Squadron Name: Screaming Eagles
Call Sign: Eagles
Date Received First Tomcat: June 1978
Fleet Location: Pacific
Date Disbanded: March 1995
Kit: Hasegawa F-14A Tomcat in 1/72nd scale
VF-51 is the oldest fighter squadron of continous service in the Pacific Fleet. In 1947, VF-51 were the first Navy fleet squadron to enter the jet age, flying the North American FJ-1 Fury. When the Korean War broke out, VF-51 led the way by being the first squadron to take jets into combat and by scoring the first air-to-air kills of the war. VF-51 moved to the Tomcat in June 1978. In 1985 VF-51 was one of several squadrons who took part in the filming of 'Top Gun'. Some VF-51 and VF-111 aircraft were repainted in fictitious squadron markings for the film. Additionally, one of VF-51's past commanding officers was none other than Neil Armstrong; the first man on the moon.
Our kit is the heavily tricked out Hasegawa "Grim Reapers" kit with parts used to backdate it to an F-14A. The cockpit is a work of art with photo etch and other pieces to make a highly detailed bird. Notice the photo etched air conditioning pipe on the canopy and the canopy locking rails. The inside of the cockpit is Testor's Modelmaster Dark Ghost Grey with the control panels being painted Polyscale Night Black with Polyscale Dark Ghost Grey drybrushing on the individual control knobs and switches.
The markings are high visibility Academy markings from my Tomcat parts box. The tails are Tamiya Semi-Gloss Black. Although VF-51's F-4 Phantom II markings were pretty graphic with stylized eagles, etc, the Tomcat markings have been pretty boring throughout the squadron's history. The low visibility markings are merely a black "NL" on a grey tail. The overall tactical paint scheme is the U.S. Navy's later Cold War scheme of Dark Ghost Grey all over. For my painting, I used Tamiya's Dark Ghost Grey rattle can.
Interior exhaust can and airbrake detail. Again, these are superlative kits in every sense and worth every penny. There's little that Hasegawa have left out and when finished, these build up into very impressive models. I used Polyscale Smoke Black for the exhaust cans with Tamiya Aluminum Silver for the drybrushing. The insides of the airbrakes are Tamiya Gloss White with the red edges provided by the Testor's Modelmaster Gloss Red Paint Pen.
Always looking to push the envelope in loadouts, I found this off-one scheme that VF-51 was guilty of: two MK-43 free-fall nuclear bombs. I believe that each of these terrors are around 300 kilotons in nuclear yield. Of course, the Tomcat's ability to drop them and then get the hell out at Mach 2+ helped the idea along. Official literature says that the test was "in theory" only and that only dummy tactical shapes were carried. However, the photo in the book I saw showed brown stripes around the nose of the weapon, which says "live" in any ordnance man's book. So I think two or so live weapons may have been carried.
It was suggested that two AIM-54 Phoenix missiles be carried both as long range air defense and also as counterweight for the nuclear weapons. Also notice that two standard air fleet long range fuel tanks are mounted. This was to get the Tomcat well further than it's normal range. Unofficially - had the Navy actively adopted this scheme, Tomcat squadrons would have been considered "first strike" weapons for the purposes of arms limitations talks. An easy jury-rigging enabled the tanks to dump fuel to the engines effortlessly.
VF-51 pretty much remained a fighter squadron all of it's life and most squadron photos show the typical weapon load out of six AIM-54 Phoenix missiles and two AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles. It is not known whether the squadron ever completed TARPS (recce) training and configuration. The kit builds up into a mega accurate F-14A and is great for capturing the lean lines of this killer plane. Although VF-51 continued to use the highly troublesome TF-30 engine, the squadron maintained a high rate of material readiness.
This kit was built in a day, helped along by having the entire house to myself and the phone off the hook. Provided you follow the extensive instruction sheet to the letter, these Hasegawa kits build pretty quickly. This is also helped along by the easy U.S. Navy tactical paint schemes.