Helmet and Dress Sewing (Flight Suit) Markings
Recently HAD Models released several sets of decals specifically for US Navy F-14 aircrew. I don’t know if the translation program messed up when the title was translated into English, but these sets actually provide decals for the helmet markings and the flight suit patches for the arms and chest for Tomcat aircrews. It appears that these sets were originally created for 1/32 scale pilots and RIOs (Radar Intercept Officers – backseaters in the F-14) as the instructions state that the decals were scaled for Aerobonus 1/32 scale ejection seats and flight crew models, and then scaled down to 1/48 and 1/72 scale.
This set includes decals for two helmets for each of VF-1 Wolfpack, VF-84 Jolly Rodgers, and VF-111 Sundowners. As the VF-84 helmets are the gloss yellow ones seen in the movie The Final Countdown, I believe that at least the VF-84 markings date from the late 1970s to early 1980’s when squadrons often painted the entire helmet in the squadron’s colors. The helmets for VF-1 and VF-111 could be from about the same timeframe or they could be for a later date as in the early 1980’s the Naval Safety Center issued a regulation requiring aircrew helmets to be covered primarily in white reflective tape to increase their visibility at night, particularly at sea, in case the crew had to eject/bailout of their aircraft. The VF-1 helmets appear to be the older versions as they do not have the Velcro patch or strip on the visor cover that was also required after 1982 or so. The photos of the VF-111 helmet show a Velcro strip on the right side of the helmet visor – indicating it is VF-111’s design after the mandated change.
I noted that Aerobonus does have 1/72 Tomcat aircrew sets, but in digging in my spares box I found a set of aircrew from a kit I don’t recall and I found a couple of Fujimi’s old flight deck sets that included aircrew figures. I painted the unknown set up as a VF-84 crew sitting in their ejection seats and a walking pilot figure from the Fujimi set as a VF-111 RIO to showoff both the yellow helmets and the white ones. As shown in the photos, I am not a figure painter, but as my focus was on the helmets and the patches, I think I did OK.
The decals in the Extra sets are printed by Cartograf and while they have been reduced several times from their original size, they are still readily recognizable and legible. I painted the helmets Tamiya yellow and white and then sealed them with several coats of Future to prepare for decaling. One really nice feature of the decals is that they are actually individual decals, not just one big sheet of decal film, so you do not have to worry about cutting each decal out and then trimming around it. I applied them using Microsol and Microset, which worked wonderfully and got the decals to snuggle down tightly and conform to the curves of the helmets. The VF-84 patches for the left and right arms of the crew also laid down very well. The triangular Tomcat patch on the VF-111 pilot did not conform as well as I would have liked, and I think it actually may be a bit too large for the scale. The American flag on the pilot’s left sleeve is a little too far back on the sleeve as it should be centered on the midline of the sleeve. The decal sheet also includes two sets of the letters “VF 84”, however the exact location of these is not shown on the photos of the actual helmets, as they were not always applied.
The set also provide nametags and chest patches for the various squadrons, however, in reality, the torso harness and survival vest worn when in the aircraft pretty much cover up these entirely, so I left them off. If you find a model of a pilot or RIO that is carrying a helmet bag (I used mine sometimes when traveling from shore to the ship or vice versa as not a lot of spare storage space in the cockpit) you could apply the nametag to one side and the squadron patch to the other side of the helmet bag.
While these decals are pretty small in 1/72, I really like the touches they add to the aircrew figures. The helmets will add a nice spot of color to your cockpit as well. I suspect that they will really stand out in the larger scales.
I really enjoyed this set and highly recommend it to anyone building a F-14A of any of these three squadrons (none of which flew the F-14B or D). They are easy to apply and look great, especially if you are a better figure painter than I am. I hope HAD models releases more sets, not just for Tomcats but also other aircraft, services, and countries.
Thank you to HAD Models for the review set and IPMS USA for letting me review it.