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F-14D Super Tomcat (88007) 1:48


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F-14D Super Tomcat (88007)

1:48 AvantGarde Model Kits




The F-14 Tomcat was America’s primary carrier fighter through the 70s and into the new millennium, retiring to the sound of many tears in 2006, with around 80 airframes inherited from the Shah by the Iranian regime still flying… apparently.  It originated with a need for Long Range Carrier Defence aircraft that the F-111B was intended to fill but couldn’t, so another more capable aircraft was needed.  They required a heavy fighter/interceptor that could fly at Mach 2 and carry a range of weapons, especially the AIM-54 Phoenix long-range air-to-air missile.  Grumman’s design was eventually awarded the contract and the result was a huge twin-engined airframe using swept-wing technology to cope with the slow speeds of landing and swept to handle well in the supersonic flight envelope.  It first flew at the end of 1970 and entered fleet service in 1974 with a powerful radar in the nose, spaces for six Phoenix missiles under the belly, plus more stations on the wing gloves and engine nacelles.  It was capable of speeds well in excess of Mach 2 thanks to the General Electric F110-GE-400 (post upgrade) with full afterburner, was fitted with a multi-barrelled Vulcan gatling cannon that was intended for use when things got up close and personal, shredding anything in its way.


With over 500 of the A model produced, the first major upgrade happened in the late 80s, resulting in the F-14B, which got the GE engines mentioned above that replaced the troublesome TF30s that may have cooked Goose’s… err, goose, new avionics and radar, with new airframes and upgrades to existing airframes totalling under 100 aircraft.  The D, nicknamed Super Tomcat, was the last upgrade with a glass cockpit and new avionics, giving the Tomcat the ability to keep up with more modern designs.  The plug was finally pulled on the F-14, being called 1960s technology, despite the upgrades it had received over the years.  The uproar from the fans was legendary, probably fuelled in some small part by the love for the type generated by the movie Top Gun in the 80s, but the die was cast and the Tomcat’s days were numbered.  Many airframes went to museums, but in order to keep the spare parts out of the hands of the no doubt desperate for spares Iranians some were shredded to render them as scrap and thereby useless to any sneaky Iranian operatives.



The Kit

It’s difficult to mention this kit without also mentioning the fact that has been delayed for some years for reasons unknown to this reviewer, and of little interest if we’re concentrating on the here and now if I’m honest.  This is a model of a much-loved aircraft and that often generates super-fans, a few of whom are not well adjusted to playing nicely with others.  Nuff said.  The kit arrives in a large top-opening box with a painting of an F-14D launching from a deck somewhere at sea. On lifting the lid you are greeted by the instruction booklet, some internal boxes and a couple of sprues poking out from underneath.  On closer inspection you’ll find a total of four small sub-boxes that contain the weapons and more delicate parts, keeping them a little safer than if they were rattling around in a larger box.  These have an added benefit of cushioning the sprues not in the box.  In total there are 21 larger sprues of varying sizes and two fuselage halves, plus another 30 smaller sprues of weapons and pods, a small sheet of Photo-Etch (PE), three decal sheets and the instruction booklet with colour jacket and spot colour throughout.


You may remember their Mig-31 Foxhound that I reviewed and built a few years back.  This was an excellent model that built up very nicely and I have the feeling that this one will too.  There have been some huge and extended discussion on the kit’s accuracy or otherwise, some of which may bother you, others likely won’t.  It’s impossible to find a perfect kit however, so you have to gauge this kits pros and cons against the competition and choose your preference.


































