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F-14 - Why is it so popular?


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4 hours ago, CJ Martin said:

 

I worked on them too, both in the Fleet and at Pax. Post active duty, I worked for NAVAIR Reliability & Maintainability.

 

The Tomcats dismal maintenance number were very real. I saw them, saw the raw data. NAMP/3M data was used. Towards the end, Tomcat MMH/FH was in the mid-40s, spiking higher at times. Legacy Hornets were upper teens, Supers low teens. Do the math.

 

And I believed those numbers. As someone that also worked on Hornets, I was shocked how easy those plastic jets were to maintain. Need access to the radar package? Pull the whole damn thing out of the radome. LOL. Certainly the plastic jet was easier for an avionics tech to work on and troubleshoot. Didn't care for the whole prox box thing though. Shall we talk about engine swaps? Haha. While not completely fleet representative, a McAir crew did demonstrate a swap within 30 minutes! Let's talk about having an APU on board...no pushing A/C carts around, no crying for combat air on the ship just fire up the APU and run the radar (or whatever). Sure you could pull breakers on the Tomcat to get things to run, but push that trick a little too long and you'd burn up boxes. I saw the sun rise over the Oceana flight line more times than I'd like to admit chasing wiring issues.

 

First love will always be the Tomcat, but I'm not blinded by that love. The Cat was a cast iron bad girl to work on. It did teach you to be a good tech, but the learning curve was steep.

That's the difference between a jet designed in the 60's and a jet designed 20 years later. You won't hear any argument from me that the Tomcat was a maintenance nightmare, especially towards the end. However, take a look at Hornets and even Eagles now. They are in the same position the Tomcat was in. I think it's comparing apples and oranges. I understand 11bee's point about being in the hangar, but I think the subjects need to be separated. We can talk about the maintenance, and we can talk about performance. It's a shame Grumman wasn't given the money to upgrade the design and potentially come up with an airplane that was much easier to maintain. In the end, does it really matter? The bottom line is getting the job done. The SH does, though it has its share of inferior qualities, and it doesn't nearly do it with the style, power, and grace the Tomcat did. Which leads us back to the original question. Why is the Tomcat so popular?  :-)

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I too have shed blood on both and to compare MMH/FH shows lack of knowledge and simplistic thinking when it comes to Naval Aviation and Naval Aviation Maintenance. Of course the Hornet/Super Hornet are going to have less MMH/FH than a Tomcat; they were newer and more simplistic than a Tomcat. In addition, most of the F-18 maintenance is basically outsourced to the intermediate level (AIMD/FRC) maintenance activities so the reporting is different. Case in point, the gun system. In the F-14 community, the squadron was responsible for all maintenance on the gun system and all maintenance on the gun is report against the aircraft. In the F-18 community, the squadron was only allowed to remove and install the gun, any maintenance like changing breech bolts, repairing chutes, unjamming, etc was done by AIMD  and reported against the gun itself. Also, the Tomcat was a much more complex and sophisticated aircraft compared to the F-18, just look at the wing sweep system, the air inlet ramps, the radar.

 

So if you want to compare MMH/FH than yes, the F-18 will win but that is just looking at one segment of the whole picture. Think about the age difference between the aircraft, hell, at the end of its career most Tomcats had over 8,000 flight hours on their airframe, the Hornet had about 6,000 flight hours. Today, there are a lot of Hornets with over 8,000 flight hours and let me tell you, they are sucking up a lot of maintenance man hours and money just trying to keep them in the air. Yes the AIM-54 Phoenix System was maintenance intensive, if you didn’t maintain it properly. I’ve seen squadrons neglect the system and when it came time to use it (example: hang Phoenix’s on the wing) they had to jump through hoops getting the system back up to where it was supposed to be, that resulted in an extraordinary number of man hours being spent on one system (the Phoenix System) because they gaff’ed off the system until they needed it. A prime example is a week before a missile shoot they would do the required flush n fill and low and behold, the system leaked like a sieve because they didn’t maintain the QD’s (quick disconnects). Also, the system would be contaminated because they didn’t do the flush n fill every 56 days like they were supposed to, that is how one Tomcat squadron (IIRC it was VF-103 back in the mid 90’s) contaminated over half of all the AIM-54’s at Oceana one day. Funny how people blame the aircraft when the aircraft isn’t at fault, it’s the lack of proper maintenance and the lack of parts that directly inflated the MMH/FH figures, not the design of the aircraft.

