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F-35A Lightning II - 1:48 Kitty Hawk

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F-35A Lightning II

1:48 Kitty Hawk


The Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) as the F-35 was originally known was a multi-national project to create a multi-role fighter for the new millennium and beyond, led by the US, with the UK and other nations taking a greater or lesser part, with a view to taking delivery of airframes once the project reaches fruition. The A model is the traditional forward flight only conventional take-off aircraft that is destined to operate from its operator's airbases, so has none of the trappings of the STOVL capable B model, leaving extra space within the airframe for fuel and weapons load.

It is designed to replace much of the F-16's functionality whilst adding stealth, more correctly termed low-observability into the mix, although it will also replace some of the A-10's capacity whilst being much faster over the ground, so theoretically harder to shoot down. How much of the A-10's work-load will be taken up with cheaper, almost disposable drones by the time the F-35A comes into service is as yet unknown.

The first flight of the F-35A was in early 2006, and continued test flying with various hold-ups putting it further behind schedule, which coupled with increasing costs has caused constant griping about its viability in the press. Following its flight testing at speeds of up to Mac 16, and subsequent grounding of the whole fleet due to the failure of a power unit, weapons testing began in October this year (2012) with the test firing of an AIM-120 BVR Air-to-Air missile, the replacement of the old Sparrow missile.

The Kit

This release follows hot on the heels of Kitty Hawk's recent F-35B, which was reviewed here in August. Although it may look very similar to the uninformed on quick glance, the two airframes are significantly different, and consequentially so are these two kits. The box is an overall white top-opening one with another nice painting of an F-35A airborne over broken cloud. Inside are six sprues of light grey styrene, the two large fuselage halves, a small clear sprue, a small but busy Photo-Etch (PE) sheet, two sheets of colourful decals, the instruction booklet with full colour cover, and an additional photo-instruction sheet for the PE parts.







First impressions are good, and the fuselage parts are covered in fine detail of the same style as the B-model, although the styrene is a paler grey of the same type as that of the new Jaguar A kit, which should be good news for those that weren't keen on the darker more brittle plastic of the F-35B. The build begins conventionally with the cockpit, which is reasonably simple due to the fact that it's depicting a modern "glass" cockpit with Multi-Function Displays (MFDs). The ejector seat is made up of six parts, including a pull-handle at the front of the seat cushion and a control box attached to the left side. A set of PE seatbelt harnesses are included, plus a cover for the top of the head-box to hide the joint between two main parts. The instrument panel is a single piece with two side sections and one middle section having raised details, while the main section is flat, ready to receive the instrument panel decal that is included on the decal sheet. Some boxes affix to the rear deck, and throttle and control levers to the recessed side consoles.



Unsurprisingly, the nose gear bay is attached to the underside of the cockpit, and this is made up from individual sides to maximise the detail. As seems to be the way with all recent Kitty Hawk kits, the gear leg is shown installed before the bay is placed in the fuselage, but with this kit, that's entirely optional, because all three legs fit into sockets in the roof of the bay, so can be installed at any time. The gear leg is nicely detailed however, and has a separate oleo-scissor and retraction jack that is made up from two parts. The main gear bays are built up from two parts each, with the larger side a separate part, and a similarly detailed gear leg. The main wheels are made from two halves, with the outer hub moulded into the tyre, while the rear hub is a separate part that installs into a recess. The nose-gear wheel is a single part, and none of the tyres have any weighting, although that's easy to remedy with a sanding stick if you feel the need.

The twin intakes are next up, with the two trunks joining within the fuselage to feed the single engine with much-needed air. Each trunk is made from two halves, split diagonally at the corners, and there are a few shallow ejector pin marks that will need cleaning up near the open mouth. These mate at the conjoined end with a basic rendition of the engine, which makes up from two halves, and has fan faces front and rear, with additional stator vanes on the front face, and a PE burner ring at the rear. The exhaust trunk is a separate section, again made from two halves, with an internal ring added at the exhaust end. The exhaust petals themselves are supplied either as a one-piece styrene ring, which has some nice detail moulded in, or as a series of PE parts that are formed into a circle, and then joined together. The inner sleeve is formed into a simple cylinder, while the outer petals have a cylindrical base, but have an etched fold so that they can be bend inward to give the familiar conical shape to the outside. A narrow ring with serrated detail is formed into a cylinder, with the trailing serrations bent in slightly, and then placed at the base of the exhaust to conform to the shape. This is clearly the more complex option, and while it offers better and more in-scale detail, it also gives you the chance of disaster. The back-up styrene part will provide a very useful safety net if you're either phobic of PE, or are unlucky enough to make a mess of it.

One of the key components of the F-35's low-observability is that it is capable of carrying some weapons in internal bays, reducing external clutter and the radar signature that the weapons would return. The main bays are on the underside of the aircraft, and these are portrayed in the kit as two "bathtubs" that have separate end-caps and plenty of moulded in detail. There is a minor mistake in the instructions of the initial batch at this point (stages 7 &8), which seems to revolve around the incorrect installation of a couple of boxes in the bays that aren't included in the kit. There are however a pair of thick cable trunks that run down each side of the bay, and these are supplied as separate parts to give them a proper 3D look. Each bay is supplied with a JDAM inertially guided smart bombs to give the bay some purpose, and to busy them up. The intake mounted Air-to-Air weapons bays are moulded closed on this kit, but their openings can be seen on the sides of the fuselage due to the raised detail around them.



