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F-16A Kit

Kinetic 1/48 F-16A Block 20 MLU Fighting Falcon Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review April 2011 Manufacturer Kinetic
Subject F-16A Block 20 MLU Fighting Falcon Scale 1/48
Kit Number 48036 Primary Media Styrene, Photo-Etch, Turned Brass
Pros Well engineered and lots of options never before seen in a 1/48 scale Viper kit Cons Nothing noted
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $25.95

First Look

F-16AM Kit
F-16AM Kit
F-16AM Kit
F-16AM Kit
F-16AM Kit
F-16AM Kit
F-16AM Kit
F-16AM Kit
F-16AM Kit

For a look at the differences between F-16 blocks, look here.

The box art shows that this kit is an F-16AM Block 20 or F-16A Block 20 MLU. This might seem redundant or confusing to Viper fans, but what they're trying to say is you can build an F-16A Block 20 Viper or F-16AM MLU Viper. What's the difference? The MLU is a Mid-Life-Update that was performed on older F-16A Block 10 and Block 15 airframes to bring them up to a new common standard whereas the Block 20 is a new-build F-16A that was built to that same standard on the production line. Functionally and visibly you can't tell the two apart except perhaps for fewer age marks in the Block 20 airframes.

This particular subject is F-16AM FA-87 of the Belgian Air Force which is an F-16A Block 15M that had US serial number of 80-3578 during its construction. It received its MLU upgrade some years later and continues to serve in 31 Squadron at Kleine Brogel AB. This particular aircraft has worn four consecutive Tiger Meet paint schemes, this one as seen at the 2009 and 2010 weapons meets.

This kit was first released nearly two years ago as kit number 48002 and provided us with a treasure trove of options and possibilities in the box. In this release, a few of the options like the LANTIRN pods and Penguin missiles have been deleted and in their place are some new features.

The kit is molded in medium gray styrene and presented on 12 parts trees, plus two trees of clear parts. This release has a set of photo-etched parts for all of the airframe scab plates that were evidently added during the MLU upgrade (I doubt you'd find these on the new-build Block 20s for several more years). In addition, this release also features a turned brass pitot tube for the tip of the radome. Nice touch!

The F-16A MLU differs from the 'standard' F-16A in a number of different areas, but visible external differences include:

  • APX-113 IFF 'bird cutter' antennas ahead of the windscreen (also seen on CCIP Block 50/52 USAF aircraft and new-production Block 20, Block 50/52 and Block 60)
  • Landing/taxi lights on the nose gear door (also like the late-block Vipers)
  • EO/Laser pod on the starboard intake pylon (like Block 40/42 and CCIP Block 50/52)
  • New enhanced pylons with chaff/flare dispensers
  • Capability to carry a wider range of US and NATO weapons

The F-16A MLU Block 15/20 is still powered by the Pratt and Whitney F100 engine as were the unmodified Block 1-15 F-16A/B Vipers. GE engines haven't been adapted to the early blocks, only Blocks 30, 40, 50, and 60. This means that you won't see any need for widemouth intakes or GE nozzles with any of the F-16A/B or F-16AM/BM variants.

The kit cockpit is nicely done, though I can't wait to see some color photo-etch from Eduard for the instrument panel and side consoles. The ACES II ejection seat looks good here as well though you'll want to grab some photo-etched belts and harness attachments from somewhere.

The kit features a full intake duct with some really nice details that go into the main wheel wells.

The IFF antenna panel is an insert that goes onto the nose ahead of the windscreen, just like Tamiya's kit. Like Tamiya, the kit also has the plain panel if you really want to backdate the kit to a standard Block 15.

If you rummage through the parts, you'll also see the dorsal and ventral bird cutter antennas as well as the bulged fairing at the base of the vertical stab for F-16A ADF.

While we're on the subject of the nose, the kit also provides the side panels below the IFF nose panel as separate parts, just like the Tamiya kit. Unlike the Tamiya kit however, this one offers two different port-side panels, the standard with the RHAW blister, and the other with the RHAW blister and spotlight used by the Norwegians and the Danes (and the F-16A ADF).

This kit molds the wheel hubs and tires separately. Finally, a set of wheels easy to paint! Two different styles of wheel hubs are provided, so check your references. the leading edge flaps are molded separately as are the trailing edge flaps, so you can pose this model in-flight with everything 'hanging out'.

As I mentioned earlier, this kit offers several different sets of parts for the base of the vertical stabilizer so you can accurately replicate the different tail configurations used by the different NATO air forces.

The canopy is as clear as I've ever seen in a kit. It does have the slight mold seam that plagues all F-16 kits, but this one will be easy to clean.

If this were a Hasegawa kit, the story would end here since Hasegawa doesn't provide much in the way of external stores in their kits. Tamiya's F-16 provided an impressive array in their kit, but stand by for some more 'shock and awe.'

External stores:

  • 2 x 370 gallon tanks for stations 4/6
  • 1 x 300 gallon centerline tank
  • 1 x AAQ-28 Litening
  • 1 x ALQ-131
  • 2 x AIM-9M Sidewinder
  • 2 x AIM-9X Sidewinder
  • 2 x AIM-120B AMRAAM
  • 2 x AIM-120C AMRAAM
  • 2 x AGM-65 Maverick
  • 2 x Mk.82 (slicks)
  • 2 x GBU-12 Paveway II
  • 2 x GBU-24 Paveway III
  • 2 x GBU-31 JDAM
  • 2 x GBU-38 JDAM
  • 2 x CBU-87

This is the nicest array of external stores that I can recall being included in one kit.

Before I forget, there is the F100 engine nozzle. Remember all of the aftermarket nozzles that have been released because the details inside the nozzle are either too soft or non-existent? I don't know what Kinetic is using for molding technology, but this is the nicest detailing I've seen down a 1/48 scale F100 nozzle to date. Nice work!

If there is one glitch in this kit, the molding technology that they are using leaves mold tabs where the ejector pins push the sprues out of the molds. Not recessed pin marks, but raised tabs. This is actually a good thing as it is easier to trim and smooth out a raised pin tab than it is to fill a sinkhole.

Markings are provided for one example:

  • F-16AM, FA-87, 31 Sqn, Belgian AF

There are three sheets of decals for this kit designed by DACO who specialize in the interesting Belgian AF subjects. All three are used to render this one example.

This is a nice special edition release from Kinetic and the additional parts and decals make it even more interesting. Better yet, this kit is available at only $25.95 from LuckyModel.

My sincere thanks to Lucky Model for this review sample!