Academy 1/72 F/A-18A+ Hornet Kit First Look
By Michael Benolkin
|Date of Review||October 2015||Manufacturer||Academy|
|Kit Number||12520||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Easy construction, nice detailing||Cons||Nothing noted|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$31.00|
The F/A-18A was the Navy's first 'swing fighter' which meant that the aircraft was capable of switching to an air superiority role without dumping its bomb load during a strike mission. Despite its short range, the aircraft demonstrated significant combat capability and was eventually adopted not only by the US Navy and US Marine Corps, but also the air arms of Australia, Canada, and Spain. Other nations have adopted the later F/A-18C Hornet in their ranks.
While the F/A-18A was scheduled to be replaced by the F/A-18C or F/A-18E, some units within the US Navy and US Marine Corps have retained the A-model but many of these have been given service life extensions and many were also given avionics updates including replacing the original APG-65 radar with the APG-73. One visible update is the addition of the IFF interrogator antenna array on the top of the nose ahead of the windscreen. These updated Hornets were designated as F/A-18A+.
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. This was followed up by the F/A-18C in 1/72 scale. Academy is back with this new 1/72 scale kit which is the first kit in any scale of the F/A-18A+ Hornet. Note in the first image you can see the IFF array molded in place ahead of the cockpit.
This kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on five parts trees, plus a single tree of clear parts. As with their previous Hornets, this kit features finely scribed details and is engineered to be a somewhat simpler build. 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.
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. 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:
- 2 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-18A+, BuNo 162396, VMFA-232, NH/300, USS Nimitz
This kit is another nice addition to the Academy scale flightline and should build into a beautiful replica of the F/A-18A+. 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!