Grumman F-14 Fleet Defense Fighter

Product Spotlight: “Good Golly, Miss Molly”

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Illegitimi non carborundum” (a mock-Latin aphorism meaning “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.)”

– Motto of VF-111 “Sundowners”

Nowadays, it seems as though every manufacturer is either producing or planning to produce their version of the venerable F-14 Fleet Defense Fighter. So, when Hobby Master jumped into the game earlier this year, several model makers took notice, as did the bulk of the diecast collecting community. Pretty far along now in the production process, we recently received images of their next warbird: one nicknamed “Miss Molly,” and attached to the VF-111 “Sundowners”, then embarked upon the USS Carl Vinson (CV-70) during 1989.

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The VF-111 Sundowners was a U.S. Navy fighter squadron flying the F-14 Tomcat until disestablished in 1995. The Sundowner tradition lives on in the form of VFC-111 as an aggressor squadron flying F-5Ns, it was made official in November 2006.

In October 1983 VF-111 returned to NAS Miramar following a world cruise on the maiden deployment of the USS Carl Vinson. The Sundowners accumulated over 1400 landings and 300 flight hours during the cruise.

In 1986 VF-111 accumulated over 7000 accident free flight hours and won the COMFITAEWWINGPAC Third Quarter Safety Award. The squadron earned COMCARGRU 3 and COMCARWING 15 endorsements to receive the ADM Joseph C. Clifton Award which designates the recipient as the best fighter squadron in the Navy.

In the spring of 1986 VF-111 began another busy work-up cycle, completing a successful series of training evolution and exercises in preparation for their June 1988 Pacific/Indian Ocean deployment. VF-111’s seventeen month work-up was capped by a history making event, FLEETEX 88-2, the first time since World War II that a carrier, USS Carl Vinson and a battleship, USS New Jersey operated as a Battle Fleet.

VF-111’s eventful 1988 deployment began in June and ended in December. It included operations in the Northern/Western Pacific, Arabian Sea, and Indian Ocean, providing support of tanker escorts in the Persian Gulf and included a transit of the Bering Sea, the fourth such transit in four deployments. Interoperability with U.S. and foreign air assets was stressed through exercises with the USAF Alaskan Air Command and Air Forces of Malaysia, Japan and Thailand.

In preparation for another deployment in 1990, VF-111 deployed aboard USS Carl Vinson from September to November 1989 as participants in PACEX 89. This landmark exercise had the Sundowners operating in the Bering Sea, the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan as a part of the largest naval exercise since World War II.

Look for “Miss Molly” (HA5213) some time in November.

 

 
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Product Spotlight: The Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force

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“Skyhigh Is My Place”
– Motto of the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force

When Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein, ordered his forces to attack neighboring Iran in the early 1980s, he bit off more than he could chew. Although the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force was no longer able to procure parts for its largely US-built air force following the coup, they were, nevertheless, more than a match for the Iraqi Air Force, time and again turning back aerial assaults even when outnumbered and outgunned.

One of the principal reasons why they were able to hold their own against the Iraqis was because they has been equipped with the Grumman F-14 Fleet Defense Fighter, a versatile swing-wing aircraft intended for naval operations yet was equally at home flying from land-based airfields.

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After the Iran-Iraq War, IRIAF`s experts modernized this particular warbird during its overhaul. The modernization program was designed to cover certain structural life-extensions, avionics and armament upgrade. Hundreds of hours were spent on upgrading this 37 years old interceptor. It was painted in a edged three-tone Asian Minor II camo pattern. Two new AA missiles has been  adapted with its fire control system, R-73E, AIM-54A+ “Fakkur”, AIM-54A, AIM-7E-4 and AIM-9J.

 
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Product Spotlight: Hobby Master Hoists the Jolly Roger

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“Obsolete weapons do not deter.”

– British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

We’re starting to find ourselves knee-deep in Grumman F-14 Tomcats, so anytime a truly important release catches the third arresting wire on our flight deck, we have to sit up and take notice. This month, we are expecting the latest in the Hobby Master stable of F-14s – an “A” variant that was attached to VF-84 “Jolly Rogers,” then embarked upon the USS Nimitz (CVN-68), during 1977 (HA5203).

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Strike Fighter Squadron 103 (the Jolly Rogers) is a Strike Fighter Squadron flying the F/A-18F Super Hornet and is based at NAS Oceana.

