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YF-23 Black Widow II Kit

Hobby Boss 1/48 YF-23 Black Widow II Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review October 2013 Manufacturer Hobby Boss
Subject YF-23 Black Widow II Scale 1/48
Kit Number 81722 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Simple build, great subject Cons Nothing noted
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $69.99

First Look

YF-23 Black Widow II Kit
YF-23 Black Widow II Kit
YF-23 Black Widow II Kit
YF-23 Black Widow II Kit

The YF-23 was Northrop's answer for the US Air Force's Advanced Tactical Fighter Program which developed the first generation-five fighters in the world. Unlike Lockheed Martin's YF-22 which looks a bit awkward, the YF-23 had the lines that just looked right and from all available reports, had excellent handling and performance characteristics. Nevertheless, the YF-22 demonstrated more capabilities with live weapons releases and higher maneuverability which led to its selection as the F-22 Raptor.

The story doesn't end here though, when the USAF started looking at the next generation bomber, Northrop-Grumman retrieved PAV-2 (the second test aircraft) from the Western Museum of Flight and based their strike bomber concept on the YF-23 planform. Eventually PAV-2 was returned to the Western Museum of Flight for display and perhaps one day we'll see if the next generation bomber looks anything like a YF-23. The PAV-1 is in Dayton at the National Museum of the US Air Force.

Here's a subject I never thought I'd see in 1/48 scale, the YF-23. This kit from Hobby Boss is molded in light gray styrene and presented on five parts trees plus a small tree of clear parts. Given that this is a model of a prototype aircraft, the kit is simple in layout and detail. Among the features and options in the kit:

  • Detailed cockpit
  • Positionable canopy
  • Nicely detailed wheel wells and landing gear
  • Positionable ruddervators

The intake trunks are the right shape and depth, the afterburner chambers not so much, but these can be corrected easily enough. The weapons bay isn't represented except for the door outlines under the fuselage. The flaps and ailerons are all molded in the up/neutral position. Again, some careful work can change these as well.

Remembering that this kit is of the prototypes which have little resemblance to what the operational aircraft would look like, you can have some poetic license to detail up this kit to suit your own vision of how a production F-23A might have appeared. By contrast, the YF-22 was lengthened and re-proportioned when it became the F-22A so it doesn't look quite as awkward as the prototype. Lockheed Martin had to make a number of changes to the Raptor to make it fully compliant to the ATF's requirements. Had Northrop won the day, they too would have made a number of updates/changes to suit the Air Force's final production requirements. Who knows how it might have looked like after that transformation. I have a few ideas, but more on that another day.

Markings are provided for a notional F-23A assigned to the First Fighter Wing at Langley AFB. The decals also have basic airframe stenciling included.

I'm happy to see this aircraft in kit form and you can look forward to a few builds of this gem in the near future. Until now you only had a few smaller scale kits of this subject and beautiful images of the 1/32 prototype model that Zactomodels has been developing in resin over the last several years (with a few more years to go at last word).

My sincere thanks to Squadron Mail Order for this review sample!

For a walk around look at the YF-23 PAV-2 airframe, check out our YF-23 Modeler's Reference.