"I feel the needÖ.the need for speed." That was one of the memorable lines from the movie Top Gun. Although the movie was a box office hit and the starring role was billed to Tom Cruise, we all know that the real star was the Grumman F-14 Tomcat. In another movie the Tomcat had a starring role. This one was The Final Countdown the USS Nimitz traveling back through time to right before December 7, 1941. In this flick the Tomcats of VF-84 Jolly Rogers got to shoot down two Mitsubishi Zero fighters. Now through the good graces of Trumpeter, modelers can build a 1:350 scale model of the Nimitz in her early days, indeed, as she appeared in her role in The Final Countdown. Well, in all aspects, except the primary fighter carried. For anyone who has the kit, you know that the Trumpeter model comes with F4 Phantoms instead of the F14 Tomcat, as the Nimitz carried the tried and true Phantom on her first go past the gate. However, Trumpeter has not been sitting on their collective duff. In production are 1:350 scale Tomcats to go with the Nimitz

The Trumpeter Tomcats come six to the box and now Toms Modelworks has the extra pizzazz to tart up the Toms. Toms Photo-Etch Set 3549 specifically states that it provides the photo-etch brass super detail parts to dress out twelve Trumpeter Tomcats, in other words two boxes worth of those bad boys. The parts include landing gear doors, wheel struts, air brakes, wing flaps, tail hooks, boarding ladders, drag link doors, ordnance pylons, Sidewinder rails, tow bars, plus other goodies.

The actual breakdown shows that there are 13 sets of landing gear with 13 nose gear and 26 wing struts, so you get a bakerís dozen in that department. Both types of struts feature intricate bracing that adds detail to the undercarriage of the Trumpeter Toms. When it comes to landing gear doors, there is more bonus coverage. There are thirteen pairs of nose gear doors but when it comes to main gear doors there are 29 of these parts. For ordnance Toms provides 34 Sidewinder AAM rails and 24 heavy ordnance pylons. There are 16 tail hooks so you donít have to worry about misplacing a few of these small parts. The same goes with other small parts, such as the 14 drag link doors and 13 TCS. 

Cat7170set.JPG (30844 bytes) Cat7173det.JPG (18075 bytes) Cat7176gear.JPG (23504 bytes)
Cat7169pylon.JPG (20525 bytes) Cat7171brakes.JPG (24380 bytes) Cat7172tow.JPG (12719 bytes)

Other items have a few less than the 12 aircraft limit. However, Toms includes a mix of items so that you donít have all 12 F-14s equipped in exactly the same manner. For the aircraft that are not ready to go, there are 8 pilot boarding ladders to attach to the side of the birds. With the 7 included tow bars, at least half of the force can be portrayed as being moved to different spots on the big deck. For the birds spotted on the cats, or jockeying into position for their shot, Toms provides ten upper air brakes and ten pairs of lower air brakes, that can be attached fully extended. 

Cat7174hooks.JPG (14701 bytes) Cat7177doors.JPG (17315 bytes) Cat7175rails.JPG (17544 bytes)
Cat7178inst.JPG (8997 bytes) Cat7179instA.JPG (17260 bytes) Cat7180instB.JPG (19454 bytes)

Instructions comprise one page, which shows a blow up of every type of part. There are also three drawings; a top plan with wings extended, a top plan with wings retracted, and a bottom plan. The drawings are somewhat of a disappointment in that they do not specifically show where every part is attached. However, placement on most items is obvious. The most obvious weakness is that there is no schematic for pylon and missile rail load outs. So to get the maximum benefit from the set, it is advisable to have other F-14 references at hand. 

Verdict
With Photo-Etch Set 3549 Toms Modelworks provides all of the gear to make you Rogers Jolly again. The wide variety of parts allow each aircraft to be decked out in great detail. Further the variety of parts included in the set allows for a very flexible arrangement of the Tomcats on the deck of your big bird farm. 

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