Revell 1/48 F-14D Tomcat Quick Build Review
|Date of Review||November 2011||Manufacturer||Revell|
|Kit Number||5527||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Inexpensive kit with lots of options||Cons||See text|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$28.00|
The Grumman F-14D would become the last best version of the Tomcat to be produced. Where the F-14A was equipped with the AWG-9 radar and the TF30 engines, the F-14B retained the radar but received the F110 engine for a significant increase in available thrust. The F-14D was also powered by the F110, but the AWG-9 was replaced with a far more capable APG-71 radar, laser inertial navigation, other improved avionics, glass cockpits, the NACES ejection seats, and other much-needed enhancements.
While the F-14D was a far more capable aircraft, it was also more complex and costly to operate as well. When the F-14D (and other Bombcats) started showing their stuff in air-to-ground delivery capabilities, their future would fall into the crosshairs of politics as the aircraft threatened the Super Hornet still in development. Then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney favored McDonnell Douglas over Grumman and rebuffed any attempts to improve or sustain the Tomcat.
The F-14D served in combat operations after the first Gulf War through its retirement in 2006. The aircraft is still regarded as one of the most beautiful aircraft ever built and proved that Grumman could successfully build an aircraft with the pointed end at the front end of the airframe.
The Revell kit is based upon the Monogram F-14A release from the 1970s and as I mentioned in the in-box review, the tooling has been updated to address the differences between the original F-14A and the F-14D. With the extra parts that are in the F-14D box, all the kit needs is a pair of GRU-7 ejection seats to render the F-14B. Sure enough, Revell grabbed the GRU-7 seats out of the F-14A kit and released this kit as the F-14B as well. So with so many possibilities here, there is still a few fundamental questions to be answered: Is the kit buildable? Is the kit reasonably accurate? To answer these questions, I decided to launch Project Tomcat and look at the Revell kit and a few other popular Tomcat kits provide you with some answers.
The Revell (Monogram) kit is based upon legacy tooling standards, meaning that the surface detailing is raised and soft. The kit’s age makes it a prime candidate for flash (extra plastic attached to the parts around the mold lines where the molds aren’t completely sealing when the molds are pressed together). While a cursory glance at the kit doesn’t reveal any obvious flash problems, many of the parts do indeed have flash build-ups and will need a little extra time/care to clean these off before assembly.
The first stop is the cockpit. The cockpit tub hasn’t changed since the last time I saw this kit (many moons ago) and the original AWG-9 instrument panels are also on the sprues. The kit does provide a new set of instrument panels for the APG-71/F-14D and these are glued into place. The Radar Intercept Officer ‘s (RIO) radar joystick is also mounted to the center pedestal.
The kit doesn’t include the GRU-7 ejection seats for the F-14A/B, instead providing the Martin Baker NACES seats which look good. These are assembled according to the instructions and installed in the cockpits. The cockpit tub is glued into the upper fuselage half and set aside to dry.
The lower fuselage is next with the installation of the engine compressor faces (which are generic, neither TF30 nor F110) followed by the intake trunks. The fit of the trunks is actually not bad, using liquid cement allowed me to maneuver and match the mating edges to eliminate gaps and minimize any filler.
The wings go together next. These have been modified from the original F-14A with the deletion of the wing glove mechanism that extended the gloves when the wings are swept full aft. The wing still have the gearing to synchronize the movement of the wings after assembly. With the wings assembled, I mounted them onto the lower fuselage half. I found that the wing hinges didn’t provide a solid mount for the F-14D wings as they once did with the F-14A. The wings stayed on the pivots of the F-14A kit and could be swept with no problem. With this F-14D, the wings simply fall off.
The easiest way to assemble the wings and fuselage is to dry-fit the fuselage halves together. Insert one wing and make sure that it pivots. Hold the fuselage halves at the wing pivot of the installed wing, and insert the other wing into place. You need to get the second wing onto the pivot and get the sweep gear aligned with the first wing. Makes sure that both wings are moving in the wing slots of the upper fuselage. Once the wings are in place, I clamped the wing gloves to keep the wings in place, then used liquid cement to glue the fuselage halves together.
The kit provides the option for the standard F-14D chin pod which has the IRST and TCS systems or the legacy TCS-only pod used on the F-14A/B and fitted to some F-14Ds. I opted for the TCS-only option and installed that under the nose. The nose gear walls and doors go in with no problems. Here's where we start running into some fit problems - the gun door goes into its recess on the left side of the nose but it doesn't fit - it isn't wide enough. The radome had some fit issues as well and while I used liquid cement to install the radome, there was going to be a step somewhere. These both will take some putty and sanding to blend them into the airframe, but these are the worst problems in the build.
The GE nozzles go together okay and will only need a bit of fiddling to get a better fit than I got in this test build.
Some of the instruction steps had arrows pointing 'somewhere over there' for parts placement. For example, the instructions indicated that the smallest main landing gear door should go into an incorrect spot. I used some handy Hasegawa instructions to understand where these doors really go and how they should be oriented.
The landing gear goes together next and there were no problems here. The original 'round' wheels are still in the kit as well as these weighted main wheels. The nose wheels are not weighted but a sanding stick can cure that easy enough.
Now its time to assemble your external stores. As I mentioned in the in-box review, this release has a lot of options to render an air-to-air Tomcat with a variety of load configurations plus air-to-ground munitions to render a number of Bombcat loadouts. I assembled my choices and mounted them to the aircraft.
This is still a nice kit and while the molds are starting to show their age with the flash, the kit is a bargain in today's market. Looking at street prices, the Revell kit is going for around $17 USD, the Academy kit is around $38, the Hasegawa kit at around $68 and the HobbyBoss kit tops the list at $80. This is a nice kit for the less experienced modeler and in the hands of an experienced modeler, it can be a very nice model.
You can see in these final shots that there are seams that will need a little filler, but the only real work will be with the radome and gun door and that isn't going to be difficult. One other note that the instructions don't mention - ballast. With the wings full forward, the model sits nicely on its landing gear, but with the wings full aft, the model is a tail-sitter. You'll need an ounce or so in the radome to ensure this model stays planted on its landing gear.
The advantage of these quick builds is you can see all the warts and gaps clearly. While I did sand and file some of the surfaces to improve fit/clean flash, no filler was used. Since there is no paint on the model, you can judge for yourself. Aside from the extra time needed to clean up the flash, and noting some of the areas where ejector pin marks might be visible, this kit has held up rather nicely for its age and remains a bargain.