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F-35C Lightning II 1:48


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F-35C Lightning II
1:48 Kitty Hawk


We reviewed the F-35A (reviewed here, and F-35B (reviewed here) when they were released, and you can pick up some information on the real thing from there if you have a read. The F-35C is the traditional carrier-borne variant, which has a number of differences to make it resilient enough to work from a carrier at sea, including strengthened landing gear for those hard landings, larger folding wings and tail planes for greater control at landing speeds, and of course a big hook at the rear for trapping-on, which was subject to a little controversy when it had to be hastily re-designed.

The Kit
This is the third variant of the Lightning II from Kitty Hawk, and you can read our reviews of the previous two by following the links above. The C is likely to be the last for a short while until the various other operators settle on their configurations. In line with commonality of the real variants, the A and the C models share a great many parts on the sprues, with a subtly different fuselage that omits the refuelling port and adds a bulge under the tail for the arrestor hook. The guts of the beast are familiar, with new sprues containing the larger wings, a new cockpit tub and some weapons, plus the gear legs and wheels for this ruggedized variant. The box is standard Kitty Hawk fare, with a painting of an F-35C on the blocks ready to be catapulted into the air – a scene that lends itself to Kinetic's diorama base that I have half-completed behind me. Inside the box are eight sprues in light grey styrene, one of clear, a reduced Photo-Etch (PE) sheet, and two sheets of decals. A detail & Scale flyer hides the instruction booklet at the bottom of the box, which has a fold-out full colour painting and decaling guide that is much improved over their early efforts. Thanks for listening guys!











The kit is typical Kitty Hawk, and if you have any of their kits, especially the other F-35s, you'll know exactly what to expect. The sprue ejector guy still has his machine turned up to eleven though, and there are some visible stress marks on the surfaces of the wings, and the instrument panel looks like it was almost punched in half by the severity of the ejection. The clear sprue is marked up differently than the A, but a brief visual inspection doesn't show any obvious differences, but it does show how lovely and clear the part is, although my canopy had broken off the sprue (cleanly) by the time I had opened the bag. The PE sheet is much smaller than the earlier A, eschewing the option of having the crisp metal exhaust petals that could easily drive the novice PE user to despair.


Construction begins with the cockpit, and don't be tempted to choose the wrong tub as your basis for this. Appropriately it is number B13, and the instructions call for E25 instead, which has a sort-of missing edge to the tub to accommodate the refuelling probe bay on the starboard side. The pilot's seat is a little lacklustre, but does have a set of PE belts to hide the bland cushions, and of course a pilot figure that isn't mentioned in the instructions if you want to hide it properly. The instrument panel had received a punch in the back from the ejector pin, but remains intact on my review sample, so take care when you remove it from the sprue. The central portion is blank and has a decal to depict the large expanse of glass that is the modern instrument panel. It's like sitting in front of an ultra-wide LED screen, mainly because that's what it is. The rudder pedals are nicely moulded integrally to the tub, with a short control column and HOTAS stick on the port side console. A few black boxes affix behind the seat, and a large coaming shrouds the instrument panel, with the assembly to be added to the lower fuselage in due course.


