Detail and Scale, Colors and Markings of US Navy F-14 Tomcats

Title: Colors and Markings of US Navy F-14 Tomcats... 
Author: Bert Kinzey
Publisher: Detail and Scale Aviation Publications

...Part 1: Atlantic Coast Squadrons - Digital Edition

This is something of a first for Detail and Scale Aviation Publications and also for me in this case.  The Detail and Scale series of books have been around for a good few years but now they have turned their hands to using the new publishing formats of E-books and picked one of my all-time favourite aircraft, the F-14 Tomcat for their first.  In printed books the cost of printing, especially in colour, has always been an obstacle in keeping production and therefore selling prices down to a reasonable level.  The original publications from Detail and Scale, though always excellent and especially handy for modellers, this always put limitations on what they could do.  Their early publications limited colour content to just 50 colour images, and in later title that rose to 100.  One of the advents of E-Books has been to remove these shackles and allow for full colour images and more of them.  This is evident in their first E-Book in their Colours and Markings series (they already have 2 in their other Detail and Scale series) which includes over 700 superb colour images as well as artwork showing the various camouflage schemes for the Fleet and Reserve squadrons based on the East coast of the USA, along with the Naval Air Test Centre and the prototype and test aircraft used by the manufacturer, Grumman.  The plan is that the next book in the series will cover those Tomcats used over on the Pacific coast.

The book starts by going over the 3 official variations in colour schemes that were used over the 30+ year career of the F-14.  From the colourful days of Light Gull Grey over a gloss white, which were a carry-on from the schemes worn on US Navy aircraft since the 1950's, after only 4 or 5 years the colours toned down to an overall Light Gull Grey.  Some of these aircraft retained a bit of colour, particularly on the tail markings, but even this was not enough and they moved on the the Tactical scheme with 3 shades of flat grey colour and marking in similar shades.  Each of these three official schemes are explained and illustrated with photos of examples to illustrate each one, along with colour artwork of each basic scheme.

Then the book moves through each of the Fleet Squadrons, giving the background and operational history of each unit, along with plenty of well captioned photos illustrating the different colours and markings worn by their aircraft while in service, and which are arranged pretty much in chronological order each time.  In VF-41 we get to the first combat use of the Tomcat, when aircraft based on the carriers Nimitz and Forrestal came up against Libyan operated SU-22 Fitters and the story of that encounter is included.  Then there is VF-84, whose black and white skull and crossbones tails became famous in 1980 when they featured in the film 'The Final Countdown' with Kirk Douglas and Martin Sheen.  Each of the Fleet Squadrons receives it's own section, and then the same for the Reserve units as well.  This is followed by details of the Grumman Prototypes and Test aircraft and then the Atlantic Coast Test and Evaluation aircraft based out of NAS Patuxent River in Maryland.  This include VX-23, the Strike Test unit.

The whole thing is not only attractive to aircraft enthusiasts, and Tomcat fans in particular, but for the modeller this is simply a gold-mine of reference and inspiration.  There the detailed photos of the colours and markings worn by the aircraft themselves over the years, including the weapons they carried, but with pictures on land based flight lines and particularly on carrier decks there is so much more colour that can add interest to a model and diorama.  There are the colours of the decks with the catapults, jet blast deflectors and tie down points, but equally the colourful deck tractors, fire tractors and the multi-colour jackets and helmets of the deck crew that surround the aircraft while they are on deck or being prepared for launch.  The addition of these accessory figures can really bring life to a model.

With all this super content filling over 450 pages  the E-Book also has the great benefit of the ability to see the quality of the colour images and to see them large and clear on a laptop screen or on a full size PC monitor.  Add the ability to zoom in on each image you can really get to see very clearly even more detail in the images than you could possibly do in a conventional paper printed book.  While this is the first reference book of this nature I have taken a close look at in electronic format, I find myself quickly getting converted into liking this modern format, and the extra scope it has provided for the publishers in being able to offer some thing of this quantity and quality at a reasonable cost.  Recommended and I am looking forward to seeing what they do for part 2 on the Pacific Coast squadrons when it is ready.

This is available in both iBook and Kindle formats. These are set up for easy use on Tablets but, as I did, you can also get a Kindle app for PC (and it is free) and run it on a laptop or desktop.  I have used this on my desktop and have to say it works a real treat.

For details of this and other titles in the series, see the Detail and Scale website.