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"Hopeless Diamond, "Senior Trend" and now my bench - Tamiya 1/48 F-117A Nighthawk


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After spending 6ish months on my Jagdpanther diorama, I think it's time for a more simple build, and planes don't really get much simpler than the F-117A Nighthawk - it has no stabilisers, no external mounts or pods, very few lumps & bumps on the fuselage and is basically just straight lines, all painted black! Despite it's simplicity, the Nighthawk is a favourite of mine due to it's unique looks and place in aviation history - it was the first true foray into a production stealth jet that laid the foundations for the B-2, F-22 and now the F-35. Also, I would recommend that anyone interested in the Nighthawk or aviation in general to read "Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years of Lockheed" by Ben Rich & Leo Janos. It details Ben's time at Lockheed's famous secret division from the beginning of U-2 development right up to his retirement after master minding the introduction of the F-117A - it is a fantastic insight into a series of programmes that largely occurred without public knowledge at the time.

btw this thread title refers to the nickname of the prototype (Hopeless Diamond was a play on the famous Hope Diamond, and the codename for the Nighthawk during development, Senior Trend)

 

Anyway, that's enough of the history lesson, time to take a look at Tamiya's rendition of the F-117A. It's an older code, but it checks out kit, from 1998, and re-released with a 1/48 HMMWV in 2008, but it's hard to find, and might be out of production. I managed to get a copy of the original 1998 version from HobbyLink Japan when I got my EA-6B. Despite it's age it still looks like a decent kit with typical Tamiya fit, albeit with very few parts.

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Great box art! I love these drawings and wish more companies had these drawing without any text or graphics covering them up.

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One piece upper fuselage - for 1998 (and today) this is an impressive piece of injection moulding. Tamiya clearly know modellers well and if included protection for the pitot tubes which they advise you not to cut off :D

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Quick check to see if it'll fit in the display cabinet....just about!

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Cockpit parts primed

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And assembled. This is a very basic cockpit so I'll keep the canopy closed. It's mostly oob except for some Airscale decals

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Cockpit in place and fuselage halves closed up - see I told you this would be a quick build! Since the sensor up front is not very detailed I've darkened the glass with Tamiya smoke to cover it up a little

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😮 What is this mess??? There was a gap/step between the halves which I've filled and although it looks awful, it's smooth to the touch and any small scratches should disappear under primer

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Speaking of primer:

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I could say I'm building the Grey Dragon scheme and call it done now :D 

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No visible gap, and a smooth joint - although some clean up is still needed

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And now that all the MRP blacks I could find have arrived, it's time to experiment and work out how to make a matte black finish seem interesting...

 

Thanks for looking!

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100% with you on this, so in for the Low Radar Cross-section ride.

Also have a fascination with this Stealthy angular boxy F-117 and have a Hasegawa 1/72 F-117A Nighthawk Stars and Stripes Version in my stash which I am also very tempted to start and complete due to it's lack of stabilisers, external mounts or pods, very few lumps & bumps on the fuselage.

May have to buy "Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years of Lockheed" by Ben Rich & Leo Janos too.

I planned on a Dark Anthracite Undercoat and a Matt Balck medium dusting over it on mine, as almost all F-117a pictures have some shading and marks on a "Flat Black" exterior.
 

Will be intersting to watch how you complete your Tamiya kit.

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Thanks Keif! Definitely get the book as it's a great insight into history. I'm jealous that the Stars & Stripes scheme is available in 1/72 as it's an iconic scheme that really stands out on an all black plane. Just look at it:

1624025844552-080306-f-1234a-801.jpg?qua

Credit to "The Drive/Warzone" blog for the photo from this article full of great F-117A schemes: https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/41163/why-the-f-117-made-its-first-flight-in-pastel-camouflage-40-years-ago-today

 

Sadly, the only 1/48 option I can find on Scalemates seems to be the long out of production Cutting Edge decals - I guess I should've started this project ~10 years ago, such is the benefit of hindsight :D Small update for today since I'm still tidying up the seams etc before painting. One thing I have done is try out the different MRP blacks to work out what to use:

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(Excuse my illegible handwriting...)

1. Well the Super Matt Black is indeed very matt, not much else to say really. It's probably a little too black for my liking and the matt finish doesn't matter that much since I will have to gloss coat it anyway for decals

2. This seems a little more promising as it's black enough but I could vary it with numbers 3/5/6 for some panel to panel variation

3. It's black....

4. So Blue Black = Grey? Hmmm? While it might work for tyres/rubber and some panel lines or RAM coating lines I don't think it's the right colour for the whole thing

5. & 6. I can't really see the different here between these two

 

lUVcsEo.jpg

Looking at this photo for example, it's clear that the planes were uniformly black for the most part with minimal variation so I'll have to be subtle. I'm thinking the Blue Black paint can be used for the lines around the front panels seen above. I think I will have to add interest to the paint work by pre-shading the plane with a few different shades first.

