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F-111 Kit

Italeri 1/48 F-111E/F Aardvark Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review November 2010 Manufacturer Italeri
Subject F-111E/F Aardvark Scale 1/48
Kit Number 2689 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Nice detail, simple build, reasonable street price Cons PAVE TACK pod not included in this release for the F-111F
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $68.00

First Look

F-111 Kit
F-111 Kit
F-111 Kit
F-111 Kit
F-111 Kit
F-111 Kit

The F-111 is a poster child for failed requirements management. The US Air Force was looking for their next generation fighter-bomber while the Navy was looking for a fleet defense fighter to replace the F-4 Phantom II and F-8 Crusader. Then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara insisted that the USAF and USN combine forces to buy a common platform to save money, but his staff failed to oversee the two services. While nobody was paying attention, the USAF and USN put so many service-specific requirements on the aircraft that it became impossible to meet the needs of both services with one airframe. The F-111B was a failure (as intended) and the F-111A nearly followed suit. In the end, the USAF acquired a highly capable Mach 2.5 deep penetration strike aircraft and the Navy got their fleet defense fighter with the F-14 Tomcat.

The F-111A was the USAF's first tactical strike variant and was sent into combat in Vietnam where they lost aircraft to what was attributed to wing failures. These were later identified as stabilator failures and these problems were resolved.

The F-111B was the USN's fleet defense variant that proved rather challenging to get on and off the carrier. The program was cancelled, but the aircraft's TF30 engines, AWG-9 radar, AIM-54 Phoenix missile, and other useful subsystems were rolled into the Grumman F-14A Tomcat.

The F-111C was the only export version of the series, destined for service with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).

The F-111D was the first of the next generation F-111 variants featuring an improved digital avionics suite, improved intakes and engines. The aircraft had so many teething problems that the USAF also purchased a similar number of F-111E/F Aardvarks which had the newer intakes and engines, but retained the earlier avionics.

The F-111F was the ultimate tactical strike fighter which had an improved suite of digital avionics over the F-111D as well as the improved engines and intakes.

The FB-111A was a nuclear deep-strike platform for the Strategic Air Command (SAC) to replace the B-58 Hustler. When the Tactical Air Command was transformed into Air Combat Command (ACC), the aircraft of SAC were absorbed into ACC and the FB-111A became the F-111G. As the USAF started phasing out the F-111 to help push the F-22 Raptor through the political maze in Washington, the RAAF acquired a number of the surplus F-111Gs to replace their aging F-111Cs.

At one time, the only F-111 kit in 1/48 scale was Monogram's F-111A, then Academy entered the fight and is the disputed Aardvark champion in 1/48th scale. I say disputed because HobbyBoss more recently issued their new F-111 series with more details that Academy, but from what I've gathered, there are some shape issues with the kit.

Academy released quite a few variants of the F-111 in 1/48th scale including the F-111E and F-111F. Italeri has now released this F-111E/F kit which is the Academy tooling that also includes Triple Plow I parts from some of the earlier variants.

The kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on five parts trees, plus a single tree of clear parts. Out of the box, the kit has a reasonably detailed cockpit, which is not unreasonable since the canopy was designed to be presented only in the closed position.

The landing gear is properly set in the weighted position, so if you want to build the aircraft in-flight with the gear-down, you'll need to check your references to articulate the main gear arms way down into the unweighted position.

In addition to syncronized wing sweep, the six inboard pylons will pivot in synch with the wings. The outboards remain fixed as on the actual aircraft. Paragon and others have produced some intricate conversions to render the leading edge slats and slotted flaps in the lowered position.

The stabilators can be positioned into whatever position you'd like to display your aircraft.

The kit has an interesting array of external stores options. The kit features SUU-20 (if I recall correctly) bomblet dispensers, four external tanks, an ECM pod, a pair of AIM-9Ls, and 12 Mk.82 bombs suspended on a pair of MERs. Aside from the external tanks, I'd get the Hasegawa weapons sets to bomb up your 'vark. You'll probably want to use some of the interesting weapons loads shown in our F-111 Reference Section.

What is interesting (and unfortunate) is that when Italeri obtained these sprues from Academy, they did not include the update sprue for the F-111F that Academy had produced that includes the PAVE TACK pod and GBU-28 bunker buster LGB. Consequently you have the more generic version of the F-111F as it first appeared in service, not as it appeared with the markings included in this release. This is easily fixed with Verlinden's set 1420 which provides the PAVE TACK pod, nice cockpit, ECM pod, and other nice details around the airframe.

Markings are provided for four examples:

  • F-111E, 67-0120, 20 TFW, RAF Upper Heyford, UK, 1992, Wing CC's acft
  • F-111E, 68-0077, 55 TFS/20 TFW, RAF Upper Heyford, UK 1979
  • F-111F, 70-0370, 494 TFS/48 TFW, RAF Lakenheath, UK 1993
  • F-111F, 70-0371, 492 TFW/48 TFW, RAF Lakenheath, UK, 1979

This release provides modelers with the F-111E option which has been out of production for a few years plus the F-111F. Either way, here are some new markings and possibilities as an alternative to the HobbyBoss kit.

My sincere thanks to MRC for this review sample!