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F-16A MLU NATO Viper (K48100) 1:48


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F-16A MLU NATO Viper (K48100)

1:48 Lucky Model




The F-16 was the winner of the Lightweight Fighter competition, and under its official name of Fighting Falcon has become one of the most successful combat aircraft of the last 40 years, although most pilots, aviation buffs and modellers tend to refer to it as the Viper, which may or may not have something to do with the name of Battlestar Galactica’s fighters.  It has provided the US Air Force and other air forces around the world with a comparatively affordable, reliable, high-performance multi-role fighter aircraft. More than 4,500 examples have been manufactured, making it one of the most produced jet fighters in history, and it continues to accumulate export orders to this day, with no sign of the later variants being replaced any time soon.


The F-16A (single seat) and B (two seat) were the original production variants of the F-16, and many examples are still in service with air forces around the world after the Mid Life Upgrade (MLU) programme brought them up to a similar standard as the later C/D airframes, and introduced compatibility with Night Vision Goggles (NVG) that are essential for 24/7 operation in the modern battlespace, offering a significant advantage over pilots relying on the Mk.1 Eyeball and their consumption of carrots (yes, I know, it was WWII propaganda to explain away the radar intercepts by the RAF). The radar was also improved in the MLU update with upgraded performance and faster, more reliable targeting.  The US was originally intending to participate in the programme, but backed out eventually, leaving Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway and Denmark, joined later by Portugal, Jordan and Pakistan taking advantage of the improvements on offer, which also included structural enhancements to allow the aircraft to continue in service with the heavier loads that hadn’t originally been anticipated during the initial design process.



The Kit

This is a brand-new tooling, and Kinetic have confirmed that it shares no heritage with their original tooling of the type, but is instead based on new data.  It is also a more modern tooling, which is evident immediately on opening the box.  Speaking of the box, it is a sturdy top-opener in the modern Kinetic Gold style and with an attractive painting of the subject matter on the top cover, although a couple of the corners on my example had come unglued during shipping, so I stapled them back down again.  Inside are nine sprues in grey styrene, a single sprue of clear parts, two decal sheets and the instruction booklet, which is printed in black and white, as are the markings profiles on the rear pages.  Detail is excellent, and a great improvement on the original tooling, with crisply engraved panel lines and rivets, raised and recessed detail, and less prominent ejector pin marks where they will be noticed the least whenever possible.  The kit also includes a generous helping of weapons with a full painting guide and stencil decals to apply when the time comes.

















Construction begins with the cockpit, which is built around a well-detailed tub, into which rudder pedals, control column, instrument panel with additional insert, an operable lever and the rear bulkhead are installed and painted, using AMMO colour call-outs that are the theme throughout the instructions, and can be converted to Vallejo, Mr Color, Tamiya or Humbrol codes using the table on the page opposite the sprue diagram.  The centre section of the intake is next, made from top and bottom halves with a rendition of the first compressor face of the GE F110 engine inserted into the rear.  The main gear bay is built onto the underside of this assembly, pre-detailed with moulded-in ribbing and ducting, adding front and rear bulkheads plus additional ‘greeblies’ over the following four steps.  The exhaust trunking is made from two halves with internal ribbing near the open end, plus the rear face of the engine and afterburner ring depicted by two separate parts.  A tapered cylindrical ring fixes to the rear of the trunk, and is joined by the exhaust petals that are assembled from five segments to form the rearmost tip of the exhaust, with a good level of detail moulded-in.  The forward portion of the intake is the longest section, and is built from top and bottom halves, with a splitter spearing through a hole in the top and into a socket in the lower surface, which also has the nose gear bay glued to a recess on the underside.  This is a single part, but is well-detailed already thanks to some quality moulding.  The intake is then surrounded by the two halves of the outer skin, securing on a pair of pegs moulded into the trunk, and finished off with a separate lip in a similar manner to the original tooling, on the basis that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  Having built one of the older toolings, I can confirm that this method of making the intake works very well.  A small hole is drilled into the port intake fairing, as advised by a nearby scrap diagram.




