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
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.
Media: Injection Plastic
The USAF converted 116 F-4Es into the F-4G Advanced Wild Weasel IV for the role of seeking out and suppressing or destroying enemy radar-directed anti-aircraft artillery batteries and surface-to-air missile sites. Primary armament included the HARM (AGM-88) and the Maverick (AGM-65). The F-4G is also capable of carrying conventional air-to-air armaments and standard â€˜dumb’ bombs.
By all records, the F-4G is the ultimate Wild Weasel platform. With two crew members, duties could be split among the both of them. It’s a tough airframe that could take a lot of punishment. It also had a long loiter time in the target area. It also had the capability to defend itself with its air-to-air capability intact.
It performed admirably in Operation: Desert Storm where it preceded airstrike packages heading into Kuwaiti airspace. The were records of dozens of HARM missiles in the air at one time, all fired by the F-4G.
The last F-4G was retired in April 1996, to be replaced by the F-16CJ. The F-16CJ is basically a Block 50/52 Viper with added Wild Weasel capabilities.
The F-4G is my all-time favorite aircraft so needless to say, I had to have one in my collection. The 1/48 kit builds into a very impressive model which more often than not impresses anyone who sees it. This was only my second ever finished aircraft done properly.
Operation: Desert Storm being both its baptism of fire and swansong, I had to do up this kit as a veteran of that war. OOB, the kit depicted an early 1980s Weasel configuration so some minor changes needed to be done.
Even though the mold is at least a dozen years old (probably longer), the fit was excellent with minimal gaps and weird fitting problems. Assembly was pretty straightforward except for the fitting of the center fuel tank. In hindsight, I should have drilled holes and used pins to ensure that the fuel tanks were steadier. As it is, I only used CA glue.
I also removed certain sensor bulges on the kit that the real F-4G doesn’t have. Thanx to Andy Lee for pointing them out to me. He’s the Phantom Phreak. Not me.
The rear landing gears are very fragile affairs. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any good solution for reinforcing them. Just hope for the best I guess.
During construction, the nose gear broke off so to strengthen it, I drilled a hole and pushed a metal pin in. Nothing will break it now!
I scavenged the two pilot heads from my F-16CJ kit since the helmets included in the kit were the old clunky ones. I decided to add pilots to the cockpit because the seats were kind of bare and I didn’t feel like getting resin seats to replace them.
The ALQ-131 and HARMs were taken from the Hasegawa Weapons set. Again, the included pod and weapons were too old for the specific aircraft I was planning to model.
I decided to model 69-0244 that operated out of the 52nd FW at Spangdahlem AB, Germany. During Desert Storm, it sported the noseart called â€˜Night Stalker’ and like the other Weasels during Desert Storm, kill marks were added! â€˜Night Stalker’ is the unit with the most kills during Desert Storm. As the Superscale sheet I had was old, some of the decals literally disintegrated when they touched water, so I had to replace them with the default Hasegawa ones. These included the USAF logo and the formation lights.
The center section of the front canopy is a clear blue color so I handbrushed it on in one thick stroke. This sufficiently prevents brush marks from popping up.
The camo demarkation for this unit was soft-edged, unlike the other Weasel units operating at the time. After unsuccessfully trying to do a soft mask (basically masking tape with the edges slightly lifted), I decided to freehand the lines and guess whatâ€¦ I finished it in less than 10 minutes when it took me almost 30 minutes just to try to mask the thing properly!
Colors were custom mixed by Mr. Nakamoto from Achtung Japan Hobby and went on pretty smoothly over a base of preshade in black.
Lastly, I weathered the aircraft with my trusty turpentine/artist oil combo and sealed it all with a semi-gloss coat.
Media: Injection Plastic
Developed in the 1970s as a long range â€˜fleet defender’, the Grumman F-14A Tomcat is the premier combat aircraft of the US Navy. Armed with a maximum of 6 AIM-54 Phoenix missiles, the Tomcat’s radar can track dozens of targets at one time, ready to intercept any enemy aircraft closing in to the carrier fleet.
During the early 1990s, the Tomcat also emerged as the primary reconnaissance platform for the US Navy. Fitted with a TARPS camera pod, it can zip into enemy territory, take hi-resolution photographs and still be able to defend itself against any opposition.
However, with the fall of the Soviet empire, the role of the Tomcat became redundant as the threat from long range bombers decreased significantly. It was then that the Tomcat community looked into expanding its role by activating its latent attack capability. Towards the end of its service life, the Tomcat also became known as one of the Navy’s most effective attack aircraft.
As of 2005, all F-14A variants of the Tomcat have been replaced by the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. The only variant remaining with the US Navy is the upgraded F-14D.
The 1/48 Hasegawa Tomcat has always been the one kit I always wanted to own. Modeling in my high school days was always a simple matter of gluing everything together and throwing the â€˜finished’ kit into my pile of glued together pile of plane-looking plastic. There was never a 1/48 Tomcat in this pile though.
So when I first saw this kid at Nakamoto’s shop, I HAD to own one. This became the first ever 1/48 aircraft kit I finished properly. It’s not the easiest 1/48 kit to tackle, but the results were very satisfying. In fact, after I finished the kit, 4 or so other folks who frequent Nakamoto’s workshop starting building Hasegawa Tomcats too! All thanks to me? Hahahaha
The 1/48 Hasegawa F-14 kit has always been one of those model kits that I always wanted but never bought. But I couldn’t resist getting one and try out. This kit is actually the first aircraft kit that I’ve completely constructed and finished properly.
This kit isn’t easy to build. I plunged right into it before checking out reviews. Still, I enjoyed this build tremendously. Construction wasn’t straightforward by any means:
The two halves of the front fuselage didn’t fit until I cut off quite a fair bit of the cockpit control panels. This problem seems to not affect all boxings of the F-14A. Probably different batches.
The parts didn’t fit right. I had to compromise and leave a gap inside the bays so they will fit into the bottom fuselage. The good news: you can’t see it from the outside. The bad news: I know the gaps are there.
For some strange reason, the front landing gear fit too far into the bay. Because of that, the clearance of the launch bar to the gear doors is very slim.
This being an F-14A Tomcat, the nozzles are modeled one open and one closed. This is a pretty common occurrence as pilots usually shut down one engine while taxiing, then the other after the aircraft has parked.
Navy aircraft in the 1980s were very well maintained. They were given a high gloss finish and always looked clean. In the middle of the 1980s, the US Navy adopted the TPS (Tactical Paint Scheme) colors for all their aircraft. These were low-visibility colors and consequently very dull. I decided to color my Tomcat during the transition period, the aircraft tended to be dull colored while the markings remained bright and colorful.
With that in mind, I added a bit of weathering to the Tomcat with some oil paint mixed in turpentine. Things done include a general wash on the panel lines, some oil and hydraulic streaks.
Weapon-wise, I loaded the Tomcat in standard CAP (Combat Air Patrol) configuration of 2x AIM-54 Phoenix AAMs, 2x AIM-7 Sparrow AAMs and 2x AIM-9 Sidewinder AAMs. I actually used the wrong version of the Sidewinders but I didn’t realize it until I have mounted them onto the kit.