Italeri 1/48 EA-18G 'Growler' Kit First Look
|Date of Review||October 2005||Manufacturer||Italeri|
|Kit Number||2641||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Corrected external details||Cons||Spartan cockpit|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$36.00|
The US Navy has pushed hard to get the Super Hornet into the fleet. So hard that development of replacements for the rest of every airwing's aircraft has taken a back seat. Replacements for the S-3, C-2, E-2, etc., are still in the distant future (the E-2 is getting upgraded at least). One aircraft that has been showing its age is the EA-6B Prowler.
Developed as a specialized electronic warfare (EW) aircraft from a stretched A-6 Intruder, the EA-6B is the only remaining dedicated radar-jamming EW platform in the US military after the retirement of the USAF's EF-111A Raven. To give it additional teeth, EA-6Bs were later modified to carry the AGM-88 HARM anti-radiation missile (radar killer).
Recognizing that the Prowler is reaching the end of its operational life, the Boeing Phantomworks looked at adapting the Super Hornet to replace the Prowler. While the Prowler is a four-place aircraft, computer automation from various upgrades has allowed the Prowler to operate without all four crewmembers. Further advances in automation make replacing the Prowler with a two-place aircraft much more feasible. Enter the EA-18G.
The EA-6A and later EA-6B were ideal platforms in their day as the shared the same performance as the A-6 Intruders they escorted. An EA-6B today would be left in the dust as the Hornets and Super Hornets they supported got out of Dodge supersonic. It makes sense to develop a new EW platform that can keep up with the pack.
While a few development aircraft have been modified from early F/A-18Fs by the Phantomworks to address technical issues (like cramming more avionics into the airframe, assessing the impact of the ECM pods on the drag index, etc.), it will still be a few years before we see the EA-18G come online.
Italeri has re-released their F/A-18F kit with some new parts. The kit consists of four parts trees molded in light gray styrene plus a small clear tree with the windscreen, canopy and HUD.
When I received this review sample, I remembered the accuracy problems of the first releases of their F/A-18E and F/A-18F kits. I happened to have one of these on the shelf and did a side-by-side comparison to see what, if anything, has changed. Much to my surprise, Italeri has updated their molds!
You'll remember the dorsal speed brake well between the tails? That's gone. What's more, many of the vents and apertures that were out of place and/or the wrong shape have been corrected. I was so pleasantly surprised that I pulled out my Hasegawa 1/48 Super Bug and did the comparison. You can still see slight differences in the positions of the various vents and apertures, but the shapes are now in agreement.
What caught my eye was the difference in shape of the dorsal spine, the 'hump' that extends from behind the canopy back between the tails. The Hasegawa hump is noticeably fatter than the Italeri. A quick look at some Super Hornet photos indicate that Hasegawa got the dorsal spine wrong, Italeri is closer to the right shape.
One thing they didn't address in this release is the advanced IFF 'pizza box' ahead of the windscreen found on later block Super Hornets. This is understandable though since the aircraft this kit is based upon were early block F-models.
In the cockpit, basic modelers will be happy with decals for the instrument panels and side consoles, AMS modelers will want to replace the 'pit' with an aftermarket set. This isn't a specific problem with this kit, Italeri tends to keep the cockpits in their kits simple.
The kit includes most of the same parts options as the earlier F/A-18E and F/A-18F releases including AIM-120 and AIM-9 air-to-air missiles, external tanks, etc. New in this kit are the EW pods with the RATs and the funky antenna pods that were mounted on the wingtips of the development aircraft. If you're building the development aircraft, by all means use these wingtip pods, but I suspect that the antennas in these pods will be flush-mounted to the production aircraft allowing the AIM-9 to remain on the wingtips.
One thing not included in the kit are a pair of AGM-88 HARMs to reflect the aircraft's ability to reach out and smite its target. These are readily available from multiple sources, so no biggie.
Markings are provided for two examples, one is the developmental EA-18G markings as it has appeared in several photos, the other is a notional scheme in Atlantic Fleet training colors.
Italeri has been listening to you, the consumer as the mold updates reflect their intent to keep their Super Hornets in the mix against the Revell and Hasegawa offerings. The additional parts and markings will render a nice-looking representation of the early stages of the EA-18G development.
My sincere thanks to Testors for this review sample!