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F-117A Kit

Italeri 1/72 F-117A Nighthawk 'Stars and Stripes' Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review August 2007 Manufacturer Italeri
Subject F-117A Nighthawk 'Stars and Stripes' Scale 1/72
Kit Number 1264 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Nice rendition of this aircraft Cons Book not included in this release - see text
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $18.95

First Look

F-117A Kit
F-117A Kit
F-117A Kit
F-117A Kit

The F-117A was developed out of Lockheed's Have Blue stealth technology demonstrator program in the 1970s which was intended to develop an aircraft that was 'invisible' to radar. The first F-117 flew in 1977 and the type became operational in 1983. While the aircraft might be invisible to radar, something that 'uniquely' designed would not remain unnoticed very long if operated during daylight hours. As a result, the 'black' jet would literally become black and operate primarily at night.

Despite a number of 'UFO' sightings, the F-117 remained a secret (at least from the American public) until revealed in late 1988. While designated 'F' as a fighter, this aircraft is really a precision strike attack aircraft. Its unique faceted surface effectively deflects radar, but the aircraft is not aerodynamically endowed. The fly-by-wire system makes the aircraft seem like a natural flyer to the pilot, but like the flight control system in the F-16, if that computer control is lost, you have no choice but to eject.

The F-117A demonstrated its true nature when it 'kicked down' the key enemy air defenses and strategic targets over Baghdad and other key locations in Iraq during the opening days of Operation Desert Storm. The F-117A flew numerous missions over heavily defended airspace without one combat loss. Conventional fighters would have been vulnerable to these air defense systems had they started off the war, but the F-117 peeled back these defenses until it was safe for other forces to operate in the airspace.

As with any military technology, the adversary will work hard to defeat any given advantage that the opposition has and the F-117 was one such target. During operations in Kosovo in 1999, a Serbian SA-3 site used a new technique that was reported to overcome the F-117s stealth and successfully shot one down. If this was a lucky shot, then the secrets of the F-117 were certainly lost as the aircraft was relatively intact after impact. For whatever reasons, the Clinton administration allowed the F-117 to be removed safely and no-doubt parts were express-mailed to all interested parties. The F-117's operational usefulness was rapidly coming to a close. The F-117A is scheduled to be retired in 2007 as the newer, stealthier (and meaner) F-22A Raptor comes online with more operational squadrons.

Here is Italeri's re-release of their F-117A kit in 1/72nd scale. This is actually the first time I've seen this kit up close and I am pleasantly surprised. While I'm no expert in the F-117A, it looks like the black jet right down to the faceted flight control edges.

The kit is molded in light gray styrene (thank you) and presented on two parts trees, plus a single tree with the canopy. The kit also includes an interesting display stand that reminds me of the old manufacturers' models produced in the 1950s and 1960s. This is a nice touch to pose your 'black jet' on your desk at work or on your shelf.

As with most Italeri kits, the cockpit is a simple tub with side consoles, and also provides a three-piece ACES II ejection seat as well as control stick and instrument panel. If you're posing the aircraft on the stand, you'll be keeping that canopy down, so the detail in the cockpit is just fine. If you pose it open, the AMS modeler may want to dress this area up a little more.

Another nice touch are the various landing gear and weapons bay doors. They're all molded together in logical assemblies to make the job of posing the aircraft in flight a snap. To pose the aircraft with the gear down, simply cut along the molded-in lines to separate the individual doors.

The weapons bay is definitely set up to be left open either on the ground or in the air. If you do pose the weapons bay open, the kit provides two weapons options, either a pair of laser-guided bombs (standard loadout) or two 'shapes'. The weapons do mount to what would be retracted trapeze arms inside the bay, but no provision is included to extend the weapons out of the bay.

Markings are included for two examples:

  • YF-117A, 79-10782, gray airframe with US Flag underneath, Groom Lake, New Mexico (!?!?)
  • YF-117A, 79-10783, black airframe with US Flag underneath

What have I told those guys at Area 51 about testing those transdimensional engines, now Groom Lake is in New Mexico. How are we going to explain that one...

This is a nice looking kit and either of these FSD (Full Scale Development) paint schemes would look nice on your shelf.

My sincere thanks to MRC for this review sample!