My favourite jet aircraft since my childhood, I knew it would be a long and involved build – featuring a fair share of aftermarket stuff and lots of research. Being somewhat limited when it comes to shelf space (and having a statsh that wants to be taken care of), I know that this will be my last Tomcat for quite some time. So I took my time and tried a couple of new things along the way.
The kit itself is good. Period. I haven’t built Hasegawa’s Tomcat, not even seen an unbuilt kit in the flesh, so I cannot comment on the pros and cons of Hobby Boss’ effort. Some issues, however, should be addressed:
- The air intake lips should not be parallel to the ground, and they are a bit thick. This was fixed by sanding the lips at an angle, thereby introducing a slight upward cant.
- The wings and stabilizers are covered in rivets that need to be filled. Multiple coats of Squadron putty, thinned with acetone, took care of that.
- The slats, when deployed, should protrude at a slight downward angle. Easiest fix is to carefully bend their attachment rods downward a bit.
- If you want to attach the AIM-7 Sparrow missiles to the wing glove pylons, they need to be positioned farther forward. I did that by cutting off the missile fin that should go into the pylon, the missile then can be attached in its proper position.
- The main landing gear struts lack some heavy springs which are quite noticable – instead, HB gives you a rather generic rod (parts F25/F26). Some thin wire, wrapped around these parts, does the trick.
Apart from these fixes, I used an Aires cockpit set, Aires exhaust nozzles and the Wheeliant wheels set. Fitting the cockpit resulted in the usual sanding mayhem, but it’s worth it. The nozzles, on the other hand, are more or less a drop fit.
Now would be the right time for some cheap “50 Shades of Grey” joke. Maybe next time. Some time ago I mentioned I wasn’t too impressed with the Gunze Ghost Greys (H307, H308 and H337 for FS36320, 36375 and 35237). These colors seem to be too dark and have a weird purple hue to them when compared to a neutral grey card. As mentioned elsewhere, as the US Navy’s Tactical Paint Scheme doesn’t show too much contrast between paint and markings, these deviations in tone can be rather problematic when applying your decals later on.
After testing a couple of different brands I settled on the Lifecolor range – which can be very tricky to get out of your airbrush. Some experimenting later, I finally have it worked out for me. It’s either a mix of color, distilled water and Vallejo flow improver (sprays good enough), or simply Vallejo Airbrush Cleaner (sprays excellent). And keep your air pressure down!
So, after a primer coat of Tamiya XF-19 and some very random preshading, the Lifecolor paints went on without a glitch.
Speaking of glitches… As I wanted to depict a bird from VF-111 (“The Sundowners”), I picked up a sheet from fcm Decals. Very nice, the decals are thin, the instructions complete. so everything went well – until I applied the last two decals. The large black “Sundowners” motif for the fins would first not adhere to the surface properly, then they wouldn’t react to any setting solution, and in the end they decided to crumple up really bad and produce a general mess. No clue what caused that, my only idea would be the color used on these decals – all the grey ones behaved very well, it was only these two buggers that just wouldn’t work.
In the end, I had to use the markings for another aircraft from that sheet, which meant stripping and repainting the tail section and all the areas were the other markings specific to that plane had already been applied.
After the usual coat of clear gloss (Tamiya X-22), I initially wanted to apply some salt weathering. I actually did start on the horizontal stabs, but then changed my mind. This method simply doesn’t cut it for me – not enough control over the final output, and too messy. Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing models on the net that have been weathered using this technique, it’s just that I like to take my time and work slowly and deliberately. So back to my tried and tested method of oil filters and washes, various sizes of soft brushes and a couple of happy hours stippling away. By stippling the drying wash, reactivating it with small amounts of thinner, I found it easy to create that chuffed and beaten look so typical for Navy planes.
So I decided to finally start on the Hobby Boss F-14A Tomcat. The kit has been in my stash for almost two years now, together with an Aires cockpit and burner cans, Wheeliant wheels and a very nice FCM decal set – alas, I felt a bit intimidated by what to me is *the* icon of military jet aviation. Only so much space being available in the display cabinet, I know that this will be the only Turkey for a very long time. and we don’t want to cock that up, do we.
After going through reference photos, videos and books for the n-th time, I just couldn’t resist any longer. I know that this will be a rather long build, as there are quite some areas that need to be addressed. The list is by no means complete and reads as follows:
- Fix intake angles
- Shorten tail hook
- Fill rivets on wings and stabilisers
- Modify flap mechanism
- Change angle of slats
Anyway, one has to start somewhere. I did by assembling all the two-part pieces which will need filling and sanding, modifying the flap doors and hinges, and fitting the Aires cockpit. This is how it looks after painting, some small mistakes still need ironing out.
… and the M916 LET is still in progress. But after breaking the bonnet in a dozen pieces while trying to fix warpage, things slowed down a bit.
That one fought me all the way. Fitting the Aires cockpit was quite a struggle, as it’s designed for the Hasegawa kit. The windscreen wouldn’t fit, as it is too wide for the fuselage. In the end I managed to break it in half. Getting replacement parts from HB is all but impossible (if you know the secret handshake, please drop me a line!). A Revell replacement I ordered (for their FA-18) is so much smaller that it almost looks like a different scale. Oh well, maybe future me will be able to get that replacement part from HB…
For some reason I really like the modern US Navy Tactical Paint Scheme. Yes, it’s a bit drab, certainly not as colourful as the old Gull Gray over White scheme. But it gives lots of room for weathering and the creation of certain focal points. So I was really looking forward to finally break open the Gunze colors for that scheme, H307 and H308 representing FS36320 and FS36375, respectively. For that typical heavy weathering and staining after a long carrier deployment, I resorted to spraying lighter and darker mixes of the base colors along panel lines and around maintenance hatches and fasteners, followed by enamel washes and a bit of pastels. Happy with how that turned out. Then I started on the decals…
The CAM Decals sheet I got for that project looks absolutely beautiful and is quite nice to work with. But there was one small problem: the decal’s colors match the surrounding area to a degree that lets them almost disappear. I know all the TPS markings are tone-in-tone, but that was a bit too much… Long story short, only after I finished the kit I found out that Gunze’s Ghost Greys are not as good as most of their other colors, being too dark and with a slight hint of purple. Normally, such a small deviation from the original colors wouldn’t be a problem – but in a case where all the various colors are so similar to start with, you might end up with almost invisible markings.
Right now I’m about to compare a couple of different manufacturers’ Ghost Greys – Gunze, Italeri and Life Color. So, if you are into color-bean counting or you want to prevent the hazzle I had, stay tuned!