The story of the F/A-18 is an interesting one. It may have been a case of “close but no cigar” for the YF-17 in the Light Weight Fighter [LWF] competition. But in August 1974, Congress directed the Navy to make maximum use of the technology and hardware of the YF-17 for its new lightweight strike fighter, the Naval Fighter Attack Experimental [VFAX]. Thus was born the F/A-18 which now completely dominates the carrier decks of the US fleet. Flown by both the Navy and Marines it has superseded such types as the F-14 in the strike fighter role, the A-6 and A-7 in the attack role and the EA-6 in the electronic warfare role. So it has come a long way from the pure fighter concept of the original YF-17. The programme has morphed into one of the most successful multi role platforms flying today. It’s not been too shabby on export sales either.
This particular release from Kinetic Models portrays the upgraded F/A-18A /B fitted with the Hughes (now Raytheon) AN/APG-73 radar, a faster and more capable radar. Markings are included for the Royal Australian Air Force F/A -18A and the Spanish Air Force EF-18. Also included is the CF-188A/B as flown by the Royal Canadian Air Force.
The rather fine box top illustration shows two of the marking options for the CF-188A and B. The box lid states that this kit contains 280 of which 17 are clear parts. On the side of the box you get an idea of the markings available and also some very useful photos of the real thing. The sprues are identified alphabetically, but there are two sprues identified as “M”. Thankfully one sprue is clear plastic and the other is the armaments, so it is pretty unlikely you will confuse the two. There are around 24 photo-etched metal parts included as well. There is a large A4 decal sheet designed by Crossdelta and printed by Cartograf. The A4 instruction booklet and painting guide runs to twenty eight pages.
There are quite a few pieces that make up the cockpit. The “A” version has around ten and the “B” has around twenty. The bathtub cockpit includes both crewman positions; the rear position is covered over on the single seat version. The raised detail is very well done and the modeller will be rewarded with a superb cockpit out of the box with some careful painting. The instructions do provide colour call outs for the various areas of the instruments. Alternatively there are a number of small individual decals representing the detail on the instrument panel and the side consoles. There are decals for the instruments and monitors. There is even an option to display the monitors with power on or power off. A little word of caution though with the decals as they cover some raised detail. So you may need to use copious amounts of decal softener for the decals to stand any chance of conforming to the plastic. Definitely worth a try though if you are like me and suffer a shaky hand. The HUD frame is made up from photo etched [PE] parts and three clear plastic parts.
The Martin Baker NACES seat looks decent and is made up from six plastic parts. There appears to be a set of basic looking PE harnesses for one seat, but none for the second seat which is a real oversight. There is no indication of the how to attach the harnesses to the seat in the instructions although they do feature in some of the later constructional drawings. You could easily create your own harnesses from foil or alternatively use aftermarket seats which tend to look better.
Kinetic have made a good effort at producing the blown look of the real canopy. The only downside is that there is a seam running along the top of both canopies. Past experience with Kinetic kits shows that the seams are easy enough to eradicate. The rivet detail on both the canopies and the windscreen is nicely done, very refined. There are PE parts for the framework and mirrors on the canopy. Oddly there is no mention in the instructions of the second set of mirrors on the PE fret for the rear seater. There is a separate grey plastic sill to fit to both canopies and the hydraulic ram to prop up the open canopy.
The fuselage is broken into upper and lower halves with the upper central part of the wing attached to the upper half of the fuselage. The detail is superb with really fine recessed and raised detail. The intake/outlets and grill work is exemplary. There are two styles of nose; the CF-188A/B has the Grimes light fitted into the portside wall, the other options do not. There are few items to be fitted before the fuselage halves are joined. The full length air ducts, main undercarriage bay and inflight refuelling probe bay, the burner cans and nozzles and the cockpit tub. The air ducts are each made up from two parts, the interior of which is completely free of injector marks or blemishes. There is a primary compressor fan to attach to each duct, whether you will see it or not is another matter. The two part burner cans have some lovely ribbed detail. There are two plastic reheat matrixes to add as well as two superbly moulded jet nozzles.
The fins are one piece and have additional PE strengthening plates to add. These are attached to the portside of the fin. The fins are different from the earlier F/A-18C released by Kinetic. They have a different sensor suite and the rudders are separate. There are some thoughtful touches such as the ability to display the inflight refuelling probe, the crew ladder and an open speed brake. The ladder neatly retracts under the wing leading edge on the real thing.
The wings are multipart affairs with separate leading edge and trailing edge flaps. There are two different types of actuators so the flaps can be displayed in the neutral position or dropped. The model can be displayed with folded wings. There are separate wing tips for this purpose. Simply cutaway the wing tip using the heavily recessed mark on the inside of the wing as a guide and add the separate wing tip and missile rail in the folded position. It looks easy enough. Just like the fuselage the detail is beautifully done. Flaps can be displayed in a neutral position or dropped. There are two sets of actuators that help to set the correct angle. The one piece stabiliser also looks good with very sharp trailing edges. The locating lug or hinge has plenty of plastic to attach to the fuselage.
