Hasegawa 1/72 F-14A Tomcat
|VF-111/VF-84 and special for 'Miss Molly'|
|'Miss Molly' boxing. Older mold.|
The F-14 was designed as a replacement aircraft for the F-111B, a plane the Navy never wanted. Specifically, it needed a weapons platform for the AIM-54 Phoenix long-range standoff missile. This weapon was able to track multiple targets and destroy them at a range of 100+ miles, a distance that would make sure that hostile forces would never get close enough to the battle group to do any damage.
The lessons of Vietnam were well learned as the Tomcat was also equipped with a 20mm Vulcan cannon as well as close and medium range air to air missiles. First deploying aboard the USS Enterprise with VF-1 and VF-2 in 1975, it was able to make it into the Vietnam War era with the fall of South Vietnam and the subsequent hasty pull-out of the final US forces. As of this writing ( Summer 2002), the F-14 is finally being withdrawn from the Fleet, with but a few more years of fleet use before it is gone from the decks of carriers. Its predecessor, the F-4 Phantom II, lasted 30 years from first deployment to final phase-out, and it looks like the Tomcat will just make that similar mark. It will be interesting to see if the Navy decides to convert any Tomcat to drones once all the available Phantoms are gone, or if it will use early model Hornets in its stead.
Another light gull grey VF-194 aircraft in slightly different markings.
This is a kit I won on eBay. I had assumed that, from its date and more modern boxing, that it would have been the newer tool Tomcat. Imagine my surprise when I found it was an old friend. Not worth the money I paid, as this older Tomcat kit can still be had for around $19 brand new, but it doesn't mean that it isn't worth building. This version was released sometime in the mid-late 1970s after the aircraft had been in the fleet for a year or so. That means that it isn't a prototype as often happens with some new kits. It is of the raised panel line generation, and the interior is a bit Spartan by modern standards. It used decals for instrument panels as one often finds even on the newest Hasegawa 1/72 kits. The seats are somewhat suspect as well, but I know little about Tomcat bang seats so will allow my ignorance to follow through on this kit!
One thing this kit does have that its more expensive and newer brother doesn't is a full weapons suite. It comes with six Phoenix, four Sparrow and two Sidewinders. You can replace them with better ones in the weapons set should you so desire. The kit is also pretty straight-forward. There are not the mass of fiddly bits to encompass multiple minute variations in the design. Except in one area. You are given three choices of under-nose seeker/fairing to use. Determining which is most appropriate will require some research on the modelers part to make sure the wrong one isn't used. The modeler also gets the full-afterburner and full open exhaust. If doing a model on the ground, it would be quite correct to use one of each as when an engine shuts down with the other still running, it will often cause the afterburner on that engine to switch to the full position. When the other shuts down, the afterburner opening remains full open. Just a bit of trivia.
On this kit, there were three decal sheets. One for the standard kit with VF-111 and VF-84, one for Miss Molly, and an extra sheet from the 'Pacific Squadrons' kit. Typical of Hasegawa in-house decals they are thickish and the whites are actually ivory as you can see in the image to the right. They were not in good shape, having gotten wet at some time or another. No real problems as I'm going to use an aftermarket sheet, but using the instrument decals will be a challenge.
This isn't the first time I've built this kit (here's alink to the previous model), though it has been well over a decade since that last build. I started with sub-assemblies. This consisted of the wings, fuel tanks, Phoenix missiles, bang seats, and wheels. While these were drying, the interior bits were painted dark gull grey. The instrument panels were painted black. On both the front and rear control sticks, the hand grips had disappeared. The problems of buying open kits on eBay.
As I mentioned, the decals had gotten wet. Well, this generation of Hasegawa F-14 required decals for the instruments. I soaked the instrument decals from the damaged sheet and was able to peel them off the sheet. I then applied Champ setting solution in hopes that it would be able to force them to stick. It seems to have worked as they look just fine, even applied over a matte surface.
The seats were cleaned up (they had considerable flash) and then were painted flat black with midstone colored seat pads. Now I know zilch about Tomcat bang seats, but I'm sure these are inaccurate. No harness detail is on the seats at all. The interior was glued atop the nose well and the well painted white with Floquil Reefer white. This was then glued into the right cockpit half and the instrument panels glued in place. My kit also had a broken RIO anti-glare panel that was affixed once the other cockpit half was glued in place. Fit is pretty good, but there are some sink marks and misalignment that needed some filler. This also, unfortunately, destroys the surrounding raised detail.
Turning to the fuselage, the cleaned up wings were fit into the lower half and then the upper half was glued in place. This was done in several stages over a couple of days as the upper and lower half needs to be clamped to make sure of a solid join. Now I'm sure that there are those who will use superglue on this join, but I just don't trust it as this section will flex as the wings are moved, causing the superglue join to come apart.
The cockpit section was then sanded down when dry and attached to the rear fuselage section. BTW, around this time, the wheel wells and insides of the engine inlets was painted white. I also painted the inside of the gear doors, but will have to repaint them. Reason is that this kit is rife with ejector pin marks. They are everywhere and in multiples on most parts that are single parts (i.e. landing gear, doors, Sparrows, but not drop tanks, Phoenix, or other two or more part constructs). Clean-up will be tedious.
After the forward section had dried, filler was used where needed and later sanded smooth. Attempts were made to replace some of the sanded detail. Same can be said of the aft section behind the wings which was sanded smooth of all detail (typical for me). I then placed some weight in the nose cone and glued that on. The Tomcat will tail-sit if no counterbalance is supplied.