 

I also received some good looking decals from Caracal to replace to typically thick Tamiya ones:

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Why are there two stencils sheets? Well I didn't check that the main sheet included it and bought it separately so I guess I have spares. The decals look well printed and seem colour accurate and they're from Cartograf who I've had no trouble with before so I'm optimistic. They have markings for several (16?) planes:

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I haven't chosen a scheme yet but I'll probably search each of the BuNos and see whether I can find good photos of any of them to work from.

 

Thanks for looking

 

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Hi all, as I'm up anyway having watched Italy-Spain (Forza Italia!!!), now is as good a time as any for the next update.

 

So what, have I done...Well, as it's my first attempt at an all black finish, I've experimented a lot here to try and build some visual interest to the finish (not all together successfully but that's for later). I reasoned that the topside of the aicraft would have some sun/UV bleaching so I used blue for the mottling, and for the underside, a dark grey:

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It certainly looks interesting...almost like it's wearing jeans :D You'll note that the panel lines have been left mostly untouched; a lot of the references show the paint lighter at the panel joints. Not sure why, perhaps the RAM coating breaks down here first? I finished it up with some black mottling to suggest some panels have faded less:

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From my EA-6B build I've learnt that this sort of mottling fades a lot with the main paint, gloss coat, weathering and matt coat so it's very strong/stark at the moment but that will definitely change.

Now, here is where things went a bit wrong.... I started spraying the MRP Night Camo black, but I started to see scratch/sanding marks...??? I thought I'd solved this earlier. But it became clear that I just couldn't see them and the MRP paints were too thin to fill the micro scratches, so I used a polyurethane grey primer from UMP, which worked, but left the model looking like this:

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Yuck... After remedying the mottling, I applied the black in thinned coats, mixing it with the other shades for some variation:

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The panel-panel variation/mottling is very subtle under the black surface (especially on the top where it was lighter), but it's visible for now. I'm not sure this experiment has been totally successful tbh but it was fun to try and since Nighthawks weren't very weathered anyway I don't think not having a stronger effect is a problem. I'm reasonably happy with how it is now, and with later weathering and a matt coat I think it will look a lot more real.

 

Thanks for looking!

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looking good, I've found that the flat coat enhances the mottle effect a little.

 

nice idea about using the blue for extra fade

 

rgds

John(shortCummins)

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Very nice work on the cockpit and paintwork so far.

I found that the "rubber black" from Tamiya to be quite useful on this kit. (Also had similar fit issue on the lower leading edges).

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That's some neat mottling with the "jeans effect" Anirudh, this is interesting to watch as I have a couple of these old Tamiya kits in the stash, I ended up with 2 because I bought the Two Bobs decal sheet with the big skunk emblem on the aircraft underside, then I could build that one and a normal squadron aircraft with bomb bay open with weapons inside. :like:

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8 hours ago, shortCummins said:

looking good, I've found that the flat coat enhances the mottle effect a little.

 

nice idea about using the blue for extra fade

 

rgds

John(shortCummins)

Cheers John - I found the same on the Prowler so fingers crossed!

7 hours ago, hairystick said:

Very nice work on the cockpit and paintwork so far.

I found that the "rubber black" from Tamiya to be quite useful on this kit. (Also had similar fit issue on the lower leading edges).

Thanks mate. I am surprised a little about the fit issue given that it's Tamiya, but I suppose it is 23 years old. I have Nato Black, Semi-gloss black and flat black from Tamiya but didn't think to look at their range as well - maybe that's one for next time!

7 hours ago, Retired Bob said:

That's some neat mottling with the "jeans effect" Anirudh, this is interesting to watch as I have a couple of these old Tamiya kits in the stash, I ended up with 2 because I bought the Two Bobs decal sheet with the big skunk emblem on the aircraft underside, then I could build that one and a normal squadron aircraft with bomb bay open with weapons inside. :like:

Cheers Bob! The jeans look is amusing, but probably works best on a lighter scheme. I'm very jealous that you've got that sheet from TwoBobs as it looks fantastic! (As do most of their sheets).

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14 hours ago, theaa2000 said:

Cheers Bob! The jeans look is amusing, but probably works best on a lighter scheme. I'm very jealous that you've got that sheet from TwoBobs as it looks fantastic! (As do most of their sheets).

The only problem with the TwoBobs sheets, as with Caracal sheets, it's so difficult to pick just one subject leading to stash growth. :whistle:

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On 05/07/2021 at 17:16, theaa2000 said:

Thanks Keif! Definitely get the book as it's a great insight into history. I'm jealous that the Stars & Stripes scheme is available in 1/72 as it's an iconic scheme that really stands out on an all black plane. Just look at it:

1624025844552-080306-f-1234a-801.jpg?qua

Credit to "The Drive/Warzone" blog for the photo from this article full of great F-117A schemes: https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/41163/why-the-f-117-made-its-first-flight-in-pastel-camouflage-40-years-ago-today

 

Exactly. Book ordered and should be here later today.

