Trumpeter 1/32 EA-18G Growler Kit First Look
By Michael Benolkin
|Date of Review||January 2011||Manufacturer||Trumpeter|
|Kit Number||3206||Primary Media||Styrene, Photo-Etch|
|Pros||First Growler in this scale; nice detailing||Cons||Nothing noted|
|Skill Level||Intermediate||MSRP (USD)||$229.95|
Not long after the Super Hornet entered service, Boeing demonstrated a growth potential for the airframe with a flight test of F/A-18F with the same jammer pod suite carried by the EA-6B and EF-111A. While the EA-6B serves as a capable electronic warfare platform, it is mismatched as an escort jammer as the A-6 Intruders that the Prowler is based upon have long since been retired and the subsonic Prowler cannot keep the pace of the supersonic Hornets and Super Hornets that replaced the Intruder. Boeing's experiment was successful and it was awarded a development contract with the Navy.
The EA-18G retains a great deal of systems and parts commonality with the F/A-18F, so maintenance in fleet service is much easier that with the Prowler. The visible differences of the EA-18G include the carriage of the jamming pods, deletion of the internal gun, and the replacement of the wingtip missile pylons with avionics pods. The aircraft retains the same engines, radar, and weapons store system.
What is not visible is the mission avionics that are housed in the former gun bay, the avionics inside the wingtip pods, and the special cockpit arrangement for the rear seat operator who now has the same workload as three crewmen on the Prowler (though computer automation is supposed to level that load).
The Growler completed its Initial Operating Capability (IOC) milestone in 2009 and has been approved for full-rate production. The initial order for the Growler was set at 90 airframes and the Royal Australian Air Force is having some of their F/A-18F airframes pre-wired to be converted into EA-18G Growlers in the future.
I am particularly interested in Wild Weasel subjects, and Trumpeter has released the world's newest Weasel in 1/32 scale (I just wish they'd release the first one in 1/32 as well - the F-100F). While some might wonder how much electronic warfare (EW) and suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) capability the engineers can stuff inside a Super Hornet airframe, it is significantly more than what is inside the F-16C Block 50/52 Weasels and more modern than the EA-6B. While the Growler can carry two bullets like the upgraded Prowlers (AGM-88), the Growler can still protect itself with the AIM-120 or AIM-9X, something the Prowler cannot do.
The kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on 25 parts trees plus the separately packaged upper and lower fuselage halves. The kit also consists of two smaller trees of clear parts, two small frets of photo-etched parts, one set of metal landing gear strut cores, and one set of rubber (vinyl) tires. According to the specs, this kit is made up of 487 parts.
As with the previous Super Hornet releases, the surface detailing in this kit is finely done with no sign of heavy rivets or other problems. As you'll see in the kit's features listed below, this release retains nearly all of the features of the earlier Super Hornets with the exception of those numerous trees of weapons. While the Growler retains the same strike capabilities of the Super Hornet, there's not much point in bombing up the first kit of the Growler when you now have new ALQ-99 pods to carry.
The kit's F414 compressor faces have normal looking compressor blades though they didn't add the fixed stators ahead of the compressor. You can add the fixed stators if you'd like, but I doubt you'd see them on the far end of the intake ducts after assembly. Your call. The afterburner chambers also look presentable as provided.
Considering all of the parts in this kit, I'm quite surprised how few are photo-etched. The photo-etch provided in this kit are primarily the shoulder harness and seat belts for the ejection seat and two reinforcement strips. This means that the model will be a little easier to build for those less comfortable with photo-etched parts.
As with most aircraft kits, construction starts in the cockpit and the kit provides a nice pair of NACES ejection seats and cockpit tub. The main instrument panel is glass, so the multi-function displays (MFD) are rendered with decals. The kit also provides decals for the side consoles should you choose not to paint your consoles (I'll paint mine). The kit provides stick and throttle separately, but no rudder pedals.
The landing gear is styrene with metal cores. These cores provide the strength to hold up this beast, while the styrene parts build up around the cores to make assembly and painting easier for most.
The kit provides the APG-79 AESA radar inside a positionable radome.
As I mentioned above, the F414 engines are not over-engineered and while they do have some plumbing detail that will make these nice to pose with an access bay door open, they are not critical for the fit of the engines in the fuselage should you plan to keep your engine bays closed.
Among the various features and options in this kit:
- Nicely detailed NACES ejection seats
- Positionable canopy
- Positionable boarding ladder
- Positionable radome
- APG-79 AESA radar under the radome
- Positionable avionics bay doors with bay details in the airframe
- Metal landing gear cores for strength
- Full length engine intake ducts with engines at the ends
- Nicely detailed wheel wells
- Positionable leading and trailing edge flaps
- Positionable wings (folded or flight)
- Positionable ailerons
- Positionable stabilators
- Postionable rudders
- Positionable air refueling probe
- Rubber tires
- Choice of avionics pods or missile rails on the wingtips
- 2 x AIM-9X
- 2 x AIM-120C
- 2 x AGM-88
- 2 x ALQ-99A (only use one according to the instructions)
- 2 x ALQ-99B
- 3 x external fuel tanks
You'll note that the parts trees with the AGM-88 HARMS also have weapons that won't be used in this kit so you'll have a few spares for other projects.
Markings are provided for three examples:
- EA-18G, BuNo 166858, VAQ-129, NJ/550, skipper's aircraft
- EA-18G, BuNo 166928, VAQ-141, AJ/500, CAG's aircraft
- EA-18G, BuNo 166930, VAQ-141, AJ/502, XO's aircraft
The decals are provided on two sheets and includes airframe stenciling, slime lights, as well as the high and low visibility distinctive markings.
Overall this looks like a really nice job by Trumpeter and kudos to their design team for not over-engineering this model. There is lots of detail here, but nothing wasted inside areas that won't be seen. The scribing and panel lines are really nice and if this builds as nice as it looks, the kit will be worth the price.
My sincere thanks to Stevens International for this review sample!