Academy 1/48 F-111E Kit First Look
|Date of Review||April 2007||Manufacturer||Academy|
|Kit Number||1689||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Nice detail, simple build, reasonable street price||Cons||Nothing noted|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$34.95|
The F-111 is a poster child for failed requirements management. The US Air Force was looking for their next generation fighter-bomber while the Navy was looking for a fleet defense fighter to replace the F-4 Phantom II and F-8 Crusader. Then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara insisted that the USAF and USN combine forces to buy a common platform to save money, but his staff failed to oversee the two services. While nobody was paying attention, the USAF and USN put so many service-specific requirements on the aircraft that it became impossible to meet the needs of both services with one airframe. The F-111B was a failure (as intended) and the F-111A nearly followed suit. In the end, the USAF acquired a highly capable Mach 2.5 deep penetration strike aircraft and the Navy got their fleet defense fighter with the F-14 Tomcat.
The F-111A was the USAF's first tactical strike variant and was sent into combat in Vietnam where they lost aircraft to what was attributed to wing failures. These were later identified as stabilator failures and these problems were resolved.
The F-111B was the USN's fleet defense variant that proved rather challenging to get on and off the carrier. The program was cancelled, but the aircraft's TF30 engines, AWG-9 radar, AIM-54 Phoenix missile, and other useful subsystems were rolled into the Grumman F-14A Tomcat.
The F-111C was the only export version of the series, destined for service with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).
The F-111D was the first of the next generation F-111 variants featuring an improved digital avionics suite, improved intakes and engines. The aircraft had so many teething problems that the USAF also purchased a similar number of F-111Es which had the newer intakes and engines, but retained the earlier avionics.
The F-111F was the ultimate tactical strike fighter which had an improved suite of digital avionics over the F-111D as well as the improved engines and intakes.
The FB-111A was a nuclear deep-strike platform for the Strategic Air Command (SAC) to replace the B-58 Hustler. When the Tactical Air Command was transformed into Air Combat Command (ACC), the aircraft of SAC were absorbed into ACC and the FB-111A became the F-111G. As the USAF started phasing out the F-111 to help push the F-22 Raptor through the political maze in Washington, the RAAF acquired a number of the surplus F-111Gs to replace their aging F-111Cs.
At one time, the only F-111 kit in 1/48 scale was Monogram's F-111A, then Academy entered the fight and remains the Aardvark champion in 1/48. Recognizing that the F-111 variants differed slightly between variants, they developed tooling that permitted parts swaps to render almost the entire family. In fact, the only two variants that Academy has not boxed are the F-111B and F-111D. While the F-111B would take some work to render (CAM released a nose for the F-111B in 1/48 (reviewed here)), the F-111D is rather simple to render.
This kit represents the stop-gap F-111E that entered service while the bugs of the F-111D were still being ironed out. The kit is rendered on six styrene parts trees molded in light gray, plus a single tree of clear parts. What made this kit instantly superior to Monogram's F-111 were the scribed details in the Academy release, where Monogram's kits were still being designed with raised surface details.
Out of the box, the kit has a reasonably detailed cockpit, which is not unreasonable since the canopy was designed to be presented only in the closed position.
The landing gear is properly set in the weighted position, so if you want to build the aircraft in-flight with the gear-down, you'll need to check your references to articulate the main gear arms way down into the unweighted position.
While the Monogram kit featured synchronized movable sweep wings, Academy did one better. In addition to syncronized wing sweep, the four inboard pylons will pivot in synch with the wings. The outboards remain fixed as on the actual aircraft. Paragon and others have produced some intricate conversions to render the leading edge slats and slotted flaps in the lowered position.
The stabilators can be positioned into whatever position you'd like to display your aircraft.
The kit has an interesting array of external stores options. The kit features SUU-20 (if I recall correctly) bomblet dispensers, four external tanks, an ECM pod, a pair of AIM-9Ls, and 12 Mk.82 bombs suspended on a pair of MERs. Aside from the external tanks, I'd get the Hasegawa weapons sets to bomb up your 'vark. You'll probably want to use some of the interesting weapons loads shown in our F-111 Reference Section.
The kit provides markings for one F-111E, 68-078, 77 TFS/20 TFW, RAF Upper Heyford, UK. The national markings are slightly out of register in my example, but these are easily replaceable. The rest of the markings are fine.
So what can you do with this kit? First you need to know the few differences between F-111 variants to see how you can get there from here.
So starting with this handy F-111E kit, I can replace the intakes with the Cutting Edge Triple Plow I seamless intakes and backdate the model to an A-model. I can't do the B, C, or FB without raiding long wings out of the appropriate kit. Using the updated cockpit tub out of Verlinden's update set, I can render the F-111D or F-111F. Add the Pave Tack pod out of that same Verlinden set to the underside of the weapons bay and you can do the updated F-111F.
If you have one of the F-111C or FB-111A releases from Academy, you can do some similar parts swapping to render any of the other long-wing variants. If you want an F-111B, as I mentioned earlier, CAM did the resin nose, but you'll need to change the cockpit to accommodate ejection seats, add catapult-capable nose gear, and other essential details. As with any of these projects, find some good photos of the aircraft you're modeling so you can get the configuration and markings of the aircraft at the point in time you're rendering.
The Academy 1/48 F-111s are still available if you look around. Many online retailers keep one or more variants in stock. The Monogram kit wasn't bad, and even the Zhengdefu clones of the Academy kits can be worked. Until a more modern tooling of this kit comes available however, Academy's F-111 is still the best option in this scale.
|Intakes||Cockpit||Wings||Escape System||Pave Tack|
|F-111G||Same as FB-111A||RAAF Yes|
|EF-111A||Same as F-111A, just homlier|