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JA-37/AJ-37 Viggen Kit

Italeri 1/48 JA-37/AJ-37 Viggen Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review November 2018 Manufacturer Italeri
Subject JA-37/AJ-37 Viggen Scale 1/48
Kit Number 2785 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Classic kit Cons See text
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $39.95

First Look

JA-37/AJ-37 Viggen Kit
JA-37/AJ-37 Viggen Kit
JA-37/AJ-37 Viggen Kit

The Saab Model 37 Viggen was an innovative multirole fighter design used exclusively by the Swedish Air Force. There were five variants of the aircraft produced: the AJ-37 fighter-bomber, SK-37 two-seat trainer, SH-37 maritime patrol, SF-37 reconnaissance, and JA-37 all-weather fighter/interceptor. The AJ-37 and JA-37 are frequently confused but the easiest distinguishing feature is the top of the vertical stabilizer - if the leading edge and trailing edge of the vertical stabilizer is straight from the base to the tip, it is an AJ-37. The JA-37 has a tip extension on top of the old vertical stabilizer that sweeps aft near the top of the trailing edge. More difficult to detect is a small fuselage extension added to the JA-37 between the canards and main wings. The Viggen served in front-line service through the mid-2000s and was the most advanced European fighter during the 1970s and 1980s until the PANAVIA Tornado entered service.

Back in the mid-1970s, ESCI released the first and only kit of the Viggen in 1/48 scale (until a few years ago). As with all kits of that era, the model features fine raised panel lines and minimalistic details in the cockpit and wheel wells. The kit also has a few shape issues that the average modeler might not notice, but there are good build reviews available online where skilled modelers built nice Viggens out of this kit.

ESCI reissued this kit several times during the 1970s and 1980s, and Airfix even released this tooling in their own box around 1990 and again in 2002. Most of the ESCI tooling ended up in Italeri's hands, and after a 16-year lapse, they have released this kit for the first time in their own box. While Italeri has not made any additions or corrections to the kit, they did provide the full array of parts for the AJ and JA releases. The kit is molded in gray styrene and presented on four parts trees, plus one tree of clear parts.

Among the features and options of this kit:

  • Spartan cockpit
  • Positionable canopy
  • Intakes down to blank plates (typical of this era)
  • Positionable speed brakes
  • Ventral gun fairing (JA version)
  • Basic afterburner nozzle covered by closed thrust reverser (see notes)
  • Choice of AJ or JA vertical stabilizers

External stores include:

  • 1 x Centerline fuel tank
  • 2 x RB-05 air-to-ground missiles
  • 2 x RB-24 Sidewinders
  • 2 x RM-71 Skyflash
  • 2 x Rocket pods

This kit comes with markings for four aircraft:

  • JA-37Di, 52, Flygflotillj 4, Froson/Ostersund AB, 2004
  • JA-37Di, 02, Flygflotillj 21, Lulea AB, 2004
  • AJ-37, 52/SE-DXN, Swedish Historic Flight, 2017
  • JA-37, 55, Flygflotillj 4, Froson/Ostersund AB, 2004

You might wonder why anyone might be interested in the ESCI tooling after Tarangus released their definitive 1/48 Viggen kit. The Tarangus 1/48 Viggen kits wound up having a number of inaccuracies of their own which prompted an impressive array of corrections. One of those companies also released corrections for the ESCI (Italeri) kit as well. I initially thought the Tarangus Viggens were out of production since I couldn't find any of the major US hobby companies carrying the kits, but after I was contacted by one of the owners of Tarangus, I did find that the kits are available in Europe and from one US hobby shop. (If you look at eBay prices, you'd think the Tarangus kits are now collectors items!) In any case, if you start with the ESCI/Airfix/Italeri tooling and add the various corrections, you'll save lots of money compared to the Tarangus kit plus all of those corrections. While I understand that Tarangus has added an additional sprue to address some of their Viggens' issues, that doesn't help those of us who bought the original releases.

Notes:

  • If you're doing the JA-37, you might want to add a fuselage plug to lengthen the kit's fuselage. You can Google the JA-37 build to see how simple and how others have done that task
  • There are several resin cockpit sets for the Viggen that will address the bare cockpit in this kit
  • One of the unique features of the Viggen was its thrust reverser to operate from shorter airfields without a parachute. Until the Tornado entered service, the Viggen was the only production fighter with a thrust reverser. In this kit, the reverser petals are molded closed, so you'll need to cut the petals apart and shape them to fit inside the rear duct

There are some good studies of the Viggen online which will walk you through the corrections needed not only for the ESCI/Airfix/Italeri kit, but the Tarangus/SH kit as well. With the street price of this kit below the low price of $39.95 MSRP, you can have a starting point on your own detailed Viggen for roughly 25% of the going prices for the Tarangus/SH releases and in fact, you can probably buy this kit and the needed aftermarket items and still come out cheaper than the basic Tarangus/SH options.

Thanks to MRC for the review sample.

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