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Academy F-14A Tomcat

Build review of the 1/72 scale aircraft kit with excellent fits
Not to be confused with Academy’s earlier 1/72 scale Tomcat, this all-new F-14A has just about everything you need to make any variant of Tomcat. This first boxing represents the fighter as it looked with VF-143 “Pukin Dogs” markings aboard USS America in 1976. The parts in this kit provide most of the early details except for the earliest beavertail. 

Some late details like ECM antennas are molded on and should be shaved or sanded off for this early bird. But the sprues provide parts for late Tomcats too, even the ultimate F-14D and “Bombcat” versions. Although early GRU-7A ejection-seat frames are provided, there are parts on the sprues for the late NACES seats as well. Both open and closed nozzles for the TF30 engines are provided, and another set of nozzles for the later G.E. F110 engines are in there too!

Other alternate parts include two sets of instrument panels, two sets of side consoles, and there are even three different types of main wheels. Academy provides different engine nozzle mounts on the rear fuselage, afterburner rings, and intake fans. You have a choice of four different “under nose” sensors, one being the double-barrel version for the F-14D.

There are also ordnance choices, with four Phoenix missiles and their palettes for the belly as well as pairs of early and late Sparrows and Sidewinders. There are a pair of laser-guided bombs and a LANTIRN pod provided for “Bombcats.” A pair of external fuel tanks are provided, but these were not usually carried by early fleet squadrons.

The decals in this first issue are printed by Cartograf and provide markings for the CAG bird of VF-143. It includes markings for the missiles. There are even decals for the lubricant smears at the pivot point on top of the wings, but these appear a tad overdone to me.
The Tomcat is a complicated design so it’s difficult to design a kit that is easy to build. Unlike some of Academy’s recent “press fit” kits, this one must be glued together. But you won’t be needing to fill seams as this was one of the best fitting kits I’ve built. Assembling the intake/engine trunks was a bit tricky, and handling the tiny sensor probes takes careful effort.

There are a few small ECM bulges molded around the intakes that should be removed for this early Tomcat. Shaving them off with a sharp blade and smoothing with a fine sanding stick took only a few minutes. If you are not going to mount the external tanks, you’ll need to shave off the short, thin pylon mounts molded to the bottom of the intake trunks.

I decided to paint subassemblies before joining the front fuselage and wings to the main structure. This made masking the original hi-vis camouflage a little easier. With careful final assembly, very few seams needed sanding and touch up. 

I was surprised that there was no provision to pose the long canopy open. It even comes with an internal frame that has a hinge-like hook at the rear, but there is no hydraulic actuator. 

The wings can be positioned extended, swept, or in the “oversweep” position for deck parking. They are not geared, instead using a sprung plastic tooth to lock each wing in position. Two sets of fuselage sealing bladders are provided for the wing glove. One set is slightly raised for the wings fully extended. The other set is lowered and accommodates the wings in three different degrees of sweep.

I painted camo with Mr. Color gloss white and gloss light gull gray lacquers, and used several shades of Alclad and Metalizer on the nozzles. I had no problems with the decals. The sheet provides outlines for the seldom-deployed “glove vanes” and the position lights on the wing gloves.

While this kit may not have all the bells and whistles like posable flaps, boarding ladders, open speed brakes, or hinged radome, it is a fine and largely trouble-free Tomcat. I spent 34 hours on it, much of the time masking, painting, and decaling. The inclusion of alternate parts for later Tomcats makes this kit a winner.

Note: A version of this review appeared in the April 2020 issue.


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