A big fighter plane very small: F-14D, VF 101 "Grim Reapers".
About the F-14D in 1:144 scale
This F-14D is the first in a small series of this large fighter aircraft. Altogether five Tomcats will be built, two each in 1/48th and 1/72nd scale and one in the smallest scale of 1/144, which can be seen here.
One may well ask why the scale has been changed three times for this attractive modelling theme. As an answer I can offer: it can be very attractive to change the perspective from time to time! Not only for the sheer variety, but also because each of the available scales has its own charms and also promises its own gain in modelling knowledge.
With the "144", for example, I like the fact that it encourages a pragmatic precision in working. The details are in areas where even the magnification of my loupes reaches its limits. The fineness of the motor skills is also challenged to the limit when the finest particles have to be picked up and placed with the tweezers, which then, on the spot, suddenly turn out to be, for example, a claw of the canopy latch.
At the same time, working in 144 is strangely relaxed: many things simply cannot be represented with an appropriate detailed form because of their smallness! As I notice in myself, this loosens up demands that are sometimes already a bit high-set and overstretched anyway, to a degree that is again soothing. This idea also implies that some things that can no longer be represented in the way we have discussed have to be suggested with a creative invention - and that, in turn, can be really fun.
The 144 scale can thus be used to adjust the critical model builder's eye more to the coherence of the whole than to exhaust oneself in the mere summation of individual details.
About the building process
In the light of what has been said, I am therefore happy to forgive the model shown here for omitting many of the details possible in 72, 48, or even 32 in the numerous corners, angles and surfaces of the impressive forms of an F-14. With a bit of a twinkle in my eye, I can instead appreciate the details and hints that I have fabricated myself and remember the fun that went into planning and making them.
A lot of energy went into the design of the open cabin roof, for example. I used a deep-drawn version of this part as a basis, and the rear view mirrors and the already mentioned locking claws were made from cut etched parts. These were really the smallest parts I ever managed to move with tweezers! 😊
The cockpit under the open cockpit was also the target of some detailing exercises on my part. All harnesses, handles and ejection seat triggers were added as self-built extras.
Besides the vacu-canopy I added a set of resin tyres as a refinement. Here I was especially interested in the flattened, "loaded" wheels. Furthermore there is a metal "A-probe" at the very front of the bow; this is also a worthwhile detailing compared to the original part.
This kit from Revell, which has received much praise for a reason, does not necessarily have to be improved! The structuredness and fineness of the parts are just as convincing as the wonderful accuracy of fit, which spoils the modeller from start to finish.
Revell does not skimp on the desirable quality of the decal sheet either. A remarkable number of markings and stencils of an F-14 are offered. To illustrate, just to depict a single AIM-54 Phoenix guided missile requires eight miniature decals to be placed in a really small and angular space.
The kit provides markings for two versions. One of them I have taken as a model in the form of a VF-101 "Grim Reapers" machine. VF 101 is a particularly interesting unit as it has been responsible for conversion and retraining new F-14 crews and the highly specialised maintenance crews since January 1976, when the F-14 Tomcat was first introduced. The "Grim Reapers" are stationed at NAS Oceana on the US East Coast. Disbanded between 2005 and 2012 after the F-14s were replaced, the reactivated VF-101 subsequently flew the new F-35 Lightning II. In 2018, this unit was finally deactivated.
For me, the miniature F-14 was a rewarding and experiential prelude to a closer examination of the "Tomcat". I can confidently recommend an excursion into the miniature scale to anyone interested, and a Revell F-14 is an ideal object for this!
16 additional images. Click to enlarge.