In March 1993, VF-84 deployed on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the only F-14 squadron in a reconfigured airwing that included Marine F/A-18, CH-53 and UH-1 squadrons. VF-84 flew critical TARPS reconnaissance missions during Operation Deny Flight, providing information about Bosnian Serb positions around Sarajevo. The squadron also flew in support of Operation Southern Watch, enforcing the no-fly zone over southern Iraq.

VF-84 returned to NAS Oceana in September 1993. It was to be the squadron’s last Mediterranean deployment.

Due to the downsizing of the Navy after the Cold War, the Navy disestablished several squadrons, and VF-84 was one of them. The squadron spent its last eighteen months of existence participating in several joint service operations, honing its skills in air-to-air combat, strike and TARPS. The squadron also made another memorable appearance in another motion picture, Executive Decision. VF-84 was disestablished on October 1, 1995, but VF-103 Sluggers adopted the name and insignia of the Jolly Rogers. From its transition to the F-14 until its disestablishment, VF-84 had been a part of CVW-8.

 
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Product Spotlight: (Tom) cat on a Hot Tin Roof

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“We sat at the end of the runway, our F-14’s GE-110 motors humming, awaiting our clearance to begin what would be the last F-14 Demonstration ever. The Air Boss’s voice crackled over the radio: “Tomcat Demo, you’re cleared to five miles and 15k feet. The air show box is yours.” At that very moment, I distinctly remember what my Commanding Officer told us before the show: “Fellas, make it memorable… just not too memorable!””

– Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) Lieutenant Commander Joe “Smokin” Ruzicka shortly before flying the last F-14 Demonstration flight, 2006

Our latest cache of military hardware includes this F-14 Tomcat, which bolted off the deck for its final time in 2006. The second in Hobby Master’s growing fleet of F-14 Fleet Defense Fighters, this beauty bears the insignia of VF-31 “Tomcatters”, and is painted in a stunning low-vis camouflage scheme intended to make it blend in with its nautical surroundings (HA5202).

The F-14 Tomcat program was initiated when it became obvious that the weight and maneuverability issues plaguing the U.S. Navy variant of the Tactical Fighter Experimental (TFX) (F-111B) would not be resolved to the Navy’s satisfaction. The Navy requirement was for a fleet air defense fighter (FADF) with the primary role of intercepting Soviet bombers before they could launch missiles against the carrier group. The Navy also wanted the aircraft to possess inherent air superiority characteristics. The Navy strenuously opposed the TFX, which incorporated the Air Force’s requirements for a low-level attack aircraft, fearing the compromises would cripple the aircraft, but were forced to participate in the program at direction of then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara who wanted “joint” solutions to the service aircraft needs to reduce developmental costs. The prior example of the F-4 Phantom which was a Navy program later adopted by the USAF (under similar direction) was the order of the day. Vice Admiral Thomas Connolly, DCNO for Air Warfare took the developmental F-111A for a flight and discovered it was unable to go supersonic and had poor landing characteristics. He later testified to Congress about his concerns against the official Department of the Navy position and in May 1968, Congress killed funding for the F-111B allowing the Navy to pursue an answer tailored to their requirements.

The F-14 first flew on December 21st, 1970, just 22 months after Grumman was awarded the contract, and reached Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in 1973. While the Marine Corps was interested in the F-14 and went so far as to send pilots to VF-124 to train as instructors, they were never fully sold on the aircraft and pulled out when the stores management system for ground attack munitions was left undeveloped, leaving the aircraft incapable of dropping air-to-ground munitions (these were later developed in the 1990s).

 
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Defending the Fleet: When Does Redundancy Cause More Harm than Good?

 

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Its Fleet Week here in New York City, an annual celebration where several US Navy warships sail into the harbor, drop anchor then permit the curious to board the ships and peek around. While the NYPD’s Harbor Patrol is tasked with protecting the ships from potential acts of terrorism, it seems as though several diecast model makers have taken it upon themselves to provide an extra layer of security by offering a growing pantheon of 1:72 scale F-14 Fleet Defense Fighters.

