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F/A-18E Kit

Trumpeter 1/32 F/A-18E Super Hornet Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review December 2009 Manufacturer Trumpeter
Subject F/A-18E Super Hornet Scale 1/32
Kit Number 3204 Primary Media Styrene, Photo-Etch
Pros First Super Hornet in this scale and sets a number of records Cons A few minor details (see text)
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) $229.95

 

 

First Look

F/A-18E Kit
F/A-18E Kit
F/A-18E Kit
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F/A-18E Kit

The Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornet is the US Navy's frontline multi-role fleet fighter. Scaled up in size from the early F/A-18A/C Hornet, the Super Hornet has more power, range and payload than its predecessors. The F/A-18E and its two-seat sister, the F/A-18F, replace the F-14 Tomcat in the fleet CAP/air defense mission and interleave with the earlier Hornets in the strike and night/all-weather strike mission.

Classified as a generation 4.5 fighter, Boeing has continued development of the Super Hornet to create a Gen 4.75 variant that incorporates a number of improvements in avionics, low-observability, and engine performance. These improvements will keep the Super Hornet in the front lines to provide air defense as well as precision strike alongside the F-35 Lightning II when it enters fleet service.

While the Super Hornet quietly entered operational service during Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), the quiet has only been on the home front as these aircraft have provided continuous day and night support of the allied forces on the ground in both theaters. The versatility of the airframe must keep the navy test and evaluation folks busy as new systems come online for the aircraft. The weapons load charts for the Super Hornet must be some of the longest tables in aviation history as it would be a much shorter list for the weapons and stores that the Super Hornet can't carry.

When we saw this kit both in test shot images as well as at iHobbyExpo, there was no doubt about the size of the model, but there was no indication of the level of complexity of the kit. While Trumpeter does tend to over-engineer some of its kits, rendering lots of details in areas that will never be seen after assembly, such is not the case here. There is lots of detail, yes, but thankfully Trumpeter limited that to visible areas of the model. For the record, there are 41 sprue trees in this kit - a new record for me at least.

If you look at the first image in the stack to the right, you see the kit as it appears with the lid first removed. The fuselage halves are nicely packed in separate packaging along with the clears, metal strut cores and rubber tires. The rest of the kit is packaged normally except for that box in the upper left that has the F/A-18E title. That box alone is about the size of a 1/25th scale car kit and contains all of the external stores. For the sake of clarity, I'm going to break this review into two sections: airframe and stores.

Airframe

The basic airframe kit as packaged is molded in light gray styrene and presented on 15 parts trees plus the separately packaged upper and lower fuselage halves. The kit also consists of four smaller trees of clear parts (some of which are used in the stores section), one small fret of photo-etched parts, one set of metal landing gear strut cores, and one set of rubber (vinyl) tires.

As I look over the kit, my first observation is that the rivet and panel line details seem to be finer that before. What's more, the engine compressor and turbine faces are much better as well. If you've seen the J57 engine faces on the Trumpeter F-100 and F-8 kits, the odd curves of the blades or the strange offset of the fixed stator vanes detracted from some otherwise nice work.

The kit's F414 compressor faces have normal looking compressor blades though they didn't add the fixed stators ahead of the compressor. You can add the fixed stators if you'd like, but I doubt you'd see them on the far end of the intake ducts after assembly. Your call. The afterburner chambers also look presentable as provided.

Considering all of the parts in this kit, I'm quite surprised how few are photo-etched. The photo-etch provided in this kit are primarily the shoulder harness and seat belts for the ejection seat and two reinforcement strips. This means that the model will be a little easier to build for those less comfortable with photo-etched parts.

As with most aircraft kits, construction starts in the cockpit and the kit provides a nice ejection seat and cockpit tub. The main instrument panel is glass, so the multi-function displays (MFD) are rendered with decals. The kit also provides decals for the side consoles should you choose not to paint your consoles (I'll paint mine). The kit provides stick and throttle separately, but no rudder pedals.

The landing gear is styrene with metal cores. These cores provide the strength to hold up this beast, while the styrene parts build up around the cores to make assembly and painting easier for most.

This is the first kit I can recall that has an AESA radar that can be displayed. The kit provides the APG-79 AESA array inside a positionable radome.

As I mentioned above, the F414 engines are not over-engineered and while they do have some plumbing detail that will make these nice to pose with an access bay door open, they are not critical for the fit of the engines in the fuselage should you plan to keep your engine bays closed.

Among the various features and options in this kit:

  • Nicely detailed NACES ejection seat
  • Positionable canopy
  • Positionable boarding ladder
  • Positionable radome
  • APG-79 AESA radar under the radome
  • Metal landing gear cores for strength
  • Full length engine intake ducts with engines at the ends
  • Nicely detailed wheel wells
  • Positionable leading and trailing edge flaps
  • Positionable wings (folded or flight)
  • Positionable ailerons
  • Positionable stabilators
  • Postionable rudders
  • Positionable air refueling probe
  • Rubber tires
  • Three external fuel tanks

Stores

As I mentioned above, there is a box inside the Hornet's big kit box that is large enough for a 1/25th scale car kit and there are another 22 sprues inside! What you're looking at are the most (if not all) of the sprues that will be in the upcoming 1/32 US weapons set and there are a few items provided here that aren't obviously used with this kit. What's in the box:

  • 4 x AIM-120B AMRAAM
  • 2 x AGM-84A Harpoon
  • 2 x AGM-84E SLAM
  • 2 x AGM-84H SLAM ER
  • 2 x AGM-154 JSOW
  • 6 x GBU-12 LGB
  • 6 x GBU-22 LGB (should not be used)
  • 2 x LGTR
  • 6 x ADM-141 ITALD
  • 1 x targeting pod **
  • 2 x TER (should not be used on the kit)
  • 2 x MER

In addition to the weapons above that are shown in the instructions for use in the kit, one of the items included on the sprues but not shown in the instructions is an ALQ-131 pod which is going to head straight over to my F-16C project.

One of the weapons shown on the box art and not in the kit is the AGM-88 HARM which is unfortunate. Another common store also not in the set are the range of JDAMs that are widely used in the fleet.

** The kit identifies the targeting pod as an AAQ-25 though I think this is really an AAQ-28 Litening pod. There is another pod also provided and not called out by the instructions that could be the ASQ-228 ATFLIR

Thanks to Kurt Owens for his insight to the latest weaponeering on the Super Hornets!

Markings are provided for three examples:

  • F/A-18E, BuNo 166776, VFA-31 Tomcatters, AJ/100, CAG aircraft
  • F/A-18E, BuNo 166608, VFA-143 Pukin Dogs, AG/100, CAG aircraft, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • F/A-18E, BuNo 165860, VFA-27 Royal Maces, NF/200, CAG aircraft, USS Kitty Hawk

The decals are provided on three sheets, one with the VFA-31 markings as well as the airframe stenciling, the second with the VFA-27 and VFA-143 markings, and the third with all of the weapons stenciling. The decals are all nicely printed and in register.

Overall this looks like a really nice job by Trumpeter and kudos to their design team for not over-engineering this model. There is lots of detail here, but nothing wasted inside areas that won't be seen. The scribing and panel lines are really nice and if this builds as nice as it looks, the kit will be worth the price.

My sincere thanks to Stevens International for this review sample!

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