In December of 2019, Great Wall Hobby released a newly tooled 1/72 scale F-14D Tomcat kit. Like many of the other Tomcat kits that have been released in recent years, the kit is engineered so that Great Wall could also release a F-14A Tomcat by just swapping out a few sprues. However, the kit design is such that there are just a few parts on the F-14D trees that are not used.
Upon opening the rather large box, you will discover that there are a lot of parts in this kit spread out over 41 grey sprues and one clear sprue! Many of these are smaller sprues such as those for the Phoenix, Sparrow and Sidewinder missiles. The intake trunks are molded on their own sprues as is the lower fuselage. There are two decal sheets, one with the stencils and the other with markings for three F-14Ds of VF-2 “Bounty Hunters” from 1995 & 1997.
At first, I struggled with the instructions as they are printed on both sides an in landscape format. I ended up stapling them together along the left edge to turn them into a booklet. There are also a comprehensive parts map, a double-sided page of corrections/changes, and 4 pages of color diagrams illustrating the markings for the three aircraft included on the decal sheet and showing the placement for the stencils that are included with the kit. To make sure that I did not forget something, I photocopied the corrections/changes pages, cut them up and taped them over the appropriate steps in the regular directions. I recommend you spend some time studying the instructions before starting as there are a number of options for the build – flaps & slats down or stowed, spoilers deployed or flush, speed brakes open or closed, nozzles opened or closed, radome open or closed and the positioning of the variable ramps in the intakes. The earlier you decide how you want to your Tomcat to look the better. I was pleased to see that the kit allows you to display the flaps and slats either extended or retracted. The spoilers were a bit more of a puzzle as normally then are only open when the aircraft is powered up and the flight controls are moved. I initially thought of displaying the aircraft on the catapult with the pilot doing his final control checks as then I could have spoilers on one side deployed and the other side retracted, but as the kit does not include any figures, and I wanted to display the radome open, I decided instead to depict a jet that is undergoing maintenance after a hydraulic failure, so everything, including the inflight refueling probe is deployed/extended.
The instructions direct you to start construction with the ejection seats and cockpit. The kit provides two SJU-17 seats but be sure to mark which seat is for which cockpit as they are slightly different. The instructions list color callouts for Mr. Color paints and MiG colors, but as I have a stash of Testor’s Modelmaster paints, I used them as much as I could. The seats are semigloss black with khaki cushions. The kit does not provide any of the harnesses for the seats, so you will either need to make your own or pick up an aftermarket set. I used the ones in Eduard’s detail set for the kit (SS693).
The cockpit is a modular design with separate parts for each of the side consoles, again allowing Great Wall to use the same tub for both the F-14D and the F-14A kits. The molded-on details on the side consoles and instrument panels are very nicely done and will really pop with careful painting. I elected to use the provided decals which settled down nicely with Micro Set and Micro Sol. I felt the display screens were a little too bright, so I toned them down with a thin coat of black. Great Wall would also have you mount the instrument panels and coamings at this stage, but I decided to wait until after the cockpit had been installed in the fuselage as there are a couple of other parts that have to be fitted around it and I felt it would be easier to do that later. I held off installing the ejections seats until final assembly.
The next step is to install the cockpit into the forward fuselage sections along with the nose gear well and the radar assembly. Knowing that I knock things off regularly, I decided to not install the radar mount and antenna at this stage (parts A49 & A50), a decision that later paid benefits when I got the Eduard detail set which includes an impressively detailed radar antenna. I also added part A10 in front of the cockpit which then allowed me to install the two instrument panels and coamings. Unfortunately, the instructions forget to tell you to install part Q6, a small rectangular piece in front of the windscreen until step 23, I recommend installing in step 5 as it is much easier to install when all you are working with just the front fuselage, instead of the entire airframe. Fit of all the parts was very good and I only had to use a little filler on the seams, mostly on the seam around part A10. The instructions also advise you to install part Q9 at the tip of the radome at this point, but again, if you are clumsy like me, I would hold off till much later in the build – I broke it off at least three times before it finally disappeared, being replaced with stretched sprue during final assembly.
