Bronco Models 1/48 RQ/MQ-1 Predator Kit First Look
|Date of Review
|Nicely detailed kit
|Slightly over-engineered, Italian roundels slightly out of register
While Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV - AKA drones) have been around since World War 2, they've never been considered as a viable combat system. Primarily serving in the target role for gun and missile crews, UAVs started to evolve during Vietnam as a way to conduct reconnaissance in high threat areas. Ryan Firebee and the sinister-looking D-21 were used to get photos of target areas that were too dangerous to send manned reconnaissance aircraft. Experiments with the Firebee led to a few being armed with AGM-65 Maverick missiles, but these were never taken beyond testing.
Israel developed the Pioneer UAV which fostered a new push into unmanned airborne surveillance systems, and technology continued to evolve to support better (and lighter) sensors while also increasing the range/time aloft capabilities of these UAVs.
General Atomics, known for its nuclear sciences, developed a new division that specializes in unmanned aircraft. It's first production aircraft was the Predator, a simple airframe that was powered by a Rotax engine (similar to those used on ultra-light aircraft) which gave it a range of over 2000 miles and could reach altitudes up to 25,000 feet. With a cruise speed of 70-90 knots, it could loiter over areas of interest for longer than any other technology other than a tethered balloon. Entering USAF service as the RQ-1, a number of opportunities arose where targets appeared that would be gone again before another weapons system could be directed to the target. These frustrating moments led to the MQ-1, a Predator armed with a pair of Hellfire missiles. Today crews can continue to observe areas of interest, and when those rare moments arise where a target needs to be smited, they can dispatch a Hellfire to do the job.
Bronco Models has released the first Predator kit in 1/48th scale. While the kit has been released by Platz and Italeri (and reboxed by a few others), this is the first in this scale and is quite nicely done.
Molded in gray styrene, the kit is presented on two parts trees plus one tree of clear parts. There is no photo-etch or other multimedia parts in this kit. While the airframe is relatively straightforward in construction, for some reason Bronco over-engineered the landing gear. What should have been three simple struts and wheels turns into 3-4 piece struts plus wheels. In this scale, these parts are small and will require patience and good glue to get strong enough gear to set this model on its wheels.
You'll notice in the images that there are two lower fuselage parts, this provides you with the option to model the RQ-1 or the improved MQ-1 variants. Two FLIR turrets are also provided to properly reflect the differences. The instructions don't clearly show which parts render which version of the Predator. The details and differences are sometimes subtle so you'll need to look at some photos over on the US Air Force website to get an idea of which parts contribute to a given version or production block of Predators.
The kit also provides a variety of antennas, intake scoops and other details to really detail this model. A pair of AGM-114 Hellfires are also provided should you want to build the MQ-1.
As another nice touch, a set of wheel chocks are included so you can pose this model on the flightline awaiting its next mission.
Markings are provided for three US and one Italian example.
This is a nice looking kit and represents the first of many UAVs that are either in service or soon to be in service within the US military as well as around the world. I hope that Bronco will follow this up with the MQ-9 Reaper (a super-sized Predator) as well as the Global Hawk in 1/48 scale. I can only hope that Avionix will hurry up and release a cockpit detail set for this kit...
For a look at this kit built-up, click here.