My 1/72 F-117a started today too, just because of your build giving me a kick to do it.

Keep the updates coming.

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So I assume you've finished the book already, Keif? :D 

 

Small update today - undercarriage done & gloss coat applied. Landing gear first:

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First a group shot!

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First time I've used the new-ish Tamiya lacquer paints. They spray well, can be brush painted in small areas and are pretty resistant to handling.

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The kit gear is very basic so I added ResKit resin wheels (they're ok), decals from the spares box, 0.2mm lead wire and aluminium tape to replicate hose clamps. I think they're ok - not the best but considering I won't be displaying the plane upside down, it should be ok.

 

Now, an unrelated aviation photo - I received these:

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Painted metal squares? Well, yes, but they're squares from the sadly, recently scrapped BA & Virgin Atlantic 747s! Just think about the miles these things covered, the temperature extremes they went through, all so I can use them as coasters :D 

 

Back to the Nighthawk, which has a gloss coat in preparation for decals! After having messed up many decals in the past whilst still learning how to build anything respectable, the importance of a good, smooth gloss coat for decals is clear. I've also tried a lot of different products: Vallejo Model Air Gloss, Mission Models Gloss, Future and I've had mixed results with all of them. However, the best product I've used is Tamiya X-22 - it has given excellent results.

I can't take credit for the method since I learnt it on another forum (can I mention "rival" forums here without being banned? :D) from an expert modeller. Basically the key is to thin it 50:50 an appropriate thinner (X-20a or Tamiya Lacquer thinner), spray with a medium airbrush, at ~18psi, directly on to the model to achieve a wet coat - sounds simple, but not so easy in practice as it can form a white salt-like overspray on adjacent surfaces. I've had to practice a lot on previous models but the results are definitely worth it:

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Shiny! It looks there is some orange peel, so I will have to polish it a bit and respray

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And placed in the cabinet to dry before decaling commences. X-22 is great but I just wish it was available in larger bottles - for the F-22, P-51, Prowler and this I've gone through about 5 bottles already 😮 At least I have 11 more :D

 

Thanks for looking!

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21 hours ago, exdraken said:

Very nice work!!!!

 

Try this kit for stars and stripes...

https://www.scalemates.com/kits/academy-12219-f-117a-nighthawk-last-flight--148813

 

Thanks exdraken! Alas, I had started the decals by the time I saw this, so I'll have to save this for another build.

 

I chose to build 88-842 from the Caracal sheet since it had some interesting kill markings & yellow tail markings featuring the 8th Fighter Squadrons logo: the ferocious Black Sheep :D. Anyway, decaling is all complete now, and all that work with the X-22 and polishing cloths paid off because the Caracal markings settled down perfectly with no silvering. Yes the Nighthawk is a pretty easy plane to decal since it has very few markings, and fewer panel lines and no rivets, but it still went well - I'd definitely recommend Caracal products on the basis of this!

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Pretty straightforward markings - basically nothing in comparison to say the Tamiya F-14D

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An extreme close up - the decals are very thin so whilst the film is visible at this zoom, it's not really noticeable after a varnish coat, especially in direct light.

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Nose markings done - 842 didn't even have a pilots name.

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I had some trouble trying to align the tail markings since there's no horizontal or vertical lines to reference so in the end I guessed based on Caracal's instructions.

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Practically invisible :D

 

With decals done (and protected under another gloss coat), it was time for the first weathering step - a panel line wash using Flory Models water-based clay wash. I've found these are much easier to wipe off on a gloss finish so I did it now. I used the gray wash knowing that it would darken with later weathering and the matte coat.

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Apply it over the lines, wait and remove with a damp paper towel, leaving:

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Looks very stark for now

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Top in progress. With that finished, I wanted to take off the gloss finish a little because I was going to handle the model and didn't want to leave finger prints everywhere, so I used a new (to me) product - Tamiya's Lacquer flat clear which is more of a satin clear tbh. It went down well thinned with their own thinner

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As for where I'm going with the weathering, these two photos are decent reference:

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At the pronounced panel edges, there is some paint wear showing a lighter shade, arbitrary colour patches, staining from fuel but no chipping, so I'll start that now before moving on to the underside.

 

Thanks for looking!

 

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Well, it's only been 2ish weeks, but I think this build is done! and for me that is a record :D 

 

I completed the weathering using watercolour pencils, enamel washes and applied a matte (more satin tbh) coat to give the Nighthawk it's trademark flat finish. Here are a few teaser photos:

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And the RFI post:

 

 

Thanks to everyone who commented and liked!

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