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Starfighter Kit

Italeri 1/32 F-35A Lightning II Kit Build Review

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review May 2017 Manufacturer Italeri
Subject F-35A Lightning II Scale 1/32
Kit Number 2506 Primary Media Styrene, Photo-Etch
Pros Nicest F-35 kit in any scale to date Cons See text
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $119.00

Build Review

For a brief history of this subject and a look at this kit out of the box, look here.

As with previous Italeri large-scale projects, the best place to start is the instruction book. This instruction book is laid out in Italeri's easy-to-follow style and it will give you a sense of the progression and what to expect. You won't find any surprises or challenges (so far) but it is clear from my examination that there is a lot of preparation work to do, so let's get started.

While my spousal unit was elsewhere, I washed the sprues with Dawn dish soap to remove any mold release agent and let the sprues air dry. Since I wanted to do some dry-fitting of the major assemblies, I started with the upper and lower fuselage halves. I removed the sprue tree inside the air refueling receiver opening on the upper half and the larger sprue structure in the weapons bay opening of the lower half. I used a file to remove any sprue tree remnants and flash before dry-fitting the fuselage together. The fit is excellent.

Italeri 1/32 F-35A Lightning II ReviewItaleri 1/32 F-35A Lightning II Review

Aside from the cockpit, the model is painted in essentially two colors - outside is gray, inside is white. I used Tamiya Gloss White to paint all of the various interior parts, intake trunks, weapons and wheel well bays, landing gear, door interiors, hinges, etc. Once the white had dried, I assembled the intake trunks as it consists of four parts and would be a potential fit problem but alas, it assembled with no problems.

Italeri 1/32 F-35A Lightning II Review

As I mentioned in my first-look at this kit, there is an access panel that goes between the weapons bays. Since I'm not going to do much with the engine, I glued that panel into place to add more rigidity to the lower fuselage half. I also glued the forward fuselage panels that have the distinctive intake bulge into place. Next, I dry-assembled the engine and it is held together by the fuselage cross-member. I placed the unassembled weapons bay shells into the lower fuselage half along with the intake assembly and the dry-fit engine assembly. No fit issues here.

Italeri 1/32 F-35A Lightning II Review

With the upper fuselage half snapped into place (dry-fit), there are no fit issues and you can see only the rear-most section of the engine from here and that will be covered soon enough. This confirms in my mind that there is zero need to paint the engine because the neither the engine shell nor the compressor face will be visible once the fuselage is assembled. Only the afterburner chamber and nozzle will be exposed. The interior of the nozzle and afterburner chamber are pre-painted white and will be slightly weathered soon to represent the ceramic coating of the afterburner interior.

Italeri 1/32 F-35A Lightning II Review

Here's the dry-fit fuselage assembly from underneath and the afterburner nozzle is fitted as well. Those huge weapons bays are white per the instructions, but they can't be that plain in appearance.

Italeri 1/32 F-35A Lightning II Review

With the dry-fitting completed, here is the lower fuselage with the fuselage/intake inserts and the ventral access panel glued into place.

Italeri 1/32 F-35A Lightning II Review

So here are the weapons bay shells pre-painted white per the instructions but without the rear bulkheads and other parts installed. Italeri did a great job with the interior details, but all-white?

Italeri 1/32 F-35A Lightning II Review

After scavenging through the internet for weapons bay photos, I was taken by the copper-colored cable runs and black plumbing in those bays. While the examples I was seeing may have been flight test aircraft, I'm building an AFOTEC bird so I should be good-to-go. You can see what a difference a little detail painting makes inside those bays. I hand-painted the details with Tamiya and Gunze gloss acrylics before washing the key details with AK Interactive Gray Panel Line Wash.

Note: You do not want to use washes on flat paint as the wash will flow into the flat paint's textured surface. If you do paint with flats, use a coat of clear gloss or Future to smooth/protect the paint, and the gray wash will perform as advertised.

Italeri 1/32 F-35A Lightning II Review

While in the image above, one of the bays was still all-white, here I've applied the same Tamiya and Gunze colors to the details. You can see in contrast to the bay on the top, there is no real depth to the newly painted bay below it.

Italeri 1/32 F-35A Lightning II Review

Here I've applied gray panel line wash to the newly painted bay and added wash to the frames of the other bay. The beauty of these washes is that they cover many minor errors in your hand-painting and they do not require any precision in application (clearly from my work). As long as you've applied the wash to either a gloss finish or a gloss-covered flat finish, you can literally rub the excess away. Any stubborn spots are resolved with a Q-Tip dabbed in mineral spirits and resume wiping with a clean paper towel. These bays are now ready for the rest of the parts so we can move on.

Italeri 1/32 F-35A Lightning II ReviewItaleri 1/32 F-35A Lightning II Review

Here are the completed weapons bays. I jumped ahead to add the suspension system for the JDAMs included in the kit. This turned out to be a good thing as it took some experimentation to see where on the beam the units should go and allow for tail clearance on the bombs. I wouldn't want to do this when the bays are installed and the doors are all in the way.

Italeri 1/32 F-35A Lightning II Review

The upper and lower fuselage halves have holes that require drilling which I opened up and cleaned up before mounting the weapons bays. The bays are mounted in the fuselage and we can finally move on to other tasks!

Italeri 1/32 F-35A Lightning II Review

While I was dry-fitting the intakes, I noticed a mold glitch just outside each intake - a recess into the styrene surface that will need to be filled. I've already applied Mr. Surfacer 500 to the seams of the fuselage/intake inserts.

Italeri 1/32 F-35A Lightning II Review

Here's another look at that mold recess that will need a bit of putty. No serious problem, just a little bodywork.

Italeri 1/32 F-35A Lightning II Review

With the weapons bays installed, I finished up the engine and with the previously assembled and painted intakes, mounted them into the lower fuselage. The intakes required some additional fitting to get as close to a snug fit to the intake edges on the lower fuselage. I glued the lower and outboard surfaces in place and set the assembly aside to dry.

Italeri 1/32 F-35A Lightning II Review

I used a Q-Tip trimmed to fit as a wedge to press the fuselage inserts out to meet the inboard edges of the intakes. Once the glue had cured, we're ready to move on.

Italeri 1/32 F-35A Lightning II Review

Once again, I have the fuselage halves dry-fitted just to ensure that nothing is obstructing that fit. You see the various inserts in the upper fuselage are installed and the afterburner nozzle is also dry-fitted in place. It is nearing time to go back and finish up the cockpit.

Italeri 1/32 F-35A Lightning II Review

Note: While the instructions identify the basic colors used on the airframe, you can refer to my own photo walk around of the aircraft, to see there are other subtle shades on the surface of the aircraft which will make the appearance of the model less monotonous. You can also see how the RAM details are virtually flush with the surrounding airframe surfaces.

To be continued...

My sincere thanks to Italeri SPA for this review sample!

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