The 1989 Academy 1/48th scale F-14 kit was a good option if you were looking to build up a Tomcat (or several) without breaking the bank. The low cost did come at the expense of the slats and flaps molded up as well as a few fit issues, however it still builds up into a nice kit, albeit with a bit of work.
Notable Kit Features:
Raised detailed cockpit with decent ejection seats & 2 seated pilot figures
Nicely scribed surface details and panel lines
Movable wing-sweep with glove vanes
Nice gear detail
Optional under-nose sensors
Intake trunks with fan faces
Open & closed nozzles provided
Tarps pod, fuel tanks & air-to-air weapons provided
I had seen photos of the NSAWC F-14 Tomcats in blues and browns and was impressed with their looks, however I had to gather the plans and patience to take a crack at this one as the decals were no longer available (at reasonable prices). After cutting my teeth on a NSAWC Viper, I figured I was ready to tackle this design, complete with the complex splinter camouflage.
Ejection seats are decent however they seem a very tight fit into the cockpits (I sanded mine down to fit)
Nose wheel-well construction beneath cockpit should be carefully test fitted to ensure proper parts alignment later with the forward fuselage
The fit between the upper and lower forward fuselages halves is mediocre at best, requires test fitting to line up everything as best you can, however prepare yourself to deal with a bit of a step & gap in the join, requiring much sanding / filling and detail replacement
Intakes fit requires some clamping, sanding and filling to get things smoothed out
Glove vane fit is a bit troublesome (mainly due to the nature of the plastic)
Some cleaning up the seams and ejector pin marks required especially on gear parts
Arrestor hook is incorrect in shape
Kit Additions / Modifications:
Thinned down upper grips on ejection seats
Replaced glove vanes with plastic card
Thinned gun port opening
Drilled out the fuel dump port at rear of aircraft
Reshaped the arrestor hook to a rounded one (the kit part is oddly rectangular)
Thinned exhaust trail edges
Markings formed up from painted on detail and spare decal stash
I also ended up damaging the glove vane leading edge and breaking off the left gear during the build which required some extra time to repair
Needless to say the NSAWC paint scheme on this aircraft was a complicated venture that required much planning and masking. I tackled the job by getting a hold of some drawings of the paint job and then photocopied them, enlarging them to 1/48th scale. These copies were used to trace the splinter patterns onto frisket film. I then cut out the various splinter shapes required for masking and placed them appropriately on the model during each paint layer process (starting from the lightest colour to darkest). The paint tones were each lightly weathered during the paint spray by varying the tone a bit. I left off the vertical tails nose and weapons pylons until after the main painting was complete to make the process easier.
I achieved the look on the metal exhausts by spraying 3 - 4 tones of dark metals. Any hard demarcation between tones got a coat of gloss to act as a sealer so I didn’t lift any metal flakes or finishes. Weathering of the metal area was then done with oil-base washes.
The NSAWC lettering and lightning bolt was a custom mask created on a small Silhouette plotter/cutter.
The After-Build Report:
Any F-14 Tomcat build is going to have some challenges due in part by the somewhat complex nature of the aircraft, therefore it is probably not a choice beginner aircraft build. The 1/48th scale Monogram and Academy kits simplified things by molding the slats and flaps up with the Academy kit offering recessed panel lines verses Monogram's raised lines. Both kits had good overall shape and looked the part when completed.
When it comes to a super-detailed Tomcat, the Tamiya offering may be best to suit your needs, if money is not a factor. The later Hasegawa F-14 kits (post-improvements) are still contenders (these were considered the "King of Cats" for quite some time) and then AMK jumped in as well as HobbyBoss, however a lot of critiques followed these two kits as well. If you want a reasonably priced F-14 and don't require dropped flaps for your build, the Academy kit is still a good (available) option with scribed panel lines.
Feel free to comment or ask any questions - Keep on building, gain experience, challenge yourself if you like, but try not to stress yourself out over the build - it is supposed to be an enjoyable hobby after all - Cheers