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EA-18G Growler (85814) 1:48


Mike
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EA-18G Growler (85814)

1:48 Hobby Boss via Creative Models Ltd

 

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The EA-18G is a development of the F/A-18F two seat Super Hornet that originally went into service in 1999, and with series manufacture beginning in 2007 of this type, it replaced the EA-6B in the carrier based electronic warfare role. It is a more capable platform due in part to the march of technology, and the fact that it is based on a more modern airframe, allowing it to keep pace with other Allied assets during any mission.  The airframe has been adapted to better fit the role, especially the wings that have been revised to provide a smoother ride for the electronic modules, that was achieved by adding wing fences and other tweaks.  It still shares over 90% of parts with a standard Super Hornet, so the commonality of parts is of great help toward keeping these key aircraft in service. 

 

The aircraft has nine weapons stations that are usually filled with electronics pods specific to its role, although it can also carry more weapons by necessity, but its wingtip stations that would normally carry Sidewinders are instead fitted with detection pods.  It can carry two AIM-120 AMRAAM and/or AGM-88 HARM missiles for self-defence on multi-modal conformal fuselage stations, which are its only means of defence due to the removal of its cannon to house additional electronics.  As with many complex aviation projects it has had its problems, including technical as well as political issues, such as the desire to slow down production to string out the contract for various reasons.  The US will field under 100 airframes by the time the contract is completed, and Australia’s dozen airframes may well make the total closer to that number.  Of course, the type is under constant development in order to improve its operation and to resolve any of the inevitable gremlins that occur, with new equipment likely to be fielded and slung under the Growler over the coming years.

 

 

The Kit

This is a concurrent reboxing of Hobby Boss’s F/A-18 new Super Hornet from 2021 with additional parts to depict the adaptations made to the base airframe to create the Growler.  It arrives in a large top-opening box with an internal divider, and inside are sixteen sprues and two fuselage halves in grey styrene, two in clear, a small fret of Photo-Etch (PE), two decal sheets, two glossy colour printed sheets with decal and painting instruction, and the instruction booklet in Hobby Boss’s usual landscape greyscale style.  Detail is excellent throughout, with some exceptionally well-moulded gear and equipment bays around the model, and the inclusion of a small sheet of PE to add belts to the cockpit that is behind crystal clear glazing, so will be seen whether you leave the lid down or not.

 

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Construction begins with the two seats, which have been slide-moulded to reduce the part count while keeping the detail high.  They are both fitted with a set of PE crew belts, and have stencil decals applied to the headbox, which also has a separate drogue-chute on the top, and a back plane fitted before they are dropped into the tub.  HOTAS controls are supplied for each of the crew, and additional instruments are applied to the faceted side consoles, with controllers added along with decals.  The instrument panels also have decals for their MFD covered faces, and the rear IP has a coaming between it and the front cockpit.  The sidewalls are fitted in between the two sections, hiding away the blank interior of the fuselage once installed.  As with many modern jets, the nose gear bay is directly below the pilots, and that bay is made from individual sides plus a few small additional detail parts.  The bay is attached to the bottom of the cockpit tub using a short I-beam to support the rear, after which the completed assembly is surrounded by the skin of the nose section, which also has a pair of equipment bays moulded-in with impressive detail.  Moving quickly on, the upper fuselage is prepared by drilling out a number of holes in its surface, plus those of the lower wing halves that are added early in the build.  An A-shaped apron under the Leading Edge Root Extensions (LERX) is also installed along with doors for the built-in crew ladder under the port side, then the nose is attached to the fuselage from below after which it is faired in.  With the model righted, the rear ‘turtle-deck’ and insert in front of the coaming are installed, the HUD is made up from two PE parts, two clear parts and a sled that it sits on once fitted to the coaming.  The windscreen can be glued in place now, although there is a very fine seam from manufacture that should ideally be sanded away and polished back to clarity.  Both parts of the canopy are slightly ‘blown’, so are made using three mould sections, with the resulting seam down the middle on the outside only.  The seams on this kit are relatively fine thanks to the reduction in tolerances over the years, and you could create a perfectly acceptable model without bothering to remove them if you don’t feel confident.  The circular hole in the nose is filled with a four-part radome, which can be left visible by hingeing the nose cone open in the next step.  This is achieved by changing the insert in the rear of the cone for one with the hinge projecting from the side, with a common insert in the top of the cone.  There is plenty of space for nose weight in this area for either option, although with the nose closed over, the centre of mass will be that much further forward, so less weight will go further.

