A few days ago we invited my uncle and his wife for dinner at our house. Before dinner we all sat around the TV and listened to the news. CNN was showing the bombings in Afghanistan by U.S. fighter jets. I suddenly noticed my uncle's eyes lock on the TV monitor as if he was not aware of his surroundings. Only I knew what he was thinking. He was thinking about the days when he was in the cockpit of his F-14.
My uncle was a fighter pilot, a member of the elite Iranian Air Force. He was one of the few pilots trained to fly the F-14 Tomcats, one of the best fighter jets ever built. In the mid seventies he was sent to Texas to be trained at Top Gun with the best of the best. I remember when the movie Top Gun first came out in 1984, I used to watch it with my friends and say “my uncle can fly that thing”.
The F-14 Tomcat is one of the most versatile fighter jets ever built. It first came to service in the seventies. The Shah of Iran, wanting to build the best air force in the Middle East asked to obtain the best fighter jet of that era. He was given a choice, the F-14 Tomcat or the F-15 Eagle. He chose the F-14. Thus Iran and the United Stated are still the only two countries who have the F-14.
About 80 F-14s were delivered to Iran before the 1979 Revolution took place. During the war with Iraq, most of the pilots trained to fly the Tomcats were initially scattered. But soon, seeing that the county was under siege, they came and defended our country with an aircraft some call “The Jaguar” of the sky.
My uncle was one of the few pilots who was in Iran during the war and was trained to fly the F-14. In fact F-14s used by Iranian pilots were probably the very first to see real combat. He was involved in seven dog fights and shot down five enemy jets. Once, he recalls, he came behind an Iraqi Mig and locked on in a matter of seconds, a move also depicted in Top Gun.
“Did you say anything special when you had him locked and pulled the trigger?” I asked. He answered, “Yes, I said 'Khodaahaa fez Khooke Kaseef'.” (Goodbye you dirty pig.)
It has been reported by Iranian pilots that the F-14 has won all the dog fights with Iraqi jets and those lost during the war were due to mechanical failure. In fact, the Iraqi pilots were warned not to engage with an F-14 and flee.
I truly believe that if it wasn't for my uncle and all Iranian pilots, God knows how many of those downed Iraqi planes could have killed one more Iranian man, woman or child. I am very proud of my uncle. His love for flying somehow rubbed on me. Today I a am pilot.