AMK 1/48 F-14D Super Tomcat

Introduction:

I like the looks of the F-14 Tomcat; have for many years. It’s a plane that has a grace all to it’s own. I’m old enough to have seen an F-14 flight demo many years ago and it made a lasting impression. For these reasons (and more) I reflexively grabbed this new and long-awaited F-14D by AMK as soon as I saw it at my local weekend haunt, Skyway Models. I have been very impressed with previous AMK releases such as their 1/48 Fouga Magister and 1/72 IAI Kfir. That said this new F-14D is whole new ballgame. Many of the kit parts are the result of multi-dimensional slide molding and are simply beautiful examples of model engineering in and of themselves. Well done, AMK!!


Background:

(Edited from Wikipedia)

The Grumman F-14 Tomcat is an American supersonic, twin-engine, two-seat, variable-swept wing fighter aircraft. It was the first U.S. jet fighter with a twin tail. The Tomcat was developed for the United States Navy’s Naval Fighter Experimental (VFX) program after the collapse of the F-111B project. The F-14 was the first of the American “Teen Series” of fighters, which were designed by incorporating air combat experience against MiG fighters gained during the Vietnam War.

The F-14 first flew on December 21, 1970 and made its first deployment in 1974 with the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Enterprise (CVN-65), replacing the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II. The F-14 served as the U.S. Navy’s primary maritime air superiority fighter, fleet defense interceptor, and tactical aerial reconnaissance platform into the 2000s. The Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night (LANTIRN) pod system were added in the 1990s and the Tomcat began performing precision ground-attack missions.

In the 1980s, F-14s were used as land-based interceptors by the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force during the Iran–Iraq War, where they saw combat against Iraqi warplanes. Iranian F-14s reportedly shot down at least 160 Iraqi aircraft during the war, while only 12 to 16 Tomcats were lost; at least half of these losses were due to accidents.

The Tomcat was retired from the U.S. Navy’s active fleet on September 22, 2006, having been supplanted by the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. The F-14 remains in service with Iran’s air force, having been exported to Iran in 1976. In November 2015, reports emerged of Iranian F-14s flying escort for Russian Tupolev Tu-95, Tu-160 and Tu-22M bombers on air strikes in Syria.

Overview

The F-14 Tomcat was designed as both an air superiority fighter and a long-range naval interceptor, which enabled it to both serve as escort attack aircraft when armed with Sparrow missiles and in the fleet air defense loitering interceptor role when armed with Phoenix missiles. The F-14 was designed with a two-seat cockpit and a bubble canopy, which affords all-around visibility aiding aircrew in air-to-air combat. It features variable geometry wings that swing automatically during flight. For high-speed intercept, they are swept back. They swing forward for lower speed flight. It was designed to improve on the F-4 Phantom’s air combat performance in most respects.

The F-14’s fuselage and wings allow it to climb faster than the F-4, while the twin-tail arrangement offers better stability. The F-14 is equipped with an internal 20 mm M61 Vulcan Gatling cannon mounted on the left side (unlike the Phantom, which was not equipped with an internal gun in the US Navy), and can carry the AIM-54 Phoenix, AIM-7 Sparrow, and AIM-9 Sidewinder anti-aircraft missiles. The twin engines are housed in widely spaced nacelles. The flat area of the fuselage between the nacelles is used to contain fuel and avionics systems, such as the wing-sweep mechanism and flight controls, as well as weaponry since the wings are not used for carrying ordnance. By itself, the fuselage provides approximately 40 to 60 percent of the F-14’s aerodynamic lifting surface depending on the wing sweep position. The lifting body characteristics of the fuselage allowed one F-14 to safely land after suffering a mid-air collision that sheared off more than half of the plane’s right wing in 1991.

Variable-geometry Wings and Aerodynamic Design

The F-14’s wing sweep can be varied between 20° and 68° in flight, and can be automatically controlled by the Central Air Data Computer, which maintains wing sweep at the optimum lift-to-drag ratio as the Mach number varies. Pilots can manually override the system if desired. When parked, the wings can be “overswept” to 75° to overlap the horizontal stabilizers to save deck space aboard carriers. In an emergency, the F-14 can land with the wings fully swept to 68°, although this presents a significant safety hazard due to the greatly increased stall speed. Such an aircraft would typically be diverted from an aircraft carrier to a land base if an incident did occur. The wing pivot points are significantly spaced far apart. This has two benefits. The first is that weaponry can be fitted on a pylon on the fixed wing glove, liberating the wings from having swiveling pylons fitted, a feature which had proven to add significant drag on the F-111B. Since less of the total lifting area is variable, the center of lift moves less as the wings move, reducing trim drag at high speed. When the wing is swept back, its thickness-to-chord ratio decreases, which allows the aircraft to satisfy the Mach 2.4 top speed required by the U.S. Navy. The body of the aircraft contributes significantly to overall lift and so the Tomcat possesses a lower wing loading than its wing area would suggest. When carrying four Phoenix missiles or other heavy stores between the engines this advantage is lost and maneuverability is reduced in those configurations.

