Tamiya 1/32 F-14A Tomcat Kit First Look
By Michael Benolkin
|Date of Review||December 2009||Manufacturer||Tamiya|
|Kit Number||60303||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Relatively simple build||Cons||Raised panel lines|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$203.00 (60313)|
During the early 1960s, then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara mandated that the Air Force and Navy combine their requirements to a common airframe under the TFX program. The Air Force's F-111 had teething problems but ultimately resulted in a versatile strike aircraft. The Navy's F-111B was not as fortunate as the aircraft was too heavy and it was the famous quote from Vice Admiral Thomas Connolly during a Senate hearing that "There isn't enough power in all of Christendom to make that airplane what we want" that ended their participation.
Not all was lost with the cancellation of the F-111B - the innovative AWG-9 radar group, the new AIM-54 Phoenix missile, and the F-111's TF30 engines were all transplanted into a new airframe designed by Grumman - the F-14 Tomcat. The F-14A was designed as a fleet air defense fighter capable of engaging up to six aircraft at once with a loadout of six AIM-54s, and was also armed with a pair of AIM-9 Sidewinders and the M61 Vulcan cannon for close-in combat. AIM-7 Sparrows could be substituted for the AIM-54 where required.
During the F-14A's 30 year career, the aircraft was upgraded with several improvements in its electronic warfare systems, and many were also upgraded to carry the Tactical Airborne Reconnaissance Pod System (TARPS) for high-speed reconnaissance. A number of F-14As were also re-engined with the F110 engine to become the F-14B, and others would get a major avionics update and new engines to become the F-14D (in addition to new-build aircraft).
The only export customer for the F-14 was the Imperial Iranian Air Force who needed a way to defend its airspace from Soviet overflights by the MiG-25R Foxbat reconnaissance aircraft. Ironically, after the fall of the Shah and the establishment of the Islamic Republic, the new Islamic Iranian Air Force continues to operate its F-14 Tomcats today. Of the original 80 F-14As sent to Iran, not that many remain in service, but these aircraft were the only Tomcats to fire the Phoenix in combat (against the Iraqi Air Force) and have the highest air-to-air kill tally in the type.
Until recently, the only two kits of the F-14 Tomcat available in 1/32 scale were Revell and Tamiya kits. The Tamiya kit was the better kit of the two, featuring lots of nice detail for the day. It also offered some interesting engineering to deal with a plastic airframe this size. Before we go there, let's look at the basic kit.
The kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on 12 parts trees, plus a single tree of clear parts. The kit also included rubber tires and a metal wing pivot support spar.
The F-14 Tomcat was the first kit for Tamiya in 1/32 scale and was also during that transitional time where molded detailing went from raised panel lines to scribed. First released as kit 60301, the F-14A started off with some very nice scribing (for that time) on the forward fuselage, but the remainder of the airframe molds were completed with raised panel lines. This kit represented the early Tomcat with the air defense loadouts and the louvered vents on the gun doors.
This particular kit was released as 60303 and represented the F-14A circa 1994. This version featured the NACA scoops on the gas gun doors that were used on the F-14B and F-14D and subsequently retrofitted to in-service F-14As. The molds for the left forward fuselage half were revised, but no effort was made to convert the rest of the model to scribed panel lines. What else was new in the kit were four Mk.82 Snakeyes to note the transition of the aircraft into the 'Bombcat' role.
Kit 60313 is the latest iteration of this kit from Tamiya and it added two new sprues to complete the transition of the F-14A into the Bombcat configuration to include two GBU-16 laser guided bombs (LGB), two GBU-24 LGB, and the LANTIRN targeting pod with its pylon adapter. This update also finally added the AIM-9L/M Sidewinder to the loadout as previous released only provided the AIM-9D. What is absent from these kits are the variety of bumps and bulges that were present from the various airframe updates containing electronic warfare antennas.
So what are some of the features and options in this kit:
- Detailed AWG-9 radar antenna
- Removable radome
- Reasonable cockpit (though many aftermarket cockpits have been produced for this kit)
- Nice representations of the TF30 afterburner chambers
- Choice of open or closed TF30 afterburner nozzles
- Nice representations of the complex intake ramp system with compressor faces at the ends
- Pivoting wings (with synch gearing)
- Television Camera System (TCS) fairing under the nose
- Rubber tires
- Movable tail hook
- Positionable speed boards
- Positionable boarding ladder
- Positionable canopy
Weapons and stores:
- 2 x intake trunk-mounted external fuel tanks
- 4 x AIM-54 ventral pallets
- 4 x AIM-54 Phoenix
- 2 x AIM-7 Sparrow
- 4 x AIM-9D Sidewinder
- 4 x Mk.82 Snakeyes
- 4 x Phoenix pallet bomb shackle adaptors
The interesting engineering in the kit comes in the form of that metal spar and the gear works that provide a sturdy mount for the wing pivot mechanism. This is usually done in styrene in the smaller scales, but the weight of those huge wings would eventually pop the hinges out of the wing gloves without some sturdy reinforcement. When you swing one wing, the other moves in synch.
There are two decal sheets in the kit that carry the three marking options and all of the stencils. Out of the box, your F-14A can be built as:
- F-14A-125-GR, BuNo 161606, VF-21, NF/201, USS Independence
- F-14A-115-GR, BuNo 161272, VF-154, NF/101, USS Independence
- F-14A, BuNo not provided, VF-84, AJ/213, USS Theodore Roosevelt
This kit has been around for a while now and still remains on the market as kit 60313. It used to be the best Tomcat in 1/32 scale until it was unseated by the new Trumpeter kit. The award for best Tomcat used to be the Hasegawa 1/48 F-14 though that used to also be the most frustrating Tomcat kit with the design bugs in the engine fairings that prevented the model from going together.
This kit will be an easier build for many given the lower parts count and the wings that don't have options for dropped flaps and slats.
So is this still a good kit option? When I bought my model, the retail price was $115.00 and today it is over $200. You can still find this kit on the street for much lower prices, but take into account that you'll likely be looking at a new cockpit and perhaps new weapons depending on which kit release you do procure.