Hobby Master 1/72 Air Power Series
USN Grumman F-14A Tomcat
USS Enterprise (CVN-65) VF-211 "Fighting Checkmates" CO, 2004
October 2015 Release (Delayed to November)
Production Limited 1500 Units
Below: Actual Aircraft during the Final Cruise on the USS Enterprise 2004.
Below: Another VF-211 F-14 during an earlier cruise on the Enterprise.
VF-211 "Fighting Checkmates"
VF-211's origins trace back to VB-74, which was established in May 1945. The squadron acquired it's present designation in March 1959. Before receiving the F-14A Tomcat, VF-211 flew the Navy's last all gun fighter, the famous F-8J Crusader. VF-211 made seven deployments during the Vietnam War and had eight confirmed kills in the F-8 Crusader, which earned them the reputation as “The MiG Killers.” However, the Crusader's days were numbered after the 23rd of December 1975, when VF-211 made it's maiden flight in the brand new and highly advanced F-14A Tomcat. VF-211 was the ninth US Navy squadron to convert to the F-14.
After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Checkmates deployed with Carrier Air Wing NINE, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom combat missions over Afghanistan. In early 2002, the squadron directly supported the three-week-long battle Operation Anaconda. The squadron flew 1250 combat sorties, logging 4200 combat hours and dropped 100,000 lbs of ordnance and was awarded the VADM “Sweetpea” Allen Precision Strike Award for 2002. On their return home to the US, they transitioned to Carrier Air Wing One aboard USS Enterprise (CVN-65).
In 2002 the Checkmates received the Commander Naval Air Force Pacific Fleet, BATTLE “E” for battle efficiency, the Commander Naval Air Force Atlantic Fleet GRAND SLAM Award for excellence in Air-to-Air employment, and the Clifton Award for the most outstanding overall performance in battle efficiency and employment. In late 2003, VF-211 deployed for their final F-14 cruise in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, flying mostly reconnaissance, "show of force" and ground support missions.
After their return to NAS Oceana in 2004, VF-211 began transition to the F/A-18F Super Hornet (after operating the F-14 for almost 30 years) and was redesignated VFA-211, becoming the first operational East Coast Super Hornet squadron
The first thing collector's will notice is that Hobby Master's F-14 is in every way - equal to the Century Wings tooling (which sells for a little over 10% more at most retailers).
In fact I have found it difficult to find any major differences between the two manufacturer's products. The model looks and feels exactly like the F-14 from Century Wings. The engineering of the toolings are identical. The same flaws and gaps on the Century Wings's tooling are present on the Hobby Master version. And for any doubters regarding how similar the tooling are - the Hobby Master F-14 even fits the Century Wings display stand! (see final photo in this review).
Once the A-6 Intruder was retired by the Navy in the mid 1990s, the F-14 took over as the precision strike platform for Carrier Air Wings. The LANTIRN (L
avigation and T
nfrared for N
ight) targeting pod was integrated onto the Tomcat in order to facilitate the precision strike capability and the result became known as the "Bombcat". Both the LANTERN Targeting System Pod and two Laser Guided Bombs (LGBs) are included with the model. Since the Phoenix missile was retired in 2004, it has not been included on this release.
This being Hobby Master's very first release, they have made sure to get the finest of details correct. The GPS bump behind the cockpit (on late model F-14s) is present on the model as are the correct antennas on the upper surface of the beaver tail.
The canopy is identical to that found on the Century Wings F-14 with a rear hinge that allows for both open and closed positions.
My model had no quality control issues to speak of. All the parts fit together well and the paint quality was very good. As mentioned previously there is a small gap where the forward pallets attach to the fuselage (same issue as the Century Wings models). My model had virtually no gap along the leading edge of the glove vanes which can be an issue on some Century Wings versions.
Overall, another worthy F-14 diecast model available to collectors. Certainly the Hobby Master F-14 is the equal of the Century Wings version and is certainly superior to any of the Witty Wings or Dragon Wings offerings (both no longer available).
Below: She even fits the Century Wings Display stand.