There are two versions of the main undercarriage legs. According to the instructions part number O1 and O2 are for the Canadian machines and parts D4 and D3 are for the rest. There are subtle differences so be careful to attach the correct item. Both sets of undercarriage look reassuringly strong, just like the real thing. Each leg of the main undercarriage is made up from four parts. The nose undercarriage leg is pretty complex with seven parts. I do like Kinetics method of creating the wheels. The hubs are separate and are sandwiched by the two part tyres. This means the hubs and tyres can be painted separately so wheel mask are not necessary. The detail in the bays themselves is quite superb and hard to believe they are injected plastic. They demonstrate as does the rest of the kit some very clever use of moulds. There is some subtle recessed detail on the undercarriage doors too.
-3 x 330gal fuel tanks
-2 x AIM-120B AMRAAM
-2 x AIM-120C AMRAAM
-2 x AIM-9M Sidewinder
-2 x AIM-9X Sidewinder
-2 x GBU-38 500lb JDAM
-2 x CBU-87 CEM
-2 x GBU-12 Paveway Laser Guided Bomb
-AAQ-28 Litening targeting pod
-Sniper XR advanced targeting pod
-AAS-38 Nitehawk FLIR & Laser Designation & tracker pod
There are a very good range of weapons included that may look familiar if you have some of Kinetic 1/48 F-16 kits in your stash. Good to see the Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod included. These are fitted to the CF-188. Unfortunately there is no indication on which station to put it. A little research suggests it is attached to station 4 [port intake station].
As already mentioned else where the decals are designed by Crossdelta and printed by Cartograf. Colour, definition and density look spot on. There is hardly any carrier film visible. It’s good to see at least one colourful scheme: A21-35 dressed up for the 2015 Australian International Air show. The sharpness of the stencils is impressive and many of the smallest stencils are legible.
-CF-188A, 409Sq Royal Canadian Air Force [RCAF], June 2016
-CF-188A/B, 410Sq RCAF, June 2016
-CF-188A/B, 425Sq RCAF, 2015
-F/A-18A A21-35, No.75Sq Royal Australian Air Force [RAAF], 2015 Australian International Air show Special Scheme
-F/A-18A A21-4, No.77Sq RAAF, 2014
-F/A-18A A21-57, No.3Sq RAAF, Operation OKRA against ISIL, 2015
-EF-18A C.15-25 Ala 15, Spanish Air Force, Anatolian Eagle exercise in Konya, Turkey, 2015
-EF-18A C.15-50, Ala 12, Spanish Air Force, 2016
-F/A-18A (Ex US Navy) C.15-85, Ala 46, Spanish Air Force, 2016
All the marking options are either one shade or two shades of grey overall. The Australian aircraft do feature some interesting markings on the fin. If display aircraft float your boat then you will be drawn to special scheme used by the RAAF in 2015. If well worn aircraft are your thing then the F/A-18 is a good subject to explore weathering techniques.
First there is a lovely tribute to Rick Chin one of the contributors to this kit. He sadly passed in April 2014.
The instructions are typically Kinetic. They look the part, but can be vague with location points, puzzling information and diagrams or just completely inaccurate. Make sure you read the instructions thoroughly before building. There are building tips included in the painting guide, such as the removal of the IFF “bird slicer” in front of the windscreen for some F/A-18’s. So beware modellers. One good thing is there are plenty of colour callouts for various parts using Ammo Mig paint numbers. These can be cross referenced with other paint manufactures such as Vallejo, Gunze Sangyo, Tamiya and Humbrol in the paint guide. The false canopy that features on the CF-188A/B and some Spanish EF-18A needs to be painted.
Interestingly the Spanish false canopy goes one step further than the Canadian version in that there is even a false pilot helmet. The stencil positioning guide looks thorough.
This is a fine looking kit from Kinetic. There were signs that Kinetic had upped their game with their Mirage III releases and it’s continued with subsequent releases including this one. The finesse of the recessed and raised detail is excellent. Most modellers will be very happy with the detail in the undercarriage bays. It’s refreshing that Kinetic have not gone for the modular designed kits with lots of open hatches. The addition of PE parts will add a fresh dimension to the detail. There are a few builds guides of Kinetics earlier release of the F/A-18C and as this kit is almost identical they will be very useful. In fact this second release has a few advantages over the initial release as you can build the single and two seat versions. There is also the option to build the Canadian aircraft. Also it’s possible to build the F/A-18C from the second release although you would have to acquire some decals elsewhere. Reviewers of the F/A-18C have been generally favourable about the fit of parts.
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