After the cancellation of the Navy's fleet defense fighter under the TFX program (F-111B), much of the special development was recycled into a new airframe designed by Grumman as the F-14 Tomcat. The key systems included the AWG-9 radar with its track-while-scan capability and the ability to engage six targets at the same time using the new AIM-54 Phoenix missile. As the aircraft entered service, two shortcomings were quickly revealed: First, the TF-30 engines that also came over from the F-111B lacked sufficient thrust for aerial combat (an F-14A could out-turn an F-15 for 180 degrees of combat turn, but the F-15 had the thrust to sustain that turn, the F-14A simply ran out of energy for a sustained fight) as well as limitations on weapons loads going off and coming back aboard the ship also due to its limited power. Second, while the AWG-9 had superior multi-target engagement capabilities over water, the radar didn't have look-down capabilities over land. This led to crews driving into hostile airspace at lower altitudes to keep hostiles above them for optimum radar function.
With the development of the F101 derivative fighter engine (DFE) that became the F110, the F-14B was fitted with the more powerful engine that allowed the Tomcat to finally maneuver with the F-15. In addition to new-production F-14B airframes, many F-14As were re-engined to become F-14B. After the USS Vincennes incident that shot down an Iranian airliner, rules of engagement (ROE) were revised to mandate a visual ID of the target before engaging. Even with the Television Camera System (TCS) under the nose of the F-14, by the time visual ID was made, the Tomcat would be too close to launch the AIM-54 which limited the F-14 to the AIM-7 and AIM-9 missiles in many cases. In an effort to expand the F-14's utility aboard the aircraft carrier, the Bombcat was a modification that allowed a targeting pod to be carried under one wing glove while a variety of laser-guided and GPS-guided munitions were carried under the pallets that were used for the AIM-54s.
The F-14D was a major upgrade over the F-14B, while it retained the F110 engines, it received the APG-71, which was a digital system replacing the analog AWG-9 and featuring the capabilities of the APG-70 from the F-15E Strike Eagle, one of which allowed look-down/shoot-down capability. The F-14D also featured other upgrades including the NACES ejection seats, an improved infrared search-track system (IRST) alongside the TCS under the nose, Link-16, and an improved electronic warfare suite. As with the F-14B, a number of new airframes were produced in the F-14D configuration while more were upgraded from older Tomcat airframes. Despite the Tomcat's capabilities, the aircraft became too expensive to maintain/operate and it was retired in favor of the F/A-18 Super Hornet.
This kit is molded in gray styrene and presented on 8 parts trees plus upper and lower main fuselage, two intake trunks, and two ejection seat frames. The kit also includes two clear parts for the canopy and windscreen. The molding is sharp with nicely scribed surface details. Among the features and options for this release:
Nice GRU-7 ejection seats
Nicely detailed fore and aft cockpits
Intake ducts to the engine compressor faces
Wings can be displayed extended or swept
Nicely detailed wheel wells and landing gear
External stores include:
2 x AIM-9G/H
2 x AIM-9L/M
4 x AIM-7
4 x AIM-54
2 x external fuel tanks
This release offers one markings option:
F-14A, 159434, VFA-143, AE/100, USS America, 1976
This is another nice kit from Academy that will also please more experienced modelers with the molded-in details waiting for the proper paint and washes.