Hasegawa 1/72 F-14B Tomcat 'VF-103 Jolly Rogers Christmas Special'
|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
|NOTES:||2008 Limited reissue|
When the Tomcat was first built, it used the same TF-30 engine as used in the F-111. It soon became obvious that this engine was not able to fully take advantage of the Tomcat airframe and soon Grumman developed the F-14B with the same GE engine used in some F-16Cs. While the engine was what the Tomcat really needed, the funding was not there so the project was put on the back burner. Eventually, the loot was available and so began what was know as the F-14A+ with this new engine. Later it was redesignated F-14B. The final variant of the F-14 was the F-14D Super Tomcat. The F-14D variant was first delivered in 1991. The original F-14A engines replaced with GE F110-400 engines, similar to the F-14B. The F-14D also included newer digital avionics systems including a Glass cockpit and replaced the AWG-9 with the newer AN/APG-71 radar. Other systems included the Airborne Self Protection Jammer (ASPJ), Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS), SJU-17(V) Naval Aircrew Common Ejection Seats (NACES) and Infrared Search and Track (IRST).
Although the F-14D was to be the definitive version of the Tomcat, not all fleet units received the D variant. In 1989, Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney refused to approve the purchase of any more F-14D model aircraft for $50 million each and pushed for a $25 million modernization of the F-14 fleet instead. Congress decided not to shut production down and funded 55 aircraft as part of a compromise. A total of 37 new aircraft were constructed and 18 F-14A were upgraded to D variants (these were designated as F-14D(R). The R was for rebuild. An upgrade to the F-14D's computer software to allow AIM-120 AMRAAM missile capability was planned but was later terminated.
While upgrades had kept the F-14 competitive with modern fighter aircraft technology, Cheney called the F-14 1960s technology. Despite some aggressive proposals from Grumman for a replacement, Cheney planned to replace the F-14 with a fighter that was not manufactured by Grumman. Cheney called the F-14 a "jobs program", and when the F-14 was canceled, an estimated 80,000 jobs of Grumman employees, subcontractors, or support personnel were affected.
Starting in 2005, some F-14Ds received the ROVER III upgrade and were designated as F-14D(R). Of course, this designation only confused things with the rebuilt aircraft. However, since the system was only used for the F-14s final deployment, the whole thing is really moot.
Hasegawa has reboxed the Tomcat at least three or four dozen times, judging by my slowly growing collection of F-14 kits. 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. In order to be sure that we have a proper F-14B, there are is a new sprue to provide the additional things that are changed
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 an instruction sheet for one of the previous F-14A+ kit. 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.
For markings, we have options for the same plane. One is the box aircraft with the special fin markings. The other is the one without the Christmas theme. Decals are nicely done and provide all the data and intake walk areas. As usual you get a generic F-14B instruction sheet with an addendum sheet in with the decals and clear bits.
You can add this one to a growing list of Hasegawa limited reissue kits. I guess it is a good way to do business as they seem to sell rather well. I'm surprised at how well these molds have held up. The final result of the build is a superb model of an important US fighter.
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