F-14D Super Tomcat
One of the newest additions to the fleet of available 1/72 scale F-14D Tomcats is the offering by HobbyBoss. The kit is comprised of one hundred and six individual parts, and they assemble to make a fair representation of this iconic aircraft that was retired from service in 2006. This kit provides the markings for three different aircraft, representing Fighter Squadron 2 serving aboard the USS Constellation (in both low and high visibility) and Fighter Squadron 31 aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt. Assembly was for the most part easy, making this a kit that I would recommend for anyone who wants to add a mighty Tomcat to his fleet of aircraft.
The Tomcat started as a replacement for the failed F-111B project of the sixties in an attempt to have a shared plane between the United States Navy and Air Force. The F-14A was a formidable aircraft, but its shortcoming was the two Pratt & Whitney TF30-P412A/414A turbofan engines that at times experienced compressor stalls. The upgrade to the A+/B/D variants saw the installation of the much more powerful General Electric F110-GE-400 turbofans, which improved thrust from 12,350 pounds dry to 16,090 and from 20,900 pounds with afterburner to 26,795, all figures are per engine. My real love for the D model came in August of 1990, when the ship I was on (the USS Abraham Lincoln) trapped and launched the first F-14D. The plane put on a short air show for the ship, and I was truly amazed at the capabilities of this large fighter. Other changes in the D model, aside from the engines, included new ejection seats, changed vents for the 20mm Vulcan cannon, improved avionics, a double chin sensor, and new radar. Aside from the aforementioned changes, the airframe and dimensions remained a constant for all of the models of the Tomcat.
On opening this new release from HobbyBoss, the builder will find six sprues (holding 100 items) and the rear body halves, all molded in a soft, medium gray plastic. There is a single clear sprue that holds four items, as well as two decal sheets (one for the aircraft and one for the missiles), an eight-page instruction booklet, and a single two-sided sheet showing the painting and markings for the three included options. There was also a single two-sided sheet showing new Hobby Boss releases, including this kit.
Construction of this kit was not bad overall, and I found that many of the items held in place firmly even without the use of cement; in the end, though, I only left the rear canopy and horizontal stabilizers loose. Having built a HobbyBoss F-14A recently to review a set of Scale Aircraft Conversions landing gear and Eduard interior and exterior detail sets, I was able to compare and contrast the two offerings. I would say the HobbyBoss did a reasonable job of changing parts to make the D model look like a D, but the engine exhaust area is only correct for the A, even though the nozzles are correct.
As far as my issues during construction, there is a symbol for “weight” on page 1 of the instructions, but no mention elsewhere. I added a ¼-ounce (7 gram) weight in the forward fuselage, and attached this to the front of the cockpit assembly. Without adding some weight (I would recommend no less than 5 grams), you will have a tail-setter with this plane. HobbyBoss is nice enough to include a heads-up display (HUD) on the clear parts sprue, but it must be trimmed down to fit under the windscreen. I like to add my landing gear after painting, and in so doing so discovered that the front of the attachment point had to be removed to allow the main leg to slide into position. I noticed some blotching on my decals, especially the red ones for the tail, and to my surprise, the blotches remained throughout application of the decals. I ended up airbrushing a coat of Future over them prior to installing the smaller decals on top of the red portions, and this did correct the problem. I will also note here that the fit between the wing gears is loose, and they can come out of alignment easily if the wings are extended. I found an old article too late to help me, but one possible solution is to cut curved pieces of sheet styrene and attach them above and below one of the wing’s gear in order to prevent vertical movement. In order to arm my Tomcat with three AIM-7 Sparrow missiles, I had to take one from my HobbyBoss F-14A kit.
As far as my hits of this kit are concerned, I appreciate the way that the folks at HobbyBoss have made a nice looking F-14D rendition with just over 100 parts. I have kits of this plane from other manufacturers that have two and three times the number of parts. The moldings were clean with minimal part clean up being required, and the majority of the molded lines are accurate for this plane. The available markings are good, as they show the final F-14 cruise for VF-2 and VF-31. The VF-31 markings provided were for the plane that was to make the actual last flight for the decommissioning of the Tomcat, but due to a last minute maintenance issue, the VF-31 plane numbered 107 made the flight instead.
As far as my misses, I found issues with the exhaust area, as they are more correct for the A-model with the Pratt & Whitney engines. I did not care for the green used in the decals to represent the various glass displays in the Pilot and RIO areas, and some of the decals had to be sliced in order to encourage them to fit on the cockpit surfaces. I previously mentioned the HUD being too tall, and the blotching on the decals (this was only observed on the sheet with the aircraft markings). The decal stripes provided are dark blue and black for the missiles, which represent Training missiles, and do not match the stripes used on live missiles. I am also curious why the Phoenix markings were for AIM-54A missiles rather than the C variant, which were used for the last two decades or so of the Tomcat’s career.
In building my kit, I utilized Model Master Acryl Light Ghost Gray, Medium Gray, Dark Gull Gray, Dark Gray, Flat White, Gloss White, and Aircraft Interior Black. In addition, Vallejo Dark Rubber, Uniform Green, Khaki, and Natural Steel were employed, as were Model Master Metalizer Steel and Burnt Metal. Varying from the directions, I did paint the missiles to represent those currently in use rather than the overall white that has not been used for a while. There was no clear direction provided for painting the wing gloves (the area behind the wings that raises and lowers to seal the area between the wings and aft fuselage). These feel like canvas to the touch, and should be a dark gray color, which is what I used (FS 36176).
Overall, I had fun building this HobbyBoss release, and even with the issues that I did run into, I would highly recommend this kit to my fellow modelers. There was nothing difficult to overcome, and it does a reasonable job of representing my favorite aircraft.
Thanks to the folks at MMD-Squadron for providing this kit to the IPMS-USA for review, and to Steve Collins for allowing me to perform this appraisal. I would also like to recognize the other fine folks who help to keep the Review Corps running behind the scenes, and as always, thanks to those who read my comments.