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F-35C Lightning II

Trumpeter 1/32 F-35C Lightning II Kit First Look

by Michael Benolkin

Date of Review August 2022 Manufacturer Trumpeter
Subject F-35C Lightning II Scale 1/32
Kit Number 3230 Primary Media Styrene, photo-etch
Pros First kit of this variant in this scale Cons See text
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $249.99

First Look

F-35C Lightning II
F-35C Lightning II
F-35C Lightning II
F-35C Lightning II
F-35C Lightning II
F-35C Lightning II
F-35C Lightning II
F-35C Lightning II
F-35C Lightning II

The F-35C Lightning II is the third variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, not only in terms of it's C designation, but also it is the third to become operational in service. The F-35C differs from the other two variants by having larger wings for slower landing speeds and increased paylods, folding outer wings for storage aboard ship, a capapult-capable twin-wheel nose gear, and a stronger tail hook for arrested landings. While the F-35A and F-35B raced each other to initial operational capability and mission ready, the F-35C had several technical issues to overcome. The F-35B would be the first one to initial operational capability followed by the F-35A, but the Navy opted to take a little more time to shake out the bugs. In August of 2021, the first squadron of F-35Cs from VFA-147 departed on their maiden deployment aboard the carrier USS Carl Vinson.

Trumpeter is the first to release a kit of the F-35C in 1/32 scale, but the honor of the first F-35 in 1/32 goes to Italeri for their F-35A kit. We built that kit over four years ago (look here) and while the results were pleasing, the kit had some challenges as well. Looking over this kit, I'm rather pleased with how Trumpeter approached this subject. Molded in light gray styrene, this kit is presented on 17 parts trees, plus one tree of clear parts, one set of rubber tires, and one fret of photo-etched parts. Among the features in this kit:

  • 13-piece ejection seat (not counting photo-etched pilot restraints)
  • Nicely detailed cockpit
  • Positionable canopy
  • Radar reflectors are molded separately though not marked as optional in the instructions
  • Detailed weapons bays
  • Positionable weapons bay doors
  • Nicely detailed landing gear struts
  • Rubber tires on plastic wheel hubs
  • Positionable nosegear catapult bar
  • Detailed landing gear wells
  • Detailed F135 engine though no provisions for seeing the completed engine after assembly
  • Intake ducts to the compressor face
  • Exhaust/afterburner section to the turbine face
  • Wings can be posed folded or ready for flight
  • Optional underwing pylons included though not identified as optional (beast mode)

The kit provides the following stores:

  • 2 x GBU-31 JDAM for the internal weapons bay
  • 4 x GBU-32 JDAM for the underwing stations (beast mode)
  • 4 x GBU-12 LGB for the underwing stations (beast mode)
  • 2 x AIM-120 AMRAAM for the internal weapons bay
  • 2 x AIM-9X for the outboard wing pylons (beast mode)

The kit provides markings for three options:

  • F-35C, 169424, VFA-101, NJ/125
  • F-35C, 168845, VFA-101, NJ/107
  • F-35C, 169304, VFA-147, NE/406


  • The instructions have you open the flashed-over pylon mounting holes on the underside of the wing without mentioning that these should be optional should you wish to model the stealthy F-35C. Some or all of the pylons can be added if you wish to model the kit in the non-stealthy 'beast mode'.
  • The kit provides the radar reflectors to make the aircraft visible to radars for normal air traffic control. Leave these parts off should you be doing a combat ready aircraft.

I'm really impressed with the kit layout, especially the upper and lower fuselage halves with integral main wings. The top and bottom fuselage halves come out of the box as one dry-fitted assembly that is wired to a cardboard backplate, so there is no doubt about the fit of this kit from the external point of view. What happens when all of the internal details go inside is another matter. We will see as I plan to build this kit and park it alongside my F-35A. Stay tuned!