Manufacturer: Trumpeter, imported by Stevens International, P.O. Box 126, Magnolia, NJ, 08049, 856-435-1555
Kit: No. 02214
Comments: Injection-molded, 377 parts (2 resin engines, 5 white-metal parts, 3 vinyl tires, 17 hardware), decals
Pros:Loads of features, good exterior detail, working control surfaces
Cons: Weak cockpit detail, poorly shaped weapons, inaccurate details, tricky decals
We all figured we'd see a 1/32 scale A-10 from some kit manufacturer: Tamiya, perhaps Testor/Italeri. But when it came, it was a bolt from the blue. Newcomer Trumpeter of China takes a big and risky step with this impressive kit.
What you get are well-molded, somewhat soft styrene parts with some flash. Most of the detail is recessed - but raised where it should be, such as the round-headed rivets on the rear fuselage and fins. White-metal landing gear struts, a boarding ladder, and pitot tube are provided, along with cast-resin engine cores, and vinyl tires. There are three decal sheets with markings for two aircraft, stenciling, and even markings for the wide variety of ordnance. A complete 30mm Avenger cannon shows where the A-10's thunder comes from.
The model represents a late A-10 with the Low-Altitude Safety and Targeting Enhancement (LASTE) bumps on the fins (but missing from the stabilizers) and the Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) receiver dome behind the cockpit. If you build a Gulf War Warthog, they will have to be removed.
Assembly starts with the cockpit, and although the ACES II seat is well detailed, the rest of the cockpit is not. The consoles have some relief, but not enough for this scale. Details are missing from the throttle grip and the control stick, and there are no rudder pedals. The instrument panel is only a flat sheet to which you apply a black-and-white decal. The pilot figure is OK, but if you leave it out, you'll need to add harnesses for the seat pan. This all fits into a good representation of the armored titanium cockpit tub, but the tub can't be seen once the fuselage is closed.
The cannon shows amazing detail - except for the missing chutes for the ammunition belts. There are a lot of parts, and each end of the ammo drum has three parts - it seems to me one each would have sufficed. The attachment of the belts is confusing, and rounds must be cut from lengths to wind around the curves of the feed belts. The directions have you add 160 grams of weight to hold the model down on the nose gear - 80 grams inside the ammo drum, and 80 grams inside the fuselage behind the ammo drum. I cut up wheel weights and jammed them in the drum, but I don't think I managed 80 grams. Once you close the fuselage, you can't see the gun except for the muzzle.
The fit of the four-piece fuselage is surprisingly good for such large parts. My sample had no warpage. Forward fuselage details come next. Watch out, the instructions have the inflight refueling panel upside down; the narrow end of the slipway door should be closest to the windscreen.
The wings feature moveable flaps and split aileron/speed brakes. To hold each flap, bulkheads with tabs fit into the wing and must be installed in sequence to trap the flaps. The flaps can't move to the full down position, and the inboard flaps should extend further under the fuselage. Closing the wing halves revealed the kit's biggest fit problem. Tabs with locator pins at the root end of each wing hold the bottom surface open, and when the wings are attached to the fuselage, this surface can't close the substantial gap. I ended up cutting the tabs from each wing root so I could cement the gaps closed.
The elevators were a problem. They are too deep (fore to aft) and have a single oversize hinge in the center. These should have a smaller central hinge and one inboard and one outboard. The root end of each elevator leaves a large gap between it and the fuselage. I don't understand why there are two sets of elevator trim tabs; they are identical except for mounting tabs.
The vinyl tires slip easily over the styrene wheels. A tiny self-tapping screw mounts each wheel to a predrilled axle of the metal strut. I didn't have a Phillips screwdriver that small, but since the cross slots were cut all the way across the head, a jeweler's flat-head screwdriver worked fine. Plastic caps cover the screw heads.
While the canopy parts do fit well to the fuselage, the shapes aren't right. It seems that the windscreen sits too high, and the framing of the opening canopy section is too deep. The hinging mechanism works OK, but on the real aircraft, the rear tab of the canopy is double-jointed.
The strakes under the forward fuselage aren't shaped right and should tuck under the wing's leading edge. Since I had to sand and work on the fit of the landing gear sponsons, the single-point fueling station wouldn't fit into the front end of the left pod. Strangely, the radar homing and warning bumps on the nose and tail are molded clear while the anticollision beacons on the top and bottom of the fuselage are molded solid with the fuselage.
Trumpeter cleverly produced openable engine nacelles. The resin engine cores show good detail, but fit loosely in the clear engine pods. These pods represent the exhaust shrouds at the rear and real structure at the front, along with the mounting crutch at the top of the nacelle. They can be painted as such, but the section in the middle doesn't appear in photos. I decided to live with the clear bubble as a "show-me" concession. The front fans and their shrouds are well represented, but the fans sit too far forward in the intakes. Cones for the exhausts are provided, but can't be fitted if the resin engines are installed.
The hinging nacelle panels work well. You have to install pins and hangers, along with wire stays that hold the panels open. There are 11 underwing pylons, and each consists of four parts. The weakest part of the kit comprises the weapons. The shapes of the Sidewinder missiles and 500-pound bombs are poor, and the multiple ejector racks are awful. (Don't worry, you won't need these racks - they were used only in weapon separation tests way back in the 1970s.) Triple launch rails are provided for the Maverick missiles, but when they were used, they would only carry two missiles. As an afterthought, Trumpeter has provided single launch rails for the Mavericks.
Also included are GBU-8 TV-guided bombs, GBU-10 laser-guided bombs, GBU-52 cluster bombs, Mk.20 Rockeyes, BLU-27 napalm canisters, an ALQ-119 ECM pod, and a 600-gallon fuel tank. The separate clear lenses for the Mavericks and GBU-8 are a nice touch. I set up my model with a typical load of Mavericks, Rockeyes, CBUs, and 'Winders. In many cases, the decals for the missiles are too big to fit where they should.
Trumpeter's markings selections are for two aircraft in the European I paint scheme: one from the shark-mouthed 75th Fighter Squadron, 23rd Fighter Wing, and one from the 706th Fighter Squadron (USAF Reserves). Noted Warthog expert Dana Bell couldn't find documentation of the 706th machine with the warthog face painted on it, so I went with the famous Flying Tiger descendent.
The decals are thin and tricky to move once they're off the sheet. I used the saliva trick (don't use it after drinking grape juice) of putting a small puddle of saliva down before the decal. This allows the decal to slide around easier. Setting solutions worked great, but I found that the national insignias and the two-letter tail codes were oversize. The checkered fin caps were given only as black checkerboards, and there is no mention that the fin caps should be painted white. I applied the black checkers to white decal trim film, allowed them to dry, then cut the film and laid them on the model. Some of the multicolored decals such as the TAC and wing badges are printed in two parts, and you must lay one over the other to make them complete.
After spraying everything with a clear flat coat, I accomplished final assembly. The metal gear struts fit tightly into holes in the plastic wells. The ECM pod as given sticks out too far forward on its pylon. I shaved off the mounting pins and super glued the pod back until its rear end was even with rear end of the pylon. The little navigation lights for the wingtips are oversize and don't fit flush with the tips. Watch out for that metal pitot tube - it's sharp!
Man, this thing is big - even for a 1/32 scale model! It measures about right for the scale, a full 20" long and 211/2" in span. It weighs a bunch, too, with all that lead in the nose, but the metal struts can take it. I spent 45 hours on my A-10.
Trumpeter's A-10 may not be perfect, but it sure is impressive.
Thanks to Dana Bell for his evaluation of the accuracy of this kit.