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Hobby Boss 1/48 A-10A Thunderbolt II Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review March 2007 Manufacturer Hobby Boss
Subject A-10A Thunderbolt II Scale 1/48
Kit Number 80323 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Easy build, great external details Cons
Skill Level Novice MSRP (USD) $69.95

First Look


When the A-10 was first conceived, it was primarily a gun-toting tank killer that could provide close air support (CAS) to the troops back in the days of the great Soviet/Warsaw Pact threat of invasion into western Europe. Even with all of the NATO armies' assets combined, nobody had as many tanks and armored vehicles as the combined forces of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact. What planners envisioned was a series of great 'equalizers' that could blunt or even halt the tank armies. Out of that need came the USAF's Fairchild A-10 (defeating the Northrop A-9) and the US Army's AH-64 Apache.

Even as the aircraft was entering service, the A-10 was looked down upon by many Pentagon staffers as it was not a stealthy hi-tech superfighter. The aircraft would not get a chance to prove its worth until Operation Desert Storm where it decimated the Iraqi tank armies. The aircraft was also ideal for conducting Sandy operations - escorting Combat Search and Rescue helicopters. When it did get hit by enemy fire, the promises heard from the manufacturer turned out to be true - the aircraft could still fly with part of a wing, one tail, and one engine missing. But I digress...

The A-10 is a very stable Mach-none weapons platform. It has eleven weapons pylons that can carry just about everything INCLUDING the bathroom sink, but the primary weapon of the A-10 is that huge GAU-8 Avenger 30mm cannon that occupies most of the forward fuselage. Even so, the gun was limited in its capabilities until a significant upgrade called Low Altitude Safety and Targeting Enhancement (LASTE) was fitted on the aircraft that gave it far improved low-altitude capabilities. Another significant upgrade came in 1999, prior to Desert Storm, giving the A-10A GPS navigation capabilities.

A number of A-10As were modified with air-to-ground (Army) radios to give the aircraft a Forward Air Control (FAC) capability. These aircraft have been redesignated as OA-10A. More recently, A-10s are being refitted for a long-overdue targeting pod (Sniper, Litening, LANTIRN) capability and are also receiving multi-function displays (MFDs). These upgraded Hawgs are being redesignated as A-10C.

When Trumpeter released the 1/32 A-10A and A-10 N/AW kits, they provided some jaw-dropping detail that significantly raised the bar on what constitutes a detailed model. Hobby Boss has now released these kits in 1/48 scale and they've done a nice job in tooling those parts rendered in resin by Trumpeter as styrene in these kits.

I had an opportunity to review the Hobby Boss A-10 N/AW kit recently and was so impressed with what was in the box, I searched the internet for this A-10A kit. While I obtained the A-10 N/AW from HobbyLink Japan, they were sold out of the A-10A. Much to my surprise, I haven't found anyone in North America that carries the 1/48 Hobby Boss line and most of the overseas shops were sold out. I finally located this one at Lucky Model in Hong Kong. As with the A-10 N/AW kit, Hobby Boss did a great job in rendering this kit!

What comes in the box is ten parts trees molded in light gray styrene, plus two smaller trees of clear parts. There doesn't appear to be any problems with ejector pin marks in visible areas of the model (after assembly) nor are there any issues with molding flash.

Construction starts with the cockpit and they've correctly supplied ACES II ejection seat. The instrument panel is rendered as decal in the kit. The cockpit has the stick and throttle provided.

The next step is the GAU-8 Avenger cannon. The gun has the fully detailed multi-barrel 30mm gatling gun, ammo feed and shell retrieval chutes, and the ammo drum. If you've ever watched the A-10 strafe, you've never seen a spent shell drop out of the aircraft. That's because when you fire off all of the rounds, you've lost around 1,200 pounds of weight in the nose. Drop those empty casings as well and you may have a dangerous tail-heavy aircraft in some conditions.

The split aileron/speed brakes are molded separately so you can position them any way you'd like. The flaps are also molded separately for your pleasure. The rudders and elevators are molded in place, but this is okay as you don't usually see the rudders or elevators displaced on the ground.

Like the 1/32 scale release, this kit comes with a wealth of external stores:

  • 6 x AGM-65
  • 12 x Mk.82 slicks
  • 12 x Mk.20 CBUs
  • 2 x MERs
  • 2 x Maverick triple-rail launchers
  • 2 x GBU-10
  • 2 x GBU-8
  • 2 x ALQ-119
  • 2 x ALQ-131
  • 2 x AIM-9L
  • 1 x AIM-9 twin-rail launcher

This kit provides markings for two examples:

  • A-10A, 80-0209, 23 TFW, England AFB, 1990
  • A-10A, 77-0205, 906 TFG, LA ANG, 1991

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.

In my personal opinion, I believe the Hobby Boss A-10 is the best in 1/48 scale with the Italeri kit running second. The Monogram kit is an older tooling that is still nice in detail but represents the pre-LASTE configuration and then there are those permanently open speed brakes. Brining up the rear is Tamiya's ill-fitting A-10 that was patterned from the early prototype Hawgs. Given that, you have to decide if the Hobby Boss kit is worth twice the price of the Italeri kit, and so forth.