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F/A-18F Super Hornet 'VFA-103'

Academy 1/72 F/A-18F Super Hornet 'VFA-103' Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review September 2016 Manufacturer Academy
Subject F/A-18F Super Hornet 'VFA-103' Scale 1/72
Kit Number 12535 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Nice details, simple construction Cons See text
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $35.00

First Look

F/A-18F Super Hornet 'VFA-103'
F/A-18F Super Hornet 'VFA-103'
F/A-18F Super Hornet 'VFA-103'
F/A-18F Super Hornet 'VFA-103'

The Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet is the US Navy's frontline multi-role fleet fighter. Scaled up in size from the F/A-18A-D Hornet, the Super Hornet has more power, range and payload than its predecessors. The F/A-18F replaces 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 missions. 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 as it enters fleet service.

While the Super Hornet entered operational service during Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), these aircraft have provided day and night support of the fleet as well as for allied forces on the ground in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and beyond. The versatility of the airframe must keep the navy test and evaluation folks busy as new systems come online for the aircraft.

Academy has been undergoing an interesting transition. Their kit design and injection molding processes are continuously improving, but the design of their 1/72 scale aircraft kits have been moving in a unique direction. While various other model companies seem to compete for the most detailed, and sometimes over-engineered, kits of various subjects, Academy is moving to fill a void left by these companies. Rather than create yet another super-detailed kit for the advanced modeler, Academy is releasing kits that are oriented to the less-experienced modelers.

Take for example their F-4J, F-16 and T-50 snap-together kits, they are among the few new-tooled entry-level kits on the market. Each use a multi-colored plastic approach to create a model that doesn't require painting and even provide stickers in addition to (or in lieu of) waterslide decals. While the experienced modeler might shudder at the thought of not painting and decaling a model, these kits are great for kids and for adults re-entering the hobby after many years.

Here's Academy's latest new-tooled kit for the entry-level market - the 1/72 F/A-18F Super Hornet. Experienced modelers will appreciate the detail and accuracy of the kit while entry-level modelers will have this built in no time. The kit is also produced in multi-colored plastic with three trees and several separate parts molded in light gray, one tree molded in black, one tree molded in white, and one tree molded in clear plastic. There are even two sets of tails provided - gray vertical stabs for those who wish to paint their models and black vertical stabs for those who will use the VF-103 stickers.

Among the features and options in this kit:

  • Easy assembly
  • Nice cockpit
  • Canopy is molded in the closed position

External stores include:

  • AIM-9X on stations 1 and 11
  • AIM-120 on stations 2 and 10
  • GBU-38 on stations 3 and 9
  • External tanks on stations 4 and 8
  • Nothing on stations 5 and 7
  • External tank on centerline station 6

This release offers two markings options:

  1. F/A-18F, VF-103, AG/200, CAG, 2015
  2. F/A-18F, VF-103, AG/201, Skipper, 2014 (not included as stickers)

The decals and stickers both provide options for rendering the black around the canopy/windscreen, again a nice touch for less experienced modelers.

This is another nice entry-level kit from Academy that will also please more experienced modelers with the molded-in details waiting for the proper paint and washes. If you're concerned that Academy is leaving the detailed kit market, don't forget that they've produced the best F-4B/C/D/J kits in 1/48 scale to date and their recent 1/35 M1A2 Abrams and Tiger tanks are also well done. Nice job Academy!

My sincere thanks to MRC for this review sample!