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Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornet (LS-012) 1:48


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Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornet (LS-012)

1:48 Meng via Creative Models Ltd

 

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The original Hornet design lost the Lightweight Fighter battle with what became the F-16, but after some re-designing and tweaking, it won the contract for the US Navy’s do-it-all fighter to replace the Tomcats, Corsairs et al, becoming the multi-role F/A-18 Hornet.  When more capabilities were required, a further re-design that was more of a total do-over but retained the same general shape and designation, only about a third larger for reasons best left unsaid, but probably budget related, and a way to get around possible restrictions or pitfalls barring a new type.  This much larger aircraft became the Super Hornet, with the two-seater designated F/A-18F, and the single-seat variant E, both of which began production in the late 90s, entering service just before the new millennium.  With the withdrawal of the F-14 Tomcat in 2006 they became the primary carrier-borne fighter of the US Navy and Marines, serving alongside the original Hornet for a while, but all of the “legacy” Hornets have now left US service, although they remain on the books of some foreign operators.  You can easily tell them apart without a size reference by checking the intakes.  Oval = Hornet, Rectangular = Super Hornet.

 

The enlargement of the wing area, lengthening on the fuselage and installation of more powerful GE engines changed the characteristics of the airframe markedly, giving it more speed, weapons capability and range, with even more tankage hung from the wings, and buddy-pods allowing same-type refuelling operations without having a vulnerable dedicated tanker on station.  There have been various upgrades over the years, and the Super Hornet has a wide range of munitions to choose from, making it a capable all-round war-fighter that is still nowhere near the end of its service life, although trials with pilotless carrier-based aircraft are underway.  In addition to the E and F variants, the G, or Growler is a heavily modified two-seater with a huge quantity of Electronic Warfare equipment carried both internally and externally on pylons.

 

 

The Kit

This is a brand-new tooling from Meng, who have a habit of popping out an aircraft model every now and again, alongside their more regular armour range, which is similarly well-regarded.  We have come to expect great things from Meng, as they have impressive skills and a penchant for high levels of detail in their kits.  It arrives in one of their standard satin-sheened deep boxes with a painting of the aircraft on the front, and a host of goodies inside.  Opening the box reveals eighteen sprues of various sizes in grey styrene plus two fuselage halves in the same plastic, five sprues in clear plus the canopy (all wrapped in protective self-cling plastic), three sets of small poly-caps, a Ziploc bag of ten flat-headed pins, a small sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) metal, two sheets of decals, a sheet of pre-cut paper masks, the instruction booklet with colour profiles in the rear, four sheets of card with information about the F/A-18 in four languages, and a similarly multi-lingual competition flyer to win cash prizes, apparently.

 

Everything is separately bagged with mildly annoying staples closing them up, and once you strip these off you see the high quality of the parts within.  Detail is right up there with the best, and has finely engraved detail, with raised detail where appropriate and slide-moulding used to improve details further without creating more parts that make some people shout “over-engineered!” because… well, I guess more parts are harder?

 

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Construction begins reassuringly conventionally with the cockpit, with the single-seat tub having a cover fitted over the rear, the sidewalls installed next to the detailed side consoles, a large control column part, chunky throttle, and a well-appointed instrument panel, which has a number of individual decals supplied for both it and the side consoles, the numbers for which are called out in a scrap diagram.  The rudder pedals are moulded into the floor and could do with some more detail if you aren’t inserting the supplied pilot figure, which you can see in the detail photos.  The nose gear bay is made up from the roof, shallow sides, front bulkhead and some thick trunking/hoses snaking through the bay.  Those two subassemblies are mated then trapped between the forward lower fuselage halves, with the top half moulded-into the rest of the upper fuselage, to be brought together later.  In the meantime, the upper fuselage is prepared by fitting the wing lowers with a choice of folded or straight wing-hinge supports, and another choice of ECS ram air exhaust types, the multi-tubular type having some impressive moulding.

