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F/A-18E Super Hornet

Meng 1/48 F/A-18E Super Hornet Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review October 2021 Manufacturer Meng
Subject F/A-18E Super Hornet Scale 1/48
Kit Number LS012 Primary Media Styrene, Photo-Etch
Pros Nice engineering Cons See text
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $79.99

First Look

F/A-18E Super Hornet
F/A-18E Super Hornet
F/A-18E Super Hornet
F/A-18E Super Hornet
F/A-18E Super Hornet

The Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornet is the US Navy's frontline multi-role fleet fighter. Scaled up in size from the early F/A-18A/C Hornet, the Super Hornet has more power, range and payload than its predecessors. The F/A-18E and its two-seat sister, the F/A-18F, replace the F-14 Tomcat in the fleet CAP/air defense mission and interleave with the earlier Hornets in the strike and night/all-weather strike mission. Classified as a generation 4.5 fighter, Boeing has continued development of the Super Hornet to create a Gen 4.75 variant that incorporates a number of improvements in avionics, low-observability, and engine performance. These improvements will keep the Super Hornet in the front lines to provide air defense as well as precision strike alongside the F-35 Lightning II. The F/A-18E has seen combat starting with Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), and continues its frontline service today.

Meng's 1/48 F/A-18E Super Hornet kit has been on the market for a while now, only recently did I grab one to see how well it compared to Hasegawa's kit. Hasegawa, Italeri, and Revell have previously released the F/A-18E in this scale, and while they all build into decent Super Hornets, there was a running debate in those days about the shape of the dorsal spine and Hasegawa captured that shape the best of the three. Hasegawa also offers more options (folding wingtips, positional flight control surfaces, etc. Hasegawa also produced their kit with the Block II's ECS vents which meant you couldn't build a Block I without some work. Finally, the Hasegawa kit does not include armament.

In contrast, Meng's offering provides the ECS vents as separate parts so you can do a Block I or Block II version, the shapes all look right, the builds I've seen look great, and it provides a nice selection of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions. It offers a similar range of options as well in comparison to the Hasegawa kit, but like any kit, a few of the finer details may have some issues. For example, some complain that there are no pilot restraints on the ejection seat, but this kit provides a pilot figure with your choice of helmets. If you had molded-on restraints, you'd have to remove them to get that pilot seated. There are other very subtle points that others mention, but without making the kit overly complicated to build, some of these issues are simply molding compromises. Others, like a bulge here or an antenna there can be fixed by the hardcore Super Hornet modeler, but all kits have flaws of one sort or another, even those Kitty Hawk kits that had the Detail and Scale logo on them weren't perfect.

The kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on 21 parts trees, plus three trees in clear and a small fret of photo-etch. The instructions are the best of the Super Hornet offerings as they're printed in color and clearly outline the assembly process. There are only a few companies that produce such high quality instructions.

Among the features and options in this kit:

  • Detailed ejection seat
  • Detailed cockpit
  • Positionable canopy
  • Positionable boarding ladder
  • Detailed wheel wells
  • Nose gear has positionable launch bar
  • Landing gear can be posed up or down
  • Positionable stabilators
  • Positionable rudders
  • Positionable ailerons
  • Positionable flaps and slats
  • Positionable outer wing panels (flight or folded)

Weapons options include:

  • 2 x GBU-24
  • 2 x GBU-16
  • 2 x AIM-9X
  • 2 x AIM-9M
  • 3 x AIM-120C
  • 1 x ASQ-228
  • 3 x external fuel tanks

The kit provides the following four markings options:

  • F/A-18E, 166776, VFA-31, AJ/100, USS George HW Bush, 2017, CAG aircraft
  • F/A-18E, 166779, VFA-31, AJ/103, USS George HW Bush, 2009
  • F/A-18E, 168913, VFA-87, AJ/303, USS George HW Bush, 2017
  • F/A-18E, notional adversary aircraft from the new Top Gun movie

A few items of note:

  • Canopy is molded clear, you'll need to tint it accordingly
  • Canopy has the common mold line which will need to be removed
  • Quinta Studio has announced a cockpit set for this kit which includes pilot restraints for the ejection seat
  • GT Resin produces seamless resin intakes for this kit

This is currently the best F/A-18E kit in this scale and with the variety of aftermarket decals available, you can replicate a wide variety of in-service aircraft. Meng has released the F/A-18F, also in 1/48 scale, and should have been here by now, but we'll have to see which one of the dozens of container ships that they're aboard.