 

Also, let’s talk about spare parts; the F-18 community never had to deal with the shortage of spare parts but thanks to good ole Dick Chaney who decided that the Navy had enough F-14 spare parts he destroyed the ability to produce more. Too bad he miss read the reports and instead of the Tomcat community having 15 years’ worth of parts, it only had about 5 so for the last ten years of the Tomcat’s career they had to deal with constantly robbing parts to keep aircraft flying. My last Tomcat squadron had to change 8 rudder actuators just to get one to work properly because you can only rebuild hydraulic actuators so many times before they are crap. We had to go out to the static display bird at the front gate and rob parts off of that because there were no parts in the supply system. I had parts on order for over 18 months and then had them finally cancelled because no one made them.

 

And let’s touch on one item that no one really thinks of, knowledge, specifically, maintainer knowledge. In the Tomcat community you had knowledgeable maintainers, guys (and gals) who knew that aircraft like the back of their hand, maintainers who knew how to work on the aircraft and knew how to fix its components. In the F-18 community, you have maintainers who know how to remove/install components, that’s it. They don’t know how to work on the components because they are not allowed to, everything is sent over to AIMD/FRC. We will use the gun again as an example, for the F-14, if the gun system jammed, the squadron ordies would unjam it and rebuild it, for the F-18, they would drop the gun onto a skid and send it to AIMD for repair. There’s an old joke when it comes to F-18 maintainers, “how do you confuse an F-18 maintainer, give him a multi-meter and tell him to read wires”. I could teach a bunch of 6th graders to work on the F-18, for the F-14, they had better be at the top of their graduation high school class. Basically, the Navy has dumbed down the F-18 so anyone can work on it unlike the Tomcat.

 

As far as the Tomcat being an “air superiority fighter”, it was designed as a Fleet Defense Fighter; the Navy did not have “air superiority fighters” at the time, that was an Air Force thing. I know someone posted an “official Navy document”, well, that document was not written by the Navy, the Navy commissioned it to be written by a private contracting agency and trust me, those documents always contain errors (I read those kinds of documents daily). The problem with using a private contracting agency is that most of the time, they don’t have the technical and hands on knowledge of what they are analyzing, they are experts with no practical knowledge of the subject. Also bear in mind that you are using today’s terminology and definitions on an aircraft that was designed almost 50 years ago, that’s like comparing today’s heavy metal to the heavy metal of the early 80’s.

 

Now I know that there will be some who say I don’t know what I’m talking about, that they have studied the subject and have read countless books on it but one thing you have to ask those so called “internet experts”…………….how much hands on experience do they have? Have they ever put hands to steel, have they ever tore into the aircraft, have they ever launched one off the deck? This thread was about why the Tomcat was so popular but it seems like some want to turn it into a “who’s dick is bigger” contest, if you want to do that then fine, at least use the same species as a comparison. The F-14 and F-18 are two different species, both were designed using different criteria and built to fulfill a different mission and to try to compare the two to determine which is better displays a complete lack of knowledge and understand of Naval Aviation.

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18 minutes ago, GW8345 said:

 This thread was about why the Tomcat was so popular but it seems like some want to turn it into a “who’s dick is bigger” contest, if you want to do that then fine, at least use the same species as a comparison. The F-14 and F-18 are two different species, both were designed using different criteria and built to fulfill a different mission and to try to compare the two to determine which is better displays a complete lack of knowledge and understand of Naval Aviation.

(Slow clap) Bravo!

Where ya been hiding, Gerry, Haven't seen you at a meeting in a long time.

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Nice write up Gerry.

 

This "early mission" as built vs "how the aircraft evolved" with added missions thing happens a lot with history and with memories.

 

It always seems to come down to "I was there" in 1985 vs, "yeah, but, I was there in 1990 or 1974" or something.

 

Comparing the F-14A as designed and built to the F-14D is a lot like the claims that "Phantoms had solid state radar" or Skyhawks carried Mavericks, because people don't realize that Phantoms once had vacuum tube radars, and A-4Bs were not anything near an A-4M.