Ailerons are not fitted, with roll control being provided by wing-mounted spoilers at low speed (which are disabled if the sweep angle exceeds 57°), and by differential operation of the all-moving tailerons at high speed. Full-span slats and flaps are used to increase lift both for landing and combat, with slats being set at 17° for landing and 7° for combat, while flaps are set at 35° for landing and 10° for combat. An air bag fills up the space occupied by the swept-back wing when the wing is in the forward position and a flexible fairing on top of the wing smooths out the shape transition between the fuselage and top wing area. The twin tail layout helps in maneuvers at high angle of attack (AoA) while reducing the height of the aircraft to fit within the limited roof clearance of hangars aboard aircraft carriers. Two triangular shaped retractable surfaces, called glove vanes, were originally mounted in the forward part of the wing glove, and could be automatically extended by the flight control system at high Mach numbers. They were used to generate additional lift (force) ahead of the aircraft’s center of gravity, thus helping to compensate for Mach tuck at supersonic speeds. Automatically deployed at above Mach 1.4, they allowed the F-14 to pull 7.5 g at Mach 2 and could be manually extended with wings swept full aft. They were later disabled, however, owing to their additional weight and complexity. The air brakes consist of top-and-bottom extendable surfaces at the rearmost portion of the fuselage, between the engine nacelles. The bottom surface is split into left and right halves. The tailhook hangs between the two-halves, an arrangement sometimes called the “castor tail.”

The F-14D

The final variant of the F-14 was the F-14D Super Tomcat first delivered in 1991. The original Pratt & Whitney TF30 engines were replaced with General Electric F110-GE-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 Infra-red search and track (IRST).

The GE F110-GE-400 engine provided increased thrust and additional endurance to extend range or to stay on station longer. In the overland attack role this gave the F-14D 60 percent more striking range or one-third more time on station. The rate of climb was increased by 61 percent. The F110’s increased thrust allowed almost all carrier launches to be made in military (dry) power. While this did result in fuel savings, the main reason not to use afterburner during carrier launches was that if an engine failed the F110’s thrust in full afterburner would produce a yawing moment too abruptly for the pilot to correct. Thus the launch of an F-14D with afterburner was rare, while the F-14A required full afterburner unless very lightly loaded.

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 completed, and 18 F-14A models were upgraded to D-models, designated F-14D(R) for a rebuild. An upgrade to the F-14D’s computer software to allow AIM-120 AMRAAM missile capability was planned but later terminated.

While upgrades kept the F-14 competitive with modern fighter aircraft technology, Cheney called the F-14 1960s technology. Despite an appeal from the Secretary of the Navy for at least 132 F-14Ds and 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.

The last American F-14 combat mission was completed on February 8, 2006, when a pair of Tomcats landed aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt after one dropped a bomb over Iraq. During their final deployment on the Theodore Roosevelt, VF-31 and VF-213 collectively completed 1,163 combat sorties totaling 6,876 flight hours, and dropped 9,500 lb (4,300 kg) of ordnance during reconnaissance, surveillance, and close air support missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. USS Theodore Roosevelt launched an F-14D, of VF-31, for the last time on July 28, 2006, piloted by Lt. Blake Coleman and Lt. Cmdr Dave Lauderbaugh as RIO. The last two F-14 squadrons, the VF-31 Tomcatters, and the VF-213 Black Lions conducted their last fly-in at Naval Air Station Oceana on March 10, 2006.

The official final flight retirement ceremony was on September 22, 2006 at Naval Air Station Oceana and was flown by Lt. Cmdr. Chris Richard and Lt. Mike Petronis as RIO in a backup F-14 after the primary aircraft experienced mechanical problems. The actual last flight of an F-14 in U.S. service took place October 4, 2006, when an F-14D of VF-31 was ferried from NAS Oceana to Republic Airport on Long Island, New York. The remaining intact F-14 aircraft in the U.S. were flown to and stored at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group “Boneyard”, at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. In 2007 the U.S. Navy announced plans to shred the remaining F-14s to prevent any components from being acquired by Iran. In August 2009, the 309th AMARG stated that the last aircraft were taken to HVF West, Tucson, Arizona for shredding. At that time only 11 F-14s remained in desert storage.