When all the bays are complete and painted, they are dropped into the lower fuselage, starting with the nose gear bay and the weapons bays, then the engine and its intake trunking, which also includes an additional part of the intake lip, and then the cockpit, which fits atop the nose gear bay, and the main gear bays outboard of the weapons bays. In the top fuselage half two parts are added to complete the bay for the cannon on the starboard side, and the refuelling receptacle on the spine of the aircraft. Once installed, the two fuselage halves are joined together, and the model will then start to look more like an aircraft. Three PE mesh grilles are added to the upper fuselage, two on the cannon fairing, and one on the prominent fairing on the port side.

The F-35's blended wings are relatively small, and are made up from two halves, plus a two piece leading edge slat, and two piece flaperon, with a wingtip recognition light in clear (not numbered in the instructions) finishing off the job. The joint with the fuselage is stepped to add strength to the arrangement, and three sockets on the underside of the fuselage help hold it in place. The twin elevators build from two parts each and plug into the rear of the fuselage either side of the exhaust. A separate tip to the nose is added at this stage, presumably to remove the need to hide any seam going through the nose, which is a thoughtful touch. The raised sensor blister with two flat glazed panes is added to the underside, although this part isn't all that clear in places, suffering from a little distortion.

An absolute profusion of bay doors are installed next, and this makes the two steps (15 & 16) look rather cluttered, because every door has a significant hinging system added to it within the diagram, so care is the order of the day here. The larger weapon bay doors and the outer main gear bay doors have two individual hinges each, which locate within their respective bays, and the inner weapons bay doors have four each, again adding to the detail. Inside each weapons bay is a flip-out pylon for the AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles, which have to be placed clear of the bays for firing. These sit close to the inner bay doors close to the ground, and each missile is made up from a pair of body halves with four winglets moulded into the seamline plane, and four additional winglets as separate parts perpendicular to those.

The vertical(ish) stabilisers are added in the final stage, along with the refuelling bay doors, which can be posed open or close, and the beautifully clear canopy part. The canopy of the F-35 opens forwards as a single part, and this is possible by leaving the tab in place that fits into a slot in the front of the instrument coaming. There are a large number of PE parts to detail the latch mechanism for this area, including a lower-lip for the canopy itself, and a row of engagement teeth on its underside. The corresponding slots are already moulded into the cockpit sills, and additional X-shaped PE parts are added to detail this are further. A pair of canopy rams are also included to support the open canopy. All-in-all, quite an impressive feature.



The decals are supplied on two sheets, and are split between the AF-01 Prototype with black stabilisers that have a large red lightning strike running diagonally across them, and AF-06 the first production airframe that made its maiden flight at Fort Worth before being transferred to Edwards Air Force Base. AF-06 has a full set of lo-viz decals, while AF-01 has a mixture of multi-national flags, full colour badges and lo-viz decals. In addition to the decals that are detailed in colour on the rear cover of the instruction booklet, there are also a host of national roundels in hi-viz and lo-viz for the modeller that wants to try their hand at building a speculative in-service machine from their chosen nation.



Another impressive release from Kitty Hawk that deserves to do well. It represents the most up-to-date F-35A model we have to hand at present, and although the in-service machines will change as time goes by, their main features should still be captured by this kit. The detail is good throughout, and although a decal for the main instrument panel might seem a little simplistic, the panel is fully glazed, and would be difficult to represent any other way in truth.

Inclusion of a pilot figure is also a nice touch, and detail on this is also good, although he will need a little filler to deal with a sink mark in his lower abdomen, but this shouldn't ruin any detail due to where it is.

Highly recommended.

Available soon from Hannants


Review sample courtesy of

logo.gif and available soon from major hobby shops

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Many thanks for the review Mike, looks like a fine set of moulds and good to see some PE parts which include the exhaust petals plus a comprehensive decal sheet, should make it prove to be a popular kit.


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Thank you for the review Mike.

Looks like another addition to the stash.


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Following its flight testing at speeds of up to Mac 16...

Flippin' heck that thing is FAST !!!

Nice review Mike :D Thanx. I'm liking the looks of this plane more and more. Still not convinced we (the Dutch) should buy it though

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Looks fantastic in the box, but the F-35B build that's going on right now here on Britmodeller is not encouraging. That particular kit (or sample) looks like a pig. But since I've made my modelling career out of building pigs, I may have a go at it! Even though it's not the divine scale. Any rumours of an F-35C?



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Well judging by the fit if the Jag I'm building, I think the A and B will both build up fine. :) There are a lot of ways the modeller can introduce fit issue - I should know, I've found most of 'em ;)

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What kind of sadist moulds an amraam in two halves? And is the surface detail on the fuselage to scale? Looks like hints of the Hasegawa F-22...?

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