Academy 1/72 F-14A Tomcat 'VF-143 Pukin Dogs' Kit First Look
|Date of Review||January 2020||Manufacturer||Academy|
|Subject||F-14A Tomcat 'VF-143 Pukin Dogs'||Scale||1/72|
|Kit Number||12563||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Nice details and options||Cons||Nothing noted|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$39.00|
Much has been written about the F-14 Tomcat over the years, but let's take a quick look at its timeline anyway. After the cancellation of the Navy's fleet defense fighter under the TFX program (F-111B), much of the special development was recycled into a new airframe designed by Grumman as the F-14 Tomcat. The key systems included the AWG-9 radar with its track-while-scan capability and the ability to engage six targets at the same time using the new AIM-54 Phoenix missile. As the aircraft entered service, two shortcomings were quickly revealed: First, the TF-30 engines that also came over from the F-111B lacked sufficient thrust for aerial combat (an F-14A could out-turn an F-15 for 180 degrees of combat turn, but the F-15 had the thrust to sustain that turn, the F-14A simply ran out of energy for a sustained fight) as well as limitations on weapons loads going off and coming back aboard the ship also due to its limited power. Second, while the AWG-9 had superior multi-target engagement capabilities over water, the radar didn't have look-down capabilities over land. This led to crews driving into hostile airspace at lower altitudes to keep hostiles above them for optimum radar function.
With the development of the F101 derivative fighter engine (DFE) that became the F110, the F-14B was fitted with the more powerful engine that allowed the Tomcat to finally maneuver with the F-15. In addition to new-production F-14B airframes, many F-14As were re-engined to become F-14B. After the USS Vincennes incident that shot down an Iranian airliner, rules of engagement (ROE) were revised to mandate a visual ID of the target before engaging. Even with the Television Camera System (TCS) under the nose of the F-14, by the time visual ID was made, the Tomcat would be too close to launch the AIM-54 which limited the F-14 to the AIM-7 and AIM-9 missiles in many cases. In an effort to expand the F-14's utility aboard the aircraft carrier, the Bombcat was a modification that allowed a targeting pod to be carried under one wing glove while a variety of laser-guided and GPS-guided munitions were carried under the pallets that were used for the AIM-54s.
The F-14D was a major upgrade over the F-14B, while it retained the F110 engines, it received the APG-71, which was a digital system replacing the analog AWG-9 and featuring the capabilities of the APG-70 from the F-15E Strike Eagle, one of which allowed look-down/shoot-down capability. The F-14D also featured other upgrades including the NACES ejection seats, an improved infrared search-track system (IRST) alongside the TCS under the nose, Link-16, and an improved electronic warfare suite. As with the F-14B, a number of new airframes were produced in the F-14D configuration while more were upgraded from older Tomcat airframes. Despite the Tomcat's capabilities, the aircraft became too expensive to maintain/operate and it was retired in favor of the F/A-18 Super Hornet.
Many of you remember Academy's 1/48 F-14A Tomcat kit, it was one of my favorites though it was criticized for having some shape problems. It was an easy build and inexpensive, making it ideal for building several to showcase the colorful variety of markings carried by the aircraft during its career. Because the Tomcat carried a wide variety of color schemes prior to succumbing to low-visibility camouflage, this subject may hold the record for the most decal sheets dedicated to a given aircraft. Academy had a 1/72 F-14A which I believe was a scaled-down version of that 1/48 scale kit that we looked at three years ago. When Academy announced this 1/72 scale F-14A Tomcat release, I assumed that this was just a reissue of that kit (especially since it was using the same box art as their original 1/48 kit). Was I wrong!
This kit is molded in gray styrene and presented on 8 parts trees plus upper and lower main fuselage, two intake trunks, and two ejection seat frames. The kit also includes two clear parts for the canopy and windscreen. The molding is sharp with nicely scribed surface details. Among the features and options for this release:
- Nice GRU-7 ejection seats
- Nicely detailed fore and aft cockpits
- Positionable canopy
- Intake ducts to the engine compressor faces
- Wings can be displayed extended or swept
- Nicely detailed wheel wells and landing gear
External stores include:
- 2 x AIM-9G/H
- 2 x AIM-9L/M
- 4 x AIM-7
- 4 x AIM-54
- 2 x external fuel tanks
This release offers one markings option:
- F-14A, 159434, VFA-143, AE/100, USS America, 1976
I get a chuckle out of this squadron's unfortunate logo - when the squadron adopted the winged lion as its symbol in the early 1950s, the squadron commander's wife thought it looked like a puking dog, the name stuck.
So above are the notes about this kit as released, BUT that isn't the real story. What Academy has put into this box is one of the best Tomcat offerings I've seen in any scale. In this one box, you have all of the parts to render an early F-14A, F-14A+, F-14B, or F-14D, with options as fleet defender or bombcat. That's right, they cover almost all configurations, we're just missing the TARPS pod. Let's look from front to rear:
- Under the nose, we have your choice of IR pod, TCS pod, or the dual IR/TCS pod of the F-14D
- Over the gun, we have the early louvered vented door, an interim door, and the final NACA scooped door
- In the cockpit, we have the AWG-9 rear cockpit panel or the APG-71 rear cockpit panel
- Also in the cockpit, we have the GRU-7 or NACES seats
- In addition to the above-mentioned external stores, there is also a targeting pod and a pair of LGBs are provided for the bombcat
- The kit doesn't provide wing gloves, making it good for all versions
- In addition to the TF30 afterburner nozzles for this release, there are also a pair of F110 nozzles for the F-14B/D
- Between the engines are your choice of two beavertails to cover the mid and late configurations, and you can modify one to get to initial production if you wish
- As I mentioned above, no TARPS pod is included, but also missing are the various warts for the later F-14A/B electronic warfare suite, but these are easy to replicate
So looking at this kit, you can render just about any Tomcat ever produced. With the variety of decals out there for the various Tomcat versions, this kit at its reasonable price point (and lower street price) will make a great pallet for displaying multiple F-14s in your favorite markings.
This is another nice kit from Academy that will also please more experienced modelers with the molded-in details waiting for the proper paint and washes. Nice job Academy!
My sincere thanks to MRC for this review sample!