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Grumman F-14B Tomcat

by David W. Aungst

 

Grumman F-14B Tomcat

 


Revell/Monogram's 1/48 scale F-14A Tomcat is available online from Squadron.com for less than $12

 

Background

 

The F-14 Tomcat is one of my favorite aircraft, no question; second only to the F-4 Phantom.

When I started building and painting prototype models for a collectors' toy company, I was happy to see a Tomcat in the line-up of required models. I made sure to push a little so that I could build it. Then, after getting the project, I learned that I was supposed to build a plastic kit of the Tomcat. They would not be providing metal kits as they had done on the A-10 kits that I had worked on previously. Reality suddenly set in. Could I build a plastic 1/48th scale Tomcat in only two weeks? Yikes!!!

Building a Hasegawa Tomcat kit was out of the question. Having finished one (finally) last year, I knew I would never be able to build a decent kit in only two weeks. This left Academy and Revell/Monogram. I initially decided on using an Academy kit. However, I could not find an Academy kit at my local hobby shop. Needing a kit as soon as possible, I reluctantly decided to build the old Revell/Monogram kit.

 



Yes, this is the Monogram 1/48th scale Tomcat kit. Oh, the SOFT DETAILS! Oh, the RAISED PANEL LINES! Oh, the HORROR!

Well, wait just a minute, maybe it is not so bad. What you see here is what can be done with the Revell/Monogram Tomcat kits with just a little care and a strong need to complete the project.

When Hasegawa released their 1/48th scale Tomcat kit back in the 1980s, I shuffled my one and only Monogram kit (already started) to the bottom of the model kit stack, presumably to never be seen again. It suddenly was time to dig it out and finish it.

 

 

Construction

 

The kit I started over twenty years ago was the original Monogram F-14A Tomcat. While this was a good start, I needed an F-14B Tomcat for the specific aircraft the toy company wanted me to build. As Monogram does not make an F-14B Tomcat kit, I mixed and matched pieces from both my already started Monogram F-14A and a brand new Revell F-14D kit to create a reasonable representation of an F-14B Tomcat. For what the toy company was looking for, this combination would do fine (and still have a combined cost that was less than buying one Hasegawa Tomcat).

The cockpit is the standard Monogram issue. It has nicely raised detailing. All I did was paint the kit provided panels. I used the seats from the F-14A kit. The toy company benefitted from my twenty year ago start in that the cockpit instrument panels were all painted up (from twenty years ago) much nicer than they really needed to be.

The shape of the nose is pretty poor in the F-14D kit. While shaped better in my older F-14A kit, it lacked having a pitot on the tip. I decided to use the F-14D nose and file the tip to the a more accurate shape. I then added the pitot in the already present mounting hole in the tip of the newly shaped nose using a styrene rod and some brass wire. I think the nose is still a little too pointy in shape, but with a tight building time schedule, I was not going to get any more crazy about it.

To build the fuselage, I combined the F-14A top piece (having an already painted and installed cockpit from twenty years ago) with the F-14D bottom piece. I used the revised gun gas vents found in the F-14D kit for the left side of the nose. I also needed to fill in some panel lines around the engine exhausts for the top piece. These lines are specific to the F-14A. The GE-engined F-14B and F-14D have smooth composite panels in these locations. Revell/Monogram got this detail right in their F-14D kit, so the bottom fuselage did not need any lines filled.

The engine intake trunks are integral portions of the process to assemble the fusleage. In my zeal to get the fuselage together, I neglected to remember a painting task that should have been done before assembly. I did paint the interior areas white, but the camouflage paint comes back a portion of the forward trunk. I wanted to paint this before I assemble the fuselage, but I forgot. So, I found myself carefully reaching back the intakes using a paint brush and hand painting the forward interior sections with the camouflage color. The line I ended up painting inside the trunking is not completely correct, but it had to do as I was not going to pull the fuselage apart to make it better.

The horizontal tails are molded as part of the upper fuselage piece. I did not want to take the time to separate them and reattach them, so I scored a deep line at the point where they meet the fuselage. This line, along with the already present line on the lower side, achieves the effect of having the tails look separate without needing to do the actual surgery.

The engine exhausts are the biggest tell-tale difference between an F-14A and F-14B. The Revell F-14D kit had the correct engine exhausts in it. I used these in the completed model. They are remarkably similar to the make-up of the Hasegawa engine pieces, down to having one of the eyelid petals include a slot in it (that the Revell/Monogram kit does not even need). I wonder where Revell/Monogram got their prototype pieces from?

