Price: S$18.90 (est. US$11.00)
The Grumman F-14 Tomcat is the premier fleet defence aircraft of the US Navy and it has been so for the almost 3 decades. Armed with the AIM-54 Phoenix Air-to-air missile, the Tomcat can target and shootdown 6 different targets at the same time. In recent years, the Tomcat has also been converted to become a strike fighter, armed with both conventional and laser guided bombs for precision attack. The Tomcat is also the premier reconaisance platform for the Navy. In the twilight of its career (It is slowly being replaced by the Super Hornet), the Tomcat has become arguably the most versatile asset in the US Navy arsenal.
I have to admit that I haven’t bought many Academy kits because I’ve heard some less-than-stellar comments about the quality of the molds. However, the Tomcat kit came pretty highly recommended (thanx Iwan and Alex) and considering the price compared to the really expensive and hard to find Fujimi and Hasegawa releases, I decided “What the heck” and bought one. I liked what I got.
My first impression when I opened the box was “Wow… full weapons!”. The kit includes 4 AIM-54 Phoenixes, 4 AIM-7 Sparrows and 4 AIM-9 Sidewinders. Accept for the Bombcat variant, you could conceivably load the Tomcat in any configuration you want, even the recce version as the kit includes the TARPS recon pod.
Speaking of the Bombcat, if you wanted to do one, you’d have to modify the kit a bit as in the box, you can only build an early production version of the Tomcat. The gun vents and the beaver tail are the original versions. It does however, include the newer version of the underchin pod. However, it’s not much work to modify the kit to the latest ‘A’ version anyway.
The kit also features very fine recessed lines. Not as fine as the Hasegawa kit but far less deep than the Revell of Germany’s offering. The kit is also able to do the wing sweep as opposed to the new mold Hasegawa where you are fixed to having one position. As for me, I’d probably end up building this one with swept wings, for the sake of saving space.
Markings-wise, the kit allows you to build only one squadron: VF-51 Screaming Eagles’ CAG bird. This unit served on board the USS Carl Vinson in the 1980s so the markings are hi-viz. The decal sheet looks pretty OK, but since I’ve never used Academy decals before, I’ll leave my judgment for later.
All in all, this seems like a pretty nice kit. Building it should be pretty straightforward. I can’t wait to start.