The last of the US Navy’s Tomcat fighters — the plane of Top Gun fame — made its final flight more than a decade ago. However, Tomcats continue to soldier on in one other military: the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force. Given its strained relation with the US, it may seem strange for Iran to have some of these iconic jets, but it is due to a quirk of history. Prior to the 1979 Islamic revolution, Mohammad Reza Shah ruled Iran. His rule became increasingly autocratic over time, but he was pro-Western and eager to modernize his country and its military. Iran was also a useful buffer between the Soviet Union and the other oil-rich states surrounding the Persian Gulf, so the US was willing to sell the Shah 80 Tomcats, as well as hundreds of long-range AIM-54 Phoenix air-to-air missiles. My latest LEGO model represents one of these Persian Tomcats.
After the 1979 revolution, relations between the US and Iran soured. Subsequently, the US suspended weapons and spare parts deliveries. The serviceability of the Iranian Tomcat fleet dwindled, but their Tomcats had some successes in the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war. Details are murky, but according to Iranian F-14 Tomcat Units in Combat by Tom Cooper and Farzad Bishop, the Iranian planes shot down dozens of Iraqi fighter aircraft. Forty years later, thanks to illicit parts acquisitions and reverse-engineering, some survivors are still flying, and I finally built one.
Last November, we reviewed the Brickmania F-4C Phantom II Jet custom kit, and designer Cody Osell is back again with the massive 1033 F-14 Tomcat Supersonic Air Superiority Interceptor. The Grumman F-14 Tomcat is one of the most iconic Cold War jet fighters, featured in movies like Top Gun and The Final Countdown. The Brickmania kit includes 1,607 LEGO pieces and two custom-printed minifigures with accessories. We’ll also be taking a look at the NAS Miramar Action Pack add-on that includes four more custom minifigures.
Read our full review of the Brickmania F-14 Tomcat after the jump
It is no secret that I think the Grumman F-14A Tomcat is the most beautiful jet fighter ever to grace the deck of an aircraft carrier. This is something that I share with James Cherry, who unveiled his massive 1/15 scale Tomcat model at the Great Western Brick Show in the UK little more than a week ago and who posted pictures today.
The Tomcat was also one of the largest carrier-based jets. The end result of building a large-scale model of a large jet is obviously going to be large. The LEGO model is 127 cm long, uses roughly 8000 parts and has taken nine months to build. James has included Power Functions to control the wing sweep as well as various control surfaces. Like on James’ older F-4J Phantom II, the complicated and subtle compound curves are mostly built using carefully angled surfaces and, to get closer to the look of the real jet than is possible with LEGO alone, he has used custom-made vinyl stickers and a vacuum formed canopy.
The jet wears the colourful markings of the US Navy’s first operational Tomcat squadron, VF-1 ‘Wolf Pack’, when it sailed aboard USS Enterprise in the late ‘seventies. One would think that it would make sense for a jet fighter to be painted in colours that are a bit less conspicuous, but that was never really the Tomcat’s style; it’s big and beautiful.
Jeroen Ottens‘ brother Maarten sends word of Jeroen’s massive F-14 Tomcat, built entirely from LEGO Technic elements:
Although this plane isn’t new, it’s new to Flickr, and noteworthy because it helped get Jeroen a job as a LEGO Technic set designer. Indeed, the open framework and functionality are reminiscent of official sets, though the scale is off the charts.
(And besides, one brother suggesting another brother’s creation for The Brothers Brick is sure to win our hearts.)