Monday, June 17

The Phoenix Resurrected - and Improved? Let's see - the Eduard "Brassin" Aim 54 Phoenix in 48th scale review

An aircraft relegated to the past but not forgotten – the F-14 Tomcat was and is still a lot of people’s favourite aircraft. This swing wing carrier fighter dominated the skies anywhere their aircraft carriers went, and an important part of this weapons was the missiles it was designed to deliver – the Aim-54 Phoenix Missile. Eduard have seen a gap in the market and the older kit missiles are now up for replacement with these new “Brassin” versions – are they any good? Our Man Brett Czechs them out...

Construction Review: Eduard Brassin AIM-54A Phoenix AAM
1/48th scale
8 Resin parts + Decals
Available from Eduard Directly

It can always be a problem with our hobby; you spend many hours working on a model of your favourite aircraft only to be let down the lack of quality weapon accessories. Unless supplied with the kit or relying on the good old Hasegawa weapon sets (some of which are now very dated), model aircraft weapon options can be limited.

Thankfully Eduard has been giving us many excellent examples of aftermarket aircraft weapons recently and anyone who is an F-14 Tomcat fan would be happy to see the release of the new 1/48 AIM-54A Phoenix AAM’s.

The AIM-54A and later AIM-54C were used exclusively by the Grumman F-14 Tomcat. The F-14 could carry up to 6 of these missiles; 4 missiles carried on specially designed pallets mounted on the aircraft’s belly between the two engine intakes; and one missile on each of the Tomcat’s wing glove pylons. However, 6 x AIM-54 Phoenix missiles was a very heavy load, it was more common to see F-14 carry a mixed load of 4 x AIM-54 Phoenix, 2 x AIM-7 Sparrow and 2 x AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles.

The AIM-54 Phoenix was retired from USN service on September 30, 2004. The F-14 Tomcats were retired on September 22, 2006.

What’s in the box?
The set comes with four missiles, packaged in a small box. Each missile consists of two resin parts with the split just aft of the main wings. The resin parts come on the usual casting blocks which need to be removed. Also included is a small decal sheet with all the stencilling and colour bands required. The construction, painting and decaling are outlined in the instruction sheet.

The detail is very nice. The armament section has the four Target Detecting Devices (TDD) antenna nicely represented as are the wings and motor exhaust. The wings are very fine and care is required when cutting off the casting blocks.
Forward Section of Missile.
Aft Section of Missile.
The wings are very fragile. Note, care should be taken when cutting off casting blocks.
I assembled one of the missiles for this review. I used a photo-etch saw to cut of the casting blocks and then gently sanded the mating surfaces between the forward and aft sections of the missile. A small gap remains but can be filled.

Assembled Missile.

The radome tip has a small burr of excess resin left over from the casting process which needs to be cleaned up.

Overall, an assembled Eduard Brassin AIM-54 looks effective with superb detail and sharply detailed casting.

So how do they measure up?
I have taken my reference dimensions from the Aerofax Minigraph No.3 (pg38) which matches the official NAVAIR drawing figures.

Until now, the only aftermarket AIM-54 was from the Hasegawa Aircraft Weapons Set B. I am sure readers will want to also know how these compare.

                            1:1                1:48             Eduard Brassin        Hasegawa
Length      : 3962mm (156”)     82.5mm       79.5mm                     82.2mm
Diameter   : 381mm (15”)         7.9mm         7.75mm                     82.5mm
Wingspan : 914mm (36”)         19mm          19mm                        19mm

The diameter and wingspan of the Eduard Brassin AIM-54’s are correct (within the margin of error); however, I found the Eduard Brassin missiles to be approximately 3mm (0.12”) too short. So where is the error? Comparing with the above mention references, the Eduard Brassin AIM-54A’s are dimensionally correct from the adapter ring of the radome to the motor exhaust. Therefore, it is the radome which is too short.

The Hasegawa missile matches the length and wingspan of the real Phoenix, but is slightly larger on the diameter. But considering the age of the Hasegawa tooling, they don’t compare to the fine detail of the Eduard Brassin resin ones. I also believe Eduard got the shape of the radome better than Hasegawa.

Comparison of Hasegawa (top on sprue) and Eduard Brassin (bottom).

Back to the Eduard Brassin missiles, does the lack of 3mm make a difference? Unfortunately yes as the AIM-54 is mounted to dedicated pylon mounts on the glove vanes or the weapon palettes both of which are faired around the missile’s radome. If you position the missile so there’s no gap between the pylon/pallet fairing and the missile’s radome, the missile and pallet/pylon mounting points will no longer align. I tested fitted the assembled missile with the forward weapons pallet from the 1/48 Hasegawa kit.

Missile positioned on the forward weapons pallet (Hasegawa kit) at the correct mounting point.

Missile moved forward to the fairing on weapons pallet (Hasegawa kit). Note larger gap between the aft of missile and the aft of the weapons pallet.

I only have the Hasegawa 1/48 kit in my stash so I don't know how this issue compares with the other 1/48 scale kits out there; Monogram, Academy, Hobby Boss and Fujimi.

Can it be fixed? I believe so but it will require some surgery and it wouldn't be for everyone. I would look at cutting of the radome at the adapter ring and inserting a 3mm spacer. Getting the cut and the reassembly straight will be the difficult bit.

Despite being a little short in length, I would still recommend this set. The Eduard Brassin 1/48 AIM-54A missiles are definitely a step up in quality and detail to what has been available in the past.

And for those modelling later service-era F-14’s, Eduard is following up this release with a set of 1/48 AIM-54C missiles.

Brett Reynolds

Miller, Jay - Aerofax Minigraph No.3 Grumman F-14A/B
Coremans, Danny – Uncovering the Grumman F-14 A/B/D Tomcat

Many thanks to Eduard for sending these for us to make and review..