Academy 1/72 F/A-18C Hornet Kit First Look
By Michael Benolkin
|Date of Review||January 2008||Manufacturer||Academy|
|Kit Number||12411||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Easy construction, nice detailing||Cons||Nothing noted|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$32.00|
In the early-1970s, the US Navy had started receiving deliveries of its new super fighter, the F-14A Tomcat. The US Air Force was also receiving deliveries of its own new super fighter, the F-15A Eagle. What was apparent to both services was that neither could afford to equip all of its fighter wings with these new and expensive aircraft. The Air Force addressed this problem first with a new competition, the Lightweight Fighter (LWF). The two major contenders were General Dynamics with the YF-16 and Northrop with their YF-17. The Navy also expressed interest in their own lightweight fighter and Congress gave approval with the condition that the Navy use the same aircraft selected by the Air Force.
When the Air Force selected the F-16 for its lightweight fighter, the Navy was not able to visualize an F-16 modified for carrier operations. Instead, they initiated their own lightweight fighter project (VFAX) and ultimately turned to a consortium that (leaving the turbulent contractual history aside) led by McDonnell Douglas to adapt the Northrop YF-17 into a carrier capable 'lightweight' fighter. The resulting design became the F-18 Hornet, later re-designated as Fighter/Attack (F/A-18). The Hornet would become the de facto supplement to the F-14 Tomcat in the fighter world as well as the replacement for the A-7 Corsair II light attack aircraft and (to a limited extent) the venerable A-6 Intruder. In addition, the FA-18 would also become the first Navy attack aircraft that could defend itself in aerial combat without the need to jettison its bombs to survive the encounter. The first true naval multi-role fighter had been developed.
The Hornet has now seen combat in many parts of the world and is one of the principal multi-role combat aircraft for the US Navy, US Marine Corps, Royal Australian Air Force, Canadian Armed Forces, and more. The FA-18C is an evolutionary development of the Hornet, providing more modern avionics and weapons capabilities to the fleet. Even so, this aircraft moves into second echelon operations as the FA-18E/F Super Hornet has moved into the fleet fighter and all-weather fighter-bomber roles.
You'll recall that Academy rolled out the first new-tool F/A-18C in 1/32 scale which easily bested Hasegawa's 1/48 scale kit as the best Hornet in any scale. They're back with this new 1/72 scale kit which is surprisingly not a scaled down version of their 1/32 beauty. Nevertheless, the layout of the kit clearly shows that we'll also have a new 1/72 F/A-18D Night Attack Hornet in our midst at some point in the future.
This kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on four parts trees, plus a single tree of clear parts. As with their larger masterpiece, this kit features finely scribed details and is engineered to be a somewhat simpler build.
The first thing that is different about this kit versus its big brother is the nose. In the 1/32 scale kit, the forward fuselage and cockpit area were built-up from left and right halves. In this kit, the entire upper airframe from nose to nozzles is one part, but for some reason, the bottom 'half' of the nose section is actually four parts. This will require some care in assembly as this also means more opportunities for seam lines. The rear section of the fuselage bottom is one piece.
Like many F/A-18A/C kits, this model has both front and rear cockpit tubs molded as one piece, though only the front cockpit is built up and visible after assembly.
One attribute that is faithfully replicated from the larger Hornet is the shallow engine intake design. One attribute not carried over from the larger Hornet was the separate flight control surfaces/flaps. On this kit, the flaps, rudders and ailerons are molded in the neutral position. This is unfortunate since the Hornet at rest usually has all of these flight control surfaces drooping when parked. With fly-by-wire aircraft like the Hornet, the only time they're neutral is if they're locked for storage or the aircraft is powered up. To keep the kit simple, I understand the need to keep the parts count and complexity down, but the drooped control surfaces (which are close to the same configuration for landing) could have been molded into that position.
In the 'plus' column, the kit does have separately molded stabilators that can be appropriately positioned. Likewise, the speed brake can be posed open or closed. Finally, the canopy can also be posed open or closed.
Speaking of the canopy, you can't really see the protective shields that are molded on the clear parts tree to keep the windscreen and canopy parts from getting damaged. I'd like to see more manufacturers adopt this practice to get your clear parts safely home.
Among the external stores:
- 4 x AIM-9L/M Sidewinders
- 2 x AIM-7M Sparrow
- 4 x GBU-12 Paveway II
- 1 x AAS-38 Laser Designator pod
- 1 x ASQ-173 Laser Detector/Tracker pod
- 1 x AAR-50 TINS pod
- 2 x Vertical Ejector Racks (VERs)
- 4 x External Fuel Tanks
The kit provides a nice array of maintenance and weapons stencils as well as markings for the following aircraft:
- F/A-18C, BuNo 164958, VMFA-212 ‘Lancers’ WD/01, MCAS Iwakuni, 2007
- F/A-18C, BuNo 164253, VFA-94 ‘Mighty Shrikes’ --/401, NAS Lemoore, 2007
- F/A-18C, BuNo 164905, VFA-192 ‘Golden Dragons’ NF/301, NAF Atsugi, 2003
This kit is another nice addition to the Academy scale flightline and should build into a beautiful replica of the F/A-18C. With the wealth of aftermarket decals that have been released for this subject, this kit will provide modelers with a nice airframe to recreate their favorite color schemes.
My sincere thanks to MRC for this sample!