Minicraft 1/144 E-8 JSTARS Kit First Look
By Michael Benolkin
|Date of Review||December 2009||Manufacturer||Minicraft|
|Kit Number||14613||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Beautiful kit||Cons||Nothing noted|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$39.95|
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the US Air Force and US Army were pursuing similar capabilities to provide realtime battlefield surveillance using the latest emerging radar technologies. In 1982, DoD merged the two programs to create the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS). The airframe chosen for this mission was based on the Boeing 707, but unfortunately the 707 production line had closed with the last of the AWACS production aircraft. The JSTARS airframes, designated E-8, are based upon 17 refurbished airframes that were brought into the program from a wide variety of sources.
The JSTARS was still under development when it was deployed to support Operation Desert Storm in 1991 where it proved significant capabilities against the Iraqi army. The aircraft was able to see clearly on the battlefield even while the skies were blacked out from the numerous oil field fires set by the Republican Guard.
From most angles, the E-8 looks like a vanilla 707 in USAF paint, but the key difference is the canoe located under the forward airframe. This is the AN/APY-7 radar that has several significant operating modes to provide near-photographic ground pictures to the battle managers aboard the aircraft.
Minicraft has released the E-8 JSTARS in 1/144 scale with this release representing the first kit of this unique aircraft in any scale. 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 this E-8 Joint STARS.
The kit is laid out for easy assembly and can be built as depicted into a current configuration airframe. The instructions indicate that you'll need 1/2 ounce 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 JSTARS on the ground but you do have provisions in the kit to build the kit gear-up.
What's interesting is that the AWACS kit also has the canoe and a few extra parts for the E-8 JSTARS variant in the box, but this kit doesn't have the Frisbee and fairings for the AWACS.
Markings are provided two examples:
- E-8C, 95-0122, Robins AFB, GA
- E-8A, 86-0416, Robins AFB, GA (decals show 04-0416)
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!