
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    $\begingroup$ @Darrel Hoffman All military aircraft used in movies or other entertainment products are operated by military pilots and kept under the control of the DOD at all times. The military is perfectly happy to help Hollywood make movies because they’re free recruiting tools. The only exception is the DOD will not help out with projects that involve a character stealing military hardware as a plot point, which is why the producers of Iron Eagle had to get the aid of the Israeli Air Force for their F-16 and Kfir (MiG-23) footage. $\endgroup$ Apr 5 at 17:33
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    $\begingroup$ @Ron Presser Theoretically you could approach any aircraft manufacture to build you an aircraft. The problem is that the F-14 engineering data package is ITAR restricted and requires congressional approval for the sale. It’s also a proprietary trade secret of the Northrop Grumman Corp. And it would be cost prohibitive to do so. $\endgroup$ Apr 5 at 17:37
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Highly unlikely.

There were only two operators of the F-14: the US and Iran. When the US decommissioned theirs in 2006, aside from a few stripped airframes in museums, they were all destroyed to prevent their parts making their way to Iran.

If Iran somehow has any flyable planes left in another 30-40 years despite not being able to get any parts to repair them (other than cannibalization) in the meantime, I doubt they would sell you one.

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