The nose gear bay is shallow and made up from separate sides with a separate angled forward section, so detail here is good. The chunky gear leg with a massive retraction strut can be placed in at this stage, or left 'til later, and the additional parts add extra life to it, with separate bracing struts, and of course the twin nose wheels, which are made up from halves, which suits the circumferential tread engraved into the contact surface. The big weapons bays in the belly are next, with a long snaking conduit running their full length, and a couple of equipment boxes added to busy the area up. You'll need to do a little more work with wiring (did I say a little?) to add extra visual interest and make the whole area as faithful as possible, or you can chicken out and close them up! The two weapons bays and nose gear bay are then installed in the lower fuselage, which should give it the structural rigidity that it lacks out of the box. A little tail-hook bay is placed in the rear, and then it is time to build up the engines, which comprise full-depth intake trunking, plus a basic representation of the engines themselves, which will ultimately disappear within the fuselage forever. The F135 engines that are currently too large to carry by the US Fleet replenishment systems have their rear face surprisingly close to the rear of the aircraft, so exhaust trunking isn't required, but you'll have enough sanding and filling already with the intake trunks, so breathe a sigh of relief here. These slot in on top and between the weapons bays, and are joined by the main gear bays, which will also need some additional wiring to super-detail them. The big gear legs have separate retraction jacks and oleo-scissors, with the wheels themselves made up from two halves and a separate inner brake calliper part, which look like they can also be installed later if you wish. Once in place outboard of the weapons bays, the cockpit is then attached to the roof of the nose gear bay, and attention turns to the upper fuselage. The gun blanking plate is attached above the starboard intake lip, and the refuelling probe is added, which doesn't seem to have a closed option, although the cover is added later in the build. Some test-fitting and fettling would be needed if you wanted to pose this closed. Ten PE shackles are added to around the cockpit lip, as well as a rear bulkhead behind the pilot's head, and the sharp tip is added to the nose, before the wings are started.


The wing sprues of the C are totally different from the other variants, both in terms of sprue layout, configuration as well as size. The inner wing panels are built from a two-part core with separate leading edges and posable flaperons, both of which are also made up from top and bottom skins. The outer wing panels are similarly constructed, and can be posed down for flight, or by the use of a small hinge part, they can be posed up for storage below decks. A hinge strip is placed horizontally or vertically, respectively. The horizontal tails are two parts each and plug into the rear booms either side of the engine, so you won't be able to pose them without some adjustments. The enlarged vertical tails are also two parts, and these fit into some large sockets on the top of the fuselage. Again, they're fixed, so posing them offset to one side or other will involve work on your part.

The exhaust petals are a single very finely moulded part, and quite nicely done. Mine had received a light blow during transit, so a couple of the petals were very slightly less sharp than the others, but this shouldn't notice under a few coats of paint. Once installed, a pair of serrated fairings are fitted to blend the exhaust in with the fuselage. A crew step is included in the kit, and that normally resides behind a fuselage panel á la the A-10. Another small door is present at the front of the tail-hook bay, and that opens up to permit the hook to deploy fully. If you are depicting your F-35C in flight, you'll need to address all these bays to fettle and fit them closed, and this will be best done before you close up the fuselage. The underside of the Lightning II is as forest of doors in order to maintain its low-observability as much and as long as possible. The weapons bays have two doors running their whole length, and the main gear bays have two that open toward the wing tips. The nose gear bay has a pair of clamshell doors at the front of the bay, and a single door captive to the retraction jack at the rear. All of these doors are well detailed inside, and have separate hinges that should result in a good strong joint with the fuselage. At the nose a clear part represents the faceted Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS) that is integrated with all of the F-35's systems. The real thing has an oily holographic sheen, but good luck with representing that one!

Kitty hawk aren't usually stingy with their weapons, and with the C, we have a number that can be added to the pylons that are included with the kit, but none are able to be installed in the weapons bays out of the box, which seems a shame, and misses the whole point of providing the opening bays. There is however the new semi-stealthy pod that contains a GAU-22 25mm four barrelled gatling gun to give the new uber-aircraft old school dog-fighting capabilities at the expense of some of the stealth. This sits between the weapons bays on the belly, and is made up from three parts. The external pylons are fabricated from two halves plus an insert for the location points, with the slim outer pylon having faceted stabilising base attached to the upper edge of the pylon. To these you can add a combination of the following, but check your references if you want to make the load-out more accurate.