(Edited from Wikipedia)


In the Box:

In a rather large and deep box are found 3 smaller, white cardboard boxes, and many (many) individually bagged sprues of light grey styrene. There isn’t a spare inch of unused space in this box. The packaging alone is an example of efficient engineering.

 

 

Within each of the white boxes are bagged sprues of parts, so delicate as to require the extra protection afforded them.

The surface details, both inscribed and in relief, are beautifully done: some of the best this reviewer has seen-period. Moreover, by using slide-molding and some good engineering, the folks at AMK were able to place most of the sprue attach points in places where they will be hidden during assembly: awesome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another upside of slide-molding are parts with no seams whatsoever. This is particularly apparent on the multitude of ordinance provided in the kit. There are no halved bombs, tanks, or pods to deal with. Most of the underwing stores are single pieces that are stacked within their molding frames and will require little-to-no work before use. This will save the builder an immense amount of time, as there are a lot of parts in this kit.  

 

 

As usual assembly begins with the pilot’s office and here AMK really outdid themselves. The multi-part seats are beautifully molded and will look great right out of the box. Photo-etch seat harnesses are provided. What’s really impressive are the individual side panels for both the front and rear cockpits that are replete with high fidelity detail. This will build up into a very detailed cockpit with what’s provided in the box alone. Once assembled, the cockpit tub slips into the single-piece front fuselage piece that’s just beautiful by itself.

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

With the front fuselage complete, the builder is directed to assemble the engines/nozzles and the innards of the intake ramps. These assemblies are glued into the lower fuselage halve followed by the left and right single-piece intake trunks.

The build continues with the assembly of the wings and here the modeler must decide if the wings will be built in one of three positions; swept out, swept back, or parking position (over swept). Different wing and internal parts are provided for building either the swept out or swept back positions. The wings cannot be moved once the model is complete.

 

 

 

 

Next, the wings (swept out or back) are trapped between the upper and lower fuselage halves followed by the addition of the engine nozzles thereby completing most of the major assembly.

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The beautifully molded landing gear is next in sequence and here again the main gear legs have no seams to deal with due to slide molding: beautiful. The detail provided on the gear legs is just awesome and will look great under paint and a wash.

 

 

 

 

The canopy parts are crisply molded and crystal clear with scale appropriate framing and details.

 

 

 

 

 

One of my favorite features of the kit is the canopy, which can be displayed closed or open. For the open option a separate canopy frame, molded in grey styrene, with amazing outer and inner detail is provided. Crystal-clear canopy parts that fit into the frame, complete the canopy: Wowza! Once again, this is the most detailed canopy assembly this reviewer has seen. Keep in mind I don’t get out much.

 

 

 

 

With the model largely complete the builder is next offered a pretty comprehensive selection of underwing stores to choose from. Almost all are products of slide molding. Given the abundance of stores than can be hung on a Tomcat, the use of slide molds for these types of parts will save the builder an immense amount of time in clean up. An easy-to-understand weapons loading chart is provided to assist in accurate placement: very nice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Color and Markings:

The decals, by AMK and Furball Aero Design, are crisply printed with good color density and appropriate hue. These are beautiful decals and the involvement of Furball in their production suggests accuracy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Airframe stencil data and markings for 5 schemes are provided as follows:

 

 

 

 

 

1) F-14D Tomcat BuNo. 164348 of VF-213 “Black Lions’ February, 2002.

 

 

 

 

 

2) F-14D Tomcat BuNo. 164342 of VF-2 “Bounty Hunters’ May, 2003.

 

 

 

 

 

3) F-14D Tomcat BuNo. 164600 NK 100 of VF-31 “Tomcatters’ 1997.

 

 

 

 

 

4) F-14D Tomcat BuNo. 164604 “Vandy One” of VX-9 “Vampires,” Spring, 2000.

 

 

 

 

 

5) F-14D Tomcat BuNo. 163900 AD 155, VF-101, “Grim Reapers,” 2005.

 

 

 

Conclusion:

Man, what’s not to like? This is one of the most beautifully engineered kits I’ve ever had the pleasure to review. The use of slide molding for parts such as the underwing stores, gear legs, and forward fuselage not only produces more accurate parts; it also decreases build time. That being the case, I suspect this will be a surprisingly quick and easy build despite its high parts count and demonstrable complexity. The kit decals, produced in conjunction with Furball Aero Designs, are colorful and crisply printed. I say again, what’s not to like? Highly Recommended!

Now go paint something!

–John                                                                                       Kit purchased by reviewer, again.

 

More AMK F-14 Pics Below⇓

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Happy Modeling!

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