 

Also, it seems that if an aircraft could carry Sidewinders it is now remembered as an "air superiority fighter",,,,,,,yeah, just like the A-4B and A-7A, hmmm? The Sidewinder was on the Phoenix Tomcat for self defense, not because an aircraft with 4 Phoenix and 2 S/W was flying in the "air superiority role." Might as well call the Tomcat a "ground attack strafer aircraft" because it had a gun.

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5 hours ago, GW8345 said:

 

 

This thread was about why the Tomcat was so popular but it seems like some want to turn it into a “who’s dick is bigger” contest, if you want to do that then fine, at least use the same species as a comparison. The F-14 and F-18 are two different species, both were designed using different criteria and built to fulfill a different mission and to try to compare the two to determine which is better displays a complete lack of knowledge and understand of Naval Aviation.

 1. Why are you surprised? This ALWAYS happens when the phases F-14 and Tomcat are brought into the open.......

 

2. Why stop now, I have a couple of bags of popcorn in the microwave.......

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36207389481_6c6ea0b29f_b.jpg

Earliest F-14A NATOPS "Aircraft Description" I could find on-line.  Note the 1st sentence..."The F-14A aircraft is a supersonic, two-place, twin-engine, swing-wing, air-superiority fighter designed and manufactured by Grumman Aerospace Corporation".  If anybody can produce an earlier copy that doesn't mention "air-superiority fighter" then I'll cop to being the biggest dick

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5 hours ago, habu2 said:

Life is too short to argue facts with fanboys who weren't even born when these decisions were being made.....

 

I certainly hope you aren't aiming that comment my way. I spent a fair amount of my youth on the flight line maintaining Tomcats (and later Hornets). And GW brings up a number of excellent points. I don't think we are really saying anything too different, particularly when you consider the time perspective. I get the sense that he was in the Fleet sometime after I was. I was a Fleet tomcat maintainer in the mid-80's, this was the height of the Reagan buildup and we still had part shortages. Carriers out-chopping from the Med (I was East Coast Navy) would strip their jets (TCS cameras & power supplies, EW gear, etc) and send it over to the in-chopping carrier. We always had at least one rob bird from the moment we came aboard until the frantic rebuild before fly off. If the Tomcat community ever had a healthy supply posture, it was before my time. And let's be perfectly honest - the AWG-9 system had terrible reliability. Getting more than 20 hours out of a transmitter was highly unusual, and those were some big puppies to lug around the deck. The system was complex, had terrible BIT, and required a great deal of experience to maintain. Hence my long learning curve comment previously. Sure, it made me a better tech in the long run. But it took a while for me to get there, and not to brag, some guys never could get there. They could change a box ok, and maybe even get a CDI qual, but they never really grasped how the system worked, so they struggled to troubleshoot once the "usual suspects" had been swapped out. This was true across the shops - the flaps/slats/spoilers were notoriously finicky, the TF-30s issues are well known, hell even the one wires (Electricians) had to wrestle with a balky fuel quantity system. 

 

I got to Pax in the late 80's, the Delta program was full steam ahead and the future seemed bright. This was back in the days before VX-23, I was assigned to the Strike Aircraft Test Directorate (SATD) a.k.a. Strike in the Avionics shop. We maintained all the Strike birds except the Harriers (Marines handled those). So I got to turn a wrench on Intruders, Prowlers and Hornets when I wasn't working Tomcats. I've seen some weird loadouts and otherwise unnatural acts performed in the name of flight test. Tomcats coming back with their TPS paint melted off, looking like elephant skin due to low level supersonic runs. I digress...

 

The bottom fell out when the F-14D program got scaled way back. In 1991 I got out and took a civilian job supporting R&M, Hornets mostly though I did help out the Tomcat side as we were in the same branch. I saw the data rolling through as the Delta went to OPEVAL, failed it, and was eventually cancelled. Right around this time the whole A-12 thing cratered. Hornet 2000 was a concept that evolved into the Super Hornet. Tomcat 21 was also a concept at that time. Grumman was super arrogant and extremely dismissive of the (cheaper) Hornet 2000. Decisions were made way above my paygrade. But I saw the raw data, helped clean it up and make sense of it. Manpower was a huge cost even then, and the bottom line is that the Hornet was cheaper (much cheaper) than the Tomcat. Yes some of those Tomcats were getting up there in terms of flight hours. But the numbers weren't much better for the later B/D squadrons.

