Grumman F-14 Tomcat Iran Air Force airplane model. The sole foreign customer for the Tomcat was the Imperial Iranian Air Force, during the reign of the last Shah (King) of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
In the early 1970s, the Imperial Iranian Air Force (IIAF) was searching for an advanced fighter, specifically one capable of intercepting Soviet MiG-25 "Foxbat" reconnaissance flights. After a visit of U.S. President Richard Nixon to Iran in 1972, during which Iran was offered the latest in American military technology, the IIAF narrowed its choice to the F-14 Tomcat or McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle. Grumman Corporation arranged a competitive demonstration of the Eagle against the Tomcat before the Shah, and in January 1974 Iran ordered 30 F-14s and 424 AIM-54 Phoenix missiles, initiating Project Persian King, worth US$300 million. Only a few months later, this was expanded by an order for 50 additional F-14As and 290 AIM-54s. The Iranian order was for 80 Tomcats and 714 Phoenix missiles, spare parts, and replacement engines for ten years, complete armament package, and support infrastructure (including construction of the huge Khatami Air Base in the desert near Esfahan).
The first F-14 arrived in January 1976, modified only by the removal of classified avionics components, but fitted with the TF-30-414 engines. The following year 12 more were delivered. Meanwhile, training of the first groups of Iranian crews by the US Navy, was underway in the USA, and one of these conducted a successful shoot-down of a target drone flying at 50,000 ft (15 km), with a Phoenix missile.
Following the overthrow of the Shah in 1979, the air force was re-named the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF) and the regime of Ayatollah Khomeini canceled most Western arms orders. Large shipments of spares were held back, including the last Tomcat built for Iran, which was embargoed and eventually turned over to the United States Navy. Deteriorating relations led to an arms embargo being imposed on Iran, which included parts for its western fighters and missiles. Knowledge about its use by Iran is limited, however it is believed that Iran's Tomcats are largely unused due to embargo on spare parts. Limited reports from the Iran-Iraq war gave some indications Iran was exploiting the range and multi-contact tracking capabilities of the AWG-9 radar to use their Tomcats in the AWACS role, and that this usage was at least partly due to Iran's lack of a stockpile of usable AIM-54 Phoenix missiles