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F-117A Nighthawk

Tamiya 1/48 F-117A Nighthawk w/US Modern 4x4 Utility Vehicle Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review September 2008 Manufacturer Tamiya
Subject F-117A Nighthawk w/US Modern 4x4 Utility Vehicle Scale 1/48
Kit Number 89773 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Limited edition with two nice kits and extras Cons
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $105.00

First Look

F-117A Nighthawk
F-117A Nighthawk
F-117A Nighthawk
F-117A Nighthawk
F-117A Nighthawk
F-117A Nighthawk
F-117A Nighthawk
F-117A Nighthawk
F-117A Nighthawk
F-117A Nighthawk
F-117A Nighthawk

Lockheed's famous F-117 Nighthawk, also known as the 'stealth fighter', was a product out of the Skunkworks to design a strike aircraft that could safely penetrate the sophisticated enemy air defenses of the cold war, put bombs on key targets to render those air defenses and communications infrastructure inert so that the skies are safe enough for the 'average' airpower to work. The F-117 was a fly-by-wire aircraft that is anything but aerodynamic, but its flight control computers compensate for the less than smooth airflow around the aircraft.

You can see the facets that made up the exterior of the aircraft, these were designed to reflect radar energy in any direction other than where it came from. The aircraft was shrouded in secrecy for many years and while it came into the public eye in the late 1988, it wasn't until Operation Desert Storm that it proved the concept of 'kicking open the front door' into Iraq. To the news media at the time, 'Shock and awe' was interpreted to be all of the bombs falling around Baghdad, but to the air defenders around Iraq, the real shock and awe was not knowing where the bombs were coming from nor where to shoot!

The Air Force finally retired the F-117 in mid-2008 after serving in a number of other conflicts. The F-117's stealth was rendered less effective once various adversaries were able to examine the wreckage of an F-117 shot down in March of 1999, validating stealth countermeasures developed by Russian scientists and deployed around Kosovo.

The F-117 Kit

Tamiya has re-released their 1/48 F-117A kit and I was pleased to be able to take another look at this excellent kit. What's more, this release is in their special edition series where Tamiya introduces a complimentary ground vehicle. In this case, the vehicle is a 'US Modern 4x4 Utility Vehicle'. More on this later.

First the F-117A: This kit is rendered with four trees molded in black styrene, two trees molded in white styrene, one tree in gold-tinted clear styrene, and one steel ballast weight. While the black and white molding looks like it would be useful, the one favor Tamiya could do everyone is to mold this kit in gray (except for the clears, of course). Some of the parts that need to be white are black (such as the weapons bay, landing gear struts, etc.) and some of the parts molded in white need to be black or green (tires, bombs, etc.). The best thing to do is prime everything in gray and press on.

This F-117 kit is the best Nighthawk kit available in any scale. It is simple, but well-engineered and fits flawlessly. For those who want 'a little more' in their detailing, Eduard, CMK, and Black Box (who became Avionix and is now Squadron) all produced cockpits and detail sets for this kit. Straight out of the box though, this is still a great kit and the unchallenged leader to date.

The cockpit is simple but nicely done, and includes a seated pilot's figure.

The weapons bay can be posed open or closed, and if open, the bomb trapezes can be posed extended and the air dams extended as well.

A steel weight is included to mount ahead of the weapons bay inside the airframe to correct the center of gravity of the kit so it will not sit on its tail.

The elevons and all-flying vertical stabs are molded separately and can be positioned to taste.

Tamiya yellow tape masks are included in the kit to help replicate the jagged edges around the canopy a lot easier.

The canopy is positionable, and a crew boarding ladder is also included in the kit.

Markings are provided for two examples. Both are marked in the Wing Commander's markings while they were still part of the 37th TFW at Tonnapah. The first is 813 assigned (at the time) to the 416 TFS while the second is 828 assigned to the 417 TFS.

The 'Utility Vehicle' Kit

Quite a few people tried to keep the defense companies from being able to 'brand' their products that were developed using taxpayer funds, and while Congress appeared to be supportive of keeping public-funded subjects in the public domain, these politicians cut a deal somewhere and now we're seeing various subjects becoming 'licensed' items. Such is evidently the case with our 'US Modern 4x4 Utility Vehicle'!

Tamiya has done a great job of describing this vehicle without uttering AM General M998 Humvee anywhere. Nevertheless, we have here the first production styrene kit of the Humvee in 1/48 scale, and it is a beauty! This kit is molded in desert tan styrene and rendered on three parts trees, plus a separately molded hood, one tree of clear parts, and four rubber tires.

The kit is a scaled down version of their updated 1/35 tooling and looks really sharp. It has separately molded hard-top with gun ring, four separately molded doors, separately molded wheels and rubber tires, nice suspension and drive train details, nice interior details, and two crew figures.

The way this model is set up, I am betting we'll be seeing a wide variety of variants in the future, and you can bet that the aftermarket folks will produce conversions to render even more variants of this versatile vehicle in the future, once Tamiya releases this 'Utility Vehicle' as its own kit.

Markings are provided for two examples, both are Military Police vehicles from King Khalid Air Base in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm where the F-117s deployed.

The US MSRP of this kit is $105, but I'm seeing street prices significantly lower than this. Considering that this excellent F-117 kit is still available for less than half this price, you'll want to shop around a bit. Given the complexity and detail of the Humvee though, I don't doubt that this new kit will command a respectable price of its own when it does come out in its own box.

The Tamiya 1/48 F-117 is still the best in any scale, and this new Humvee kit is second only to its 1/35 scale cousin also from Tamiya.

My sincere thanks to HobbyLink Japan for this review sample!