AMT 1/48 F/A-18A Hornet Kit First Look
By Michael Benolkin
|Date of Review||October 2012||Manufacturer||AMT|
|Kit Number||0779||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Great kit for younger modelers||Cons||See text|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$24.99|
The Air Force was in full swing with its lightweight fighter program that pitted the General Dynamics YF-16 against the Northrop YF-17. The Navy was considering a purchase of the same type that won the Air Force's competition, but when the YF-16 was declared the winner, the Navy had second thoughts. The YF-16 had some inherent problems at the time, not the least of which was only one engine. The Navy decided to base their next fighter on the YF-17 Cobra.
During the acquisition process for this new aircraft, somehow McDonnell Douglas was selected to convert the YF-17 into a carrier-capable lightweight fighter while Northrop became a subcontractor to support their design. The conversion process turned out to be more difficult as time progressed as the Navy added requirements to the aircraft and these requirements translated into additional weight and cost. The resulting airframe was quite different from the original YF-17 and nearly 7,000 pounds heavier at empty weight.
The resulting F/A (Fighter AND Attack)-18A Hornet was the Navy's first 'swing fighter'. It could fly deep into gomer territory, deliver weapons on target, and even conduct serious air-to-air combat without having to jettison the air-to-ground weapons as was common with older strike aircraft. The Hornet has seen action with the US Navy and Marine Corps in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and in support of a variety of other operations. In addition to US service, the F/A-18 is also in service with the Canadian Armed Forces, the Royal Australian Air Force, the Swiss Air Force, Spain, Finland, Kuwait, and Malaysia.
I was surprised to see that Round 2 was reissuing one of AMT's aircraft kits (something Italeri has been doing over the last several years) and even more surprised to see one show up for review. This tooling has been around for many decades but as you more experienced modelers know, many of AMT's kits are still gems by today's standards. How does this kit stand out?
First, the kit is molded in gray styrene and presented on two parts trees plus four additional trees molded in white styrene and one small tree of clear parts. The panel lines and molded surface detailing is all raised, showing the age of this tooling. I don't think I've ever looked inside the box of one of these AMT Hornet kits and despite its age, it looks nicely detailed. Having said that, this isn't a kit that the AMS modeler nor the more experienced modeler would want to tackle as it does have some shortcomings on some of those details.
Overall, this kit appears to be based upon the very early block F/A-18A and some of the details like inside the cockpit were evidently designed before there was sufficient information available to the public. Nevertheless, the younger modeler isn't going to care much about these issues and with an MSRP of under $25 USD (and lower street prices), this is a lower-cost alternative for someone wanting a simple Hornet build.
The cockpit is Spartan, the instrument panel needs some work, and the control yoke needs to be replaced. The original wing had the open vented LERX that was later closed off save one small air channel and this kit has a patch to fix this change as well (also giving away the age of the tooling).
The box art is where I have some problems with this kit. The artist portrays the aircraft in two color schemes (provided inside the box) but the details on the tail and sort of correctly on the dorsal spine imply an F/A-18C while the title says F/A-18A. The ASPJ antennas are not in this tooling so the box art isn't correctly depicting the kit inside. The aircraft on the box is armed with a pair of AIM-9L (sort of) but the kit's Sidewinders are AIM-9B (sort of).
So if you're wondering why I'm getting on about the box art details above, the problems are also on the decal sheet. This sheet provides markings for two examples:
- F/A-18C, 164698, VMFA-323, WS/200
- F/A-18C, 164673, Centennial of Naval Aviation scheme
Take a look at the diamond pattern for the VMFA-323 dorsal spine. Both the box art correctly capture the 3-2-3 pattern but the box art got the shape of the diamonds very wrong whilst the decals have a space between the VMF and A (VMF A vice VMFA as shown in all of the online reference photos available). So while the box title and parts in this kit are correctly identified as F/A-18A, the box art and decals are F/A-18C. Again, the younger modeler won't care much about all of this, but the more advanced modeler would find these glitches a bit unusual these days.
It is good to see some of these classic toolings back on the market as they provide a lower cost alternative to modelers on a budget as well as modelers still learning the basics. The kit provides some intermediate level assemblies (more complex than snap-tite yet nowhere as complex as a Hasegawa Hornet) and the subjects provided will render some colorful subjects right out of the box.
This kit is recommended for younger modelers.
My sincere thanks to Round 2 Models for this review sample!