Step 5 also instructs you to install the windscreen at this stage, but I recommend waiting till much later in the build. I used the windscreen to ensure that all the parts around it were -fitted correctly, but I did not glue it on at this stage. This is also the stage for a couple of choices – are you going to have the radome raised or closed and are you going to have the boarding ladder and crew steps stowed or deployed? I decided to have everything opened up, so I left the radome off along with the steps and the ladder.
The next several steps deal with the assembly of the intakes and the moveable ramps used to control airflow in the Tomcat’s intakes at high speed. The instructions use the terms “open state” and “closed state” which is a bit confusing, particularly as the instructions and the addendum contradict each other. However, unless you are going to model your Tomcat in flight, with the wings back and moving fast, the ramps should be in the stowed or raised position, they lower at high speed to restrict the airflow down the intakes and keep it subsonic when it hits the first stage compressor blades. Section 7 addresses attaching the upper and lower fuselage sections and the appropriate boattail for the F-14D. However, first you need to decide how you are going to arm your Tomcat. If you are going to install the Phoenix fairings, you will need to drill out the mounting holes in the lower fuselage. I decided to only install the front fairings, so I did not open the rear holes.
I was surprised to discover that the kit includes the glove vanes as these were not installed on the F-14D and will need to be faired over with putty. The kit includes small pivoting stubs on which you will later install the wings, and these are installed in step 7 as well. Surprisingly, there is nothing in the instructions telling you not to glue these parts (A6 and A7), so make sure you do not otherwise you will be stuck with the wings in whatever position you glued these parts in. Like many recent kits, Great Wall has not included any gears or other parts to connect the two wings so that they sweep together, so if you build your kit with slick wings, you will need to eyeball the wings to make sure they are at the same sweep. This is not a problem if the slats and flaps are deployed as they pretty much only fit in one place due to the tight tolerances between the extended flaps and the fuselage sides.
I skipped step 8 for a while and installed the ventral fins and tailhook assembly right before I painted the kit. Before starting step 9 you will need to take some time and address the ejector pin marks in the bottom of each intake trunk (parts A53 and A54). Again, unless you are modeling an airborne speeding Tomcat the upper ramps need to be installed in the “open state” as show in the addendum. One nice feature is that Great Wall has molded the aft intake trunks as single pieces, so you will not have to worry about eliminating a seam down the middle of them. At this stage you will need to break out the white paint and paint the intakes white. Some aircraft had parts of the forward section of the intakes painted grey, so check your references. The VF-2 birds appear to have the intakes painted FS36375 back to about the front edge of parts A76, so I painted the bulk of the intakes flat white, taped off the white sections and sprayed FS 36375 on the front sections (top and bottom) before installing the ramps and their associated actuators (all of which are also painted white).
In step 10 you assemble the front fuselage, rear fuselage and intakes and your Tomcat starts to take shape. Take your time and do a couple of dry runs to refine the fit and you should be able to avoid and seams. I had a slight seam where the right front fuselage joins the aft fuselage, but this was remedied with a little putty and sanding. Step 11 has you install the front engine bay doors and again dry fitting will help avoid any seams here. In step 12, you are to install the vertical tails and the stabilators. I left off the stabs until the end of the build to make painting and decaling easier.
Steps 13 through 15 deal with assembly and installation of the landing gear and the landing gear doors, which are best accomplished after painting and decaling are completed, so I set aside the assembled fuselage and skipped ahead to work on the wings. As I mentioned above, Great Wall has designed the kit so that you can have the flaps and slats either deployed or retracted. If you are building everything retracted, you will need to go to step 16 and remove the actuators from the slats so that they can be mounted flush with the leading edge of the wing. I had decided to depict them deployed so I went to step 18, and since the internal portions of the flaps and slats are flat red, I left them off the wings for painting. Similarly, the insides of the spoilers are also flat red, so they were left off to be painted separately. I found that if I inserted a thin wooden stirring stick into the wings, I had a nice handle for painting and decaling the main wing sections.