2 x AIM120 AMRAAMs
2 x AIM-9X Sidewinders
2 x GBU-38 Iron bombs
2 x GBU-31 Iron Bombs
2 x GUB-31B Iron Bombs
2 x GBU-12 Smart Bombs

We are treated to four markings options, which is good considering the short lifespan of the "final form" F-35C so far. From the box you can build one of the following:

  • US Navy No.01 VFA-101 – all over RAM grey with hi-viz markings and Grim Reapers badge on the tails.
  • US Navy CF-01 – all over RAM grey with lo-viz markings and blue/yellow lightning strikes on the tails with F-35 in yellow.
  • US Navy CF-03 - all over RAM grey with lo-viz markings.
  • US Navy CF-01 prototype – patchwork blue/grey primer, RAM grey and blue tail fins. Depicted before the final finish was applied.


Colour call-outs are Gunze throughout, as you'd expect from a Far Eastern company, and the decals have been printed anonymously, as per their previous kits. The quality does seem to have improved somewhat, and registration is good on this issue, but there are still the occasional bleed of some of the more intense dark colours, especially on the stars and bars, although it's barely noticeable without magnification. One of the greys has been composited by mixing grey and black printing, so on close inspection some of the logos on nose appear a little grainy, but again, you really have to be paying close attention. The yellow flashes on the tail of option 2 are printed, and may not show up too well over a blue tail, so perhaps give some consideration to masking them, using the decals as a template.

The final part of the F-35 trilogy will fit nicely on the shelf with the A and B, and as usual with Kitty Hawk, should build up into an impressive looking replica with the application of some modelling skill. Test-fitting and care in preparing the parts will pay dividends, and that patchwork primer option is really rather tempting.


Review sample courtesy of logo.gif and available soon from major hobby shops

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Well thats good because I don't like kits like that type of kit :evil_laugh:

They have their uses such as regaining mojo, but I think I know where you're coming from. :)

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There are many but I'll concentrate on the game breaker: The Stabilators.

I have no idea why but the kit horizontal tails come flexed upwards at an angle that puts the tips somewhere between Harrier ski jump and tank obstacle. Cut the piece off the sprue and the leading edge (wrapping around to the trailing edge at the tip) reflexes, losing it's tension but keeping it's torsion with the result that the outboard half of the stab is practically a sine-wave.

This is made worse by the fact that there is a thick RAM or erosion protection strip _right there_ and so the plastic has a lot of memory.

I have both stabs taped flat, three tries into not-quite-boiling water torture (ow-ow-ow-OW!) and it's looking pretty grim.

To which I'll add that the leading edge of these surfaces was done by someone with a bricklayer's degree while, comparatively, the trailing edge was designed by the same guy who invented X-Acto blades. The result is a leading edge that has no airfoil shape (no, really, blunt as a rape joke in a Carmelite nunnery) and a trailing edge that wants to split if you flex it too hard.

Result: my F-35Cs tails are all but white with stress deformation micro-cracking.

All of which makes a hideous joke out of the insert at the lower root which accommodates the aircraft's unique hingeline fairing as this strategy is specifically employed to keep airfoil shapes true to scale on thick-rooted parts without sink marks.

Again, the LE isn't more tear-drop curved for want of having this insert it's _flat_. While the TE couldn't get any thinner without being transparent, it literally wouldn't look out of place on a 1/144th scale aircraft.

And there's another problem. Unfortunately, this insert sits about a piece of paper too shallow and thus there is a step in the middle of the tail pieces which is taller than .010 but will be thicker than .010 with cyanoacrylate. Ask me how I know.

Seriously, the man who designed the wings and tail of this kit needs to pick up his sack of hammers and go back to testing fuses at the bomb factory.

And no, you can't use the KASL replacements because the KASL tails are for the F-35A/B and the F-35C (horizontals) are much bigger.

The only solution I can see at this point is taking a piece of outline-cut sheet and having sanded off the lower surface detail, CA'ing the top to bottom before sanding back. This -might- straighten the LE but will cost you the myriad of fastener divots (wait, fastneners in composite?) and require replacing the RAM strip and even then may not work because of the hinge fairing.