 

I've been away from the tailhook side for the better part of the last ten years, so I'm not as up to speed on the current issues. I know aging aircraft is a thing. I was still supporting Hornets when the first A+ mods were coming out. I'm not trying to compare issues today or ever 10 years ago with what I saw 30 years ago on the flight line. (my God, I am getting old...) The Tomcat even in it's prime was much more difficult to keep in the air. I know well what it takes, our squadron set a record during the '86 cruise - 895 sorties without an abort. It took a lot of hard work, talented maintainers and a fair amount of luck to pull that off, and that was in the Tomcat glory days. The shallower learning curve on the Hornet side is/was a huge cost advantage (training, spares, manning). As the Hornets age out and they fly the wings off of them supporting global ops they are running into many of the issues the Tomcat community ran into. Budgets are tight, and quite honestly they are flying more and burning life off faster than we did in the 80's.

 

Sorry, got on a roll. I'm proud of my Tomcat days, still wear a VF-33 ballcap (and have a Minky decal on my truck, lol). I have no great love of the Hornet. I understand the cold logic and sequence of events that led us to where we are today. Blaming a single person for the demise of the F-14 as some do ignores the reality of those times.

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7 hours ago, habu2 said:

Life is too short to argue facts with fanboys who weren't even born when these decisions were being made.....

Playing devil's advocate here, so this isn't meant directly at you personally. Couldn't that also be said of the naysayers of the F-14 as well? I would imagine that the truth lies somewhere in between those divergent views. GW's and CJ's posts shed quite a bit of light on both the positives and negatives of the Tomcat. Here's how I see the bottom line. The Tomcat wasn't the end all, be all some profuse it to be, but it wasn't the dog others make it out to be. It was an effective platform designed at the end of the "old school" of engineering. It had crappy motors and a poorly laid out design for maintenance. It's systems suffered from older technology and it never did meet its full potential, although it was getting close in its later years, but by then it was too late. Just think if it had been designed ten years later or so with better technology and motors. 

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28 minutes ago, Darren Roberts said:

It was an effective platform designed at the end of the "old school" of engineering.

On the structural engineering side, I worked on a couple of areas that suffered from that.

 

But, there were other areas, like that electron-beam-welded titanium center wing box, that were amazing feats of engineering and manufacturing.

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9 hours ago, Sabre Freak said:

36207389481_6c6ea0b29f_b.jpg

Earliest F-14A NATOPS "Aircraft Description" I could find on-line.  Note the 1st sentence..."The F-14A aircraft is a supersonic, two-place, twin-engine, swing-wing, air-superiority fighter designed and manufactured by Grumman Aerospace Corporation".  If anybody can produce an earlier copy that doesn't mention "air-superiority fighter" then I'll cop to being the biggest dick

What's the date on that NATOPS?

 

Remember, there's a difference between designed and roles being filled, back in the mid to late 60's Fleet Defense Fighters were the thing in the Navy. Hell, the F-4 was designed as a Fleet Defense Fighter (FDF), that's why it didn't have a gun, it was suppose to be a missile platform for BVR engagements, the Tomcat was designed to replace the F-4 but the Navy learn from Vietnam that even a FDF needed a gun.

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2 hours ago, CJ Martin said:

 

I certainly hope you aren't aiming that comment my way. I spent a fair amount of my youth on the flight line maintaining Tomcats (and later Hornets). And GW brings up a number of excellent points. I don't think we are really saying anything too different, particularly when you consider the time perspective. I get the sense that he was in the Fleet sometime after I was. I was a Fleet tomcat maintainer in the mid-80's, this was the height of the Reagan buildup and we still had part shortages. Carriers out-chopping from the Med (I was East Coast Navy) would strip their jets (TCS cameras & power supplies, EW gear, etc) and send it over to the in-chopping carrier. We always had at least one rob bird from the moment we came aboard until the frantic rebuild before fly off. If the Tomcat community ever had a healthy supply posture, it was before my time. And let's be perfectly honest - the AWG-9 system had terrible reliability. Getting more than 20 hours out of a transmitter was highly unusual, and those were some big puppies to lug around the deck. The system was complex, had terrible BIT, and required a great deal of experience to maintain. Hence my long learning curve comment previously. Sure, it made me a better tech in the long run. But it took a while for me to get there, and not to brag, some guys never could get there. They could change a box ok, and maybe even get a CDI qual, but they never really grasped how the system worked, so they struggled to troubleshoot once the "usual suspects" had been swapped out. This was true across the shops - the flaps/slats/spoilers were notoriously finicky, the TF-30s issues are well known, hell even the one wires (Electricians) had to wrestle with a balky fuel quantity system. 

