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T-33A Shooting Star Kit

Great Wall Hobbies 1/48 T-33A Shooting Star 'RoCAF' Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review January 2017 Manufacturer Great Wall Hobby
Subject T-33A Shooting Star 'RoCAF' Scale 1/48
Kit Number S4805 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Still the best T-33A Shooting Star kit in any scale Cons See text
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $70.00

First Look

T-33A Shooting Star Kit
T-33A Shooting Star Kit
T-33A Shooting Star Kit
T-33A Shooting Star Kit

Last year, Great Wall Hobbies released the best T-33A kit produced in any scale to date. That is quite an accomplishment given the number of T-33 kits that have been produced over the years and how many of them had accuracy issues. For a look at the kit from the shape and accuracy perspective, read Fotios Rouch's original first look here. After we published the first look at Caracal Decals' T-33 Shooting Star sheet, I received an informative email from a former USAF T-33 pilot who pointed out that the Great Wall kit was an early T-33 and many of the subjects in the Caracal sheet needed a late-model T-33 to be accurate.

The T-33 entered production in 1948 as the T-33A-1-LO and the block 1 configuration was produced through 1956 though the block 5 (T-33A-5-LO) production began in parallel in 1953 and ran through 1958. These early block aircraft are recognizable by the single pitot tube located under the nose ahead of the nose gear. After a series of mishaps, the T-33 fleet was refit into the block 15 configuration which added a second pitot tube and located them on either side of the nose behind the gun/avionics doors and above the intakes. In addition, Lockheed's ejection seats were revised as well.

For those of you former crew dogs of the cold war, if you took the training in the early 1970s, you'll remember two T-33 training aids. First was the ejection simulator which fired you out of the cockpit and up the rails once you figured out how to heed the instructor and pull the handles and squeeze the triggers in one motion. The second was a free-standing T-33 seat where we once again strapped into the parachute and into the seat. Pull the handles and wait a few heartbeats, and you're standing several feet away with the parachute (or as one of my colleagues did - on his hands and knees). While the T-33 seat was far from zero-zero, the improvements added to the block 15 updates added the crew separator strap that kicked you clear of the seat while pulling your parachute lanyard in the process. If you were at low altitude and had sufficient airspeed, you might get your chute open enough to survive with these updates.

I've been waiting for the so-called block 15 T-33 to be released from Great Wall Hobbies and when this special edition popped up recently, I decided to grab one. This release is a special edition with Republic of China Air Force (RoCAF) markings, and without repeating Fotios' previous first look, let's look at features and options in the basic kit:

  • Nicely detailed cockpits
  • Early ejection seats without crew restraints
  • Positionable canopy
  • Optional boarding ladder
  • Positionable ailerons
  • Positionable elevators
  • Positionable rudder
  • Positionable flaps
  • Positionable speed boards
  • Detailed landing gear and wells

In addition to the above, this kit has a small sprue added with the original pitot tube under the nose as well as the later twin tubes for either side of the nose. You can do the Block 15 with this kit if you add/change some details on the ejection seats and locations of various antennas on the airframe. There are many good photo walk arounds of the T-33 online (including some in our Modeler's Online Reference) which will help with those details.

This release includes decals to render one of three examples:

  • T-33A, T-33028/57-0578, 3028, RoCAF
  • T-33A, T-33090/52-9285, 3090, RoCAF
  • T-33A, T-33069/57-70631, 3069, RoCAF

My wait for a block 15 T-33A is over. While there are a few details that will need to be addressed, the good news is that there are sufficient aftermarket ejection seats and generic antenna sets on the market that I can bring my T-33 up to date. If you have the original release of the T-33 (kit 4819), you can replace the pitot tubes as well.