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F-80A Shooting Star Kit

Hobby Boss 1/48 F-80A Shooting Star Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review August 2013 Manufacturer Hobby Boss
Subject F-80A Shooting Star Scale 1/48
Kit Number 81723 Primary Media Styrene, Photo-Etch
Pros Nice details Cons Nothing noted
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $46.99

First Look

F-80A Shooting Star Kit
F-80A Shooting Star Kit
F-80A Shooting Star Kit
F-80A Shooting Star Kit

With the sudden appearance of not one, but several different jet-powered combat aircraft in the skies over WW2 Europe, the allies had a problem. More specifically, the Americans had a problem. The British had Sir Frank Whittle proving that his theory of jet-powered flight was practical while the Germans were putting that theory into production. The US had some catch-up work to do. With the loan of several Whittle engines, Bell was given the task of developing the American's first jet-powered fighter. The resulting P-59 Airacomet had unimpressive performance at best.

Kelly Johnson had sniffed out the secret P-59 development and wanted a piece of the action. He proposed a single engine design that Lockheed could get off the ground in short order. When the Army Air Force realized that the P-59 was a dead-end, Johnson was given the green light for the P-80. The resulting aircraft became the first practical allied single-engine jet fighter to enter production, second only to the brief life of the He 162 Volksjager.

Entering service too late for combat, the P-80 was soon redesignated as F-80 after the Air Force became a separate service in 1947. Before long however, the F-80 was transitioned into a fighter-bomber as newer jet-powered fighters were coming online. At the outbreak of hostilities on the Korean peninsula, the F-80C was one of the first fighters available to respond, but due to the lack of allied runways on the over-run peninsula, F-80s had to operate out of Japan, leaving little loiter time over target. Once allied forces began to re-take portions of South Korea, the F-80 was in the middle of the action. In fact, in November 1950, Lt. Russell Brown shot down a MiG-15 with his F-80! The F-80 was replaced in combat by the Republic F-84 and the North American F-86 by 1953.

Hobby Boss has developed the first new-tool of this subject in 1/48 scale in some time. Czech Model (MPM) took a shot at this subject in 1/32 scale with mixed results and quite a few aftermarket products were released to 'fix' the kit. I'll leave it to others to address the accuracy of the model but I like what I see so far!

Molded in light gray styrene, this kit is presented on six parts trees plus one tree of clear parts. This release represents the first operational variant of the Shooting Star family, the P-80A/F-80A. This version was powered by the Allison J33 (Rolls Royce Derwent) engine and was not yet equipped with an ejection seat. The F-80B would feature an ejection seat and some F-80A airframe were retrofitted with the ejection seat, and this kit represents the retrofitted F-80A nicely. These aircraft were also equipped with the 225 gallon tip tanks, so all of the other options in this box reveal some of the possibilities of future releases but these extra parts can go into your spares box.

There are some other interesting features in this box that you won't be using:

  • Avionics bay ahead of the cockpit with no way to see it
  • Maintenance break at the tail but the J33 engine is not complete for reveal

These tell me that this tooling was scaled down from a 1/32 release which we haven't yet seen, but indicate that a full J33 engine with removable tail and accessible gun/avionics nose bay will be among the features should Trumpeter/HobbyBoss decide to release the kits.

Among the features and options in this box:

  • Decent cockpit
  • Positionable canopy
  • Positionable flaps
  • Optional drop tanks
  • Optional underwing bomb load

Check your references to see if the F-80A you're representing had been upgraded to carry larger external tanks.

Markings are provided for two examples:

  • F-80A, 44-85033, 61 FS/56 FG, 1948
  • F-80A, 44-85464, 56 FG, 1948, Group Commander's aircraft

The decal sheet provides essential airframe stenciling as well as distinctive markings.

If you're a fan of what-if subjects, the P-80A would have been the principle front-line fighter for the USAAF had the war in Europe lasted any longer (as theorized in the Luft '46 modeling world). A handful of P-80s did make it to Europe before war's end with a few tasked to tackle the Arado Ar 234 Blitz bombers but these were too late to enter combat. This kit can be backdated to remove the ejection seat and represent a circa 1944/45/46 airframe replacing the P-51 in front-line service.

In any case, this is a nice looking kit and I look forward to seeing what additional variants of this Lockheed family are coming and hope that Trumpeter/HobbyBoss will release this in 1/32 scale as well.

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