Hobby Boss 1/48 F-14D Super Tomcat Kit First Look
|Date of Review||December 2012||Manufacturer||Hobby Boss|
|Subject||F-14D Super Tomcat||Scale||1/48|
|Kit Number||80368||Primary Media||Styrene, Photo-Etch|
|Pros||Lots of details, many options in this release||Cons||Mad Riveter has returned, somewhat over-engineered|
|Skill Level||Intermediate||MSRP (USD)||$93.00|
Back in the early 1960s, then-US Secretary of Defense (SecDef) Robert McNamara had a vision to bring the different armed services together to save some money by combining requirements. For example, the Air Force and Navy had slightly different requirements for the AIM-9 Sidewinder resulting in different versions for each service at a higher price tag. In the case of the missiles, the services finally banded together and are buying the same missiles allowing for purchases at a greater quantity discount. The concept was definitely sound.
McNamara was looking hard at his shrinking defense budget and in 1963, forced the services to use a common nomenclature system for its aircraft so that aircraft like the Air Force's new F-110A was really an F-4C. About this same time, the Air Force was looking for a new nuclear-capable precision strike aircraft while the Navy was looking for a fleet interceptor. The SecDef chose this unfortunate combination of requirements to force the two services into a common airframe. The F-111 was born. While the Air Force version would go on to meet that service's expectations, the Navy's F-111B just wasn't going to cut it for carrier operations. McNamara reluctantly agreed.
What the F-111B had going for it was a crew of two, a pair of good engines with the TF30 afterburning turbofans, the AWG-9 advanced fire control system, and the long-range AIM-54 Phoenix missile. What it needed was a lighter, more agile airframe! Grumman developed the answer by wrapping all of the best features of the F-111B into the F-14 Tomcat. A legend was born.
Like the F-111B, the F-14A used variable geometry wings to allow for maximum lift during launch and recovery from the deck while still achieving Mach 2+ intercepts in defense of the fleet. Unlike the F-111B, the Tomcat was agile in a dogfight, though its TF30 engines were just not powerful enough to sustain high-performance maneuvers for very long. This was later fixed with the replacement of the TF30 with the F110 engines on the F-14B/D.
The only country to operate the F-14 outside of the USN is Iran. While US operations of the F-14 never accumulated the combat records of the F-15, the Iranians used the Tomcat to its fullest extent and not only fired the Phoenix in anger (which the US has not done), but when they ran out of AIM-54s, they began carrying HAWK missiles instead!
The F-14 Tomcat is one of my all-time favorite subjects. Seeing the F-14As on the ramp at Nellis AFB during the AIM-9L evaluations back in the mid-1970s wearing the Keith Ferris camouflage won my heart over and I've been hooked ever since. So when Hobby Boss announced that they were releasing the F-14 Tomcat in 1/48 scale, I had to take a look.
The kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on 23 parts trees plus the separately packaged upper and lower fuselage halves, intake tunnels, and radome. The kit also consists of one tree of clear parts, one fret of photo-etched parts, and one set of rubber (vinyl) tires. As you would expect, this kit is a scale-down of Trumpeter's 1/32 scale F-14D kit. We did review the Trumpeter 1/32 F-14D (look here) and you can see the similar parts breakdown, but let's see how the downscaling of the larger kit works out here.
Clearly the designers that created the tooling for the Trumpeter and Hobby Boss releases had Hasegawa in their sights as their 1/48 kit held the title of best Tomcat in any scale. In 1/32 scale, the only real competition was the F-14A kit produced by Tamiya that started off with the nose section featuring scribed detailing, but the remainder of the kit had raised details. The kit was very buildable, but didn't have the options offered in the Hasegawa kit. So here the designers easily won best Tomcat in 1/32 scale with any of the three F-14s released in that scale, but up against the Hasegawa kit is another matter.
The layout of this kit is similar to the Hasegawa kit and offers many of the same features plus a few more. Let's take a look at these first:
- Nicely detailed NACES ejection seats w/photo-etched seatbelts/harnesses
- Nicely detailed cockpit
- Positionable canopy
- Positionable boarding steps and ladders
- Positionable radome
- APG-71 radar under the radome
- Positionable port side avionics bay door with bay details
- Positionable gun bay door w/M61 Vulcan gun inside
- Positionable leading edge slats
- Positionable training edge flaps
- Positionable stabilators
- Positionable speed brakes
- Movable wings
- Positionable air refueling probe
- Two complete F110 engines
- Intake ramps molded in closed (supersonic) position
- Choice of open or closed afterburner nozzles for both engines
- Choice of AIM-54 or AIM-7 glove pylon adapters plus LANTIRN glove adapter
- Choice of normal or 'squat' nosegear strut
- Rubber tires
For external options:
- 2 x AIM-9L
- 4 x AIM-7
- 6 x AIM-54
- 4 x GBU-31 JDAMs
- 4 x Mk.82 slicks
- 1 x LANTIRN pod
- 1 x TARPS pod
- 2 x external fuel tanks
What you have in this box is the F-14D Super Tomcat that can be configured in its Fleet Defense, TARPS reconnaissance, or Bombcat roles. This is the kit you're looking for to get the most versatility out of the box. We've wondered what had happened to the Mad Riveter and he's back with this release. The rivet details look good in 1/32 scale, but they're a bit too much in this 1/48 scale version.
Unlike the Hasegawa kit, this release has lots more parts plus optional weapons. I'm not convinced this is a good thing though. Where lots of details are great in a 1/32 scale kit, when it is scaled down to 1/48 scale, this becomes over-engineered. First, there are no provisions to open the engine bay doors, so those nicely detailed F110s will not be seen again after assembly. The wheel wells are more detailed than the Hasegawa kit, but each wall/panel in the three wheel wells is a separate part which may lead to some fit issues later.
I honestly don't know why this release has movable wings. You cannot build this kit with extended flaps and movable wings as you will shred the flaps off the first time those wings are swept. There is no wing sweep synchronization so the wings can move individually (unlike the full-scale aircraft).
Markings are provided for two examples:
- F-14D, BuNo 164603, VF-213, NH/101, USS Carl Vinson, Skipper's aircraft
- F-14D, BuNo 164342, VF-101, AD/164, USS Enterprise, 2000
The decals are provided on three smaller decal sheets that also include airframe and weapons stenciling.
While I was a bit concerned with the limitations of Hobby Boss' 1/48 F-14A release (look here), they've come back with this kit providing most of the standard air-to-air loadouts (only the 6 x AIM-7 is not provided, not that we ever saw that load very often), and a nice combination of Bombcat loads as well as the TARPS reconnaissance pod. With the wide variety of aftermarket decals available for the F-14 Tomcat out there, you won't have any trouble finding the right aircraft to portray should you opt not to use the kit decals.
My sincere thanks to Squadron Mail Order for this review sample!