The wings are simple two piece assemblies with upper and lower halves. The kit provides for the wings to operate on the finished model with interlocking gears to swing both wings at the same time. The toy company wanted the wings fixed in one position, but could not be clear which position they wanted. I therefore built the kit with working wings. I figured they could position the wings themselves when they figured out what they wanted. To correct a noticable droop to the wings when swept forward, I dipped the inner workings of the wings in boiling water and bent them so that the wings would align correctly.

 



The vertical tails are hefty one-piece moldings with a small actuator fairing attached to the lower right side of each tail plane. They plug into the upper fuselage with no issues. As long as you get the correct tail on the correct side (the tip details of each are different), they even align with the correct slightly outboard leaning angle.

The landing gear are very detailed, although somewhat "soft". I cleaned up as much of the mold marks as I felt I needed to and attached the legs per the instructions. The nose wheel well doors are molded as part of the wheel well sides. This complicated painting a bit, but was not impossible. Building the kit with the landing gear up would require significant surgery.

The weapons load on the model required me to go further away from being out-of-the-box. Revell/Monogram provides an air-to-air load of two Sidewinder missiles, two Sparrow missiles, and four Phoenix missiles. The importance of the specific markings that the toy company wanted was in reference to the Tomcat being upgraded for precission strike with laser bombs. Adding bombs and a LANTRIN pod to the kit would require some work.

The hardest to modify would be the glove pylons. Monogram molds the Sparrow missiles in place on the glove pylon pieces. I would need to remove the right Sparrow missile and then replace the lower pylon with the LANTRIN pod adapter. The break-down of the parts made me concerned about the time it would take to do this surgery. Remember, I was under a two-week time limit.

I decided the path of least resistance would be to transplant the glove pylons from a Hasegawa Tomcat kit and modifiy the right pylon using the Eagle Designs Bombcat conversion LANTRIN pod. So, that is what I did. The bomb shackles are white metal pieces stolen from the Hasegawa "F-14A Bombcat" release. I "scabbed" the shackles onto the forward Monogram Phoenix pallets. Under these shackles, I hung two AMRAAM Line GBU-10 laser bombs.

This makes for quite a mish-mash of assorted parts, but they came together rather easily to create the weapons load. The last items I needed were a couple Sidewinder missiles (I used the Monogram kit provided missiles as they look really nice) and a Sparrow missile which I took from a Hasegawa Weapons Set.

 

 

Camouflage and Markings

 

As I mentioned earlier, this was a contract job. The customer stated what markings they wanted. All I did was provide them with the model they requested. The nose art and the "famous" nature of this aircraft made it interesting to build. This aircraft is "famous" in that it was the first "Bombcat" to be modified to carry the LANTRIN targeting pod. The nose art celebrating the aircraft's special purpose adds a nice touch of color to an otherwise drab paint scheme.

 



I used all Testor's Model Master enamel paints and metalizers. The camouflage is one of several "standard" tactical schemes applied to the Tomcat. It is an overall single color camouflage of Dark Ghost Gray (F.S.36320). I personally prefer the three-color tactical scheme on the Tomcat, but "FLIR Cat" did not have this.

The landing gear and wheel wells were masked and painted white after I finished applying the camouflage color. Masking this way is easier than trying to cover up already painted wheel wells while painting the camouflage colors. I painted the composite material around the engine exhausts using Interior Black. This color matches fairly close to the color I have seen of this area. The exhaust nozzles are metalized with Anodized Aluminum metalizer. I realize the exhausts are not really Anodized Aluminum, but the shade of this color looked about right.

The decals for the unit markings are from AeroMaster decal sheet 48-435. The sheet is rather complete, including the unit markings, nose artwork, national insignia, and "anti-glare" panel for around the cockpit. Additionally, there are decals for most of the major aircraft data markings.

I feared that the tail tip and cockpit trim decals would cause me troubles making them fit right. To solve the problem, I experimented and mixed up a custom color to match the gray of the AeroMaster decals. I then painted the "hood" over the cockpit as well as the tail tips and ventral strakes. This eliminated the need to use gallons of decal solvent to try to apply the decals over these areas.

I supplemented the data markings on the AeroMaster decal sheet with data markings from CAM's low-vis Tomcat data decal sheet (48-066). Trouble is, on the decal paper they looked plenty dark enough. On the model, they practically vanished. While the model was gloss coated, they were nearly invisible. The flat coat made them a bit more visible, but only a little bit.

