Detail & Scale Colors and Markings Series Digital Volume 3 U. S. Navy F-14 Tomcats, Part 2: Pacific Coast Squadrons
Thank you to Bert Kinzey and Rock Roszak for bringing another tremendous digital resource to the modeler. Thank you to the IPMS Reviewer Corps for allowing me to test out this new and exciting method of researching colors and markings of my favorite jet of all time, the F-14 Tomcat. A very significant plus of this updated version is that the entire history of all the Pacific F-14 squadrons, including TOPGUN/NSAWC and evaluation squadrons, is now available in a single publication.
This review of an exciting new format of a familiar product will be in two parts; 1) content coverage, and 2) how effective and useful the digital e-book format is from a modeler’s perspective. I certainly would expect the first question a reader would ask is, "Why do I want an e-book format?" I like reading through traditional books as much as anyone, with page-by-page discovery of storyline or new information. I also have tons of books in my library, mostly residing on stoic-looking bookshelves. This new publication format provides many research advantages for the modeler and is unparalled in price and content. I cannot imagine that this publication will anything but stunning addition to any aviation enthusiast’s digital library.
My initial reaction to the third Detail & Scale ebook is even more positive than my reaction to the previous two Colors & Markings digital volumes, Colors & Markings of U. S. Navy F-14 Tomcats: Pat 1 Atlantic Coast Squadrons and Colors & Markings of the F-102 Delta Dagger. There are many digital versions of print publications available, ranging from simple scanned images of typed pages to true multimedia blends. This third Colors & Marking volume from Detail & Scale is unquestionably positioned at the higher end of digital formats, with new material and excellent functionality. I ran numerous what-if research test runs developing information about squadron markings and found those test-runs to be fast, effective, and efficient.
Continuing the style of the previous two Colors & Markings digital releases from Detail & Scale, this third volume focuses on colors and markings of a specific aircraft and area of deployment. Such an approach requires a large number of photographs, making a traditional reference book both large and expensive. The digital reference book equivalent allows greater amounts of high-resolution images to be available at a much lower publication price and a more manageable size. In other words, a coffee table book does not fill premium bench space. While many of these volumes are now available in print-on-demand hard copy for the traditionalist, finding information effectively is far more effective with the digital format.
The volume contains 448 digital pages, over 700 high-quality photographs, 9 color profiles, and 16 enhanced and improved technical drawings from an official NAVAIR publication (01-F14AAA-3-2). Private photographers took nearly all of the photos. There are few “official” or promotional stock images. The photos have an everyday “tone” without much staging. The authors drew on a pool of 40-plus contributors, many of whom are established USN veterans with direct F-14 experience. The quality of the digital publication suggests that the digital delivery concept is the primary design parameter, retaining the cherished look and feel of the original Detail & Scale series and incorporating unparalleled search abilities.
Reading a novel in e-book format, e.g., iBook, Kindle, Nook and so on, is generally a nice experience, with the advantages of portability, downloadable purchases, and reading in low light. These e-book advantages are even better with ability to search, add notes, screen capture photos from the text for annotation, and fingertip rapid access to information. Having reference books on your workbench without compromising space is great!
Best of all, the stellar quality of the traditional Detail & Scale series is uncompromised in the new Digital Series. The new format builds on the excellence of the traditional format and includes many extra features. I evaluated this copy in the iBook/iPad format, but I would expect the Kindle version to be similar. At about $10.00, you cannot beat the price!
The cover screen continues the familiar and colorful Detail & Scale practice of highlighting the subject. The cover plane is the VF-111 CAG aircraft, Miss Molly, on the ramp at NAF Washington in 1989. On page v of the Front Matter section is an excellent description of how to use the iBook format on an iPad. The revival and rebirth of the Detail & Scale series is chronicled in this section, a storyline modelers seldom hear. A brief introduction describing the research, development and scoping of the book gives the reader a great sense of what it takes to produce a top-notch publication. Additional and supplemental reference materials related to this publication are available on the Detail & Scale website listed above.
- Introduction: The book’s outline is the focus of this chapter, leaving the reader with a great sense of the layout and coverage. For example, the apparent contradiction of fleet and home base assignments is not well known. In 1996, the Pacific fleet squadrons were relocated to NAS Oceana on the Atlantic coast.
- Chapter 1, Tomcat Stencils & Standard Markings: The small stencils, placards, general markings and other innocuous labels are illustrated in this section. Like most situations, reality is not the same as standard, with operational aircraft not always conforming. Many color illustrations keyed to a location diagram show the purposes of each stencil. This chapter is by far the best and most concise stencil guide I have seen for the F-14. The stencil chapter also dovetails with the lead chapter in Color & Markings Part 1, where the overall “official” paint schemes are described.
