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Trumpeter 1/32 scale Super Tomcat

Serving as the U.S. Navy’s first-line fighter from 1974 to 2006, Grumman’s Tomcat needs little introduction. Trumpeter’s first kit represents the D model Super Tomcat, the last production variant.

Trumpeter’s new 1/32 scale Super Tomcat comprises a super-big pile of parts. The moldings are impressive, showing fine recessed panel lines and restrained rivet detail. There’s a full complement of missiles: six AIM-54 Phoenix (“Buffalo”), two AIM-7 Sparrow, and two AIM-9L Sidewinders. Also provided are a pair of AIM-120 AMRAMM (not carried by the F-14D), an AN/AAQ-25 LANTIRN pod, a pair of laser-guided training rounds, and two fuel tanks.

The kit offers options when it comes to configuration, but only a few are fully shown in the instructions. There is with a decent rendition of the M61 Vulcan cannon, and separate panels to expose it, but the instructions have you close all of the panels. You can also deploy the refueling probe and display the detailed radar equipment, but this time the instructions don’t indicate the model can be buttoned up.

Trumpeter provides two well-detailed F110 engines. Each has 41 parts, not including the afterburner, and takes about an hour to build. I don’t get why this much effort is put into molding engines without providing some way to see them in the finished model. I built only the main structure of the second engine and left off the accessories. Only the front of the engine and the exhaust with afterburner are visible when the model is complete. Trumpeter provides separate inner and outer exhaust petals in both dilated and compressed positions.

The cockpit is well detailed, with raised buttons, knobs, circuit breakers, scopes, and instruments. However, there are no rudder pedals (you’d have a hard time seeing them anyway), and no throttle handle.

The NACES seats are good, but the instructions for mounting the photoetched-metal harnesses are small and vague. A small joystick (Part S6) is shown mounted on the RIO’s left side console, back behind his elbow. I couldn’t find it in reference photos, so I left it out.

The landing gear is beautiful. All struts have cast-metal cores that include the wheel axles for extra strength. Each main strut comprises 14 parts! The instructions show an optional compressed nose-gear assembly (poised for launch) but don’t explain it. Tires are molded in black vinyl. There’s a mounting tab on the nose gear strut for a landing light, but none is included in the kit. The multipart wheel wells are also well detailed.

Those big wings can be made to swing, although there is no gearing gimmick. Realistic pivot axles and push rods are provided; if you don’t glue the wing assemblies to the pivots, they can swing fore and aft. However, if you mount the flaps down, there will be no swinging tonight!

Although the trailing-edge flaps are molded separately, there is no drawing to show them in the dropped position. It can be done; you just have to figure it out on your own. I didn’t like the mounting system for the leading-edge slats. Each over-simplified retractor arm is a separate part and too thick to fit into the slots on the wing and slat.

The black vinyl parts for the top of the fuselage represent inflatable seals that keep the airflow steady when the wings are swept back. These must be attached with super glue.

With all these subassemblies, almost everything fit well (save for a little mismatch between the intake trunks and the undersides of the engine nacelles). The worst fits were the ventral fins, which were much thicker than the slots in the nacelles. I tried shaving them after a test fit but was unsuccessful. More shaving and sawing a couple of millimeters from the fin tops would help.

I painted my Tomcat with Testors Model Master enamels and Metalizers. Two large sheets of decals offer markings for three late F-14Ds: VF-213, VF-31, and my choice, VF-2. My sample’s sheet had tiny bubbles in the clear coat. The missiles have their own set of decal stripes and stencils. All the decals are super thin; I found the best way to remove them from the sheet was to position each soaked item over its destination and quickly jerk the paper from underneath while applying light pressure on the decal with a moistened cotton swab.

Final assembly included attaching the gun covers (they were hinged at the top), sensor probes, radome, and canopy. The canopy push rod’s position is not clearly shown, and I’m still not sure that I have it right.

The big ’Cat looks super when finished. It takes up four square feet of shelf space! I was impressed by the fit overall and with the planning that went into providing all the detail in the Tomcat’s complex structure. I wish the instructions had done a better job of showing available options and details. I devoted 52 hours to my “Top ’Cat,” and I recommend it to all experienced builders.
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