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
Work on the cockpit begins. The consoles are all decals. Looks decent enough especially since I’m keeping the canopy closed.
Ejection seat next. There’s quite a few details missing like the prominent canopy breakers and the green oxygen bottle on the left side of the seat. I added seatbelts using strips of masking tape. They are held in place with white glue. Then it’s a simple of handpainting, giving a dark wash and then lightly drybrushing the details.
The kit comes pre-molded with the older AIM-9 missile rails. The Italian ADFs replace these with the LAU-127 rail which allows for the mounting of the AIM-120 AMRAAM missile. Hasegawa instructions say to cut off the existing rail and mount this new rail that comes in a separate sprue. So I chopped off the old rail and cemented the new one on.
The Italians use the ADF for the air defence mission and they usually carry a maximum of 4 missiles (2 AIM-120s and 2 AIM-9s) for this purpose. The number 3 and 7 hardpoints are therefore usually left empty without even the pylons. The kit comes with the holes for the pylon pre-drilled. These need to filled up. I used liquid putty for these.
With most of the construction done, I can close the top and bottom halves of the fuselage then cement the wings and tailfin.
I then sprayed black gray onto the cockpit consoles and frame. Then the seat goes in.
Stores next. A pleasant surprise is that Hasegawa provides 4x AIM-9 Sidewinders (2 old, 2 new versions) and 2x AIM-120 AMRAAMs. I’m giving the F-16 a standard air-to-air load of 2x AIM-120, 2x AIM-9 and 2x 370 gallon external fuel tanks. From what I gather, their F-16s don’t normally carry ECM pods.
I also drilled out the back of the missiles to simulate their exhausts.
I previously previewed this, decided to just try to quickly build one (yeah right). This will be the F-16A ADF (Air Defense Fighter) from the Italian Air Force (AMI – Aeronautica Militare Italiana). As of 2011, the AMI operates 27 ADFs in an air defence mission.
The Hasegawa kit is from the 1980s and it’s clear the mold has gone through many runs as almost every part has some sort of flash that needs to be cleaned up.
Details in the wheel bay is bare but I’ll make sure no one flips the kit over. 😀
So what makes an ADF an ADF? Externally there are some obvious differences. First up, there are new antennas (‘bird slicers’) in front of the front landing gear.
There are also bird slicers in front of the canopy.
There is a huge bulge at the base of the vertical tailfin.
Hasegawa did miss out some ADF-specific details. There is supposed to be a searchlight on the left side of the nose for night interceptions.
The ADF is basically an F-16A but it does sport the 2 vented F-16C-style gun vent port. I might not do anything about this one because I’m not too confident about my scribing skills.
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
Media: Injection Plastic
The Grumman EA-6B Prowler is a four-seat electronic warfare aircraft designed to jam and deceive enemy radar and communications facilities. The Prowler requires 4 crewmembers: 1 pilot and 3 Electronic Weapons Officers (EWOs). In 1980, the latest modification called the ICAP II was done on the existing airframes.
ICAP II upgrades included more evenly distributed tasks and duties for the EWOs, additional chaff dispensers, an upgrade in the the primary search radar, improved cockpit displays, the ability for two or more Prowlers to work together on an electronic suppression mission and most importantly, the ability for the Prowler to not just jam radars, but to shoot them down too. To accomplish that, the Prowler was rewired to carry the AGM-88 HARM (High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile).
The EA-6B is currently operated by 14 active VAQ squadrons, one Fleet Readiness Squadron, and the Electronic Attack Weapons School totaling over 70 aircraft and 3,000 personnel. 14 squadrons are based out of NAS Whidbey Island while 1 is permanently based out of Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan. With the retirement of the US Air Force’s EF-111 Raven, The EA-6B is now the only dedicated tactical airborne electronic warfare asset in the US armed forces.
This is my first completed 1/72 aircraft kit done with an airbrush. Before this one, it was always with spray paint and hand brushes. Some scratchbuilding was involved to mod the Prowler up to ICAP II configuration as per the instructions in the box.
Hasegawa has a tendency to rebox old molds and pass it off as modern versions of the aircraft. This one is no different, which was why an insert was included. The Prowler also was unique in that individual birds could conceviably be modded in different ways. Research I poured into modeling the correct aircraft for the correct markings I wanted to do burned me out so much I stopped modeling for a while six months after that. Heh.
My kit came as an early production block Prowler (this is the only version of the Prowler that’s offered IIRC) so with the extra info provided by Hasegawa, I proceeded to add and cut the antennae to make the ICAP II mods. The hump on the bottom fuselage was also cut and filled with epoxy putty (the hump was hollow). I also did some research on the â€˜Net to see how accurate the Hasegawa information was. I gave up after seeing about a dozen photos of actual Prowlers, with different antennae configurations. In the end, I just followed the Hasegawa sheet verbatim.
As per my usual practice, I put together as much of the plane as possible before attempting to fill the seamlines and painting. Because of that, I tend to deviate somewhat from the instructions. In fact, for the Prowler, I did the seats last (for reasons I shall explain later).
Overall, the kit fit OK with the following nitpicks:
The kit allowed you to leave the boarding ladders down, so the intakes come with openings for the ladders to fit into if you wanted to model the ladders in the up position. Normally not much of a problem except, when you look inside the intakes, you’ll see flat plastic plates covering the interior. AMSers need not apply here.
Because of the way the fuselage is shaped, I guess Hasegawa was forced to mold the fuselage into 3 pieces: left, right and bottom. This creates â€˜opportunity’ for unnecessary gaps to popup. Nothing that some putty wouldn’t fix though.
ALQ-99 fan blades
The unique jamming pods have propellers attached to the front but the way Hasegawa molded them, it’s hard NOT to break a blade when you try to cut the propellor off the tree. I managed to wreck 2 of them but lucky for me, I was only planning to mount 3 ALQ pods anyway.
The front canopy came as two separate pieces (left and right) which is weird because there is no reason for it to be that way since he old Hasegawa boxing’s front canopy came as 1 piece. Hasegawa also decided to remove the brown tint of the old canopy for this new reboxing which is another weird move because the actual Prowler’s canopies ARE tinted. If you looked at photos of the real aircraft, there appears to be a coppery tint at certain angles.
Oh man… where should I begin? The whole kit was ruined by the seats Hasegawa provided. It was as if they were put in as an afterthought. They look so generic they aren’t even funny.
To fix the canopies, I decided to do an experiment. I mixed a half bottle of vanilla essence with Future and then dipped the canopies into the concoction. I did it three times with 24 hours in between for the Future to dry completely. The end result was a very very subtle shade of coppery brown tint. A bit too subtle for my liking, if I ever do it again, I’d find another way to achieve the effect.
As for the seats, I settled with adding some simple ejection handles on the headrests. I wasn’t about to try to find the OOP True Details seats through the â€˜Net. Too much hassle. The handles were done by some simple bending of brass rod and painting.