- Chapter 2, U. S. Navy Pacific Fleet Squadrons: Fifteen Tomcat squadrons have thorough histories in this section, accompanied by photos showing key markings and changes through time and between aircraft. A timeline summarizes squadron activity and assignments. The colorful variations in CAG aircraft are very interesting, but my personal favorite is the CAG F-14D on p. 36 above the hot-linked squadron patch images. Tapping on a squadron patch instantly bring you to that squadron’s details. This chapter contains the bulk of material in the volume.
- Chapter 3, U. S. Navy Pacific Reserve Squadrons: The two multi-role reserve squadrons are described in this chapter. As in the previous chapter, squadron histories are detailed, the various other duties described, and many pictures are included.
- Chapter 4, Adversary Tomcats: Many color images document the unique adversary color schemes. Two chapter sections cover both the Navy Fighter Weapons School (NFWS; TOPGUN) and the later Naval Strike & Air Warfare Center (NSAWC). Most of the images are TOPGUN era. NSAWC did not change the patterns much, other than minor modifications to the insignia and markings.
- Chapter 5, Pacific Coast Test & Evaluation Tomcats: This chapter has the same operational histories and photograph abundance as the previous chapters. If you interested in modeling unusual load-outs and other arrangements, there is much information here. The iconic gloss-black aircraft of the VX squadrons are found here, however most of the Tomcats have a range of unusual colors.
- Chapter 6, More from Detail & Scale: As in previous Detail & Scale digital publications, these pages may be characterized as trailers for upcoming digital volumes. The section also promotes a valuable resource website hosted by Detail & Scale. Make sure you have a bit of time on your hands when you visit the website; there is just as much research and sightseeing to be done there as anywhere else.
- Content coverage summary: In terms of content, this is an exceptional publication; there is a wealth of information about the color and markings of Pacific F-14 squadrons. This volume is well written with an engaging style. The artwork is spectacular and the photograph resolution is superb.
Digital Format for the Modeler
My review arrived in the form of an emailed purchase code. I entered the code into the iTunes Store download area, and the volume was ready to read and resident on my iPad in less than 2 minutes. The download time was a little bit longer than typical, but there are a lot of large images!
An excellent guide to iPad operations with this publication starts on page v. The Apple iOS signature taps, finger swipes, and finger pinch motions are easy to learn and are much the same as many touch tablet systems. The learning curve is a short bump to become proficient. You will soon learn to move quickly throughout the text.
Once you learn the finger motions, you will discover that the double-tap that pulls down the Table of Contents title bar is very helpful. On the left-hand side of the title bar are icons enabling you to return to the library (quit), find the table of contents (a chapter screen with sections), and locate a nice help screen for adding highlights and notes. On the right-hand side of the title bar is a screen brightness icon, but best of all, there is a search icon and a bookmark icon. I found both of these to be very helpful. These features really aren’t conceptually different from marking up a traditional book but have significant advantages.
Highlighting can be done with different colors, perhaps for different topics of your interest.
Highlights can be easily changed or removed (ever try to erase those bright yellow stripes on paper?).
Bookmarks may be added, removed or edited.
Taking screen shots or grabs can be very useful for specific planning. Pressing the sleep/wake button at the same time as the home button will capture the visible screen. This function is great for annotating and planning details. Many free drawing apps are available that can import an image and let you enlarge, mark up, or otherwise edit. If you need to put some ideas together for detailing, you can digitally scribble on the photo! An iPad has a very small footprint so it will take up minimal space on the bench. All of your reference material is in one place, ready to use.
I am extremely positive about this publication. I found the Detail & Scale Colors & Markings Series Digital Volume 3 to be an exceptionally effective and efficient research tool. However, as mentioned in previous reviews of digital materials, a problem I do have is that digital publications force me to abandon an old tradition of having authors and illustrators sign their books! This is a small price for cutting-edge reference technology that is now the norm in many professional practices.
Colors & Markings Series Digital Volume 3 has my highest recommendation. I cannot see how anyone can justify not having this publication if he or she has any interest in the F-14, whether for model building or for historical purposes. I am certain that the same functionality of the iPad exists for the Kindle platform. To my knowledge, this publication is not available in any formats other than the iBook or Kindle versions. The ability to examine the colors and marking of the F-14 within and beyond the printed page, the abundance of color images, links to external resources, search functions, ability to quickly bookmark, highlight and add notes, combined with the inexpensive cost, make the Detail & Scale Colors & Markings Series Digital Volume 3 an exceptional value.
Thanks again to the wonderful folks at Detail & Scale! I am very pleased to see the Colors & Marking Series Digital Volumes continue. I am sure I echo the thoughts of the modeling community in saying I hope to see many more of the Digital Series published. Thank you again to the stalwart Reviewer Corps for your hard work in making these review opportunities happen!