by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
backgroundSpringing from a requirement for a long-range fighter intended to escort the Strategic Air Command's heavy bombers, in particular the 10,000 mile range B-36 Peacemaker, the F-101 grew into a family of fighter-bombers, reconnaissance aircraft and all-weather fighters.
With impeccable timing and perhaps recognising the impracticality of escorting its long range bombers, the SAC cancelled its order for the Voodoo on the very day of its successful first flight in 1954. With the loss of SAC interest, the F-101A was reconfigured into a nuclear-armed fighter bomber, followed by the F-101C, much strengthened to withstand the stresses of low altitude flight and toss-bombing – a role for which the original airframe had never been envisaged.
The F-101A was originally designed with retractable rocket racks each housing a sextet of 2.75in FFARs, along with a weapons bay in the belly mounting three AIM-4 Falcon AAMs on a rotating door. With the switch to the ground attack mission profile, these were deleted and fuselage hardpoints fitted for nuclear and conventional bombs and drop tanks as the Voodoo was tasked with destroying airfields far behind enemy lines.
Flying fast and extremely low, the long-range single seat F-101A/C imposed a heavy workload on the pilot, but proved a tough and reliable aircraft that proved the backbone of the tactical response to the Warsaw Pact threat in Europe at the height of the Cold War. Thankfully, Voodoo fighter-bombers were never called upon to fly airfield strike missions in anger, and the aircraft were steadily withdrawn from service from 1966, being replaced by the Phantom II.
the kitThe first thing that strikes you is the box; Kitty Hawk have adopted a far more conventional approach to packing the Voodoo compared with their recent kits, doing away with the folded-over sprues squeezed into a small, deep box. This time the box is large enough to allow the sprues to sit flat - which, if nothing else, makes it far easier to get at the parts. (Perhaps too easy, because in a classic case of Sod’s Law, the sample arrived missing an undercarriage door. At least it shows there’s no truth to the old tale that manufacturers always ensure the best examples go for review. Many thanks to Glen Coleman who posted a replacement to me straight away.)
Opening the box reveals separately bagged sprues and accessories, with the kit comprising:
19 25 12 75 45 - 176 x grey styrene parts
5 x clear styrene parts
19? x etched brass parts
Decals for 4 x colour schemes
First impressions are very positive, with the main parts looking straight and true, and quite crisply moulded. There’s a whisper of flash here and there in the sample kit, but nothing that won’t take a second or two to clean up. Look a bit closer though, and you’ll find a fair number of sink marks – and some of them are pretty nasty. They are mostly where there’s thick detail moulded, but even the holes for fuselage locating pins have caused some sinkage. There are are also quite a few stress marks. These don’t cause any problems in construction now, but I wonder if they will become an issue as the moulds age. Another sign of something a little bit amiss with the moulds lies in the area under the canopy behind the ejector seat which shows some ugly scratch marks on one fuselage half.
The main parts display a fine satin finish with neatly engraved panel lines, which encouragingly meet up precisely across the multi-part fuselage. Other details also look nice and crisp, and there’s plenty of detail moulded into areas like the main wheel wells and flap bays. A final touch is some very delicate riveting in places.
Test fitTo allow for future versions, the fuselage is broken down into front, middle and rear sub-assemblies. They dry-fit together pretty well, and the joints fall along panel lines, but there’s very little to support them until you add the interior parts, so it’ll take a proper build to make a definitive call. A very positive moulding improvement over some of Kitty Hawk’s recent kits is that the parts have crisper edges, so the seams between the modular sub-assemblies are much finer.
The wings go together well, and clip onto the sides of the mid fuselage section very positively. The wing root seams may look potentially tricky, but the actual fit is very good and, so long as you’re careful, you should be able to get away without filler.
The tail planes fit well, but their trailing edges are rather thick. While it's simple enough to sand down for a more convincing look, reducing them will destroy the fine rivet detail.
A few detailsThe cockpit looks simple but effective. There’s a one-piece cockpit tub with separate rudder pedals, control column and throttles. A 5-part ejector seat is augmented by an etched harness. I’m sure superior aftermarket versions will soon be available, but I expect most modellers will be content with the kit seat. The main instrument panel and side console fascias are provided as both etched parts and decals. Strangely, the designers have passed over the obvious option of combining the two, so the etched parts have solid instrument dials instead of holes to mount the decal faces behind. (Of course, you could always drill them out to do this).
The undercarriage looks good and solid while including a fair amount of detail, and the wells provide a good basis to really go to town on if you wish.
The transparencies are crystal clear, and the canopy is designed to be posed open. Etched rear-view mirrors are provided to fit inside, along with a decal explosive cord.
Unlike some of their recent kits, Kitty Hawk haven’t bothered with full-length engines for the Voodoo. Instead, there are front faces to plug the intake ducting, and short afterburner sections at the other end.
A clear sign of the future versions planned is the weapons set provided that comprises AIM-4 Falcons and AIR-2 Genies. Despite painting instructions being included for the Falcons, they aren't appropriate for operational F-101A/Cs and so will be heading for the spares box, leaving just a pair of drop tanks.
Instructions & decalsThe instructions are clearly drawn and straightforward to follow, but the suggested sequence seems to owe more to easy of drawing than building. It really is asking for trouble to complete all the various sections of the fuselage and wings, including easily damaged items such as the open canopy, airbrakes and undercarriage, and only then try to join them together. Common sense dictates assembling the basic airframe and dealing with any resulting seams before moving on to smaller details. Experienced modellers will have no trouble (they’ll probably ask “Who reads instructions, anyway?!”), but newcomers may run into trouble if they follow Kitty Hawk’s sequence.
Matches are given for Gunze Sangyo paints, and a nice touch is that FS numbers are shown.
One of the beauties of the classic Hundred Series jets is the spectacular markings they wore before the Vietnam conflict saw a return to camouflage. So, the F-101 sports wonderfully gaudy tail colours for the following schemes:
A. F-101C, s/n 60007, 81st TFW, Bentwater, May 1960
B. F-101A, s/n 41472, 81st TFW, 92nd TFS, 1960
C. F-101A, s/n 41446, 81st TFW, 92nd TFS, 1960
B. F-101C, s/n 60035, 81st TFW, 92nd TFS, 1962
Kitty Hawk have slipped up with the buzz codes, giving the prefix “FR” (assigned to the Bell XF83) instead of the Voodoo’s “FB”. Luckily, there are sufficient spare code letters included to construct the required “B”s with a little deft cutting
I’ve been very critical of Kitty Hawk’s decals in the past, but the Voodoo's are a very encouraging improvement over recent releases. They are supplied on two sheets, and one of them is conventionally printed and really pretty good. However, the second, smaller, sheet is still printed as a pattern of dots, so there’s still a little way to go.
The large areas of colour will save masking, but I did notice some fringing on the yellow where the white underlay is slightly smaller than the yellow ink layer. There’s a slight registration error on the sample sheet, which results in white gaps on the red bars of the national insignia. You could either touch that out or use some of the numerous aftermarket decals available.
ConclusionThe Voodoo is certainly an impressive beast! To a modeller like me, most used to WW2 subjects, the sheer size is a shock - the middle section of the fuselage alone dwarfs a Bf 109G is the same scale (see the final photo at right). Kitty Hawk need to watch out for those sink marks, but the kit looks set to be a really satisfying build - but I won’t be following the suggested assembly sequence, which I think could lead inexperienced modellers into trouble. That aside, it’s nicely detailed and deserves to be popular.
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