Construction begins with drilling some holes on the lower fuselage and under the engine nacelles for any or all of the weapons stations you intend to fit.  With the drill put away, the highly detailed seats, which consists of 13 parts each for the driver and the RIO (Radio Intercept Officer), closely followed by the cockpit tub, which all fits within a base with complex shaping to replicate the facets of the real thing.  Each instrument panel is fitted to the surface with a couple of tabs for ease and decals to speed up completion.  They’re joined by the rudder pedals, control column and the main instrument panels, which also have decals including MFD (Multi-Function Display), then are enclosed by adding in the side walls, making it into a proper tub.  The tub is flipped over and the nose gear bay is made up from individual panels, all of which have rich detail moulded in and begs for some detail painting.  The Tomcat’s nose section is engineered with another one of AMK’s favourite techniques, and arrives as a single slide-moulded part ready for the cockpit to be slid inside and completed.  There are a couple of raised panels under the starboard nose that need sanding off, as they’re not supposed to be there, and you’ll also have to remove the tiny mould seam marks that are a necessary part of slide-moulding technology, which is used extensively on this and many other of AMK’s kits.  These shouldn’t tax the modeller too much if tackled with the correct grade of sanding stick, so take care and if any of the panel lines are more faint than you’d like after the process, grab your scribing tool to make good.  It’s the necessary compromise for having sharp detail on all faces of a curved 3D shape, and has been with us for a while now.  With the cockpit now inside your nose (not your nose, silly), the coamings, top-mounted instruments, gun sight with PE supports and rear bulkhead are added with the windscreen, which needs a coating of clear green paint to replicate the real thing (or the excellent Galaxy Models mask set, which includes a pre-cut coated sheet).  The radome and its adaptor ring fit to the front with the pitot probe at the sharp end, then you add the seats and PE side rails to the assembly so you can put it aside for a while.










The powerful GE engines are next to be made up, and AMK have included a long section of the exhausts that are moulded into a simplified approximation of the engines themselves to which four engine face/afterburner parts are added internally.  A lick of paint will also be required, and the exhausts themselves are made up from a single outer ring, into which four sections of internal detail are fixed, giving the assembly more detail.  The outer rings are slender, if a little soft in the petal area but this can be remedied with some careful masking to give the impression of more depth (another thing the Galaxy Model set helps with).  A set of constricted exhausts are also on the sprues, but these parts aren’t mentioned in the instructions until later (as they are both single parts) and have some fairly prominent sink marks in their thicker areas.  Sometimes aircraft are parked with the exhausts at opposite ends of their extension with the port nozzle closed due to the effects of the shut-down process, but as they can be manipulated manually on the ground or for maintenance it’s not the end of the world if you want to use both the open nozzles.  Each intake needs a trunk, which are each made up from two parts that fit together and slide inside the engine nacelles, each of which have the same slide-moulding seams to sand back in order to have sharp detail on all three sides.  The F-14 adjusts the speed of the air into its engines internally to the intakes to suit its intended flight envelope, which are made up on a frame to which rams and intake surfaces are added in one of three positions, either subsonic, transonic or supersonic to optimise airflow and thereby engine power.  Side-on diagrams are provided to assist you with this task, and these too are put aside for later integration.




With the internals almost complete, the engine nacelles and their strakes are added to the underside fuselage part along with the innermost surfaces of the main gear bays, which are finished off from the inside later.  In between this, you get to choose the orientation of the horizontal tails by inserting two of three types of supports within the rear of the lower fuselage through the pre-formed holes in the side.  You have a choice for up, down or level planes, so check your references for which option will suit your needs.  Engines with their integral exhaust tunnels are inserted into the lower fuselage from within, as are the main gear bay sides, all of which are individual parts with plenty of detail moulded in.  That also gets put to one side while the wings are made, as these have to be fitted between top and bottom halves.  You need to decide on whether to pose your wings open or closed from the outset and there is no mechanism to adjust them later, which means you can’t play with them.  The open wings have separate flying surfaces, individual hinge parts, slats and spoilers, so will come out well-detailed, while the closed wings are simply two wing halves plus the shared tip parts and clear tip lights that won’t take long to make up.  The two horizontal tails are two parts each with a slot through the middle to attach to the fuselage sides at the previously chosen angle.  The beaver-tail with airbrake bays is also made up at this stage, ready to be added during fuselage closure along with the rudder fins, which are two parts each with tip lights of clear plastic.  Back to the wings again.  To fit the wings to the fuselage, AMK have provided three spar parts at the three usual positions that the wing will be seen in during flight and when parked.  When a Tomcat lands it folds its wings back swept, and then a little bit more to save more space on deck, so you have slow-speed swept out, supersonic swept, and highly swept for parking.  The assembly ends up as a single V-shaped set of wings with whichever angle you have selected.