 

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The F-18 runs two GE F414 turbofans, with long intakes to keep the rapidly rotating fans away from the prying eyes of enemy radar beams.  The trunking is made from two halves, and has a few ejector pin marks inside, but cleaning those up before joining the halves should make the task easier.  The rear is covered by a representation of the engine front, then the completed trunks are attached to the appropriate main gear bays, which are made from three parts, and have more highly impressive detail moulded-in, as shown above.  The two subassemblies are inserted into the lower fuselage from within, and splitter plates are attached to the sides of the fuselage on two slots, with some fine detail moulded-in.  The rectangular sides of the intake trunking and lower fuselage sides fit around the assembly, then a pair of pivots are slotted into the rear fuselage with poly-caps allowing them to pivot without suffering from modeller’s droop.  The lower nose clips into the lower fuselage, then the upper fuselage is lowered over it, mating snugly even without glue from a quick test fit I made.  She’s looking like an aircraft now, but the cockpit is unfinished and she’s got no nose.  I won’t ask how she smells though.  The coaming is first, and has the HUD sides added and a circular projector lens in the bottom.  The two clear panels are inserted between the supports one over the other, with a scrap diagram showing the correct position, then it can be glued in place and the windscreen fixed over the top.  At the rear of the cockpit the cover over the avionics bay is attached, followed by the nose cone and insert with the muzzle cover for the M61A2 Vulcan cannon at the top, joined to the fuselage with a stepped ridge helping to improve fit.

 

The Hornet’s wings are moulded into the fuselage, but the slats and flaps are separate paired parts, the slats capable of being modelled deployed, or by cutting off the nubs in the leading edge, retracted.  The flaps can also be depicted cleaned-up with one set of straight actuator fairings, or fully deployed by using a separate cranked set, with the gap between the sections filled by the upper surface inserts.  If you chose the unfolded wing joint earlier, it’s simply a matter of applying the top and bottom sections to the link, adding the spacer, then fitting the appropriate flap actuator fairings for the flaps, and the slats in extended or retracted positions, again by removing the nubs on the leading edge.  The folded wingtips are made up with retracted flaps and slats plus straight fairings before they are inserted into the L-shaped fold with a different set of spacers.  The two vertical fins have a T-shaped pivot point inserted under a small separate section of the rudder, then the completed rudder is trapped between the two halves of the fin without glue so it can pivot later.  A nav light is inserted into the outer side, and the other fin is a near mirror image.  The fins fit into slots in the rear fuselage, and the elevators push into the poly-caps hidden within the fuselage sides later on.

 

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The twin exhausts start with a cylinder with the rear of the engine moulded-in, a PE afterburner ring, then a two-part length of trunking with a corrugated interior.  A choice of exhaust petal types finishes off the rear, one set having straight petals, the other with cranked rear sections, and after painting they’re inserted into the two apertures in the rear of the fuselage.  The rugged nose gear of the F-18 has to be sturdy to withstand repeated carrier launches and landings, and you have a choice of setting the catapult bar in the up position for parked, or down for an aircraft ready to launch.  A landing light and a number of stencil placards are applied to the leg after painting it white, and the twin wheels fit either side of the transverse axle.  Additional parts are fitted in and around the nose gear bay when inserting the gear leg, then gear bay doors are fixed around the bay, causing much perspiration when you have to add the red edges to each one.  The main gear legs also have a number of placards added after painting, and the wheels are made up from two parts each.  These too have additional parts added during fitting into the bays, closely followed by the red-rimmed bay doors and their actuators.  Just in case you wanted to catch an arrestor wire, the hook nestles between the two exhaust fairings on a long lug.

 

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The instructions have you making up the munitions for a break before completing the model, but we’ll cover that later.  The ejection seat is made up from a series of very well detailed parts, and although it doesn’t have seatbelts for an absent pilot, there are stencils for the headbox sides and rear.  It is installed in the cockpit, optionally along with one of the pilot figures that come on the sprues, which have separate arms, a wrap-around flotation vest and separate helmeted head with O2 hose, and as there are two additional arms (x2) you could experiment with some alternative poses to add a little variety to your model.  The canopy clear part is crystal clear with an external seam over the top that you can either leave there (it’s pretty fine), or sand flush and polish back to clarity.  There is a frame insert to fit within the canopy, and a choice of two canopy openers, depending on whether you wish to pose the canopy open or closed.  A blade antenna in the centre of spine finishes off the top of your model.  Under the port Leading Edge Root Extension (LERX), the integral crew ladder is stored (on the real thing), and it can be posed open by adding the ladder with its two supports and the open door to the bay, or if you want to pose it closed, put the long narrow part that represents one edge of the ladder.

