Note : this post gets a lot of hits so I need to mention that I’ve lost the images for this preview. The only images left are low resolution ones you see here. I hope to be able to bring back the originals.
In 1987, the Grumman F-14A received its first major upgrade in the form of the F-14A+. The original TF30 engines were replaced with the F110, which provided a significant increase in performance, range and reliability. With these new engines, the F-14A+ could take off from the carrier deck without afterburner. The other major upgrade was internal, with the installation of the ALR-67 Radar Homing and Warning (RHAW) system.
38 new aircraft were manufactured and 48 F-14Aâ’s were upgraded into the B variant. The F-14A+ was officially redesignated F-14B in 1991. F-14Bs will serve with distinction (with further upgrades) into 2005 with VF-11 Red Rippers and VF-32 Swordsmen being the last 2 US Navy squadrons operating the variant.
Since the 1980s, the best 1/48 scale F-14 you can get is from Hasegawa. The Academy and Revell offerings cannot begin to compare with it. It’s detailed, the shape is accurate and once completed, it simply catches attention on any display case. Now there’s a new entry that’s trying to dethrone it, and it’s Hobby Boss, a Chinese company.
Variants of the F-14 were a simple reboxing of parts by Hasegawa with some added parts. The effort, to me, is half-hearted as Hasegawa doesn’t include all the tiny details that make the variants different from the F-14A. Now Hobby Boss has released the F-14B. Since the base kit is the same as the first release, this preview will only look at whether they have captured all the minor detail changes from the F-14A.
The biggest and most obvious difference between the A and B variants are the engines and Hobby Boss obviously has gotten this right. I’m not sold on the complete engines though. While it’s nice that you can display the engines separately, how many modelers would really actually do that?
Here’s a list of items they got it right for the F-14B:
In addition to the above, Hobby Boss has included all the weapons that an F-14B can carry and various others that it won’t. Also included are:
In order to replicate these on the Hasegawa, you’ll need at least 3 boxes of their weapons sets.
The parts breakdown is very similar to the Hasegawa offering. There are however some differences. One, the wings can sweep in the Hobby Boss. Unlike Hasegawa however, they don’t include the parts to lower the flaps and slats. They also do not include the wing glove vanes as separate parts. Hobby Boss however, does give you the option to have the inflight refueling probe open and extended.
From what I’ve read so far on the Internet, the Hobby Boss kit fits quite decently. Frankly, this is more than I can say about Hasegawa’s F-14 which has fitting issues in the cockpit, front to rear fuselage and intakes.
Now the general consensus of the Hobby Boss F-14 is that even though it’s right up there, the Hasegawa F-14 is still slightly more accurate shape-wise, especially around the intake area. For me though, ease of build trumps the minor (for me anyway) issues with the intake.
The kit comes with 2 marking options:
There is also 2 sheets of stencils.
While the Hobby Boss does have a high MSRP, on the streets it’s quite competitive compared to the Hasegawa offering. And we haven’t included the cost of the minor scratchbuilding involved and the weapon sets you need to get to arm the F-14. Being a mold that has been redone over and over again, the latest Hasegawa F-14s also suffer from flash of some form on the parts.
If it turns out the Hobbyboss F-14 is really an easier build, I think the only conclusion is: if you want the best 1/48 F-14 Tomcat, get the Hobby Boss.
Preview courtesy of my wallet
Price: Rp. 285,000 (est. US$31.00)
The Grumman F-14D is the final version of the Tomcat. It is at home in both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions and is considered the most versatile platform in the US Navy arsenal. Primary differences between the D and A variants include: more powerful GE engines, upgraded avionics and radar. By the end of 2006, the Tomcat has been retired from US Navy service, having served with distinction for more than 30 years.
VF-101 was the F-14 FRS (Fleet Readiness Squadron) for the Tomcat community. Since the mid-1990s, it was also the only training unit after the west coast training unit (VF-124) was disestablished. VF-101 was tasked with training the crews and ground personnel on the Tomcat. Weapons training was also done by VF-101 which encompasses all the weapon systems the Tomcat could operate. Until it was disestablished in 2005, VF-101 had as many as 130 F-14s of all three Tomcat variants for currency training and range control work.
By all accounts, this is the ultimate Tomcat kit in 1/72 scale and they aren’t kidding. 197 parts of beautifully molded parts greet you when you open the box. As usual with Hasegawa, they have packed all the sprues into one big bag with the decals and clear parts in another smaller one. Once you take the parts out of the bag, you will find that the box won’t close properly. That’s how many parts there are in the box!