The forward fuselage and upper wings are moulded as one, and have several small raised details removed and a few more filled to correctly depict this variant, with more minor alterations to the lower fuselage in the next step.  The cockpit is inserted from below into the upper fuselage, and the intake is lowered into the lower fuselage from the outside, adding the main gear bay and rear trunking behind it from within.  The forward fuselage and aft section are then mated to the lower fuselage, adding a pair of cups for the elevons to pivot, the surround to the M61A1 Vulcan cannon on the port side of the fuselage, plus the instrument coaming and HUD glazing to the front of the cockpit.  Underneath, a small intake is fixed to the port side of the intake, the lower wing halves are glued to the uppers, and two inserts are fitted around the sides of the nose after drilling a hole in one to accept a clear part from within.  The main gear bay has another transverse bulkhead fitted with a central divider and detail part installed along the line of flight, which is then covered by a tapering skin insert, and another over the rear of the engine after inserting the exhaust assembly made earlier.  There are scrap diagrams offering advice on painting the new gear bay parts dotted around nearby to break up the overall white of the gear bays.  Clear lights and an optional intake are fitted to the intake cowling, then we take a break to build up the landing gear and its doors.




Unusually, the first act is to make up the nose gear bay door with clear landing light that fits onto a styrene backing part before it is set aside for a while.  The nose gear strut has three detail parts including the scissor-link fitted, adding three more as it inserted in the bay, plus the wheel, which is made from two halves with three pegs and sockets lining things up.  The bay door runs along the starboard side of the bay once complete.  The MLG, or Main Landing Gear struts are each V-shaped parts, adding three supports and retraction jacks, then they too get a wheel each that is made from two parts.  Several small intakes/outlets are dotted around the bay cut-outs, then the door opener mechanism is fixed to the front of the bays to support the large, well-detailed bay doors at the correct angle.  There is an ejector-pin mark in the centre of the door that will need some filler, but it’s far enough away from the raised details to make a difference, and with some careful sanding, possibly with a fancy home-made sanding implement, it should disappear pretty quickly.  A pair of strakes and arrestor hook are installed under the exhaust with a blade antenna, then the model is flipped onto its own wheels to finish off the cockpit, starting with the nicely detailed ejection seat that is made from six parts and inserted into the empty cockpit, gluing the fixed rear canopy into position, and adding a frame to the interior of the front section, cutting the tabs off the openers if you intend to pose it closed, or inserting them into the groove for the open option.  A small detail part is glued into the rear of the cockpit before adding the seat, and a tiny blade antenna fits into an equally small hole in the spine behind the cockpit.    The nose cone is split vertically into two halves, and has a probe slotted into the front, and can then be installed opened or closed over the radar sensor panel that fits against the bulkhead in the nose, which has a hinge on which to mount the opened radome.




Although it looks like an F-16 by now, there’s lot missing in the rear, which is the next step.  The fin is made up from two-sided panels, adding a cap to the top, and the wider base that contains sensors and other avionics, the business end of which are in the rear section under the rudder, which is also a separate part.  The sensor gaggle is made from separate small parts that give it the correct look, some of which require holes drilled to locate properly in the rear.  The completed assembly slots into two holes in the spine at the rear of the fuselage, taking care to add the correct small parts for your chosen decal option.   The elevons are each one part, and they slot into the cups in the rear of the fuselage next to the air-brakes, the interiors of which are well-detailed but you are given no option to pose them open, unless that’s for a later boxing?  Moving on, we have a choice of wingtip rails with an adapter, then the flaps can be added to the slots in the trailing edges of the wings by removing the appropriate pair of securing tabs, adding a second layer on the thicker inner edge.  That finishes the airframe, leaving the weapons and their pylons, plus a lot of painting left to do.


First up are the pylons, which are each made from two halves plus additional parts for sway-braces, Triple-Ejector Rack (TER) outriggers, attachment plates and rear edges.  There are a host of weapons, as follows:


AAQ-13 LANTIRN Navigation Pod

AAQ-14 Targeting Pod

AAQ-33 Sniper Advanced Targeting pod

ALQ-184 ECM Pod

AIM-9M Sidewinder

AIM-9X Sidewinder

GBU-31 JDAM Bomb

AIM-120 AMRAAM Missile

370 Gallon Wing Tank

300 Gallon Centreline Tank

GBU-12-49 Paveway II Bomb

GBU-24 Paveway III Bomb






Each weapon, bomb or pod is made from a number of parts, giving the modeller the opportunity to depict them as little models in their own right, after careful painting and decaling with stencils provided on the sheet.  A page of the instructions is devoted to possible load-out diagrams, and another gives an illustration of where the pylons should fit, and an example of the munitions and fuel carried on them.  The following page includes a comprehensive painting and stencilling guide for all of them for you to pick out the ones you intend to use.




