Hasegawa 1/72 F-14A Tomcat 'Low Visibility'
|1200 yen SRP
|Scott Van Aken
|Their original Tomcat kit. This boxing is a 2000 release
The Grumman F-14 Tomcat is a supersonic, twinjet, 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 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.
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. As of 2012, the F-14 was only 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. A fair number of these are still in service.
It is amazing that the Tomcat was replaced by an aircraft that was more expensive and less capable, simply to accommodate politicians who wanted the supposedly unlimited barrel of weapons procurement money to flow into their states. Like the current over-cost, under-performing debacle with the F-35, the F-18 also took a rather rough road to operational status and even the highly modified F-18F, which supposedly replaced the F-14D, still does not have the capabilities of the F-14D. It is less agile, slower, has a shorter range missile system, and is unable to match the range of the F-14 without refueling.
Hasegawa's original tool F-14A was released about 1978 and was immediately heralded as the best Tomcat around in its scale. It had the sort of detail that was missing in the earlier release Monogram and Airfix kits, which, at the time, was raised panel lines. The kit contains a fair cockpit with a bucket, two somewhat generic seats control sticks and pilot figures. The instrument and consoles require decals for detail, something still quite common with 1/72 kits. The interior fits atop the nose gear well. Typical of the 'blended wing' kits like the F-15 and F-16, the forward fusealge is split vertically and the rest is horizontal. In the case of the Tomcat, this is to allow its wings to move fore and aft.
In this intial kit, there are no deployable slats and flaps so one can easily move the wings as one wishes. To install the Phoenix pallets, one needs to open holes in the lower fuselage. This kit, like every other Tomcat kit I've built, has separate engine intakes that have compressor faces at the back of them. The fit of these intakes is probably the most difficult part of building any Tomcat kit so one needs to take care. Landing gear are well done and quite sturdy when done. Gear doors are not designed to be closed. There is no separate speed brakes, those being molded closed.
The kit has a nicely done exhaust where one can model the burner cans either full open or full closed. Often, crews will shut down one engine while taxiing in so it is not unusual to find one can open and the other closed when the plane is resting on the ramp. There are two different seekers on this kit, one being the very early and smaller version. The other has an ECM antenna on it. The TV camera was not part of Tomcat systems when this kit was developed so if you are doing a later Tomcat, you'll need to grab one of those from another source. Unlike the later kits, this one comes with a full weapons suite. Two Sparrow, two Sidewinder and four Phoenix missiles are supplied. The kit shows AIM-120s in the loadout diagram, but the Tomcat never had those missiles incorporated. Oh yes, you can also pose the canopy open or closed.
Instructions are well done and have the usual Gunze color references. The two markings options are provided. Both are in the three greys Tactical Paint Scheme. The box art plane is with VF-74 while the second option is for VF-84. As you probably can figure, the Jolly Rogers are a very popular scheme and I'd bet that Hasegawa has done more Tomcat kits with those markings than any other. The decal sheet is nicely printed and will need hot water to get the best results. As you can see, the sheet includes instrument decals as well as the markings needed for the missiles.
Though replace a mere 10 years later in 1988 by the more detailed and parts intensive kit (which also had the benefit of being able to do other versions via inserts), this boxing is still available and in comparison to the newer kit is much less expensive. It builds into a very nice model and is the only version of the Hasegawa Tomcat I've ever built.
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