Hasegawa 1/72 F-14B Tomcat 'VF-103 Jolly Rogers Christmas Special'
|PRICE:||4000 yen SRP|
|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
|NOTES:||2022 limited edition|
The Grumman F-14 Tomcat is a supersonic, twin-engine, two-seat, variable-sweep wing fighter aircraft. The Tomcat was developed for the United States Navy's Naval Fighter Experimental (VFX) program following the collapse of the F-111B project. The F-14 was the first of the American teen-series fighters, which were designed incorporating the experience of air combat against MiG fighters during the Vietnam War.
The F-14 first flew in December 1970 and made its first deployment in 1974 with the U.S. Navy aboard USS Enterprise (CVN-65), replacing the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II. The F-14 served as the U.S. Navy's primary maritime air superiority fighter, fleet defense interceptor and tactical aerial reconnaissance platform. In the 1990s, it added the Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night (LANTIRN) pod system and began performing precision ground-attack missions.
Throughout most of its life, the F-14 was hampered by the TF-30 engines originally designed for the F-111B. These caused some issues and did not allow the full utilization of the Tomcat's design capabilities. It was planned on using F-401 engines but issues with the engines and budget concerns shelved that. It wasn't until many years later that the F-110 engine was installed in some F-14A airframes making those F-14A+ and later F-14B aircraft. The upgraded F-14D had these same engines and upgraded digital avionics with about half of the F-14D production being reworked F-14As.
In the 1980s F-14s were used as land-based interceptors by the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force during the Iran–Iraq War, where they saw combat against Iraqi warplanes. Iranian F-14s reportedly shot down at least 160 Iraqi aircraft during the war, while only 12 to 16 Tomcats were lost; at least half of these losses were due to accidents.
The Tomcat was retired from the U.S. Navy's active fleet on 22 September 2006, having been supplanted by the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. The F-14 remains in service with the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force, having been exported to Iran in 1976, when the U.S. had amicable diplomatic relations with Iran. VF-103 was one of the small number of F-14 units that transitioned to the F-18F.
Hasegawa has reboxed the Tomcat at least five dozen times, judging by my slowly growing collection of F-14 kits. You would think that they'd have run out of options for their Limited Editions, but based on this new release, that isn't the case. It was natural that they'd get the most out of what has to have been an expensive molding, judging by the plethora of small parts and inserts that come with the kits. There are so many parts that the box is actually bulging in an attempt to keep them from escaping. You can see the number of bits and pieces from the image above. In many ways, this is just a smaller version of the larger and equally impressive 1/48 F-14 that Hasegawa has produced. Typical of Hasegawa, the kit came with all those sprues in two bags. As a result, there were a number of parts broken off the sprues and the bits have numerous scratches on them.
As demanded, the panel lines are engraved and the kit offers the ability to have the flaps and slats deployed. In fact, to do it otherwise will require a bit of surgery to be done on the slat tracks. You can also position the glove vanes open or closed. Again, some surgery is needed for the closed position. All F-14s had them wired in the closed position after it was realized that they didn't really do anything and were an additional maintenance hassle. You also have the ability to have the speed brakes and entrance steps/ladder open or closed, and two different tails, though one set is not for this particular boxing. So much has the F-14 been modified and updated over the years that you really need to have photographs of the aircraft that you are modeling to get everything right.
As required by its price, this kit comes with a small fret of etched metal. These bits are for the interior, canopy and exhaust. The metalwork is very well done and should really enhance your Tomcat. For this kit, they supply a booklet style of instructions. This includes a resin lower nose piece and new gun vent doors. The instructions are very well done as you would expect. They offer color callouts based on Gunze paint as is the norm with Hasegawa over the last decades. Every option and difference between the aircraft on the decal sheet is given so that you can do a proper job of things.
Two markings options are provided, both from VF-103. While the nose number is the same, the two options are from different years and are different serial number planes. The box art plane is from 2000, while the other option is from 1997. Both are in the tri-grey TPS camouflage with black tails and black area around the canopy. This will need to be painted. Decals are nicely done and include the usual mass of stencils. I like that a standard plane is provided as not everyone is fond of special markings.
One thing for sure, these kits have gotten less expensive, thanks to the improved dollar/yen rate. If you shop around, you can get it at less than SRP. Even with newer tool kits on the market, it still makes into an excellent model when done and is well worth getting.
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