There are five markings options on the decal sheet, each one having its own page, with another page at the rear showing the stencils that are common to all variants.  From the box you can build one of the following:


  • Air Policing Baltic States, Ämari Air Base, Estonia, 2016
  • Royal Netherlands Air Force, EEAW – EPAF Expeditionary Air Wing, Kabul Airport, Afghanistan, Circa 2006
  • Norwegian Air Force 338 Sky ‘Tiger’, Kabul Airport, Afghanistan, 2006
  • Royal Danish Air Force Esk 730, Aalborg Air Base, Denmark, 2016
  • Esquadra 201 ‘Falcões’, Monte Real Air Force Base (Ba.5), Portugal, 2017








The decals are printed on two sheets, separated into those for the aircraft and the weapons, and all have been printed 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.




It’s nice to see some Kinetic plastic again, and they seem to have put a lot of work into this tooling, bringing their F-16 offering up to modern standards, with an improved crispness that’s good to see.  Look out for more boxing as time goes by, and if you’re UK based, Lucky Model have a new UK based outlet that takes away the chances of being hit by customs charges on the way to your front door.


Highly recommended


LuckyModel Hong Kong



LuckyModel UK



LuckyModel US (Available soon)



Review sample courtesy of


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While it might be the best F-16A around, it is not without its faults. First of all, the nose/radome seems to lack about 1 mm in height. Second, the fin base is much too wide around the rudder. Third, the Danish decals are incorrect. Go with Lima November decals instead.

I am currently measuring the fin base in order to correct it. I am not sure the nose area is easily corrected.



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This is a brand-new tooling, and Kinetic have confirmed that it shares no heritage with their original tooling of the type, but is instead based on new data.

Well, the cockpit (tub, instrument panel, throtlle & stick, seat) is identical to the old tooling. I am not saying it is bad, but it is not "new". Also, it is curious that they do not include decals for the instrument panel and side consoles in the F-16A release, but they include them in the subsequent F-16C boxing.


What I find most frustrating though is the "Magfire" magnet system. OK, I get it, they cannot include the magnets inside the box due to some regulation and, I guess that's fine. But they could at least mention how to implement the magnet system in the instructions! Apart from the word "Magfire" outside the box, I could find no other documentation anywhere, either in the instructions or on the web!

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15 minutes ago, georgeadams said:

What I find most frustrating though is the "Magfire" magnet system. OK, I get it, they cannot include the magnets inside the box due to some regulation and, I guess that's fine. But they could at least mention how to implement the magnet system in the instructions! Apart from the word "Magfire" outside the box, I could find no other documentation anywhere, either in the instructions or on the web!

I noticed that when I was first fondling the box, but later forgot about it, so didn't look any further.  I'm guessing there's some sets of magnets and bits of metal you can buy somewhere and insert in hollows in the weapons and pylons, although most "serious" modellers aren't that keen on fiddling with their models after they're finished.  I for one am too damn clumsy :S

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I agree! Painting/detailing bombs and missiles (and making them look good and accurate) is my least favourite part of the build, so I would not want to build extra ones to interchange!


However, I was curious to see how this works (as it was advertised heavily on the first Kinetic announcements of this kit), and I was disappointed by the lack of documentation...

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Having built this kit I found the weapons the only disappointment of it. The multi-part design for the magnets made it near impossible to build easily so I ended up using weapons from my (fortuitously ample) spares box. 

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3 hours ago, SprueMan said:

The canopy is still not tinted correctly.

Can't you tint it to colour you want noting there are various shades canopy tints on the real aircraft?

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On 3/21/2023 at 4:36 PM, Mike said:

the GE F110 engine

That'd be a P& W F100 for an A / AM. 


Very nice review!, this just might tempt me to stray from the righteous path of my usual Gentlemen's Scale for once.





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On 3/21/2023 at 4:36 PM, Mike said:

There are a host of weapons, as follows:

Do I spy a pair of AGM-88 HARMs in there as well?, not applicable to an MLU but a welcome addition to the spares bin.





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22 hours ago, Stephen said:

Having built this kit I found the weapons the only disappointment of it. The multi-part design for the magnets made it near impossible to build easily so I ended up using weapons from my (fortuitously ample) spares box. 

I agree! I just assembled the included Sidewinder AIM-9Ps (6-parts!) to use them on a Mirage F.1CG that I am almost finishing. They need so much filling and sanding that I think I will just go hunting in my spares' box instead...

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