I have only done some sub assemblies (32 parts in the wings, tails and control surfaces!) at this point because I don't want to stink out the neighbors with painting. But just on the stabs alone, I have to say that this kit came to market without a QC buildup.

Expect your build time to double over your average for a 1/48th jet aircraft, just cleaning up seams.

Oh KittyHawk, you so silly. You don't make more money by crafting kits that are excessively complex and contentious to build. Honey, not Vinegar!

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I'm wondering whether your kit is faulty, as I've just cut a few pieces out of mine, and taped them together to see if I can understand your comments better. Here are a couple of pics that seem at variance with your description. Can you post some pics to back up your assertions? :hmmm:



As to the insert sitting too deep in the main part, I had a quick play around with it and managed to glue it flush with the rest of the surface. If there aren't any rivets on that surface, they'll need filling anyway :)


There are definitely rivets/fasteners on the vertical tail, although whether they'll be seen once complete is another matter!


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Very basic phone pics. Blurry but the damage is so bad as to make it obvious even with fuzzy cam.

I need a week to go get a cable for the computer. It is not my imagination.

Also, why did they fit those gunpod parts to the outside of such thin meeting surfaces like that?

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I'm fairly certain that very few (if any) fasteners will show on the flight ready craft. Similarly panel lines and so on will all be rather restrained. The pictures of the F-35C I've found all tend to back that up.

These kits are tricky to build but, as proved here on BM they can be made into rather nice models. I am intending to build mine over the winter and, reading the reviews and WIPs and checking the parts I think a little forward planning will make things easier.

Time will tell...

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The whole idea of a "stealth" aircraft would not to have panel lines etc?

Nice shots. The thing is, the majority of the F-35, unlike the F-22, is made from aluminum. This was supposed to be what made it cheap. If you look at the F-35 production line-




It's obvious.

From your own experience with resin -without- underlying composite weave, you know that it is brittle and once cracked or dinged it is very hard to it's original surface quality.

There is no reason on earth you would drill composites like the above because it would tear through the polyaramid fibers and severely degrade the substrate matrix in which they were imbedded.

Since the final (pre paint shop) form looks like this-




In which you can literally see the blurred areas where fasteners and panel lines are blended in with aeroputty; what I am betting is that, after the expensive and maintenance intensive, all composite, Gen-2, Stealths (B-2, F-22); they are back to building jets 'ye olde fashund wae' and like the Me-262 shown here-


They then seal up the prepainted (anticorrosion/static) subcomponents 'at the major seams' and send it off to the paintshop where something like epoxy based Parkerizing finishes (Brownell's etc.) of gun refinishers are applied. Except that these contain some very special nano-metallic content which also serves to 'smooth out' the electrical conductance variables in the various metallic skin panels. From the modeller's perspective, it is the equivalent of coating the jet in Alclad primer and a Metallizer finish, all at once.

As long as the skin itself is perfectly smooth, the stuff in the paint makes the material density transitions disappear until the entire airframe functions as a single conductance dipole.

They then send it to the 'special secure shop' where RAM material is applied as edge surrounds to those bays which have frequent access and tape and seal those before sending it -back- to the paint shops for a 'clear coat' which may or may not have it's own RAM ingredients, but is designed, like our modeling topcoat equivalents, to protect the final finish from sun and oxidation.

And it comes out looking like this-


The translucent effect of which is because the tinted overcoat overlaps the preceding coats -and the RAM- giving you that soft edged appearance visible in some shots of the panel surrounds as it, again, blends the RAM to the surrounding surfaces (miracle of computerized robotic spray guns, micron level thickness coating control).

It is also why it is damned expensive to retouch surface dings in the coatings (depot or factory level repair) because you have to go down through so many layers. But by the same token, epoxy based finishes can be made very tough so it's likely not nearly as easy to scratch or damage as the old paints were.

This is how VLO goes to sea.

