Feature Article by Toby Knight
A note from Geoff…
I am so pleased to welcome Toby to the team – I’ve long-admired his work and, like me, he has a keen interest in big modern jets! Sure we both like other things too, but there’s nothing like a big 1:32 jet kit to get you in the mood for modelling :) (…he says, having just got stuck into the two-seat AFV Club [Academy] F-16B Viper in RNoAF markings).
Here’s a sneak peek of Toby’s completed Academy F/A-18D Hornet in those striking markings of VMFA (AW) 242 “Bats” – some tidy weathering on show here and Toby will explain all below – here’s his story…
A little bit of background
The F/A-18D is a two seat variant of the F/A-18 Hornet initially built by McDonnell Douglas and later by Boeing, used by the United States Marine Corps. The rear seat is used by the Weapons Systems Operator or a Forward Air Controller and has no flight controls. The D versions have seen combat over the last 20 years from Bosnia, through both Gulf Wars and also throughout Operation Enduring Freedom.
The Academy kit
The kit itself comprises just short of 900 parts, including rubber tyres, clear parts, screws, cast metal landing struts and basic styrene parts on 20 separate sprues. With this also comes a 40 page instruction booklet and two decal sheets, for three different USMC aircraft (one sheet is 35cm X 25cm!!). There are multiple options for flaps and wings as well as rudder, elevators, exhausts and even the nose cone. This is something which should be available in the scale, and it is pleasing to say that on the whole it is done very well. What is a surprise is that there is no photo etch at all. There are a few parts that would have benefitted from some etched metal, but that would only be a minor quibble.
The number of stores provided with the kit is mind boggling. The list is as follows:
• AIM-9L/M – Can be configured as live or inert
• AIM-7F/M Sparrow
• AIM-120 AMRAAM
• GBU-31 JDAM
• GBU-10 Paveway II
• GBU-24 Paveway III
• Mk.82 500lb bomb with or without fuse extender or retarder
• AGM-65E Maverick
• AGM-88 HARM
• AGM-84D / 84E SLAM
• AN/ASQ-173 LDT/SCAM pod
• AN/AAR-50 TINS pod
• 3 x 330gallon fuel tanks.
All the above are provided with the correct launch racks and/or rails. My only complaints with the stores are that no GBU-12 is provided, despite this being the most common weapon carried by this variant, and no Litening pod being offered. For the aircraft I wanted to depict I was forced to obtain these items from the Academy F-16i Sufa kit. For the amount of money spent on this kit, I would have expected both of these items to have been provided. Bearing in mind that these are already provided in other 1:32 scale Academy kits, surely that option could have been included.
The decal sheet offers two different USMC aircraft from VMFA (AW) 242 “Bats” and a further one from VMFA (AW) 225 “Vikings”. All are within the last 5 years. The smaller decal sheet covers the stores and offers additional decals to correct any errors. Bearing in mind that there is no way all of the stores can be attached to one aircraft, there is both a good quantity of parts for the spares box along with their accompanying decals. All of which is a positive in my book, and does allow me to forgive the lack of the Litening and GBU-12.
Although this is not the particular squadron that is depicted in the decals, this is the weapons load that my Hornet will have. There is a huge amount of dirt and grime under the aircraft as well.