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Hobby Boss 1/48 F/A-18A Hornet Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review May 2007 Manufacturer Hobby Boss
Subject F/A-18A Hornet Scale 1/48
Kit Number 80320 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Easy build, great external details Cons Sparse cockpit detail
Skill Level Novice MSRP (USD) $69.99

First Look


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.

If imitation is a sincere form of flattery, then Hobby Boss has offered some flattery to rival Hasegawa. This 1/48 version of the F/A-18A Hornet is very similar to the Hasegawa kit - similar, but not a carbon copy. While the parts layout is similar, the parts are a little different.

The kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on nine parts trees, plus a single tree of clear parts. The molding is very nicely done and make the panel lines and details on the Hasegawa kit look soft. While there are many similarities between the two kits, there are some differences as well.

The fuselage halves of the two kits do not line up. The Hobby Boss fuselage is just a hair longer than the Hasegawa kit. As I mentioned above, when you hold the two fuselages together, you're instantly struck by just how soft the panel lines are on the Hasegawa kit. They aren't overdone on the Hobby Boss kit, but they are deeper. While you can see rivet detail on the Hobby Boss kit, it is also present on the Hasegawa kit as well, only softer.

The Hasegawa kit provides a two-place cockpit tub in their Hornets, with the rear tub being hidden in the single seat versions. Hobby Boss only provides the single tub in the A-model kit. Two types of ejection seats are provided in the kit, though only one is used. I think it's a safe bet we'll be seeing a C-model in our future - especially with the vertical stabs rendered on a smaller separate sprue tree.

The wings in both kits have positionable leading and trailing edge flaps and flaperons. Both kits also have positionable speed brakes.

The landing gear and gear wells in both kits are nicely done.

The intakes on the Hasegawa kit choke down to provide the illusion of depth. The Hobby Boss intakes don't choke down unrealistically, but they are still not very deep.

Both kits provide two types of engine nozzles, decent afterburner chambers and turbine faces at the end of each chamber.

Both kits provide positionable canopies and optional boarding ladders.

The Hasegawa kit provides a pair of external fuel tanks, a pair of Vertical Ejector Racks (VER), the navigation pod and the targeting/FLIR pod. The Hobby Boss kit provides:

  • 3 x external fuel tanks
  • Targeting/FLIR pod
  • IR Navigation pod
  • 2 x AIM-7 Sparrow
  • 2 x AIM-9L/M Sidewinder
  • 2 x AGM-84E SLAM
  • 2 x AGM-88 HARM
  • 2 x GBU-31 JDAM
  • 2 x GBU-10 Paveway
  • 6 x Mk.82 slicks
  • 2 x VER

You can compare this kit with the Hasegawa kit - go here to see our review of one of Hasegawa's nice Hornet releases.

This kit provides markings for three examples:

  • F/A-18A, BuNo 163132, VM/01, VMFA-451, USMC, 'Dirty Dan'
  • F/A-18A, BuNo 161353, XF/25, VX-4, USN PMTC, Black Bunny, 1987
  • F/A-18A, BuNo 161939, NK/400, VFA-25, USS Constellation, 1984

Two sheets of decals are included, one for the distinctive unit and national markings, the second for all of the weapons and external pod markings.

The molds for these F/A-18 Hornet kits are obviously based upon the Hasegawa kits with some improvements and a few minor bugs. As long as these kits were priced around $35, they were a nice step between the venerable Revell-Monogram and the beautiful Hasegawa Hornets.

Last year, the Hasegawa F/A-18C had an MSRP of $59.95 before they went out of production (for now). A quick survey of several online retailers (see the table to the right) indicate that these Hobby Boss Hornet kits are settling in with a street price around $60 in the US and at Hannants in the UK. So are these kits worth as much (or more) than the Hasegawa kits?

Definitely recommended at the right price.

My sincere thanks to Wings n' Treads for this review sample!