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A-10B

Hobby Boss 1/48 A-10 N/AW Thunderbolt II Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review March 2007 Manufacturer Hobby Boss
Subject A-10 N/AW Thunderbolt II Scale 1/48
Kit Number 80324 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Easy build, great external details Cons Sparse cockpit detail
Skill Level Novice MSRP (Yen) ¥8000 (about $68.50)

First Look

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When the A-10 was first conceived, it was primarily a gun-toting tank killer that could provide close air support (CAS) to the troops back in the days of the great Soviet/Warsaw Pact threat of invasion into western Europe. Even with all of the NATO armies' assets combined, nobody had as many tanks and armored vehicles as the combined forces of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact. What planners envisioned was a series of great 'equalizers' that could blunt or even halt the tank armies. Out of that need came the USAF's Fairchild A-10 (defeating the Northrop A-9) and the US Army's AH-64 Apache.

Even as the aircraft was entering service, the A-10 was looked down upon by many Pentagon staffers as it was not a stealthy hi-tech superfighter. The aircraft would not get a chance to prove its worth until Operation Desert Storm where it decimated the Iraqi tank armies. The aircraft was also ideal for conducting Sandy operations - escorting Combat Search and Rescue helicopters. When it did get hit by enemy fire, the promises heard from the manufacturer turned out to be true - the aircraft could still fly with part of a wing, one tail, and one engine missing. But I digress...

Some forward thinking planners saw a need for a stable night attack platform that could deal with limited operations and A-10, 73-1664, was converted into a two-seater to test the concepts. The aircraft only flew a few months in its flight evaluations, but was cancelled due to the development of Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night (LANTIRN) system that was supposed to provide night attack capabilities to the F-16C/D, F-15E, and A-10A. Once the A-10 two-seater was history, the LANTIRN upgrade was also cancelled for the A-10. The Hawg would not get true night-fighting capabilities for another 10+ years.

Today, the USAF is conducting operations that it rarely seems to prepare for - counter-insurgency or COIN. In operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, you see a variety of aircraft employed in COIN operations, and while the F-15E has the advantage with its range, payload and two-man crew, I shudder when I read about the USAF conducting COIN missions with B-52 'bomb trucks'. While the USAF is making due with what it has available, the two-seat A-10 N/AW would have been the right aircraft for COIN mixing the right combination of range, payload, and the ability to loiter on target.

When Trumpeter released the 1/32 A-10A and A-10 N/AW kits, they provided some jaw-dropping detail that significantly raised the bar on what constitutes a detailed model. Hobby Boss has now released these kits in 1/48 scale and they've done a nice job in tooling those parts rendered in resin by Trumpeter as styrene in these kits.

I didn't know what to expect when I had the opportunity to look one of these kits over and I wanted to see how the two-seater looked in this scale (since I have two in 1/32!). I must say that Hobby Boss did a great job in rendering this kit!

What comes in the box is ten parts trees molded in light gray styrene, plus two smaller trees of clear parts. There doesn't appear to be any problems with ejector pin marks in visible areas of the model (after assembly) nor are there any issues with molding flash.

Construction starts with the two cockpits and they've correctly supplied ACES II ejection seats in both pits. The instrument panels were supposed to be all-glass in their layouts and these are rendered as decals in the kit. Both cockpits have sticks and throttles provided.

The next step is the GAU-8 Avenger cannon. In the A-10 N/AW, the ammo drum was reduced in size to accomodate the second cockpit. Parts-wise, I'm not sure if the drum is the same parts as the A-10A release, but it is every bit as detailed and NOBODY else has done the Avenger in 1/48 scale.

The split aileron/speed brakes are molded separately so you can position them any way you'd like. The flaps are also molded separately for your pleasure. The rudders and elevators are molded in place, but this is okay as you don't usually see the rudders or elevators displaced on the ground.

Like the 1/32 scale release, this kit comes with a wealth of external stores:

  • 6 x AGM-65
  • 12 x Mk.82 slicks
  • 12 x Mk.20 CBUs
  • 2 x MERs
  • 2 x Maverick triple-rail launchers
  • 2 x GBU-10
  • 2 x GBU-8
  • 2 x ALQ-119
  • 2 x ALQ-131
  • 2 x AIM-9L
  • 1 x AIM-9 twin-rail launcher

Two sheets of decals are included, one for the airframe to represent the concept demonstrator aircraft and its array of photo-calibration tracking marks, the second for all of the weapons and external pod markings.

The molds are based upon the Trumpeter 1/32 A-10 N/AW kit scaled down to 1/48 and at $35, this is a bargain. Now that this kit has formally entered US distribution, the MSRP has been set to $69.95. This kit is the only styrene kit of the two-seat A-10 in 1/48 scale.

You'll also note that the Hobby Boss kit is available from Hong Kong for around $35 USD. Yes, postage is a little more, but I've ordered kits from these shops and had them arrive airmail in my mail box just as fast as the US shops deliver via UPS ground. If you do the math, the additional postage and lower retail price is still cheaper than domestic prices and UPS shipping.

My sincere thanks to HobbyLink Japan for this review sample!

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