The whole build so far has been leading up to closing the fuselage, so the top part needs detailing with some antennae, aux. intakes, strakes and a choice of swept or unswept wing glove extensions depending on your wing choice, which are marked as L and R and have matching marks on the inside of the fuselage part to save you getting confused when you flip the part over.  The actual fuselage closure process revolves around the lower fuselage, into which the wings are placed and are joined by the final inserts that are again chosen based on wing position, and are held in the correct position by a web-work of braces between them adding strength to the build.  The upper fuselage is lowered and glued, and is then decked out with tail feathers, exhaust shroud and the exhaust petals in your preferred position, bearing in mind those sink-marks on the closed option.  Your Tomcat is without a head as yet, which needs rectifying, by sliding the nose into position within the aperture at the front of the fuselage, then decked out with probes, crew steps and ladder, which in my sample had been broken due to the way it is held on the sprues.  Hopefully yours will fare better on the slow-boat.  Under the nose the TCS and Infrared sensors are fitted out with clear lenses then attached to the airframe, and on the starboard side of the cockpit the refuelling probe can be fitted open for business or closed for normal flight.




Every Tomcat needs landing gear at some point, and this is the next stage of the build.  You begin with the sturdy front strut that takes some hammering from the catapult and heavy landings, with twin wheels helping to spread the load.  Each wheel is made from a central hub with two-part tyre, and if you like weighted wheels you can sand in a small flat at the bottom, and the same is true of the larger main gear wheels.  These things were weighted, but seldom underinflated until they reached museums.  The main gear legs are decked out with struts and wheels while you have your white and tyre grey to hand.  The nose gear is fitted along with additional retraction strut and five bay doors, each of which have separate hinges and retraction jacks, while the rear door attaches to the larger strut that stows behind the majority of the bay when retracted.  The main gear also has an additional strut fixed, but only has two doors each, again with separate hinges.  The airbrakes also have their own retraction jacks, and between the lower pair there is the all-important arrestor hook that stops the pilots getting wet or tangled in the safety nets.  There are also a couple of PE representations of the chaff and flare buckets to distract and confuse enemy missiles that might want a closer inspection of their exhausts.




At this point your model is looking very Tomcat-like, but is a little draughty for the occupants.  You can pose the canopy open or closed, and it is a very nicely detailed piece of plastic engineering that can be made up from a completely clear outer into which the internal structure and closure mechanisms are added, or you can use the styrene frame and individual curved canopy parts instead, whichever you prefer.  My example had suffered from a blow during shipping resulting in the middle hoop being damaged but not beyond repair, despite being cocooned in a separate inner box.  Perhaps some of these parts need a little extra sprue around them, or some foam adding at the factory?  That’s the airframe done, and all that’s left to do now is load it out with weapons and their palettes/pylons.




The Tomcat is capable of carrying a lot of munitions as it’s a big, powerful aircraft. AMK haven’t short-changed us with providing everything we need, and you will probably have a fair quantity left over at the end of your mission.  You get four each of the weapons, plus a targeting pod and a TARPS pod into the bargain.  The weapons are as follows:


4 x AIM-54 Phoenix

4 x GBU-31 JDAM

4 x GBU-38 JDAM



1 x LANTIRN targeting pod

1 x TARPS Tactical Airborne Reconnaissance Pod System

4 x AIM-9 Sidewinder

4 x AIM-7 Sparrow


Four Phoenix missiles might seem stingy given that the aircraft was able to carry six, but the full load was rarely carried due to the stresses on the airframe that were undesirable during peacetime operations.  All these weapons require pylons, and there are a set of semi-conformal pylons called palettes in between the aircraft’s widely spaced engines, which have an upswept nose to streamline airflow over the missiles, and some folks have questioned the shape of these areas.  They’re a little off, but not stunningly so and they’re kind of out of the way, so once you’ve added the attachment inserts and filled them with missiles, you’ll probably not even notice.  A pair of fuel tanks are included with small pylons to fit them under the engine nacelles for additional range, and there are more pylons that attach to the underside of the wing glove, with an additional pylon at the crank-point that allows the Tomcat even more weapons options.  The weapons have all been designed to utilise slide-moulding, which reduces the parts count while adding crisp detail all around.  The downside of this is you have moulding seams to square away before you can begin to assemble your weapons, so bear this in mind as you begin.  Usually a scrape with the side of a sharp blade will remove most of it, and you can then sand them back to profile with a sanding stick.