 

I got to Pax in the late 80's, the Delta program was full steam ahead and the future seemed bright. This was back in the days before VX-23, I was assigned to the Strike Aircraft Test Directorate (SATD) a.k.a. Strike in the Avionics shop. We maintained all the Strike birds except the Harriers (Marines handled those). So I got to turn a wrench on Intruders, Prowlers and Hornets when I wasn't working Tomcats. I've seen some weird loadouts and otherwise unnatural acts performed in the name of flight test. Tomcats coming back with their TPS paint melted off, looking like elephant skin due to low level supersonic runs. I digress...

 

The bottom fell out when the F-14D program got scaled way back. In 1991 I got out and took a civilian job supporting R&M, Hornets mostly though I did help out the Tomcat side as we were in the same branch. I saw the data rolling through as the Delta went to OPEVAL, failed it, and was eventually cancelled. Right around this time the whole A-12 thing cratered. Hornet 2000 was a concept that evolved into the Super Hornet. Tomcat 21 was also a concept at that time. Grumman was super arrogant and extremely dismissive of the (cheaper) Hornet 2000. Decisions were made way above my paygrade. But I saw the raw data, helped clean it up and make sense of it. Manpower was a huge cost even then, and the bottom line is that the Hornet was cheaper (much cheaper) than the Tomcat. Yes some of those Tomcats were getting up there in terms of flight hours. But the numbers weren't much better for the later B/D squadrons.

 

I've been away from the tailhook side for the better part of the last ten years, so I'm not as up to speed on the current issues. I know aging aircraft is a thing. I was still supporting Hornets when the first A+ mods were coming out. I'm not trying to compare issues today or ever 10 years ago with what I saw 30 years ago on the flight line. (my God, I am getting old...) The Tomcat even in it's prime was much more difficult to keep in the air. I know well what it takes, our squadron set a record during the '86 cruise - 895 sorties without an abort. It took a lot of hard work, talented maintainers and a fair amount of luck to pull that off, and that was in the Tomcat glory days. The shallower learning curve on the Hornet side is/was a huge cost advantage (training, spares, manning). As the Hornets age out and they fly the wings off of them supporting global ops they are running into many of the issues the Tomcat community ran into. Budgets are tight, and quite honestly they are flying more and burning life off faster than we did in the 80's.

 

Sorry, got on a roll. I'm proud of my Tomcat days, still wear a VF-33 ballcap (and have a Minky decal on my truck, lol). I have no great love of the Hornet. I understand the cold logic and sequence of events that led us to where we are today. Blaming a single person for the demise of the F-14 as some do ignores the reality of those times.

I started in Tomcats in 87 and ended in 01.

 

VF-101 Framp - 87

VF-101 Hardcore 88-90, Ord shop shift Sup and LPO

VF-103 90-93, Ord shop Shift Sup, Full Systems QAR and Troubleshooter/Final Checker qualified

VF-101 Framp/NAMTRA Instructor 93-96, Arm Sys and Plane Captain Course Instructor

VF-143 96-00, Ord shop LPO, QA LPO, Full System QAR and Troubleshooter/Final Checker/PC qualifier 

VX-23 01-02 Bomb Shop LPO (F-14A and D's and F-18A-E's)

 

Before I was in Tomcats I was in VA-82 (A-7E's) and was a CAGARM Team Leader for a NATO Cruise and Med Cruise.

 

Currently supporting NAVAIR in an ordnance and F-18A-G technical/software certification role.