Great Wall would have you install the wings next, but it is much easier to paint them separate from the fuselage, so I left them off for now. You also will need to install the air bladders that inflate to close the gaps between the wings and the fuselage before painting. Great Wall provides separate pieces depicting the bladders either inflated or deflated. As the bladders are only inflated when the engines are running, I used parts T5 and T6 for the deflated bladders and parts T3 and T4 for corresponding trailing edges of the over-wing fairings. While the fit of all these parts was generally excellent, I did have to do a little sanding to blending in the joins on the stiffeners on the over-wing fairings and the edges of the left bladder so that it was flush with the side of the fuselage.
Now that the major subassemblies have been completed, the next step was to prepare the main canopy for painting. Due to the complex shape of the Tomcat’s canopy, there was a small mold seam down the center of the main canopy. I sanded the seam with progressively finer grades of sandpaper, then polished it with toothpaste and finished with dipping it in Future. Once the Future had cured for a couple of days, I hand painted the interior side of the center panel of the windscreen Tamiya green to get the green tint seen in many photographs, then I masked both canopies with Eduard’s masking set and attached them to the kit with white glue.
The kit gives your decals for three F-14D’s of Fighter Squadron 2 “The Bounty Hunters”, two in TPS and one in a retro gull grey over white. Having just completed a F-14A in the grey over white scheme, I elected for one of the TPS birds. First, I painted the interiors of the upper and lower speed brakes Tamiya flat white followed by Tamiya Flat red. Once this was dry, I tacked the speed brakes in the closed position with silly putty and gave the model a base coat of flat black. Next, I painted the undersides Modelmaster FS36375, taking care to not cover up the black base coat completely as TPS Tomcats do get filthy. I then used snakes of silly putty to mask the demarcation line for the upper fuselage color of FS36320 and tape along the hard edges such as under the wing gloves, again taking care to ensure that coverage was spotty with the black base coat peeking through. VF-2 only applied the third TPS color FS35237 (I used Vallejo AV71114) on the upper nose from the aft edge of the main canopy forward, coming to a point at the tip of the radome. As it looks like the canopies might have been painted separate from the fuselage, I used tape to ensure that there was a sharp demarcation line around the rear canopy and silly putty snakes from there to the tip of the radome. I painted the grey sections of the wings at the same time as the fuselage (FS36375 lower surfaces and FS36320 upper surfaces). When this was dry, I taped off the areas that would remain grey and painted the retracting sections/interiors flat white followed by flat red. I finished the wings by masking off the leading edge and painting it steel. I also taped off the landing gear wells and painted them white at this stage and I painted the air bladders dark gull grey (FS 36231).
Once the paint had dried for several days, I applied a couple of coats of Future to prepare the surface for decaling. The kit decals are well printed, and I had no problem getting them to snuggle down with a little Micro Set and Micro Sol. My only issue with the decals is that while Great Wall provides a lot of stencils for the forward fuselage and upper surfaces, there are almost no decals at all for the lower surfaces or aft fuselage sides. After the decals had dried, I washed off the excess setting solution and applied another coat of Future to seal them.
