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E-3 Kit

Minicraft 1/144 E-3 Sentry AWACS NATO 50th Anniversary Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review December 2009 Manufacturer Minicraft
Subject E-3 Sentry AWACS NATO 50th Anniversary Scale 1/144
Kit Number 14611 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Beautiful kit Cons Nothing noted
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $39.95

First Look

E-3 Kit
E-3 Kit
E-3 Kit
E-3 Kit
E-3 Kit
E-3 Kit
E-3 Kit
E-3 Kit

During the Vietnam war, the USAF used EC-121 Constellations (callsign 'Disco') to keep an eye on enemy aircraft movements and vector friendly fighters to the intercept when the NVAF fighters came up to strike. These eyes in the sky, augmented by US Navy radar pickets (callsign 'Silver Crown') gave the allies an advantage to maintain air superiority. This air superiority wasn't constant as the enemy had its own electronic eyes to figure out when protective fighter cover was not available before launching their hit and run attacks.

The EC-121s remained in service through the mid-1970s until a more modern radar aircraft was ready. This new aircraft was based upon the Boeing 707 airframe (larger than a KC-135) and featured a new generation of radar that allowed crews to not only survey the airspace around them, but to also see low-flying aircraft that would have escaped detection by the EC-121. This new radar was housed in a rotary dome that was mounted atop the aircraft giving this unique aircraft the appearance that a Frisbee was flying in close formation.

The early E-3A Sentry (as this aircraft was designated) proved very effective in spotting air movements out to impressive ranges but it wasn't until its first deployment to West Germany that it really got some attention. On one of its first evaluation flights, crews noticed an unusual number of low-flying aircraft (NATO aircraft routinely fly at very low altitudes) and that most of them were following consistent routes. It didn't take long to realize that the radar was tracking all of the high-speed Porsches, Mercedes, etc., flying down the autobahns throughout West Germany. The aircraft was a success, and the Sentry has been updated through the E-3C configuration for the USAF and NATO, with the RAF flying the E-3D (the same aircraft powered by CFM56 engines). The E-3 continues to serve the USAF, RAF, NATO, as well as the air forces of France and Saudi Arabia.

Minicraft has released the E-3 Sentry in 1/144 scale with this release representing the second version and depicting the NATO 50th Anniversary paint scheme. The kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on five parts trees plus the two fuselage halves, and one small clear sprue with the cockpit enclosure.

The tooling is laid out nicely to provide Minicraft with a versatile array of potential subjects including the late-model 707 in commercial service, the VC-137 (Air Force One), the TF33-powered AWACS, and the E-8 Joint STARS.

The kit is laid out for easy assembly and can be built as depicted into a current configuration airframe or by simply deleting the mods and pods around the fuselage, you can render the early E-3A. The instructions indicate that you'll need 3/4 ounces of ballast in the nose to allow the model to sit on its nose gear. If you put the cockpit enclosure on last, you can adjust the ballast as needed to keep the model from being a tail-sitter.

The instructions show the engine pylon layout which tended to vary depending on how much electrical power was needed by the airframe. You'll notice that there are five pylons in this kit, four with generators, one without. The instructions indicate that all four engines had the generator-humped pylons.

The kit features nicely detailed landing gear should you want to display your AWACS on the ground but you do have provisions in the kit to build the kit gear-up.

What's interesting is that this kit also has the canoe and a few extra parts for the E-8 JSTARS variant in the box, but the JSTARS kit doesn't have the Frisbee and fairings for this kit.

Markings are provided the NATO Anniversary scheme depicted on the kit box and has to be the prettiest AWACS paint job to date. The instructions provide Testors paint matches for this color scheme.

This is a nice kit that will go together quickly and provide a colorful addition to your scale flightline. This is another nice installment in Minicraft's growing line of 1/144 scale aircraft.

My sincere thanks to Minicraft Models for this review sample!