Kinetic 1/48 EA-6B Prowler Kit First Look
By Michael Benolkin
|Date of Review||July 2010||Manufacturer||Kinetic|
|Kit Number||48022||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Nicely detailed kit with scribed detailing and folding wing option||Cons||Nothing noted|
|Skill Level||Experienced||MSRP (USD)||$74.95|
The EA-6A Intruder was a special purpose electronic warfare variant developed from the A-6A attack airframe to replace the aging EF-10A Skyknights of the US Marine Corps. These aircraft were intended to jam enemy radars to provide safe passage for strike aircraft through radar-guided gun and missile defenses. While the EA-6A was capable of shooting the AGM-45 Shrike anti-radiation missile, it wasn't employed very often.
When North Vietnam started employing the SA-2 Guideline against the 'Yankee Air Pirates', the Navy converted a handful of A-6As into the A-6B to perform their own 'Wild Weasel' suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD). Like the F-100F weasels, these first dedicated SEAD aircraft suffered a number of losses before crews learned how to turn the tables on the SAM operators.
While the A-6B was dueling with the SAM sites up north, Grumman started work on an improved jamming platform that would be more effective in a dense electronic threat environment. The challenge for the A-6B and the EA-6A was that there was only one operator and not very much equipment on those aircraft to counter multiple threats. Grumman stretched the Intruder airframe ahead of the wing to add another two-place cockpit to host a total of three mission systems operators, and a plug aft of the wing to house more offensive avionics. The football-like antenna fairing atop the EA-6A was adopted on the EA-6B as well.
Each of the four underwing pylons as well as the centerline station could carry a jamming pod. These pods housed different jammers that could be employed independently by the operators as needed, but the EA-6B didn't have sufficient generator capacity on its J-52 engines to power everything at once. An innovative Ram Air Turbine (RAT) was installed on the front of each of these pods to supply supplemental electrical power to these mission systems. (In the early days of the USAF's EF-111A Raven program, it was rumored that during an evaluation of these pods on the Raven, one of the pilots had a temporary loss of situational awareness and put the Raven supersonic on the deck. Let's just say these RATs didn't hold up above Mach 1).
The EA-6B has been through several ICAPs (improved capabilities) which updated the avionics and other systems to keep up with the evolving threat environment. One of these ICAP phases finally introduced the AGM-88 HARM to the Prowler, giving it the capability to conduct three types of jamming: passive (chaff), active (jamming), and terminal (explosive).
There was a great deal of excitement when Kinetic first released CAD drawings of their planned EA-6B tooling. This would be the first 1/48 Intruder or Prowler that offered the option of folded or extended wings. The Monogram and Airfix were the previous entries into the 1/48 Prowler market with the Airfix kit being the first. The later Monogram kit addressed some of the detail deficiencies of the earlier kit, but it still required some work to render an accurate EA-6B. The Monogram and Airfix kits were patterned after the ICAP-1 configuration.
This kit takes a completely fresh look at the Prowler with scribed detailing, an ICAP-III configuration, and the option for folding wings. Molded in light gray styrene, the kit is presented on nine parts trees, plus a single tree of clear parts.
The front offices are really nicely done with good detailing in both cockpits. While I'm sure there will be resin and photo-etch updates for this kit, the experienced modeler can do fine straight out of the box. The GRU-7EA ejection seats are very nicely done with only seat belts and shoulder harnesses needed to complete the look.
The fuselage is molded in two halves, with a belly pan render the concave underside, and this belly pan also has the nose gear well on the front end. The tail hook recess is also molded as a separate part, which means a little patience and test fitting/adjusting will be needed to optimize the fit of the various parts.
The intakes are blanked out not far down the pipe which isn't uncommon with many kits, and the good news is that there are enough resin seamless intake ducts for the A-6 and EA-6B (Monogram) kits out there that you can adapt a set for this airframe as well. The exhaust ducts do have the J-52 turbine face at the end of each duct.
While some may not care for the three-piece wheels in this kit, I rather like what Kinetic has done here. The wheel hubs are molded as one part each, so these can be painted and weathered before assembling the tire halves. These tires can also be pre-painted and touching up tire black is a snap.
The kit's landing gear struts are molded to be solid (to bear the weight of this kit) but I suspect that we'll see some white metal struts from Scale Aircraft Conversions coming soon to provide a sturdier stance for this Prowler.
The flight control surfaces (ailerons and rudder) are molded in-place as are the flaps and slats. The stabilators are designed with some sturdy pivot joints, so these should provide a solid installation on the rear of your aircraft.
As mentioned before, the wings can be built extended or folded, and the wing fold detailing is quite nice.
The canopies can be posed open or closed, but you'll have to take some care here as the forward and rear clamshell canopies were molded in halves, so you'll have to carefully glue the halves together along the center frame line without crazing the clear areas nearby.
The kit also offers positionable port and starboard boarding steps as well as positionable forward cockpit access platforms.
The external stores options in this kit include:
- 2 x external tanks
- 3 x ECM pods
- 1 x AGM-88 HARM
These will offer you some mix and match configurations as it isn't uncommon for the Prowler to carry asymmetric loads/configurations. The HARM sprue comes out of the Block 50/52 F-16C kit as you'll also see the HTS pod that you won't be using in this build.
This release has one marking option:
- EA-6B, 163046, VAQ-140, AG/500, USS Dwight D Eisenhower, CAG mount for CVW-7 skipper
These are some colorful markings and these were designed by Fightertown Decals and printed by Cartograf. Nice!
This latest gem from Kinetic will do well and I hope they've got the A-6 series on the drawing board as well. With a little patience, this will build into a very nice Prowler straight out of the box. For the AMS modeler, you've got a great start here and let the aftermarket options begin!
My sincere thanks to Stevens International and Lucky Model for this review sample!