The toy company wanted me to keep weathering to a minimum, so I used my typical style of thinned down enamel paint washes and only highlighted the edges of the control surfaces. I also applied a light black-wash to the landing gear. I left the rest of the model otherwise clean and un-weathered.

 


 

A Lesson Learned

Most projects teach valuable lessons about model building. Usually the lessons are harmless and relate to a new technique for completing some modeling task. Occasionally, a lesson comes along that has the potential to ruin the entire project. This Tomcat taught me one of the "potential to ruin the entire project" lessons.

I know (like most modelers) that super glue and canopies do not combine well. I accept this and work with it. Not that I never use super glue on canopies, but I only do so in places I can recover if the unthinkable happens. Well, the unthinkable happened to this Tomcat model in a way I had not ever considered before.

Since the model was intended to have a closed cockpit, I knew I would not be able to get inside the canopy once it was glued down. So, I played it safe and used liquid cement to attach the canopy (and windscreen). Everything fit fine and I immediately masked the canopy and had paint on it within a few minutes after getting done with the gluing of it.

Four days later, I completed all the painting tasks and unmasked the canopy. To my utter horror, there were huge white streaks of crazing on the inside of the canopy. Now how did that get there?!?! After all, I did use liquid cement to attach the canopy.

The answer -- the ejection seats. About thirty seconds before the canopy was glued down, the ejection seats were glued in -- using super glue! Sealing up the cockpit sealed in the fumes from the ejection seats and the rest of the story was plastered all over the inside of my canopy. Now the model was fully painted, decaled, flat coated, ready for final assembly, and I had this major problem.

What did I do? The canopy was attached using liquid cement, and there was paint on one of the two gluing surfaces (the cockpit sills) before I glued it. Liquid cement on painted surfaces does not make a strong joint. So, I crossed my fingers and gently slipped a sharp X-acto knife blade into the crack between the canopy and fuselage. Fortunately, the joint was fairly weak and the seam split wide without damaging either surface. I continued to gently pry at the canopy with the knife blade and was able to pop off the canopy without marring the exterior finish.

 



The rest was simple. I cleaned the canopy interior with a cotton swab soaked in window cleaner. This took the crazing off with no problem. In fact, it made the canopy look a little cleaner than it was before the problem occured. Once cleaned, I reattached the canopy, again using liquid cement. Fortunately, there was no real indication that I had been forced to pop off the canopy after all the painting and finishing was done. With about fifteen minutes of careful work, the near-disaster was overted.

The Lesson: Besides the obvious point about not using super glue to attach canopies, always allow for any super glue inside the cockpit to dry before attaching the canopy.

Hindsight: While continuing to work on the project, I kept thinking of this near fatal happening. Why have I not seen it before? Then it occured to me.

I normally build models with open canopies. I therefore usually leave the ejection seats out of the cockpits until final assembly. This translates to leaving the super glue out of the cockpit until a time when the cockpit will no longer be sealed up. As this is the first "canopy closed" plastic model I have built in as long as I can remember, this is the first time this set of actions have been done by me. This explanation sounded good to me.

 

 

Conclusion

 

A two-week "Tomcat/Bombcat"? It is possible.

I had fun, but if I had it to do over again, I would require that I get a little more time. If I had been able to stay strictly out-of-the-box, it would have gone a little bit faster and left me more room for messing up (which nearly happened).

I have been a bigot about the Revell/Monogram Tomcat kits ever since Hasegawa released their kit. Based on the ease at which this kit built and the nice looking finished product, I will have to rethink my dismissal of the Revell/Monogram offering. I have a number of Tomcats in specifc markings that I have always wanted to build. The time and effort needing to be invested in building the Hasegawa Tomcat makes me not willing build these projects. I think I may just have to go back and turn out a few Revell/Monogram Tomcats so I can get these markings options out of my system.
 

 

Additional Images and Project Summary

 

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

Project Statistics

Completion Date:

23 April, 2002

Total Building Time:

33.5

Research:

5.0

Construction:

12.1

Painting (includes creation and printing of custom decals):

12.2

Decals / Markings (includes creating and printing custom decals):

5.5

Extra Detailing / Conversion:

3.2

Model, Description and Images Copyright 2002 by David Aungst
Page Created 26 August, 2002
Last Updated 04 June, 2007

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