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F/A-18D Kit

Academy 1/72 F/A-18D Hornet Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review September 2009 Manufacturer Academy
Subject F/A-18D Hornet Scale 1/72
Kit Number 12422 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Easy construction, nice detailing Cons Nothing noted
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $34.00

First Look

F/A-18D Kit
F/A-18D Kit
F/A-18D Kit
F/A-18D Kit
F/A-18D Kit

In the early-1970s, the US Navy had started receiving deliveries of its new super fighter, the F-14A Tomcat. The US Air Force was also receiving deliveries of its own new super fighter, the F-15A Eagle. What was apparent to both services was that neither could afford to equip all of its fighter wings with these new and expensive aircraft. The Air Force addressed this problem first with a new competition, the Lightweight Fighter (LWF). The two major contenders were General Dynamics with the YF-16 and Northrop with their YF-17. The Navy also expressed interest in their own lightweight fighter and Congress gave approval with the condition that the Navy use the same aircraft selected by the Air Force.

When the Air Force selected the F-16 for its lightweight fighter, the Navy was not able to visualize an F-16 modified for carrier operations. Instead, they initiated their own lightweight fighter project (VFAX) and ultimately turned to a consortium that (leaving the turbulent contractual history aside) led by McDonnell Douglas to adapt the Northrop YF-17 into a carrier capable 'lightweight' fighter. The resulting design became the F-18 Hornet, later re-designated as Fighter/Attack (F/A-18). The Hornet would become the de facto supplement to the F-14 Tomcat in the fighter world as well as the replacement for the A-7 Corsair II light attack aircraft and (to a limited extent) the venerable A-6 Intruder. In addition, the FA-18 would also become the first Navy attack aircraft that could defend itself in aerial combat without the need to jettison its bombs to survive the encounter. The first true naval multi-role fighter had been developed.

The Hornet has now seen combat in many parts of the world and is one of the principal multi-role combat aircraft for the US Navy, US Marine Corps, Royal Australian Air Force, Canadian Armed Forces, and more. The FA-18D is an evolutionary development of the Hornet, providing more modern avionics and weapons capabilities to the fleet. Unlike the B-model Hornet, the F/A-18D has been a two-place combat aircraft, equiping many of the night and all-weather squadrons in the US Marine Corps. The effectiveness of the F/A-18D as a two-seat combat aircraft made it logical for the F/A-18F Super Hornet to carry on that role.

You'll recall that Academy rolled out the first new-tool F/A-18C in 1/32 scale which easily bested Hasegawa's 1/48 scale kit as the best Hornet in any scale. They're back with this new 1/72 scale kit which is not a simple adaptation of their single-seat F/A-18C released previously. This tooling has been updated with the mid-life IFF update, so you'll have the bird-cutter blades ahead of the windscreen, the additional antennas on the airframe, and of course the GPS bump.

This kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on five parts trees, plus a single tree of clear parts. As with their larger masterpiece, this kit features finely scribed details and is engineered to be a somewhat simpler build.

The first thing that is different about the 1/72 kits versus their big brother is the nose. In the 1/32 scale kit, the forward fuselage and cockpit area were built-up from left and right halves. In this kit, the entire upper airframe from nose to nozzles is one part, but for some reason, the bottom 'half' of the nose section is actually four parts. This will require some care in assembly as this also means more opportunities for seam lines. The rear section of the fuselage bottom is one piece.

One attribute that is faithfully replicated from the larger Hornet is the shallow engine intake design. One attribute not carried over from the larger Hornet was the separate flight control surfaces/flaps. On this kit, the flaps, rudders and ailerons are molded in the neutral position. This is unfortunate since the Hornet at rest usually has all of these flight control surfaces drooping when parked. With fly-by-wire aircraft like the Hornet, the only time they're neutral is if they're locked for storage or the aircraft is powered up. To keep the kit simple, I understand the need to keep the parts count and complexity down, but the drooped control surfaces (which are close to the same configuration for landing) could have been molded into that position.

In the 'plus' column, the kit does have separately molded stabilators that can be appropriately positioned. Likewise, the speed brake can be posed open or closed. Finally, the canopy can also be posed open or closed.

Speaking of the canopy, you can't really see the protective shields that are molded on the clear parts tree to keep the windscreen and canopy parts from getting damaged. I'd like to see more manufacturers adopt this practice to get your clear parts safely home.

Among the external stores:

  • 4 x AIM-9L/M Sidewinders
  • 2 x AIM-7M Sparrow
  • 4 x GBU-12 Paveway II
  • 1 x AAS-38 Laser Designator pod
  • 1 x ASQ-173 Laser Detector/Tracker pod
  • 1 x AAR-50 TINS pod
  • 2 x Vertical Ejector Racks (VERs)
  • 4 x External Fuel Tanks

The kit provides a nice array of maintenance and weapons stencils as well as markings for the following aircraft:

  • F/A-18D, BuNo 165684, VMFA(AW)-225 'Vikings', CE/01
  • F/A-18D, BuNo 164649, VMFA(AW)-224 'Bengals', WK/01
  • F/A-18D, BuNo 164705, VMFA(AW)-332 'Moonlighters', EA/00
  • F/A-18D, BuNo 164959, VMFA(AW)-533 'Hawks', ED/01

This kit is another nice addition to the Academy scale flightline and should build into a beautiful replica of the F/A-18D. With the wealth of aftermarket decals that have been released for this subject, this kit will provide modelers with a nice airframe to recreate their favorite color schemes.

My sincere thanks to MRC for this sample!