The kit features very fine recessed lines and is very detailed. You can tell this is a complex kit just from the parts breakdown. In fact, there has been talk that this is actually a simple (well, not really) scaled down version of the the excellent 1/48 scale F-14. One thing to note though, the 1/72 kit actually has a lot more parts. As with the 1/48 kit, the kit comes with PE parts and IIRC, there’s more PE parts than the bigger brother.
A look at the parts breakdown indicates that it’s the same as the 1/48 kit. The front fuselage is made of 2 left-right halves while the rear is made of top-bottom halves. This is probably the only logical way to split the parts. However, if it’s anything like its bigger brother, then the fitting between the front and rear fuselage will be a bit fiddly. Not anything major though.
Unlike the competition or even its older version of the kit, you can only build this kit with the wings either swung out or swept in. I personally think that being able to swing the wings in and out is simply a gimmick anyways. I certainly won’t be using the feature when I’m done with the kit.
It’s pretty clear based on the instructions that this is a rebox of the B variant so all the parts needed to build one is included. That’s good for the spares box. To build the D variant of the F-14, Hasegawa has included a new sprue of parts for the kit. Included in this sprue are two NACES ejection seats, control panels and the chinpod. Along with the GE F110 engines (which the B variant shares), the parts will make for a pretty accurate F-14D. Hasegawa has also thrown in the LANTIRN pod and rail, and the new-style LAU-138 launchers. Nice. As usual however, Hasegawa has again not included any weapons. You have to buy the weapon sets for those.
Hasegawa has started a trend of reboxing the D variant in various squadrons so you buy the box based on which squadron you want to model. This being the Grim Reapers boxing, both choices of markings are of course, VF-101 birds.
High-viz red-tailed Grim Reaper. Shown on the box cover.
AD 164 (Pic from airliners.net)
Low-viz black-tailed Grim Reaper with sharkmouth on the radome and a sickle-bearing grim reaper for the tails
Registration is as usual, very clear. Hasegawa has a reputation for slightly thick decals but this one seem pretty OK. That’s probably because this sheet was printed by Cartograph, which has a reputation for good quality decals.
This is an excellent kit. Although the many parts will translate to some inevitable fitting problems, it is the most accurate representation of the F-14D Tomcat in the market right now. The choice is pretty obvious actually.
Preview courtesy of my wallet
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.
Preview courtesy of my wallet
Price: S$19.90 (est. US$11.50)
The Grumman A-6E Intruder was one of the most versatile combat aircraft in the US Navy’s inventory. Serving faithfully for 30 years, this attack platform was also used as a tanker. Prematurely retired in 1996, there is so far no clear replacement for this aircraft. The Navy currently uses the Boeing F/A-18 Hornet as a replacement but it has neither the range nor the versatility of the Intruder.
I’ve heard quite a few horror stories about Italeri kits. Mediocre is usually the comment about the products from this manufacturer. But what the hey, I needed an Intruder for my collection and this was the only alternative to both the ancient raised-lined Hasegawa and ultra rare Fujimi. Besides, at $20 bucks, I didn’t think I could expect much.
I must say I was pleasantly surprised. The kit featured crisp recessed lines and no flash anywhere. Parts breakdown is logical and they even included weapons! 2 AGM-88 HARMs and 8 Mk 7 Cluster Bombs are included in the kit along with 1 centerline fuel tank. Pretty cool!
Two things that really jumped out at me about the kit. Firstly, the instrument panels had recessed details, unlike most 1/72 kits which only include decals for them. Although with the canopy closed, you probably can’t see much, but still, the details ARE there.
Second of all, they’ve allowed you to pose the wings in the folded position! I don’t think the other manufacturers bother with this detail at all. Again, this is a very cool feature and even though at 1/72 scale the details are quite basic, at least the option to fold the wings IS there.
Decals wise, they have included two squadrons that you can model, VA-36 “Roadrunners” and VMA-332 “Moonlighters”. I haven’t had experience with Italeri decals but the sheet looked OK to me. The decals seem on the thick side but nothing that decal solvent won’t solve I’m pretty sure.
So far, I am quite impressed with the kit. Hopefully, the usual Italeri reputation of ill-fitting parts will not surface here. 🙂
Preview courtesy of my wallet