Next was the installation of the engine intakes. There are compressor blades that are to be installed at the end of the intakes and those were painted dark aluminum and glued in place. When this was done, the holes for the drop tanks were drilled out. Then each inlet was glued in place and clamped until dry. This is probably one of the poorest fitting parts of the whole kit so it is imperative that you get everything as well aligned by clamping as you can while the glue dries. It will save you much filler a bit later. The same was done to the other half. For some reason, the right side fits much better than the left. Once they were dry, they did need a touch of filler so that was applied.
I then moved on to install the fins, the ventral strakes and the leading edge finlets. The fins fit fairly well, though I did use some Mr.Surfacer 500 to fill in some areas. Same with the ventral strakes. The leading edge finlets are rarely seen in the extended position, though I do have some photos that show them deployed on the ground. However, these were eventually wired shut as they were of little practical value. The ones with the kit are a bit too long and are difficult to get properly closed. The forward edge is not flat so will need sanded/scraped anyway. I left mine jutting out a tiny bit and flooded the join with cement. When it was dry, I filed the parts jutting out flush with the leading edge and smoothed the section with several grades of sandpaper. It looks much better than trying to get them to fit flush
Once the fins and finlets were installed and the filler smoothed out, The next step was to add the nose probe. This was then smoothed out as well. The canopy insert was installed and the canopy and windscreen masked. Then the canopy was glued shut and the windscreen attached. Frankly, the windscreen does not fit too well. I didn't bother smoothing it into the forward fuselage, though I really should have, since this wasn't going to any contests. The sprue attachment points are large and will need sandpapered smooth, then polished. Once all that was on, it was time to mask the wheel wells and do some painting.
Painting this puppy couldn't be much easier. First the exhaust area was painted with a dark metallic color. I used magnesium from Alclad II and sprayed it right on the bare plastic. It turned out just fine, though really too glossy. That area was masked and the rest of the plane was painted gloss light gull grey using Testors Model Master paints. It took several sessions as the swing wings had to be done while both full forward and full aft.
ADDING MORE BITS
Once that was dry enough to handle, the landing gear was glued in place. The main gear support strut had to be superglued in place as it just did not have the little tab on it that it should. Guess the umpteen zillion castings of the kit have worn those down or something. At this time the wheels were added after I put Chrome Bare Metal Foil on the oleos. Then the smaller gear doors were glued on. I outlined the edges of the doors in red as most Naval aircraft are so painted. Naturally I slopped a bit, so those areas were scraped clear and repainted with either white or light gull grey as needed with a brush. Sharp eyes will note that I did not remove all the ejector pin marks. Again, this isn't a contest model, so I didn't bother with that.
I had a rather large number of choices in terms of decals for this kit. I wanted something I've never seen done on a contest table so chose Repliscale 1012 that offers markings for two VF-194 Tomcats. One is in the scheme needed and is the CAG bird while the other is in the TPS scheme. Unfortunately, Repliscale does not give a full range of markings, so I had to glean some from the rather wasted kit decal sheet and some from the spares box. This is especially true for common markings and insignia. The decals worked well, but all the Repliscale ones had to be washed prior to putting on the model as they had a white, milky substance on the carrier. A bit of Solvaset or Champ was used to make sure they stayed put.
THE FINAL STUFF
With the major decals in place, it was time to do some more work on the model. The first thing I did was to get out some Matte Aluminum Bare Metal Foil and apply it to the leading edges of the wings. It seems that regardless of what camouflage scheme the plane is wearing, all Tomcats have this feature. Some even have the leading edges of the fin like this, however, you will NEVER see bare metal leading edges on the tail planes as they are composite material!
Time was then spent on the usual small pieces and last minute items. I was fortunate enough to find an in-flight shot of this plane taken from above, so noted that it had no intake walk areas and the turbine warning stripe did not go across the upper fuselage between the tails. This picture was found in'Tomcat Alley' by David F. Brown. It is probably the coolest Tomcat book ever done. It is 95% quality color photos with just a little bit of background. If you are a real F-14 fan, you should have this in your library.
Anyway next I tackled the missiles. The kit ones are really not that great, so I substituted the Phoenix and Sidewinders from the Hasegawa weapons set. The Sparrows were not bad so I kept those. I could have kept the kit Phoenix as well, but the kit Sidewinders had to go. These were painted white with any additional coloring needed. The decals were quite time consuming for these weapons considering you had to cut each of the stripes and stripe segments to length. Putting 16 4mm black stripes on each Phoenix was NOT fun. Fortunately, I had decided only to occupy the forward mounts so just had to do two of these missiles.
While that was drying, I painted the tip lights and the fuel dump nozzle. The tail planes were then press fit into place. The small probes along side the cockpit were painted aluminum and glued in place. I also painted the tail hook with its required black stripes and glued it down. There is a landing light provided, but I replaced it with a #29 MV lens as it looked better.
Using an old Detail and Scale sheet, I cut some 'slime light' decals and applied them in the appropriate areas on the airframe. There are no indicators on the rear fuselage or tail as to where these go, so you'll have to to a best guess. The missiles were then glued to the pylons and the wing pylons glued in place. This pretty well completed the construction of the aircraft. I used some wash in the wheels and on the landing gear to grunge them up a bit and also applied some of this to the wells and some external vents. Then plugged in the drop tanks nd it was done.
This is about the fifth time I have built the early Hasegawa Tomcat. I've never tried the newer one, probably because of all the parts. This one is very straight-forward, and, other than the rear fuselage, had no real fit problems or vices. It makes into a very nice model and is easily found; Hasegawa's most recent (2002) reboxing of it are kits # 0532 and #0533!
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