 

Not bragging, just letting you know my background/experience with the Tomcat and Hornet. I'm sure we both have shed blood on the same aircraft and pounded the same flight line.

 

 

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Seems like we did run over the same ground closer than I thought, my bad for assuming otherwise. A good friend of mine was a FRAMP instructor 86-89, but he was an AQ1 so you probably didn't know him. I rolled to Pax in June of 88 myself. Still here but working unmanned stuff (PMA-262).

 

And I'll hold off on the BB stacker jokes. :tongue-in-cheek: (I was an AT)

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1 hour ago, CJ Martin said:

Seems like we did run over the same ground closer than I thought, my bad for assuming otherwise. A good friend of mine was a FRAMP instructor 86-89, but he was an AQ1 so you probably didn't know him. I rolled to Pax in June of 88 myself. Still here but working unmanned stuff (PMA-262).

 

And I'll hold off on the BB stacker jokes. :tongue-in-cheek: (I was an AT)

I was graduating from high school in '88! :-)

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oh geez, Darren, that was worth a laugh.

 

I used to think of myself as an "old modeler",,,,,,,because of all you young guys.

 

Then I remember guys like Gene K, Gary, both of whom served in Vietnam, while I was young enough to miss it. And our Texas friend Mike McM, etc.

 

So, at "only" 60,,,,,,I feel like a young'un again,,,,,except when around you, of course.

 

(ps, still young enough to throw peanuts at the speaker, so be careful)

Edited by Rex
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2 hours ago, Rex said:

oh geez, Darren, that was worth a laugh.

 

I used to think of myself as an "old modeler",,,,,,,because of all you young guys.

 

Then I remember guys like Gene K, Gary, both of whom served in Vietnam, while I was young enough to miss it. And our Texas friend Mike McM, etc.

 

So, at "only" 60,,,,,,I feel like a young'un again,,,,,except when around you, of course.

 

(ps, still young enough to throw peanuts at the speaker, so be careful)

I hit 50 in two years, so that will shut me up!

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I didn't read this whole thread.  Really, F-15's are my favorite, but I have exactly 1C and 1E on the shelf.  I have about 8 F-14's because the Navy markings are more interesting.  So for me, as a modeler, the F-14 is more fun for me to model, because of all the different markings, and different weathering opportunities. 

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24 minutes ago, kozlok said:

I didn't read this whole thread.  Really, F-15's are my favorite, but I have exactly 1C and 1E on the shelf.  I have about 8 F-14's because the Navy markings are more interesting.  So for me, as a modeler, the F-14 is more fun for me to model, because of all the different markings, and different weathering opportunities. 

 

Like you, the Eagle wins for me as well and I do agree about the markings for USN and USMC bird's having some nice artwork. 

Edited by randypandy831
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I like the Tomcat because it looks more dark & menacing. As a modeler, I don't really care about performance (heck, I think even the Mig-23 is attractive).  And it helps that my favorite Tomcat boxarts are the ones by Hasegawa artist Shigeo Koike:

http://res.luckymodel.com/img/000000019539.jpg

http://www.findmodelkit.com/sites/default/files/hs52613_000_0.jpg

http://www.ms-plus.com/images_item/0000/656.jpg

http://www.findmodelkit.com/sites/default/files/00544.jpg

http://www.findmodelkit.com/sites/default/files/00532.jpg

http://www.findmodelkit.com/sites/default/files/00533.jpg

 

So I like the Tomcat based on it's looks.

 

I also think Tomcat crews looked cooler with the older HGU-33 helmets:

http://www.salimbeti.com/aviation/images/images/vf84pilot.jpg

https://www.ida.cl/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/piloto-consultando-manual-655x470.jpg

http://www.salimbeti.com/aviation/images/images/vf84-1983.jpg

 

 

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11 hours ago, kozlok said:

I didn't read this whole thread.  Really, F-15's are my favorite, but I have exactly 1C and 1E on the shelf.  I have about 8 F-14's because the Navy markings are more interesting.  So for me, as a modeler, the F-14 is more fun for me to model, because of all the different markings, and different weathering opportunities. 

If the Air Force would get with the program and let their squadron apply tail markings, I think you'd see a jump in interest. After Navy, the Air Guard is my next favorite thing to build because of the neat tail markings applied. 

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