Given that there is no reason to be ontop of the jet and there are several dissimilarities between line jets and the prepaint factory models (look at the DSI bumps) for texture and outline, I also believe that these 'RAM' grids are also more than they seem and may in fact be dialectric antennas. The initial, paint being designed to induce surface voltages in the skin that -aids- impedance coupling of radar waves to it's planes and curves (think Coanda and your palm under a faucet). Whereupon they strike the surface stripline arrays (the large 'plastic' DSI fairings are more like antenna radomes) themselves or some counter-voltage generated by them and are _cancelled_, on airframe.

This is why a jet which has no ARM and, at present, only very limited standoff ordnance capabilities; has an ASQ-239 Barracuda ELS/ESM suite which can measure azimuth and elevation bearings as well as signal characteristics of threat emitters down to minutes of degree and tenths of frequencies/Doppler/phase polarization. They are characterizing radar signals to send to a 'stealth' jammer which doesn't transmit but so perfectly counterwaves the threat waveform on-skin that it disappears.

It is also why the USAF/USN/USMC/LOCLOEXCOM aren't particularly worried about giving away RFLO, less than a generation after pioneering it, by prostituting it to half the planet, since most of the capability is software driven and thus the only reason why, 'day to day', the USAF and Export models have similar signatures is because in peacetime (controlled airspace) training, nobody in our services has thrown the GTW switch. Have you seen an RCS augmentation on an F-35 like the enhancers carried by the F-117 and F-22? No. And you never will because, without the monkey pressing the button, it's a relatively conventional signature airframe.

This being a part of the give away on new-school separation between stealth generations. In a world where we are told 'shape-shape-shape-materials' is the rule for making a good stealth jet (The F-35 is nearly cruciform, like a Starfighter or F-5) the JSF is painfully conventional.

Foreign model aircraft don't have the codes or likely the cancellation generator and won't, even in wartime (see: Saudi F-15Cs in Desert Storm which were allowed _nowhere near_ the 'coal face' of active combat). Making the whole idea of 'joint coalition warfare' justification for everyone buying this jet a joke. Britain likely being one of the few (Tier 1) customers who will get the real deal.

What this means for modellers is that we need some serious paint templates or decals because the raised panels on the Kittyhawk airframes are massively out of scale and do not look like the blended-smooth areas on most parts of the jet.

Indeed, I would go so far as to say we need a 'painting system', that actually emulates the translucent metallic finish on the real jets, with several base coat shades, masks, a translucent carrier medium and tint shade.

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No doubt as these kits come on stream paint systems will come out, we did have "Raptor Sheen" before.

Decals might be more of a way to go like Hasegawa did with there ASF-X Shinden II "Kei Nagase Color" kit: http://www.britmodeller.com/forums/index.php?/topic/234954948-asf-x-shinden-ii-kei-nagase-color-hasegawa-172-limited-edition/?hl=hasegawa

In Kitty Hawk's defence the panel lines are no worse than those we have seen on 1:48 F-22 kits, indeed looking at the pics they might be better.


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  • 4 years later...

I know that I am nearly a decade behind this conversation, and just so everyone knows, Kitty Hawk has done nothing to address the giant bumps in their panel lines. Of course I have not painted it yet, even started it, just doing pre-build research on the airframe. I am in awe of the knowledge I can find on this site, I am absolutely a laymen when it comes to aeronautics and stealth. It was my understanding that most of the stealthy aspect of the F-35 where built into the foreward aspects of the plane, the rest is done via electronic countermeasures, but I may be wrong.


Anyway, I was wondering is anyone came up with a viable solution to the ridiculously raised panel lines, as nearly all the photos I am gathering, show pretty much a smooth skin. In some photos, the lines appear to actually be concaved in a V shape, but that might be lighting trickery.


Anyway, I am looking forward to building this kit, and when I have the time/money, it finish out with the other versions, being the F-35A and C variants. I might even try a different maker, like hobby boss.


I hope I can pick your brains when troubles or just questions arise during my builds, you all have infinity more experience and wisdom than I can possibly fathom.

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