The AIM-54s have an additional exhaust part, the AIM-7 has an exhaust and choice of two types of seeker, the Sidewinder has a tiny control-link part, while the bombs have separate tail units, with a choice of closed or open tails for the PAVEWAY II options.  The LANTIRN pod is made up from six parts, and the TARPS pod comprises four parts and is fitted instead of the belly palettes when in use.  A page of the instructions is devoted to load-out and you should combine this with your references if you’re planning on replicating a realistic warload for your model.




There are five decal options included on the kit’s three decal sheets, including a full set of stencils that takes up one of the sheets.  These include a couple of more colourful options as well as some lowviz schemes in an effort to offer some variation.  From the box you can build one of the following:


  • BuNo.164348 of VF-213 Black Lions, Feb 2002
  • BuNo.164342 NE 106 of VF-2 Bounty Hunters, May 2003
  • BuNo.164600 NK 100 of VF-31 Tomcatters, 1997
  • BuNo.164604 Vandy One of VX-9 Vampires, Spring 2000
  • BuNo.163900 AD 155 of VF-101 Grim Reapers, 2005






Furball Aero Designs have created the decals, but we’re not told who did the printing.  That said, the sheets are well-printed with good register, colour density and sharpness, although the yellow on sheet B has been over-printed quite generously.



Detail is excellent for the most part, with the closed exhausts being the only disappointment in that department.  There have been some rumblings regarding the aircraft’s back-end, including width and the shape of the curve over the horizontal tails.  They’re probably correct from what I’ve seen, but whether that will bother many people I don’t know.  I’d be tempted to soften the shape a little with the aid of references, and the same could be done with those belly palette noses.  Overall though, it’s still a lovely kit and it is well priced to compete with the other kits in this scale.  A few adjustments in the packaging might save those delicate parts from harm, so remember to check your kit when it arrives.


Highly recommended.


Review sample courtesy of


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Great review Mike, I've been looking forward to seeing a detailed description of the kit and its parts. I'm a bit surprised it's taken so long since the release of the kit, and even more so by the paucity of builds on the net, including here. Considering the, errrrrr, discussions that preceded its release I was maybe expecting to see a splash of them hitting build benches.


Nonetheless from what I  see I believe it is almost exactly the kit i wanted to see (I wanted the -A version) so as soon as my wife's back is turned I'll be sneaking one into my cupboard. 


Now, how long are you going to keep us waiting for a build review.....?!





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we live in paradisiacal times, if we had a time machine and would  show these sprues to a modeler from the 80th, he will get a mega shock and never recovering anymore. Thats really high engineering model kit. I will buy a one.

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This looks like a superb kit! The details put the Tamiya 1/32nd version to shame....


I'm going to put on my rivet-counter hat for one small detail here (a rare event, I can assure you). Why have they moulded the GBU's with the guidance-vanes in the open position? Surely, you would only see these when a bomb is being dropped. I appreciate that they can be easily removed, but it still seems like a strange choice on AMK's part. Perhaps someone with greater knowledge could advise on this matter....


Other than that, it looks like an amazing kit. If it was my scale, I would be ordering one today.


Thanks for the review.



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Scratch that comment about the GBU's. Now I've had a second look, AMK have supplied the bombs with the guidance-vanes in both the open and closed positions. A second look at the photos is always a good idea!



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Perhaps you could use the in flight ones displayed in front o the aircraft aka Airshow, but on the whole its a little strange because as you say they only pop out on release.



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On 14/02/2020 at 10:13, spruecutter96 said:

Why have they moulded the GBU's with the guidance-vanes in the open position?

I did wonder that at the time, but then I thought about the possible air-drop diorama possibility and said nowt.  It does seems a bit superfluous given the number that would be used but that's what designers do.  They make decisions.  It may just have been the fact that there was still space on the sprue.  Unless Sio chimes in (which he does sometimes), we won't know his thoughts behind it :)

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