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Earlier this week, we discussed how newcomer Calibre Wings is kicking things off by offering two 1:72 scale exemplars of the venerable F-14 Tomcat. Earlier today, we learned that longtime modelmaker, Hobby Master, will be building models based upon the exact same schemes – one portraying VF-1 “Wolfpack” and the other VF-103 “Jolly Roger” – which will likely make it to market before the Calibre Wings offerings are cleared for takeoff. Keep in mind, we already have a long list of F-14s produced by Century Wings, as well as a couple of birds from True Scale Models, who managed to nab the Top Gun license to help sell their wares.

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Frankly, with so many other air frames to model, as well as loads of other squadrons to tap, the news that more of the same is falling on deaf ears, nothing more than a bid to steal the thunder from another modelmaking house. I’d like to think that somehow this type of one upsmanship should be left to the political scene, instead of muddying the waters in an increasingly crowded market where assets could be put to better use. Obviously, we wish them all well, and hope that every model produced sells like gangbusters, but all this duplication of effort does is create added inventory at the distributor and dealer level, and likely leads to discounted pricing to move inventory. The end user might like the temporary respite in pricing, but the distributor and dealer will have to think twice about bringing in new SKUs if this type of war for the collector’s wallet, continues unabated.

 
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Calibre Wings Feels the Need for Speed

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Recognizing the need to differentiate themselves from all of the other makers of 1:72 scale F-14 Tomcats, Calibre Wings has finally provided information concerning a pair of fleet defense fighters due out this fall. The list of features is rather long and includes a number of robust additions others have thus far sidestepped including:

  • Diecast construction
  • Martin Baker GRU-7 ejection seats
  • Realistic pilot and RIO figures
  • Canopy in open or closed position
  • Working glove vanes
  • Positional airbrakes
  • Movable sweep wings & horizontal stablizers
  • Interchangeable engine nozzles in open or closed positions
  • Landing gears extended or stored
  • Jet intake covers
  • Wheel chocks
  • Rubber tires
  • Operational pay load ordnance
  • Deluxe display stand
  • Limited edition serialized metal plate
  • Collector’s box

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Two warbirds are thus far being readied: one portraying VF-1 Wolf Pack” (CA721402) and the second VF-103 “Jolly Rogers” (CA721401) on their last flight. Both models have been listed on our web site and we hope to have photos of them some time soon.

 
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A Higher Caliber F-14?

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In a bid to become the preeminent maker of 1:72 scale F-14 Tomcats, Calibre Wings took the wraps off of its inaugural Fleet Defender at the Shizuoka Hobby Show in Tokyo, Japan, which is aimed at depicting the last flight of the F-14B. Unpainted and not yet fully assembled, the image, nevertheless, shows the warbird with two seated crewmen, a large array of ordnance, and several bits and pieces yet to be attached including the exhaust nozzles. With so many manufacturers now building their own version of the venerable F-14 (Century Wings, Hobby Master and True Scale Models), it will be interesting to see how market share shakes out going forward and if so many choices will eventually lead to lowered retail prices to clear out inventory.

 
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Fight’s On: Hobby Master Puts On its Boxing Gloves

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With 15 years in this business, we ordinarily take any news we come across with a grain of salt, particularly when new products are announced, since they sometimes end up as no more than pipe dreams or chest-beating rants by boastful manufacturers. However, when Hobby Master announced their intent to offer a 1:72 scale replica of the Grumman F-14 Fleet Defense Fighter, we sat up and took notice. Hobby Master has been one of the most reliable model makers in business today, while one of their rivals, Century Wings, is equally well-respected, largely confining its efforts towards producing a narrow gaggle of aircraft. The F-14 has always been one of Century Wings most passionate projects, with something on the order of 35 different aircraft released to date. Some command a small fortune in the after market, prized for their accuracy and limited runs.

Hobby Master’s first effort will be based upon a bird that was used by the commanding officer of VF-211 “Fighting Checkmates”, which was embarked upon the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) during 2004 (#HA5201). Moreover, the model will feature variable-geometry wings, thereby permitting them to be displayed in launch or in-flight configuration. Barring any licensing issues, a good subject for replication might be the F-14s depicted in the feature film, Top Gun, seeing as how the movie’s sequel is about to enter production.

Anyway, we thought it a bid odd that Hobby Master would devote precious resources towards producing a model that has become the bastion for another model maker, when loads of other untouched subjects could have made better choices. We wish them well in their endeavors and hope there’s enough market to go around for both companies to remain satisfied.

 
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