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F-35C Lightning II

Kitty Hawk Models 1/48 F-35C Lightning II Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review August 2014 Manufacturer Kitty Hawk Models
Subject F-35C Lightning II Scale 1/48
Kit Number 80132 Primary Media Styrene, photo-etch
Pros First kit of this subject Cons See text
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $59.95

First Look


The Joint Strike Fighter program started with a set of requirements for a tactical fighter that would meet the operational needs of the US Air Force, US Navy, and US Marine Corps using an airframe that maximized the number of common parts and thereby reduce development and maintenance costs. As with any ambitious program like this, the devil is in the details and as the program evolved, challenges arose. The first step in the program was to determine the best overall design and Boeing developed the X-32 that had, shall we say, a rather unique appearance. Lockheed Martin countered with the X-35 and this design would ultimately prevail. This victory made Lockheed Martin the only US company to produce the only two Generation Five fighters in US service - the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II.

As development continued on the F-35, it became clear that the operational differences between the military services was going to pose a greater engineering challenge than originally thought. The F-35A for the USAF was straightforward and didn't pose any great challenges, but of course the facility producing the F-35 also produces the F-16 Fighting Falcon which the F-35 will eventually replace. The F-35C for the US Navy was going to be more difficult as it would need larger wings and horizontal stabilators for better low-speed performance getting on and off the deck of aircraft carriers. The larger wings mean folding wings which also means more weight and complexity (anyone remembering the F/A-18 Hornet early development will remember these wing challenges).

Kitty Hawk Models has produced the first kit of the production F-35C in any scale (less than 1:1) and the third true kit of the production F-35 series as well. You'll recall that Panda Models released their 'F-35' in 1/48 scale roughly ten years ago (look here) but this was based on the X-35 airframe with some educated guesses to fill in some missing details. DML released the F-35A in 1/144 about four years ago but it still looked more like an X-35.

Following up from Kitty Hawk's F-35A and F-35B releases, here we have a detailed F-35C and it also looks quite impressive out of the box. Molded in light gray styrene, this kit is presented on ten parts trees (including the two fuselage halves in the first image), a single tree of clear parts, and a fret of photo-etched details. The molding looks good and the kit has some nice features and options. Let's take a look:

  • Nice looking MB Mk.16E ejection seat with photo-etched belts/harness details
  • Positionable canopy
  • Positionable boarding ladder and door
  • Photo-etched details on the canopy frame and sill (if canopy positioned open)
  • Detailed Pratt & Whitney F135 engine with full intake trunks
  • Detailed weapons bays
  • Positionable wing leading edge flaps
  • Positionable wing trailing edge flaperons
  • Wings can be posed extended or folded
  • Positionable air refueling probe and door
  • Positionable arresting hook
  • Optional external weapons pylons

Among the external store options in this kit:

  • 1 x centerline 25mm gun pod
  • 2 x AIM-9X
  • 2 x AIM-120C
  • 2 x GBU-38 500 pound JDAM
  • 2 x GBU-31B 2000 pound JDAM
  • 2 x GBU-31 2000 pound JDAM
  • 2 x GBU-12 Paveway II

Four marking options are provided for this kit:

  • F-35C, 168733, VFA-101, NJ/101, Eglin AFB, 2014
  • F-35C, CF-01, Public Relations Scheme
  • F-35C, CF-03, Flight Test Scheme
  • F-35C, CF-01, Prototype Scheme


  • This kit shares some of the same parts trees as the F-35A/B kits (and why not, the full-scale aircraft share many common parts) and inclusion of the external stores pylons is a real plus.
  • The kit canopy is clear and it is tinted on the full-scale aircraft, Check your references but you can simply apply a light coat of Tamiya Clear Smoke to get that look on the kit part.
  • This is the first fighter in some time that won't have either the ACES II nor Naval ACES (NACES) ejection seat. The Martin Baker Mk.16E was selected though it was interesting to see even the light-weight and very capable Russian K-36D under consideration at one time.
  • This is also the first fighter since before World War II that doesn't have a heads-up display (HUD) or gunsight atop the instrument panel. This capability is now built into the pilot's helmet as part of his/her augmented reality displays projected into the visor.
  • The aircraft is intended to be flown without pylons to maintain its 'stealth' capability similar to the F-22, but like the F-22, this aircraft can use pylons to provide additional fuel and weapons stores when stealth is not required.

If you'll recall, the Kitty Hawk F-35B release two years ago was soon followed by the F-35A, both of which had some interesting design glitches that we found in our build of the F-35B kit. Once the glitches were identified, quite a few folks have built the F-35 kits and one of these two (I don't recall which) is now sold out. Kudos to Kitty Hawk Models for stepping back and working on the kit design before releasing this F-35C and it appears the glitches have been addressed though we'll see in our build soon. Kitty Hawk as also added weapons to the mix and even developed the odd-looking gun pod that NAVAIR was testing on their F-35C flight test aircraft.

For the first time, we now have all three production configurations of the F-35 Lightning II in scale and it shouldn't be too much longer before we see F-35s appear in squadrons beyond the transition training and flight test units currently gearing up to bring the new generation of 'Nintendo Lieutenants' into readiness. That should mean we'll see some traditional markings and color schemes also appear on F-35 airframes soon. Grab the F-35C and complete your line-up as well!

My sincere thanks to Kitty Hawk Models for this review sample!