 

Hobby Boss have a habit of creating kits with parts that will never be seen again, and this one is no exception, having a pair of engines on the sprues, when only some of the detail will be seen unless you cut away some panels.  Each tubular assembly is made up from two sub-assemblies, one made from three sections, the other from two.  With the glue dried, they are both wrapped in two-part rings and have further detail parts applied to the sides, and representations of the afterburner and engine faces at appropriate ends.  The lower fuselage ‘torso’ is then made up from three larger sections that have the intake trunks made by adding additional surfaces and tiny PE vanes on the inner side walls.  The completed engines and their exhausts are fixed into the rear of this assembly, then are joined by the square intake trunks that transition to round by the time they meet the front of the motors.  It is then attached to the underside of the fuselage and the moulded-in bays are painted white.  They are further detailed by a number of ribs, and small section of the fuselage side is installed next to the exhaust trunking, ready to support the elevons later on.

 

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The Super Hornet was (re)designed from the (2nd life) outset as a carrier aircraft, so has a chunky set of landing gear that are captured here in plastic, with the rugged nose gear first to be made from a single part to which the clear landing light and other detail parts are added, then the twin two-part wheels are fixed to the axles, plus a bay door glued to the trailing retraction jack.  Using different parts you can pose the launch bar up or down, depending on what you have in mind.    The main gear legs are made from halves that trap an L-shaped insert and have layers of jacks fitted over the main struts, with a single wheel on a stub-axle at the end.  All bays have additional actuators for the doors added in preparation for a plethora of well-detailed parts, one of which has a PE insert, and others have stencil decals applied after painting.  At the same stage, the two equipment bays on the sides of the nose are given doors and stays, with no option shown for posing them closed.

 

The wings are simplistic stubs at this stage, which is remedied now by adding the full-width flaps, each with their actuators, which can be posed deployed or ‘clean’ at your whim.  The leading-edge slats and flap spoilers are then added, after which the outer folding section of the wings are made up in a similar fashion, with either a straight or angled joint if you plan on posing your model with wings folded for below-decks.  The three pylons per wing are all made from two halves, and are affixed to the wings with another on the centreline that slots into holes in the underside of the fuselage.  At the rear you can pose the arrestor hook in either down or stowed positions, and there are also two exhaust petal types for open or closed pipes.  On the topside, the wing joints are covered by panels, and fences are installed on the inner wings, plus a few antennae around the nose area.  The twin tail fins have separate rudders that differ if the wings are folded, and has a pair of clear lights added to each one, with the elevons just a pair of single thin aerofoils with a peg to join them to the aft of the fuselage.  If you recall the optional boarding ladder door fitted at the beginning of the build, the reason it is optional becomes clear right at the end, when you build up the ladder, with separate steps and a brace that rests against the fuselage.  It’s not abundantly clear how the area looks when exposed, but there are plenty of photos available online if you’re unsure.

 

The weapons sprues are largely unused other than the gas bags, equipment pods and of course the two types of missile that the Growler carries for self-defence, namely the AGM-88 and AIM-120 with adapter rails.  Check your references for the typical load-outs for real-world mission profiles, or use the chart on the rear page of the instructions, although it refers to “fuol tanks”, but then we’re none of us perfect.

 

 

Markings

I’ve been critical of HB’s dearth of information and options for their kits in the past, and was pleased to see two changes with this kit.  Firstly, there are a whopping SIX options, and secondly, each option is provided with at the very least an airframe code, and many are also given a date and ship the aircraft was embarked upon at the time.  From the box you can build one of the following:

 

  • VAQ-129 #169136
  • VAQ-135 #166941 NAS Whidbey Island, 2011
  • VAQ-135 #166940 NAS Whidbey Island, 2011
  • VAQ-130 #168268 ‘Zappers’ USS Harry S Truman, 2016
  • VAQ-141 #166928 ‘Shadowhawks’ USS George H W Bush, 2010
  • VAQ-132 #166894 ‘Scorpions’, 2010

 

 

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One sheet of A4 shows the location of the stencils for all decal options, while the individual aircraft are on the other larger A3 sheet, covering both sides and having stencil locations and colours for the weapons/equipment at the bottom of the back page.  As usual with HB printing, they’re made anonymously in China, but are of sufficient quality for most, although the red bars on the national insignia seem a little off-centre to me.

 

 

Conclusion

Hobby Boss have created a well-detailed and attractive series of models of the F/A-18 Super Hornet that should sell well for them.  The Growler is an interesting off-shoot of the type, and they’re often colourfully painted, as you can see above.

 

Highly recommended.

 

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Review sample courtesy of

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As a footnote to an excellent inbox review, there are no adaptors for the AGM-88 HARM included with the kit so you'll need to source them from elsewhere if using them.

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