 

Back to the weapons.  This is where the pins and tiny poly-caps come into play, allowing you to switch and change your load-out whenever you want on some of the pylons.  Most of the pylon types have the pins trapped between them, four of type-A, two of type-B, and one of type-C.  Type-B also has an adapter rail fitted instead of pins, which is also made from two parts, and these fit on the outer wing stations, while the four identical pylons fit on the two inner stations per wing, and the solo Type-C attaches to the centreline.  A pair of wingtip rails are made up with spacer plates, then you can choose which of the supplied weapon types to hang from them.  Two GBU-24s are built from halves, with the perpendicular fins separate, a clear-domed seeker head and a locating plate on the topside.  Inside are two cups that hold poly-caps within, and these are glued into position lined up with the pre-moulded holes in the sides of the bomb and its mounting plate.  The same process applies to the GBU-16s, except all the fins in the front and rear are separate, and there is a clear “droopy” seeker-head, with the poly-caps inserted into chambers in the bomb halves.  The AIM-9Xs have clear seeker-heads and exhausts, plus adapter rails, while the three AIM-120Cs are each moulded complete, with a slim adapter rail.  The two AIM-9Ms have a clear seeker, and eight separate fins, then the AN/ASQ-228 targeting pod is made from two halves, a two-part rotating sensor mounting, and tubular rear fairing, which is mounted on a concave pylon that fits to the port of the underside fuselage.  Scrap diagrams show the correct location of the missiles on their rails, as well as the targeting pod, while another larger diagram shows which options can be placed on which pylons.  It’s always best to look at some real-world photos for examples for demonstrable and practical load-outs.

 

 

Markings

There are four decal options on the sheet, and you also get a set of canopy masks that are pre-cut from paper, using frame-hugging masks on the compound curves, so that the gaps can be covered by tape offcuts or liquid mask.  There are also masks for the landing light and targeting pod lens, plus a set of toroidal masks for the wheels to allow you to cut a sharp demarcation with little effort.  From the box you can build one of the following:

 

  • Capt. James McCall, CO of CAW 8, VFA-31 “Felix the Cat”, USS George H W Bush, 2017
  • LtCdr. Carlisle Lustenberger, VFA-31 “Felix the Cat”, USS George H W Bush, 2009
  • LtCdr R J Prescott, VFA-87 “Golden Warriors”, USS George H W Bush, 2017
  • Pilot Unknown, US Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor Program, 2019

 

 

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Decals are by Cartograf, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin gloss carrier film cut close to the printed areas.  The main sheet includes all the markings for the airframe, while the smaller sheet contains the stencils for the pylons and the weapons, of which there are many on a modern jet.  The colours are called out in Meng/AK codes, as well as Gunze’s recent water-based Acrysion paints, which don’t seem to be prominently available in the UK.

 

Conclusion

Of course, there are lots of F-18 kits in this scale, but those don’t make any money for Meng, and they have brought their own particular set of skills to the party.  They have produced a highly detailed model, with some excellent moulding and markings to create a model that is excellent out of the box, without the necessity of aftermarket.

 

Extemely highly recommended.

 

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Review sample courtesy of

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4 minutes ago, Mike said:

Pilot Unknown, US Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor Program, 2019

I believe this is “Mavericks” markings from “Top gun two”. It has the same funky stars n bars of other decals issued for his plane(Airfix/Revell). 

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2 minutes ago, Corsairfoxfouruncle said:

I believe this is “Mavericks” markings from “Top gun two”. It has the same funky stars n bars of other decals issued for his plane(Airfix/Revell). 

That might make sense... not wanting to pay any royalties to the film company :ninja: If I'd stared hard enough at the cockpit name decal, I'd have seen it reads Capt. Pete Mitchell "Maverick" :doh:

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1 minute ago, Corsairfoxfouruncle said:

I believe this is “Mavericks” markings from “Top gun two”. It has the same funky stars n bars of other decals issued for his plane(Airfix/Revell). 

You are right.

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Looks exactly the same as the Revell F/A-18E markings in their Top Gun licensed re-issue. 

 

Obviously not wanting to pay the license/royalty fees for the "Topgun" or "Maverick" naming but I guess that once the markings are on a US Naval aircraft they are kind of in the public domain and you loose any sort of control over the paint scheme. 

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15 hours ago, treker_ed said:

Obviously not wanting to pay the license/royalty fees for the "Topgun" or "Maverick" naming but I guess that once the markings are on a US Naval aircraft they are kind of in the public domain and you loose any sort of control over the paint scheme. 

They've already got a licensing note and logo on the box from Boeing, so at least the F-18 name/likeness etc. is covered :)

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