Hobby Boss 1/48 Rafale C Kit First Look
|Date of Review
|Easy build, great details
During the late 70s/early 80s, the French Air Force began its quest for the next generation of fighter. Two of the primary candidates for domestic and international sales were the single-engine Mirage 2000 and the twin-engine Mirage 4000 from Dassault. While the Mirage 2000 was adopted by the French Air Force as its lead air-superiority fighter, the Mirage 4000 never made it beyond the prototype stage.
While the Rafale was to be powered by SNECMA M88s, the engines were not going to be ready in time for the prototype's flight schedules. The initial prototypes (Rafale A) were powered by the GE F404 (same powerplant as the FA-18, JAS-39 and F-20). The experience gained from the prototypes have lead to the production of the aircraft, designated Rafale C for the Air Force single seat fighter, Rafale B for the two-seat Air Force trainer/multi-mission aircraft, and Rafale M for the Navy.
If imitation is a sincere form of flattery, then Hobby Boss has offered some flattery to Revell Germany. This 1/48 version of the Rafale C is very similar to the Revell's Rafale M kit - similar, but not a carbon copy. While the parts design is similar, the parts are different to reflect the differences would would find in the Air Force's Rafale C. In addition, it appears that Hobby Boss also improved on the design to render a more detailed version of this beautiful aircraft.
The kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on seven parts trees, plus a single tree of clear parts. The molding is very nicely done and the scribed detailing is sharp. The layout of the kit looks to be compatible with a future release of a Rafale B two-seater.
The kit cockpit is nicely rendered with side-stick, throttle, five-piece ejection seat, rudder pedals and instrument panel all placed in a cockpit tub with detailed side consoles. How accurate this detailing might be will be up to a Rafale expert (I am not).
The main gear wells are molded separately and installed into the lower fuselage half. Even though the main gear doors remain closed with the gear down, you can see the full width of the detailed main gear wells through the open main gear strut doors. The nosegear well is molded into an insert that also installs into an opening on the underside of the lower fuselage half. The Revell kit did this too and I don't know why they'd add the extra complexity to the molds here. The main landing gear is nicely done.
The canards can be left movable. The rudder is molded separately and is positionable. While the trailing edge flaps and flaperons are molded separately, the leading edge flaps are molded up and locked.
The kit provides the following external stores options:
- 3 x 2000 liter external fuel tanks
- 3 x 1250 liter external fuel tanks
- 2 x MBDA Apache anti-runway missiles
- 2 x Magic missiles
- 2 x MICA I/II/III/IV missiles (different seeker heads are provided to render each type)
You can compare this kit with the Revell kit - go here to see our 1998 review of their Rafale M navy bird.
This kit provides markings for Rafale C01, the initial production example that first flew in May 1991. While there are only a small number of single seaters in service with the French Air Force at present, you can replicate any of these with some good photos.
The molds for the Hobby Boss Rafale series was based upon the Revell/Germany Rafale M and Rafale B kits which had a retail price of $30 USD when it was available almost 10 years ago. Hobby Boss has gone several steps beyond the Revell tooling - they not only replicated the Rafale M carrier fighter, they did this Rafale C single seat seat fighter, which was not released by Revell/Germany.
You'll also note that these kits are available from Hong Kong for around $23 USD. Yes, postage is a little more, but I've ordered kits from these shops and had them arrive airmail in my mail box just as fast as the US shops deliver via UPS ground. If you do the math, the additional postage and lower retail price is still cheaper than domestic prices and UPS shipping.
Definitely recommended at the right price.