Academy 1/48 F-16C Block 25/32 Fighting Falcon Kit First Look
By Michael Benolkin
|Date of Review||January 2005||Manufacturer||Academy|
|Subject||F-16C Block 25/32 Fighting Falcon||Scale||1/48|
|Kit Number||12204||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Nice as Block 25/32, backdatable to Block 15, nice Mavericks, compatible with aftermarket accessories for Hasegawa F-16 kits, and excellent decals||Cons||Sidewinders, no centerline tank or ECM pod.|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$30.00|
The Lightweight Fighter Program intended to provide a simple, inexpensive fighter to augment the new F-15 Eagle that was entering service in the mid-1970s. General Dynamics' single-engine YF-16 beat out the Northrop YF-17 to become the principal multi-role fighter into the 21st century.
While the F-16A/B went through some teething pains between engine stalls of the Pratt & Whitney F100 engine (the same powerplant as the F-15) and other problems, the aircraft began to show its worth, especially in the hands of the Israeli Air Force. It didn't take long before better engines, updated avionics and new weapons began the foundation that became the F-16C/D.
The F-16C Block 25 was the first 'improved' version of the Viper that saw avionics upgrades over the 'standard' F-16A Block 15. Problems with the F100 engine continued to plague the aircraft so the decision was made for a dual track development. The next iteration of Vipers would be the GE F110 powered F-16C Block 30 and the F100-powered F-16C Block 32. The GE engine required more airflow through the inlet which created the distinctive 'wide mouth' inlet that is unique to the GE-powered Vipers. Other than the engines, the Block 30 and 32 were identical in capability. Likewise with the GE-powered Block 40 and 50 aircraft versus the corresponding Pratt-powered Block 42 and 52 aircraft.
While the F-16A/B fleet have been almost completely retired out of the USAF fleet, the Block 25 and newer Vipers continue to serve the USAF around the world.
Academy has re-released their 1/48 F-16 kit and it not a bad looking kit. To be honest, I've never seen the Academy kit prior to this, though I do have several of the Hasegawa Vipers on my shelf. The kit is molded in light gray styrene and features scribed details. The panel lines are a bit wide, but otherwise compares favorably with the Hasegawa and Italeri kits.
Out of the box, the kit represents an early Pratt-powered F-16C Block 25 or 32. I say early since the kit lacks the distinctive "donkey dildos" mounted to the leading edges ahead of stations 2 and 8 on all later F-16C/D aircraft and retro-fitted to the earlier C/D models. The wingtip launch rails are separately molded though they are of the earlier smaller AIM-9 rails versus the 'beefier' rails that accommodate the AIM-120 on the wingtips.
In the other hand, the kit canopy is clear. The early F-16Cs came with the new gold-tinted canopies which became a hot commodity that was retro-fitted to many of the F-16As around the world. It wasn't until the advent of Night Vision Goggles (NVG) in the cockpit that the gold tinted canopies became a hindrance and Vipers are once again coming back to the clear canopies. So in the kit, you've got the latest canopy configuration!
The vertical stabilizer is molded separately from its base and a nice C-model base in included in the kit. Among the unused parts however is the smaller A-model base which is really all you'll need to back-date this kit to a Block 15 F-16A externally.
Armament-wise, the kit comes with four so-so AIM-9Ls and six nice AGM-65 Mavericks that are mounted on two triple launchers. I haven't seen the triple launcher for some time. While it was a nice idea to be able to carry six Mavericks, the triple launcher evidently had some reliability problems and you'll only see the single launch rail in operations. That's okay, you'll want to keep the Mavericks! Among the unused parts are a pair of slick Mk.83 bombs and a pair of 30mm GEPOD gun pods. I understand that the NY ANG Vipers took the GEPOD into combat in Desert Shield, but didn't use them very long.
The kit provides a pair of 370 gallon tanks for stations 4 and 6, but no 300 gallon tank for the centerline, nor any other options for the centerline station.
So here you have a nice enough early F-16C kit, but can you dress it up? The answer is yes! I successfully dry-fit the Cutting Edge and Seamless Suckers seamless intakes and these install with no modifications (unless you want to use the engine face and extended inlet duct, then you do the same surgery as the with the Hasegawa kit). The Black Box F-16C cockpit also is a drop-in fit in the Academy kit.
The best feature in this kit is the decal sheet. Academy did a dynamite job with this selection of subjects and also provides an extensive set of airframe and weapons stencils as well. There are three subjects covered on this sheet:
- F-16C-32C-CF, 86-0252, 184 FS, AR ANG with a boar's head logo on the tail
- F-16C-25E-CF, 84-1287, 158 FS, VT ANG with a nice Minuteman logo on the tail
- F-16C-32A-CF, 85-1575, ROKAF (these are the first ROKAF markings I've seen for the F-16 and the camouflage is distinctively different as well. Good show Academy!)
I must admit that this is a nice-looking kit that would be virtually indistinguishable from the Hasegawa Viper after it was build. The ability to backdate the aircraft to the F-16A Block 15 is a plus, and the unique decal subjects that I haven't seen any where else (yet) make this release worth adding to the queue.
My sincere thanks to MRC for this review sample!