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Two new 1/48 scale "Super Bugs"

The Boeing (McDonnell Douglas) F/A-18E single-seat and F/A-18F dual-seat Super Hornets represent the "next generation" of naval attack fighters. Besides a few helicopters and Grumman E-2C Hawkeyes, Super Hornets may soon be the only other aircraft filling U.S. Navy carrier air wings. F-14 Tomcats and S-3 Vikings are quickly being retired, "legacy" F/A-18A and C Hornets are being replaced, and EA-6B Prowlers will disappear when the proposed electronic warfare version of the Super Hornet, the EF-18G "Growler," is developed. So new kits of the "Super Bug" are welcome.

Revell-Monogram announced its 1/48 scale F-18E kit more than two years ago. During its gestation period, other kit Manufacturers worked on new kits of the new Navy/Marines attack jet. Italeri had early attempts at 1/72 and 1/48 scale kits.

Along with its 1/72 scale efforts, Hasegawa released a new 1/48 scale two-seat F (with a single-seat E announced) and issued it at about the same time as the Revell E model. This gives us a great opportunity to compare the new Super Hornet kits side by side.

- Paul Boyer
F/A-18F Super Hornet

Kit: No. PT38
Scale: 1/48
Manufacturer:: Hasegawa, from Dragon Models USA, 626-968-0322,
www.dragonmodelsusa.com Price: $64.95
Comments: Injection-molded, 264 parts, decals
Pros: Fine detail, excellent fit, separately molded flaps, good crew figures, excellent decals
Cons: Ordnance limited to fuels tanks and missiles, outer wing panels molded to wing, no harness detail for seats
Hasegawa has done a fine job on the busy exterior of the new "Super Bug." Ejector pin marks have been kept to a minimum with just a couple on the landing gear doors and the underside of the ailerons. Cockpit detail is OK, but the ejection seats lack harness detail. A pair of well-molded crew figures is a welcome bonus.

The landing gear is nicely detailed, while the gear bays are adequate; bulkhead and rib details will look busier with a dark wash. I like how Hasegawa has molded the clear parts with sprue guards to protect the canopy during shipping.

The separately molded leading- and trailing-edge flaps are advantages of the Hasegawa kit. These can be positioned raised or dropped, but the attachment of the dropped flaps isn't clearly shown in the instructions. Separately molded rudders can be positioned off-center if the tabs are removed. The outer panels of the wings are molded on, but a small diagram in the instructions shows you how they can be cut off and folded, if you choose.

Underwing ordnance is limited to four fuel tanks and a pair each of AIM-120 AMRAAMs and AIM-9X Sidewinders. A FLIR pod and its mount are also given for the intake station. A positionable canopy and a crew boarding ladder are additional options.

Hasegawa's intake trunks are even deeper than Revell's, with turbine blades at the back end. The interior seams between the trunks and the front parts of the intakes are tricky to clean up.

The wings are molded separately from the fuselage, but the fit is good, running along actual panel lines. The forward fuselage is a three-piece subassembly and fits well, too, if you follow the instructions and glue it to the lower fuselage half first. The intake trunk/fuselage sides fit fine.

I painted the model with Xtracolor gloss enamels and set it in the summer sun for a few hours to accelerate drying. A glossy paint job allows me to skip the clear gloss overcoat before decaling. The kit decals include high-vis markings for VFA-102 "Diamondbacks" and VFA-103 "Jolly Rogers." They went down fine with a touch of Gunze Mr. Mark Softer. Decals are provided for many of the screened vents scattered about the airframe.

I followed the decals with a dark gray sludge wash, removed the excess, then followed with a clear flat coat. I hung three fuel tanks and all the missiles on my model. The model has the proper "toe out" of the weapons pylons.

The finished model really turned out nicely. I spent 32 hours on it, and modelers with a moderate amount of experience can build it. The great fit and fine detail will keep most modelers happy. If you want more detail in the cockpit, aftermarket sets will likely appear soon.

- Jon Hergenrother
F/A-18E Super Hornet

Kit: No. 5519
Scale: 1/48
Manufacturer:: Revell-Monogram, 847-770-6100, www.revell-monogram.com
Price: $20.50
Comments: Injection molded, 161 parts, decals
Pros: Fine recessed detail, excellent landing gear and gear-bay detail, optional ladder, good weapons, and positionable canopy
Cons: Poor fit of intakes, FLIR pod mount, and nose assembly; flaps molded raised
Revell's long-awaited 1/48 scale F/A-18E Super Hornet is finally here. Typical of that company's recent toolings, it features fine recessed panel lines, detailed cockpit and wheel wells, and a good selection of underwing ordnance.

The canopy can be posed open or closed, and an optional boarding ladder is included. The kit's ordnance includes some of the latest weapons: AIM-120 AMRAAMs, AIM-9X Sidewinders, JDAM, and Mk. 83 iron bombs. Other external equipment includes a large center- line fuel tank and a FLIR pod.

Building the cockpit was straightforward. You get several options on the instrument panel. You can paint the raised gauge detail, or you can sand it off and choose a decal, one with the display panels "turned on" or one with blank screens.

I like the deep intake trunks with the turbine faces at the rear, but the intake subassemblies fit poorly to the fuselage. Gap-filling super glue and sanding was necessary. They also left large longitudinal gaps along the insides of the main gear bays, but I didn't try to fix them. The main gear bays have loads of "spaghetti" detail, and they look great after the application of a dark-gray wash.

The upper and lower fuselage halves include most of the wing and are molded with the flaps in the raised position. The fit is OK, but the seam that runs spanwise through the bottom surface of the flaps needs to be cleaned up. The outer wing panels are molded separately but do not include wing-fold hinge detail.

The four-piece nose assembly had a little clearance problem at the forward edge of the cockpit coaming. This also complicated the fit of the clear windscreen, so test fit and sand until you get a tight fit.

The landing gear is superbly detailed. An interesting touch: The long nose-gear bay door is molded clear. You mask the long skinny vent area inside and out, paint the door, then apply a decal for the vent screen. It looks great!

All the underwing items worked out fine except for the fit of the FLIR mount. I decided to leave it off. Note that the wing pylons angle out about three degrees, and that is correct. Painting the JDAMS was challenging. I hand-brushed the stabilizer fin girdle instead of trying to mask its complicated shape.

The decal sheet is well printed and includes both high-vis "CAG bird" and standard low-vis versions of VFA-14 "Tophatters" markings. Even after a gloss coat, some of the decals silvered.

After 30 hours, my new Super Hornet looks ready for a strike mission. You should have a little experience with fit problems so you can adequately handle the minor building challenges presented by Revell's "Super Bug."

- Tom Foti
Conclusion

Hasegawa's advantages (better fit, easier construction, poseable control surfaces, and crew figures) are countered by Revell's (better interior details and larger selection of ordnance). The ultimate Super Hornet model can likely be made by combining parts from both kits. But many modelers may have to consider cost, where three Revell kits can be had for the price of one Hasegawa.

- Paul Boyer

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