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:
- The GPS dome on the spine
- A reinforcement plate surrounding the step of the rear cockpit (this surprised me)
- Correct beavertail with sensor blister
- Correct NACA gun vent doors
- Correct nose gear doors with sensor blister
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:
- The AN/AAQ-14 LANTIRN pod that hangs off the starboard pylon
- The new BOL AIM-9 sidewinder pylons
- The bomb racks attached to the belly AIM-54 Phoenix pallettes.
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:
- F-14B, BuNo 161435, VF-103, 2000
- F-14B, BuNo 162919, VF-74, 1992
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