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GWH F-14D Tomcat

Build review of the 1/72 scale aircraft kit with great fits
I can’t think of a time when you couldn’t find a kit of Grumman’s fabulous F-14 Tomcat. And it seems that even more new kits have been issued since the fighter was retired in 2006. (It’s been 14 years already.) If you want to model a 1/72 scale Tomcat with most everything open and dropped - and enjoy great fit to boot - then GWH’s kit is the one for you.

This is the company’s second release in its Tomcat line, the first being an early F-14A in VF-1 Wolfpack markings. This new kit represents the last version, the F-14D “Super Tomcat” with the improved GE F110 engines. Most parts are common to both kits, with additional sprues holding parts dedicated to each different version inserted into the package. The surface detail is outstanding with finely recessed panel lines and fasteners. This kit features good NACES seats, but no harnesses are included.

This kit is not an overnight project, or even a “weekender.” With nearly 300 parts, it’s a detailer’s dream. 

There are lots of build options, some involving alternate parts. Working from the front, you can install and display the radar unit under an opened nose cone, display the deployed refueling probe, open the canopy, lower the boarding ladder and steps, choose between two positions of the upper intake ramps, install the landing gear or close the gear doors. You also have a choice of compressed or relaxed nose-gear strut.

Going to the wings, you can drop the flaps and leading-edge slats or use alternate parts with these lift devices stowed. The wings mount to sturdy moveable stub spars, but they are not geared to swing together. (Of course, with the flaps lowered, you can’t swing the wings.) At the back end, you can open the upper and lower speed brakes, and you have a choice of dilated or restricted engine nozzles.

Underneath, you can load drop tanks, missile palettes, and pylons for six AIM-54 Phoenix missiles, four AIM-7 Sparrows, and two AIM-9 Sidewinders, with different cranked pylons depending on your choice of ordnance arrangements. Decals include markings for three VF-2 Bounty Hunters Tomcats - one in full-color retro markings, and two in low-vis camouflage.

You’ll need a little instruction on using GWH’s instructions. They consist of 29 steps on 16 pages, plus two pages of parts maps and two pages of general instruction and information. But the pages are not in booklet form, rather loose, folded sheets of four pages each. As there are no page numbers, you’ll need to follow the assembly step sequence. Add to that another six-page folded sheet of “corrections” that add omitted or correct part numbers and color notes to the main instructions. The first thing I did was transcribe the corrections to the main instructions to prevent confusion as I built the model.

Adding to the confusion, there are  seven part trees labeled “A,” so expect to spend time searching for any “A” part. Also, some part fits are vague and the direction of the arrows showing the location of some small parts is vague. Without pins or holes, the fuselage attachment points of the forward retracting arms of the main-gear struts is unclear.

Overall, fit was great and no filler was needed; light sanding smoothed some of the glue seams. Just take your time dry-fitting and studying the way the parts go together before glue.

The missiles are beautifully molded and look accurate. I used four Phoenix in under-fuselage pallets, and a pair each of Sparrows and Sidewinders on the “shoulder” mounts.

I painted my model with Gunze Mr. Color lacquers. The instructions fail to mention that the underside of the leading-edge slats and the wing area underneath the slats should be painted red. Also, there are no color callouts for the missiles. They should be light ghost gray (FS36375) with cream-colored radomes on the Phoenix and Sparrows, and dark-metallic gray front ends on the Sidewinders.

The decal sheets are beautifully printed and provide many tiny stencils. One irritation: Some of the stencils that go on the missiles are needlessly divided into several tiny items, making them much harder to place and align.

Final assembly was simple, save for the canopy. You have a tiny, thin push rod, but no rear hinge mechanism to hold that long canopy.
It took 42 hours to work up my Super Tomcat, much of that painting and decaling. Modelers with experience and forewarning should be able to get through it smoothly. Beginners may be frustrated by the tiny parts, tight fit, and the sometimes-confounding instructions.

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