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F/A-18C Kit

Academy 1/72 F/A-18C Hornet 'Chippy Ho!' 2009 Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review January 2012 Manufacturer Academy
Subject F/A-18C Hornet Scale 1/72
Kit Number 12432 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Easy construction, nice detailing Cons Nothing noted
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $41.00

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.

F/A-18C Kit F/A-18C Kit
F/A-18C Kit

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.

We first looked at this new-tool kit four years ago (look here) and like it's 1/32nd scale cousin, this kit is easily the nicest Hornet in this scale. With the engineering that went into the 1/32 kit, it was only logical that Academy would scale down that effort and capture the flag in this scale as well.

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 164899, VFA-196, NF/400, USS George Washington, Apr 2009, 'Chippy Ho!'
  • F/A-18C, BuNo 164899, VFA-196, NF/400, USS George Washington, Nov 2009, 'Chippy Ho!'
  • F/A-18C, BuNo 164966, VFA-196, NF/401, USS George Washington, 2009, skipper's aircraft

The Chippy Ho! paint scheme is one of the most colorful worn by the Hornet worldwide (though the Canadians get some spectacular paint jobs as well). This release provides some nice markings for this aircraft which will look awesome on your scale flightline.

My sincere thanks to MRC for this sample!