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148
'Cat Outa Hell

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back story
At the outset of their senior year at Havenbrook High, Jay, Kathy, Ryan, Jeff, and Rachel were five ordinary friends whose most pressing concerns were college acceptance letters and prom dates. Now they have somewhat more immediate worries….

Jeff saw the missile on the TEWS display and banked the jet sharply. "More chaff, Ryan!" Ryan pressed the button. Jeff began to climb steeply. He wanted as much altitude as possible for the upcoming fight. The AA-12 never locked on and Jeff watched as it passed harmlessly beneath him. Likewise, without the F-14’s radar to guide it, the AIM-7 went “dumb” and eventually fell harmlessly to earth. Round one was a draw.
By now both planes were headed straight for each other. Kutsenko was fairly impressed, figuring his adversary would turn tail and run after the initial missile sparring. The two planes passed each other at blazing speed. Ryan watched as the other plane flashed by them in a grey streak of light, craning his head to follow it. Jeff threw the Tomcat into another hard turn, slamming them both into their seats. But the MiG was already coming around behind them…


The genesis of this model dates back 15 years, to a novel I wrote during my sophomore year of high school and was fortunate enough to get published a few years ago. In networking with other authors, one told me poor sales may have had something to do with the uninspiring cover art I’d made. So in setting out to create a new cover I decided to incorporate one of the book’s flashiest parts, a desperate escape in a hijacked Russian F-14. (The fun part about being a fiction writer is we are allowed the occasional “flight of fancy”. That said, the sequence was inspired by a number of stranger-than-fiction true stories, including German teenager Mathias Rust landing his Cessna in Red Square, Alexander Zuyev’s escape from Russia (and his soon-to-be ex-wife) in a hijacked MiG-29 (there are more practical ways of getting out of alimony payments, but hey, go big or go home), and a downed American P-47 pilot’s escape from Nazi Germany in a “borrowed” FW-190).

The Russian F-14, by the way, is likely quite real. Western intelligence believes that an Iranian pilot used his Tomcat to defect to the Soviet Union sometime during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980’s. Since neither the plane nor pilot has ever been seen since, and no photos of the jet are known to exist, I was going to have to make one.
the model
The Revell-Mongram 1/48 F-14A kit has a special place in my heart, having built one as a kid, and it fit my budget, so I decided to go with that. I had originally planned to paint it in the old IRAF desert scheme, but as I was researching I came across an Aggressor F-14 from the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center (NSAWC) painted like a SU-27 in the modern Russian “splinter” camo, and it was a strikingly beautiful jet. I decided it wasn’t too much of a leap to think the Russians might have done that with their Tomcat too.

A lot of research went into this model, and it was pretty ambitious for someone of my limited skill and experience. I had never scribbed panel lines, done camouflage paint schemes, simulating battle damage, added electronics, or done any real weathering before. I am happy to report all it takes is research and patience (and some trial and error).

I was also happy to discover there was little physical difference between the USN and Iranian F-14A’s. The only major cosmetic change was the deletion of the refueling probe door (which the Navy eventually removed from their Tomcats), and while scratchbuilding the probe and bay was some amount of work it was pretty straight forward.

There are two places I took artistic license. By the time they receive the damage to the vertical and horizontal stabs in the story, both missiles had already been expended. But what’s a cat without claws? So I left the AIM-9 and AIM-7 described in the book.

I agonized somewhat more over the chin pod. The kit comes with pod for both the early A model and the D model, the latter of which contains the Television Camera System (TCS) and Infrared Search and Tracking System (IRST). The A version is what the Iranian birds were equipped with but the author didn’t do his homework well enough and the TCS ended up playing a role in the book. So I decided once again it wasn’t too much of a stretch to think the Russians might have upgraded their jet through espionage and black market parts, and went with the D chin pod.

adding electronics
To add realism to the eventual photo I wanted from the outset to include the aircraft navigation lights. I’ve also seen some neat articles on ARC where people have done cockpit display lights, and always wanted to try it. I cut out the 5 CRT displays in the cockpit and replaced them with clear styrene covered with custom made decals, and placed one green LED behind each panel, and overall I was pretty happy with the outcome.

The nav lights and beacon were far trickier. Clear lenses were made from clear spruce and then I tried running fiber optic lines to them, but they weren’t nearly bright enough and broke easily, particularly with the operation of the swing wings, but the LED’s you can get at Radio Shack won’t fit in the wingtips. Eventually I stumbled across Modeltrainsoftware.com, and I can’t recommend them highly enough. Their surface mount LED’s were just small enough, come pre-wired with the appropriate resistor on very thin but strong wire, perfect for the scale modeler. Finally after the model was painted the lenses all got a coat of red or green gloss clear enamel used for stain glass (I tried Future and food color without success).

If the wingtip lights were problematic the vertical stabilizers were a nightmare. The vertical stabilizers are solid so I had to cut trenches through them for the wires. Extensive puttying, sanding, and effort to try to restore some surface detail were required. Foil was needed in places to keep the light bleeding to a minimum. I also had to make a circuit with a timing chip for the flashing strobes. The starboard strobe was broken in a handling mishap and I was unable to repair it, but that’s the damaged tailfin anyway so we’ll chalk that up to battle damage.

Speaking of which, battle damage was a challenge too. I ended up cutting a rough section out of the starboard horizontal stab and covering both top and bottom with very thin styrene, with a rib structure underneath. The material on the real jet used in this area is boron composite, so to simulate bullet holes I heated the tip of a phillps screwdriver and quickly stabbed it through both top and bottom. The vertical stab is mostly constructed of the same material, except for the rudders, which are aluminum, so I used thin brass inserts and a dremel tool for this area.

painting and finishing
Once it was all assembled I airbrushed it with Model Master enamels, gave it a gloss coat, applied a thin black wash for weathering, and several flat coats over that. There is an excellent NSAWC F-14 painting guide over at Aircraft Resource Center. Decals were a mix of home-made and the Eduard Mig-29 stencil set (The Russians stencil the living daylights out of their jets). The Iranian planes have a lot of the same warning signs that the USN ones do, and theirs are also oddly enough in English, so I reprinted them with the wording translated into Russian.

The display base was also straight forward. The acrylic for the case came from my local hardware store (and they cut it to size for no extra charge!) and the switches came from my local auto parts store. The MFD display frame was made entirely from sheet styrene. The plaque came from K2 Awards (k2awards.com) and they’re another vendor I can’t recommend highly enough.

conclusion
Overall, I had a blast building this jet. I learned a great deal (mostly that while scribing raised panel lines is a great skill to have next time I’ll spring for a model with recessed lines). Hope you enjoy it!
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About the Author

About Michael ONeal (ChaliceOfTorment)
FROM: , UNITED STATES


Comments

Hi Michael I love it! Great job on the camo - that's one heck of a masking job! And thank you for the explanation of the electrics - I've never wired-up a kit for lighting. It's a really striking display. All the best Rowan
MAR 25, 2014 - 07:51 PM
Michael, This is certainly a different feature article then what I was expecting. Your background story really read like a book. As for your build, it's exceptional. Your painting skills are way above average. What a great camo scheme. As for your electronics, I'm certainly in awe. Way above my skill level. And your base is one of the best I've ever seen. Just an exceptional feature. Thank you so much for taking the time to share it with us. Joel
MAR 27, 2014 - 02:24 AM