Hobby Boss 1/48 F-111A Aardvark Kit First Look
By Fotios Rouch
|Date of Review||December 2009||Manufacturer||Hobby Boss|
|Kit Number||80348||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Nicely detailed kit||Cons|
|Skill Level||Novice||MSRP (USD)||$109.95|
The F-111A Aardvark was conceived as the replacement for the F-105. The Tactical Air Command needed an aircraft that could fly high altitude missions at Mach 2.5, carry nukes internally, fly transatlantic missions without air refueling and fly also low and slow and be able to operate out of semi-prepared fields in Europe. This was a tall order indeed with a very complex mission in mind. Some of the goals could be met with some design solutions but how could they all be answered with one airframe design. So in 1961 Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara issued a Request for Proposal for the Tactical Fighter Experimental (TFX) program to address all these needs but to make things more complicated, McNamara also wanted an aircraft that could be used by both the Air Force and the Navy.
Now the USAF and the NAVY have different needs and it was not possible to agree with one another on the definition of the basic requirements. Just the same the RFP was put out in 1961. Although Boeing won all the competition elements, McNamara overruled and decreed that General Dynamics and Grumman would build the TFX!
The USAF F-111A first flew in December of 1964 and first deliveries begun in 1967. The NAVY variant was canceled and the savings McNamara was hoping for never happened for the NAVY. GD produced 159 F-111As. The F-111A was first introduced in Vietnam in 1968 with limited success. It was reintroduced for South East Asian operations in 1972 after some improvements and was very effective in night strikes against North Vietnamese targets during Operation Linebacker II.
Academy had introduced a complete family of F-111 variants many years ago and these kits can still be found at reasonably low prices. The kits were basically OK in shape but very simple in design and level of detail. A slew of aftermarket companies designed a myriad of detail, correction and improvement sets at hefty prices sometimes.
Few of the modelers thought that there would be another F-111 coming our way so we invested heavily in accessories for our Academy Aardvarks. Well, this was all changed with the announcement of the Hobby Boss F-111A.
Modelers could see from the early production run images of the sprues that we had something serious coming our way! My kit came from HobbyEasy because I just did not want to wait for regular distribution channels. It was all worth it. This kit is so full of detail. Pound for pound and dollar for dollar it is a great deal. Everything is basically included in the kit and then some.
The Chinese juggernaut of modeling companies might have had a slow and bumpy start but they are listening to the modeler requests and nitpicks. You can easily see in all their latest releases that the details are finer and the rivet and panel lines are now very delicate.
China's capacity for production of very complex kits at low production costs is amazing and will be the wave of the future. The different and well established companies around the world will end up having to use China for the production of non-limited run kits.
The HobbyBoss F-111A has been engineered to be able to produce all the F-111 variants. This is evident from the different instrument panels included, different wheels, parts for the Pave Tack pod, and weapon choices.
I am starting the parts review with the wings (sprues M and K). These are obviously the shorter wings which will be common with the F-111D, F-111E, F-111F, and EF-111A. The wings are designed to have the slats, spoilers and flaps extended. This means that wings cannot be posed in the retracted configuration. This might be a problem to modelers with limited display space but for this modeler there is nothing better looking than an F-111 with everything hanging out! How many of us paid top dollar for the Paragon resin and photoetch flap and slat set? How about the Scaledown wings? Both superb sets but this kit does not need them.
Forward fuselage sprues B and bomb bay sprue A. Items of interest are the open avionics bays on both sides of the fuselage. The instructions show the panel covers only in the buttoned up configuration. What is the point of having all this detail and showing it with the panels closed? I have to look in my reference photos and see if I need to add support rods to keep the panels up and open. You will also note that sprue A includes two styles of jet intake covers but only the Triple Plow I intake splitters. Sprue A contains details for the bomb bay.
Jet engine sprues G, wing tank sprues WD and E sprues. I will go straight to the E sprues as the other sprues are self evident. Here we see the E-Boxes with decent detail for injected plastic and I am sure they can easily be bested by resin parts. The TF30-P-1 engines look OK but there is room for improvement. A resin set could look great here as the plastic exhausts are a bit thick on the outer lip and have no internal surface detail. You can easily note the parts not for use. Most notable is the Pave Tack pod for the future F-111F. I like the different wheel designs.
Sprue F Tail stabilizers items of interest on first look are the static dischargers and the fixed pylons which do not have a need to rotate since the wings will not pivot.
Sprues WC and H I like the four different instrument panels which give a clue as to what comes next! The three different end caps for the boat tail between the engines are a clue as well. The WC sprues are nice but I am not sure if the F-111A used any ALQ jammers. The Mk.82 bombs and the AIM-9D Sidewinders look great. The extra weapons are either cool to have but never applicable for the F-111 or maybe another hint for future variants and maybe even an Aussie F-111G!
Sprue C Great detail here for the main landing gear wheel well which was so underrepresented in the Academy kit.
Clear parts. This is another great surprise, where we get the option of an open or closed canopy. Remember the Verlinden kit for the F-111E and option for an open canopy. This one should be a breeze to pose open! Also lots of clear parts for the navigation lights, star tracker (other variants) and landing lights.
Other notes. Main fuselage parts. Separately and nicely packed individually. Great detail. I still wish that they would have done something about the louvered vents on the top of the forward portion of the fuselage. I bet Eduard will do something about that. Rubber tires. Pretty nice, although I know many modelers do not like rubber.
We finally have a new-tool F-111A to update the Academy kit, which in itself was an improvement on the Monogram 1/48 F-111A. Both kits were simple kits of the aircraft and we AMS modelers had to invest in a fortune of aftermarket details and corrections to get the features that HobbyBoss is providing in this box. Bring on the rest of the variants, please!