by: Russ Amott [ ]
HistoryThe EA-6B Prowler is a long range, all-weather specialized aircraft designed for electronic countermeasures operations. Based on the A-6 Intruder, but with a lengthened fuselage to allow for a 4 man crew, the Prowler is powered by the Pratt & Whittney J52-P408 engines and has a maximum speed of 500 Kts (575 mph or 920 kmh) and carries an ALQ-218 receiver system, ALQ-99 tactical jamming system pod, USQ-113 communications jamming system and can launch an AGM-88 High-speed Anti Radiation Missile (HARM). Becoming operational in 1971, the Prowler has gone through 4 updates with the latest, Improved Capability (ICAP) III, providing improved accuracy in targeting, geolocation and selective reactive jamming capability against modern threats ranging from local IED deployment to large scale radar and air defense systems. The EA-6B is currently in use by the US Navy, which plans to retire the aircraft in 2015, and the US Marine Corps, which will use the aircraft until 2019. It has been used in almost every conflict the US military has been involved in since 1972, and is currently deployed in Afghanistan. To quote the US Marine Corps, "The Marine Prowler's ability to detect, sort, classify, jam and destroy air defenses leaves the enemy with two options: leave the radar on, or turn it off. Either way, their defenses are reduced to expensive but useless metal."
Kinetic first released a kit of the EA-6B back in 2010. It was the first Prowler kit since the Monogram release from the 1980s, and was received with enthusiasm. There were some issues with that release, however, and Kinetic has seen fit to release a new boxing with some welcome new improvements.
The kit.The kit comes in a fairly large box, much taller than anything I have in the stash. Artwork on the box top, by "Auletta" shows a Prowler of VAQ-136 "Gauntlets" launching from a carrier deck. On the box side are paint profiles of the three marking options for the kit provided in the box. They are on the (very) small side, but no problem, as inside the box there is a large, full color paint and marking guide showing full profiles for all three aircraft.
The first thing I noted when I opened the box was that all the sprues are bagged separately in re-sealable pouches. One gripe from the original boxing was that all the parts were bagged together, leaving some parts broken off or damaged. Fit of the parts in the box is a little tight, but the packaging kept almost everything intact. Only one part had been broken from the sprue, and one other very (very) small part broken in place. I believe this is due primarily to Kinetic using a plastic that is somewhat brittle.
I looked over the sprues very carefully. My overall impression is very good. There is nice surface detail, with finely recessed panel lines and rivet detail where appropriate. Complex items are broken down into separate parts to maximize detail. This means all the surface antenna and small scoops are molded separately. It increases the parts count and time to assemble the kit, but the result is a much better appearance. The internal section of the intake is too shallow because of molding constraints. It ends flush with the boarding ladder but should be inset by about 5mm. A modeler with AMS can fix this, but as the forward part of the intake opening fits over this, it may be hidden sufficiently to satisfy most modelers. The boarding ladders can be left open or covered up for in flight operations.
The biggest issue with the prior release was the wing assembly. It came as two separate parts joined at the fold. The wing fences were undersized, and on the outer left side the wing fence was missing entirely. The new wing is a full length wing that can be cut carefully on the scribed line (on the inside of the wing but also visible on the fold joint) with what appear to be all the proper height and sized wing fences in place. All control surfaces on this kit are poseable, so the actuator arms are separate parts for either fixed or extended position. Looking over the sprues and comparing with sprue shots of the previous release it appears there are new parts for the wing fold, offering better detail.
The cockpit is well molded and has no ejector pin marks visible on the inside. Detail is somewhat soft but Kinetic offers their own etch upgrade for this, and several other options, including a self adhesive set from Eduard, are also available. The ejection seats are made up of 8 separate parts to maximize all around detail, but lack any harness for the occupant. Again, Kinetic offers their own upgrade ($9.99 from Lucky Model) or you can go with a different aftermarket etch or full resin seat option. The cockpit also lacks the canopy brace that runs along the top to support the canopy glass.
The clear parts are vey thin and distortion free. They are molded in halves for the two cockpit sections to mold in the characteristic bulge on the sides. There is a frame that runs down the center and should make gluing easier.
The fuselage bottom is a separate part that is carefully molded to obtain the multiple curves present. Ducting is also included for the engine outlets, improving the level of detail. New in this kit is a weapons sprue (X2) with AGM-88 HARM with separate fins. The instructions have the prior release kit parts (CC sprue) called out but it should not be difficult to figure out how the fins attach to the missile halves. There are two sets of ECM pod on two different sprues, but I did not see any difference between them. Total stores are two AGM-88, four ECM pods and two external fuel tanks. The Prowler normally carries three ECM pods and one HARM missile although I have seen many photos with four ECM pods fitted. There are several bombs included on the weapons sprue that won't be used for this kit.
The landing gear is somewhat basic and plain, but can be easily dressed up with some wire for brake lines. It appears sturdy enough to handle the weight of the kit, though there are white metal replacements. The wheels come in two tire halves with a separate hub, so you can paint the tire and get a clean line between tire and hub-no masking needed here. I like this approach.
There is an included A/S32A-32 three wheel tow tractor for carrier use included in the box as a diorama accessory. Detail on this is basic but still good, and a comprehensive painting guide is included as well.
Kinetic did a very thorough job in addressing the main problems of the prior release. There are some minor issues with the kit that were present before. First, there is some light flash on many parts. It should be easy to clean up with a sharp blade, and is mainly on the edges of the larger pieces. Second, there are sink marks scattered about the model which will need to be filled. I use Perfect Plastic Putty (sometimes hard to find in the US) as water can be used to smooth it out and clean it up, even after it has been on for a few days. It doesn't react to paint. Whatever you use, you will need it here. There were sink marks on my sample on the fuselage, wings, control surfaces and the landing gear. There were no short runs, and on the newer sprues, the sprue gate was smaller (sprue gates overall on this kit are better that on the first Kinetic releases). Care will be needed removing parts, especially small ones, as the plastic is generally somewhat brittle.
Decals, instructions, painting guideThe instructions come in booklet form with line drawings. The drawings look clear and complete to me, and I was able to understand them, though they do get a bit busy in some parts. Drop boxes highlight specific instructions for assembly.
There is a full color paint guide included for the three marking options in the kit. The first is that of the box top artwork, VAQ-136 "Gauntlets", from 2011. Color is three tone gray with the distinctive red and white rising sun on the tail, no 16440, 500 printed on the nose.
The other two schemes are both from VAQ-133 "Wizards" from 2007. First is in a three tone desert camo scheme of sand, pink and brown, tail no 161120, nose number 530. The other is in the three tone gray scheme, tail no 161349, nose number 532. Decals were designed by Fightertown and printed by Cartograff. If you want still more variety, there are a large number of marking options available in aftermarket.
The tow tractor......is painted white with black anti skid on the top surface. Decal markings show QCP 151.
Conclusion.Overall, I am very happy with this kit. Aside from the sink marks, I don't see any real flaws, and they should (hopefully) be fairly easy to deal with. I like what has been done with the wing, and three marking options (only 1 in the original boxing) are very nice. The kit is listed at $35.99 at Lucky Model (source of the review sample provided to Aeroscale). For the average modeler, this appears to be a kit that will build up to a very nice representation of the Prowler and still not be beyond the budget of most. For the advanced modeler, it should be a good base on which to place all the aftermarket items you can find. For myself, I have the Kinetic seat belts enroute, and I am looking for a suitable carrier deck display.
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