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F-35A Lightning II

Meng 1/48 F-35A Lightning II Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review August 2017 Manufacturer Meng
Subject F-35A Lightning II Scale 1/48
Kit Number LS007 Primary Media Styrene, Photo-Etch
Pros Nice engineering Cons See text
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $59.99

First Look

F-35A Lightning II
F-35A Lightning II
F-35A Lightning II
F-35A Lightning II
F-35A Lightning II
F-35A Lightning II

For a brief description about the F-35 (Joint Strike Fighter) history, look here.

With the exception of Testor's 1/32 YF-22 kit, it seems like it took years before we started seeing injection-molded kits of the F-22 Raptor. Such is not the case with the Joint Strike Fighter as we had several kits of the XF-35 not long after the prototypes began their flight evaluations. While there was a brief gap from that point until the F-35 began rolling off the production line, the kit companies have been turning out kits of the Lightning II in the common scales. The best of these is the Italeri 1/32 F-35A which is the top kit of this subject to date. The only options so far for the F-35B and F-35C come from Kitty Hawk in 1/48 scale.

Meng recently released their first entry into the F-35 series with this F-35A in 1/48 scale. Molded in dark gray styrene, this kit is presented on 15 parts trees plus one tree of clear parts and one fret of photo-etched parts. This kit offers recessed panel lines and an interesting mold process that doesn't appear to leave ejector pin marks. On the other hand, this kit does suffer the same problem as the other F-35 kits released so far, overly thick RAM sealant around the airframe.

I've been tempted to measure the thickness of this detail and multiply it by 48 to see how thick this might be on a full-scale aircraft. This over-scaled RAM thickness was severely criticized when first used on Hasegawa's otherwise nice 1/48 F-22 Raptor kit, yet here we are with virtually every F-35 with this same thick detail. The over-scaled RAM details is a mixed blessing - on one hand, modelers know that if this were scaled up to full size, the aircraft wouldn't fly; but on the other hand, the detail is visible and having those raised details make it (somewhat) easier to mask and paint those details accordingly.

Aside from the RAM details, Meng did a nice job with this kit and it is laid out similar to the Italeri kit. Among the features and options in this kit:

  • Detailed ejection seat w/photo-etched pilot restraints
  • Detailed cockpit
  • Positionable canopy
  • Detailed weapons bays
  • Weapons bay doors can be positioned open or closed
  • Detailed wheel wells
  • Weighted wheels
  • Landing gear can be posed up or down
  • Positionable stabilators (two options)
  • Positionable air refueling doors
  • Optional external pylons
  • Optional radar reflector modules

Weapons options include:

  • 2 x AIM-120C AMRAAM
  • 8 x GBU-53 SDB

The kit provides the following two markings options:

  • F-35A, 11-5033, 33 FW, Eglin AFB, 2015
  • F-35A, 13-5071, 34 FS/388 FW, Hill AFB, 2016

A few items of note:

  • Canopy is molded clear, you'll need to tint it accordingly
  • A photo-etched insert is provided for the afterburner chamber. The walls of the chamber are bare but it does have a turbine face molded into the end. The insert looks like another turbine face which makes no sense to me
  • The painting instructions are provided Meng colors (repackaged AK Interactive paints) and Acrysion paints (Gunze's latest acrylic line). If you need color matches using other paint brands, you're on your own
  • The instructions provide suggested weapons load-outs though only the AIM-120C and GBU-53 are included in this kit. Meng has taken a page from Hasegawa's playbook and released three seperate weapons sets (short range air-to-air, medium range air-to-air, and GPS-guided air-to-ground) from which you can bomb up your F-35A

Aside from the above nits, this is the best F-35A in 1/48 scale, but the title for best kit in any scale remains with Italeri (for now).