While the decals were drying, I backtracked to step 13 to assemble the landing gear. Unfortunately, I think Great Wall has broken the gear into too many pieces and I found this step very frustrating. Both main gear legs are split into two pieces and there are a couple of additional pieces that need to be added along with the large retraction arms and an aft retraction jack behind the main strut. The location of this rear jack is unclear in the directions, so I inadvertently installed it incorrectly and had to pry it off and re-install it when I mounted the gear onto the kit as there is a hole in the gear bay aft of the main strut that one end of the jack mounts into. I painted all the main gear parts semi-gloss white and set them aside to dry. Great Wall also provides two options for the nose gear strut, kneeled and un-kneeled. As the Tomcat is only kneeled right before it is connected to the catapult shuttle on the carrier, I chose the un-kneeled parts. Again, there are several parts that need to be added, preferably before painting the gear white. I left a couple off to make it easier to paint the silver oleo section on the strut but had to repaint many of them after assembly as the tolerances are so tight that I ended up scratching off some of the paint in order to get the parts to fit together. Once the sealer coat on the decals had dried, I installed the gear. Be sure to install the nose gear and the retraction strut A80 before you install part A42 as it will not fit around A42 once it is installed (I broke part A80 and had to repair it with stretched sprue). While installing the main gear I discovered my error regarding the rear retraction jack. In addition, the location of the main retraction arm can only be determined when the main gear is installed. All in all, I found the assembly rather complicated and I recommend using superglue for added strength and stability.
With the gear on and the paint sealed, I applied a wash using Tamiya’s dark grey wash. I have found that this gives a nice dirty look when applied over a flat paint as the grit in the paint gives the wash something to grab onto. I recommend applying the wash before you attach the gear doors or glove pylons as they are hard to work around as you wipe off the wash. I re-created the grimy worn area on the inner portions of the wings by sliding the wings onto the provided pegs then sweeping the wings all the way back and applying Tamiya tape along the wing to over-wing fairing joint. I then placed a sharp pencil on the inside edge of the tape and swung the wing forward. This gave me a sample of the arc of the wing sweep. I then penciled in several similar arcs and rubbed the side of the pencil randomly over this area and finished it off using an old school eraser to blend it all in. I then repeated the process on the underside of the wing and extended the arc onto the grey areas of the flaps.
I let everything dry for a couple of days, then attached the gear doors and wing glove pylons (I installed the Phoenix fairings before painting to ensure they matched the underside color). While these were drying, I assembled and painted the engine exhausts and the nozzles. The kit provides both fully open and fully closed nozzles and as Tomcats are often seen with one open and one closed, you have several options. I elected to have them both fully open, so I had to tape off and paint the black areas between petals that are so prominent when the nozzles are open. I used Testor’s metallic black for the black areas and even though it involved a lot of small pieces of tape. I am pleased with how they turned out. Before attaching the nozzles, I sealed the airframe with clear flat. Once this had dried, I popped off the rear canopy, removed the masking from both canopies and starting final assembly. I discovered that the wings slide on and off nicely, but the fit is snug enough not to require any glue, which will make transport of the model much easier.
As I had decided to display the nose open with the radar antenna showing, I purchased Eduard’s detail set for the Great Wall kit (SS693) which includes a replacement radar antenna and 10 tiny transmitters/receivers. Take your time assembling this unit and it will pay off as it really looks impressive on the kit.
One of the reasons I decided to depict an aircraft undergoing maintenance is that I was disappointed in the limited selection of weapons provided by Great Wall as the kit only includes air-to-air missiles (2 AIM-9L/M, 6 AIM-7M and 6 AIM-54) and their associated pylons. While the instructions and the sprues say that the AIM-54s are AIM-54C’s, I think they are AIM-54A’s instead as the missiles have the raised proximity fuze aerials. There are no air-to-ground weapons at all (other than the Lantirn adapter for Station 8b) and although there is a rumor that Great Wall Hobby will be releasing its own weapons set to address this, I have not been able to find one. I dug into my stash and “borrowed” a couple of bomb rack adapters from an old Hasegawa weapons set and installed them on the forward Phoenix racks to give my Tomcat an air-to-ground capability. I also replace the AIM-9 pylons with the later version seen towards the end of the Tomcat’s career.
Overall, other than the fight I had with the landing gear and the lack of a bit more variety in weapons load options, I really enjoyed this build and it is certainly impressive when completed.
Highly recommended! Thank you to Great Wall Hobby for the review kit and to IPMS-USA for letting me review it.