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Tamiya’s F-14A

With its 1/48 scale F-14A Tomcat, Tamiya reaffirms its place at the pinnacle of the model-kit manufacturing industry.

Inspection of the parts reveals clean, precise moldings with crisp, defined panel lines throughout — none too deep, too shallow, too wide, or too narrow. The only omissions I could find were a couple of lines in the recess between the engines underneath.

Two large decal sheets provide markings for three Tomcats: US Navy fighters from VF-84 Jolly Rogers and VF-2 Bounty Hunters, both in the early carrier-borne deployment scheme of gloss light gray over white, and an Islamic Republic of Iran air force jet in an attractive camouflage.

The decals performed flawlessly, and I would have no hesitation in using them again. One neat inclusion on the decal sheet for the VF-2 jet is the representation of “duct tape” that was used to seal some joins on the actual aircraft behind the canopy. That is thorough research!

Typical of Tamiya, the no-fuss instructions are clear and concise, with color call-outs for Tamiya paints. 

The wonderful cockpit features accurate, cleanly molded, and easy-to-paint detail. Decals are included for several of the screens on the instrument panels that would be appropriate for a jet that is powered-up and manned.

Thoughtful engineering made construction a breeze. Clever part breakdown eases assembly and ensures perfect fits. I encountered several instances where, at first glance, a subassembly or part did not quite fit. But with a little bit of encouragement, the part literally clicked into place.

I couldn’t help but smile at how precisely the parts fit. In fact several items, such as the ventral fins, tail hook, cockpit coaming, and intake ducts, stayed in place without glue.

I did not need to use any filler at all on this build. Every single join fits so well that a quick cleanup with a fine sanding stick is all that is required to make seams disappear. Brilliant!

The completed wings slip over a sturdy, functional wing-sweeping mechanism, so they can be installed after painting. The wing-glove bladder and finger seals (under and over the wings, respectively) can be left unglued and replaced with the appropriate parts if the wings are either forward or swept. Tamiya even included extra decal stripes for both wing-bladder seals to properly mark both options.

Tamiya’s design offers several pre-painting opportunities that can reduce or eliminate the need for awkward masking later. For example, on the forward fuselage halves, you could paint the area around the cockpit before assembly and fill in the rest later. The forward-to-rear fuselage join provides a similar opportunity. Utilizing construction sequences like this with pre-painting, it would be possible to paint almost the entire model with very little masking.

Aligning landing-gear doors frequently provides a challenge, but Tamiya’s taken care of that, too. Positive location tabs for all of the doors make misalignment virtually impossible.
The same can be said for the undercarriage; both the main and nose legs feature sturdy construction with foolproof mounting points that ensure alignment and structural rigidity.

Some reviewers have complained that the kit provides only clean wings with no option to pose the flaps and slats deployed, the speed brake open, or the nose gear compressed. This will only be an issue if you want to depict the model either in a takeoff stance on the catapult or in a landing configuration. I am pleased that I did not have to assemble a complex wing and do not miss the dropped slats and flaps at all.

Out of the box, the kit produces an early F-14A. Later aircraft feature ECM bumps in several places and various chin pods. I hope Tamiya continues the series with perhaps a late -A, which could easily include parts to build a -B, plus a -D model.
I spent a little more than 50 hours on my Tomcat and have no complaints. Tamiya has done for the F-14 Tomcat what it did for the F-16 Fighting Falcon, creating a kit which is accurate, easy to build, and a pleasure to work on in every respect. I enjoyed building this kit so much that I have another one on the go already!

Note: A version of this review appeared in the January 2017 issue.

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