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F/A-18D ATARS Hornet Kit

Kinetic 1/48 F/A-18D ATARS Hornet Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review January 2019 Manufacturer Kinetic
Subject F/A-18D ATARS Hornet Scale 1/48
Kit Number 48033 Primary Media Styrene, Photo-Etch
Pros Nice kit and decals Cons See text
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $39.99

First Look

F/A-18D ATARS Hornet Kit
F/A-18D ATARS Hornet Kit
F/A-18D ATARS Hornet Kit
F/A-18D ATARS Hornet Kit
F/A-18D ATARS Hornet Kit
F/A-18D ATARS Hornet Kit

There is a wealth of good information about the history of the Hornet available, but if you want a brief history, look here. The U.S. Marine Corps may be a part of the Department of the Navy, but they operate aircraft that meet their operational needs. One of the capabilities adopted by the USMC was the Advanced Tactical Airborne Reconnaissance System (ATARS), originally a USAF program to give the F-16 a tactical reconnaissance capability after the retirement of the RF-4C Phantom II. While the USAF withdrew from ATARS after escalating costs made the program too expensive,

DoD was able to get the ATARS prices back down to allow a handful of F/A-18D Hornets to be modified for ATARS. Like the USAF, the Marines had been without tactical air reconnaissance since the retirement of their RF-4B Phantom II platforms. Around a dozen D-models were modified to carry the ATARS system in the nose in place of the M61 gun system, and when the ATARS is installed, the underside of the nose has a special panel installed with camera windows. For real-time downlinking from the ATARS-equipped Hornet, a small pod with a common datalink system is installed on the centerline station. The reconnaissance capable Hornets are designated as F/A-18D (RC).

In one of the previous Hornet releases from Kinetic, one of the parts trees included ATARS parts which hinted at a new kit to come. Well that kit has arrived with this release - the F/A-18D (RC) ATARS Hornet. This kit is molded in the usual gray styrene and presented on 12 parts trees (duplicate trees not shown) plus three trees of clear parts and one fret of photo-etched parts. Just looking at the kit, you can see just how far Kinetic has come as the surface details are sharp, the panel lines and rivet details are also sharp and not overdone.

Among the features and options in this kit:

  • Nicely detailed cockpits complete w/detailed sidewalls
  • Detailed NACES seats w/photo-etched pilot restraints
  • Positionable canopy
  • Photo-etched canopy bow w/mirrors
  • Positionable boarding ladder
  • Nice intake ducts down to F404 compressor faces
  • Nice afterburner chambers and nozzles
  • Positionable air refueling probe
  • Choice of grille patterns on the two portside LERX vents
  • Positionable outer wing panels (flight or folded)
  • Positionable leading edge flaps
  • Positionable trailing edge flaps
  • Positionable flaperons
  • Positionable stabilators
  • Positionable speed brake
  • Photo-etched chaff/flare launcher faces

Weapons/stores options include:

  • 2 x AIM-9L/M Sidewinder
  • 2 x AIM-9X Sidewinder
  • 2 x AIM-120B AMRAAM
  • 2 x AIM-120C AMRAAM
  • 2 x GBU-12 Paveway II LGB
  • 2 x GBU-38 JDAM
  • 2 x GBU-87 CEM
  • 1 x AAQ-28 Litening
  • 2 x vertical ejector racks
  • 3 x 330 gallon tanks

Marking options include:

  • F/A-18D (RC), 164951, VMFA(AW)-332, BM/04, OAF 1999
  • F/A-18D (RC), 164876, VMFA(AW)-224, WK/11, OIR 2017
  • F/A-18D (RC), 164886, VMFA(AW)-224, WK/00, MCAS Iwakuni, 2009, Sqn Commander's aircraft (tiger stripes)

The decal sheet is nicely done, designed by Flying Leathernecks (who knows how to model USMC aviation better than Dave Roof?) and printed by Cartograf. The tiger stripes for 164886 are nicely laid out in sections to make that scheme easy to render.

As with many of the later Kinetic kits, this release provides color call-outs for individual parts and details, but they are all using Ammo by Mig numbers. There is a table near the back of the instruction book that provides the name of the color as well as the Vallejo and less-than-complete Gunze, Tamiya, and Humbrol color equivalents. You'll want to book-mark the page with that table as you'll be referring to it frequently as the build progresses.

The Kinetic F/A-18 Hornet kits remain the best kits of the subject in 1/48 scale and considering these sell for under $40 USD from Lucky Model, they are also the best bargains on the market.

My sincere thanks to Lucky Model for this review sample!