AIM-54C Phoenix Missiles
The AIM-54 Phoenix is a radar-guided, long-range air-to-air missile (AAM), carried in clusters of up to six missiles on F-14 Tomcats, its only launch platform. The Phoenix was the United States' only long-range air-to-air missile. The weapons system based on Phoenix was the world's first to allow simultaneous guidance of missiles against multiple targets. Both the missile and the aircraft were used by the United States Navy and are now retired, the AIM-54 Phoenix in 2004 and the F-14 in 2006. Following the retirement of the F-14 by the U.S. Navy, the weapon's only current operator is Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force.
Despite its much-vaunted capabilities, the Phoenix was rarely used in combat, with only two confirmed launches and no confirmed targets destroyed in US Navy service. On January 5, 1999, a pair of US F-14s fired two Phoenixes at Iraqi MiG-25s southeast of Baghdad. Both AIM-54s' rocket motors failed and neither missile hit its target. A number of kills were claimed by Iranian F-14s during the Iran–Iraq War. The USAF F-15 Eagle had responsibility for overland Combat Air Patrol (CAP) duties in Desert Storm in 1991, primarily because of the onboard F-15 IFF capabilities. The Tomcat did not have the requisite IFF capability mandated by the JFACC to satisfy the Rules of Engagement (ROE) to utilize the Phoenix capability at Beyond Visual Range (BVR). From an engineering and service standpoint, the Phoenix could be said to be a notable success. As the only surviving member of the Falcon missile family, it was not adopted by any other nation (besides Iran), any other US armed service, or used on any other aircraft. It was heavy, large, expensive, and not practical in close combat compared to the Sparrow or AMRAAM
Other than Eduard, I have found Hasegawa includes Phoenix missiles in their weapons set “B”, and Academy includes a representation of the Phoenix in their F-14A Tomcat kit. Both are suitable additions to any Tomcat model; however, for the ultimate in crisp detail, the Eduard set cannot be beat. Hobby Boss also includes AIM-54Cs in their F-14 kits, but how these missiles compare to the Eduard versions I cannot say.
Eduard has issued two Phoenix missile sets: AIM-54A set number 648097, and the subject of this review, AIM 54C set number 648107. Each set retails for $14.95 and includes parts and decals for four missiles.
It is interesting to note that the F-14 Tomcat was capable of launching and flying with six AIM-54C Phoenix missiles in place, but due to weight restrictions could only land with four in place.
Parts Preparation and Assembly
Each missile is comprised of the main body (radome, guidance section, warhead, wings, and rocket motor) and the control section with exhaust cone and fins. Raised details include the forward and aft hangers, ribbing, and fine, recessed panel lines. Also included in the casting are the forward and aft coolant connections. Wings and fins are appropriately thin and look to scale. Both the Hasegawa and Academy AIM-54 missiles include some soft, recessed panel lines and are made up from two halves. The plastic versions will require some rescribing once the parts are glued together. Fin and wing thickness on the injected plastic versions are out of scale.
The pour stubs on the Eduard version are connected to the main parts with some fine resin webbing and the centerline pour stub. The webbing must be carefully trimmed before a razor saw can be applied to the centerline stub. Removal of the casting plug from the exhaust section is quite challenging as the part is difficult to hold while removing the pour stub and not breaking the rather fragile tail fins. Once the pour stubs have been removed, the two mating surfaces must be sanded to allow the two parts to fit together. Even with careful sanding with a coarse-grit sanding stick, I found the two surfaces were not perfectly flat, but each had a slight “dome” effect. I used a hobby knife with a rounded blade to try to eliminate the dome, but a slight gap around the perimeter of the join persisted. Once the parts are separated and the mating surfaces sanded and cleaned, the exhaust cone is fixed to the main body with super glue or epoxy. Care in aligning the fins while the adhesive sets up is required. I filled the circumferential gap with a bit of acrylic putty. While cleaning up the wings I did manage the break off a small part of the wing on one missile. The missing portion disappeared.
The assembled Eduard Phoenix missiles length scales out to 12’-6”, while the actual missile is reported to be an even 13’-0”. The injected plastic versions did scale out at 13’-0”.
As noted above, the resin should be cleaned with a dishwashing detergent to remove any mold release agent plus any resin residue from the parts separation process. A good primer application is also recommended prior to the finish painting. I finish-painted the review samples with a 1:1 blend of Tamiya flat and gloss white for a satin finish. References do indicate all white or grey and white AIM-54C versions.
Caution: as noted above, the tail fins are quite fragile. I had two fins break off two individual missiles during the placement of decals. Each was reinstalled using Gorilla super glue.
Decals are included for all the colored body bands and the various stencils. The yellow bands are for live missiles, whereas the blue bands represent an inert warhead. Take your pick of the colors, but a Tomcat is not a real fighter without fangs. A gloss coat was applied to each missile and allowed to dry for a day before the decals were applied. The decals were sealed with a satin clear finish.
The plastic versions of the AIM-54 require elimination of the seam where the two halves are joined, which is a bit time-consuming with some loss of detail. The resin versions require much care when removing the pour stubs and possibly some filling of the parts join connection, depending on the modeler‘s skill. As the fins and wings are quite thin, care is required while removing the surplus resin and subsequent cleanup. Either way, some time is required to prepare the missiles properly for painting. However, the Eduard version includes much more detail that, for most modelers, makes the effort worthwhile. The modeler will need to determine how to fix the missile to the launch rails on his/her Tomcat model. Unlike the model kit versions, there are no mounting openings on the Eduard missiles.
The Eduard Brassin AIM-54C Phoenix missile set is by far the best representation to date for the fabulous weapon of the Tomcat. If you plan to use these missiles on a Tomcat, be sure to mount at least one on a weapons cart, as the detail is much too nice to conceal on the underside of a model. These are absolutely outstanding and I highly recommended them for anyone wishing to outfit an F-14 Tomcat properly.
I wish to thank Eduard and IPMS/USA for the opportunity to review this product. Bravo Eduard – another winner.