Kittyhawk 1/48 F-94C Starfire
KIT #: KH80101
PRICE: $45.50 from Pacific Coast Hobbies
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver


            The F-94C was the final development of the line of aircraft going back to the original P-80 Shooting Star, which included the T-33 and F-94 series.  While the previous F-94A and F-94B had been modifications of the basic T-33 airframe with the addition of an afterburner and radar, the F-94C was actually so much an original design that it was first developed as the F-97A.  Congresssional politics being what they are, the Air Force changed the designation to F-94C so that they were not ordering a “new” airplane in the same way they did with the F-86D Sabre.

             Like the F-86D and the Northrop F-89D Scorpion, the F-94C had one mission: the interception and destruction of Soviet nuclear bombers coming over the north pole to attack North America.  As has now been known for the past 40 years, the threat didn’t really exist; the Soviets never had an intercontinental bomber force that could make that attack, since the Soviet Air Force’s long range aviation was equipped throughout the period with no more than 500 Tu-4 bombers, the “reverse-engineered” Soviet version of the World War II Boeing B-29, which did not have the range to make such an attack unless flown as a one-way suicide mission, and even the Soviets knew they couldn’t get 5,000 aviators to volunteer for such a thing. 

             The “threat” was kept credible through the continuing development of a series of piston-engine bombers that ranged from the equivalent of the B-50 to almost the equivalent of the B-36, though none ever achieved production status.  This deception culminated in the introduction in limited quantities of the Tu-16 bomber, roughly equivalent to the B-47, and the public display of several prototypes of the Myasischev M-4, which was considered equivalent to the B-52.  Over the ten years from the Soviet explosion of an A-bomb in 1949 until 1959, this non-existent “threat” forced the United States to spend approximately $2-3 billion 1950s dollars (perhaps $100 billion in today’s dollars and costs) on squadrons of interceptors, radar stations, and a ground-controlled intercept system known as SAGE, to maintain a credible defense against a threat that would never materialize.

             Getting back to the F-94C, the new design featured a Pratt & Whitney J48‑P‑5 or ‑5A engine providing 6,250 pounds of thrust, which could be augmented to 8,300‑1b thrust with afterburner; thinner wings with increased dihedral; a sweptback horizontal stabilizer; and a longer nose with radome and an all-rocket armament of 48 2.75‑inch folding‑fin aerial rockets in a ring of firing tubes around the nose and an additional 24 in two wing pods located midway between root and tip. The aircraft also featured wing and stabilizer thermal de‑icing, single‑point refueling and a greater fuel capacity. The weapon system was designed around the same Hughes E‑5 fire‑control system and Westinghouse W‑3A autopilot that equipped the F-86, though the workload was split between pilot and radar systems operator.

             The airplane owed its existence to the continued extended development of the Northrop F-89 and the USAF decision to improve what had begun life as an “interim” interceptor when the F-89 delays first surfaced.  The F-94C was the third, biggest, and last of the F‑94 model series.

            The customer’s hurry-hurry approach immediately created  trouble.  For starters, the first production deliveries were scheduled for 1951, which was far too early since both the J‑48 engine (a development of the Rolls-Royce Tay which also powered the F9F-5 Panther and the Cougar series for the Navy), and the laminar wings were not fully developed when needed. Other improvements and new components were also slipping:  the automatic approach system was not ready; testing of the 250‑kilowatt‑radar, the rocket nose, and the collision‑course sight was not ready until 1951, and the only autopilot available was too big to fit in the airplane.

             Thus, the first production examples did not appear until May 1952 and even then it did not go directly to Air Defense Command.  All the first 10 aircraft were unacceptable due to lack of speed (40 knots less than specified) and poor maneuverability.  The airplane was turned down by the Air Research and Development Center.

             The J-48 gave fits.  The first one to pass a 150 hour test had an afterburner that was warped and cracked.  The engine finally met the test in May 1952 with afterburner intact.  The burner nozzles then failed, and were impossible to find by visual inspection.  The existing fleet was grounded until all engines could be fitted with improved nozzles, which took till the end of the year.  The airplane was still defective in rate of climb and high-altitude reliability of the engine.  Additionally, firing the nose rockets in salvo as designed was virtually guaranteed to produce a flameout above 26,000 feet due to ingestion of rocket exhaust gases, and in-air restarts were almost impossible.

            A joint study of the F-94C program by HQ USAF, ARDC and d ADC called for variable position dive brakes, aileron spoilers, a better drag chute, further improvement of engine reliability and speedy installation of the additional rocket armament on the wings to replace the unusable nose armament.

             By October 1952, the flight characteristics and controls were improved.  $3.5 million had been spent to modify the cockpits of early F‑94Cs, and work was underway to correct the inadequate de‑icing boots and faulty stall warning. Lockheed undertook field installation of the variable position dive brakes and aileron spoilers and the drag chute finally worked. Drag chute improvements were progressing and ways to upgrade the engine's reliability were under review. Armament difficulties, however, remained unsolved.

             Despite the improvements, two of the four production contracts were cancelled at the end of 1952, cutting total production from 617 to 387 aircraft; consideration had been given in July to complete cancellation, but the Air Force held off because there was nothing better and it was felt important that Lockheed be kept in production during the Korean War.

             By aircraft number 163, the wing pods were being attached at the factory, and an ejection seat capable of actually lifting both pilot and observer out of the cockpit was installed.

             The 437th Fighter-Interceptor Ssquadron at Otis AFB was the first to fully equipe with the airplane.  However, the airplane generated less enthusiasm than expected. Maintenance crews praised it because they could access the electronics equipment easily (remember, this was the days of vacuum tubes that had to be replaced after nearly every flight). Pilots said of the J48-P‑6 engine that it "wheezed, coughed, spurted, and blurped at altitude; but it never quit running." Now two years behind schedule, the F-94C had limited performance, and the basic design could not be stretched further to meet future needs.  Intended as a "quick‑fix" to fill the air defense gap until the F‑89 was ready, planning in 1949 planning had envisioned an operational F‑94C in 1951, not 1953.  Moreover, the F‑94C could not destroy any bomber superior to the Soviet TU‑4 (they didn’t know that the Tu-4 was the only Soviet bomber there was).

             Operational tests in 1954 confirmed the F‑94C's poor weather‑proofing and leaky fuel tanks, and the fact that the E-5 control system would short-circuit in rain, a continuing problem due to the leaky canopy.   The “Hop-Up” program to fix this eventually added an optical sight as a back-up for the balky E-5 system, effectively making the F-94C a day interceptor only.

             Despite its mediocre performance, the F‑94C lasted a whole six years as a first‑line interceptor, though the Air Force wanted to get rid of it throughout its service.  It was considered the best 2-man interceptor at low altitudes (where it would be unlikely to actually find a target).  In 1955, 48 percent of the F‑94Cs were grounded for lack of parts.  It finally disappeared from USAF service in early 1959, while the Air National Guard discarded its last on in mid-1960.

             The airplane did have one claim to fame: it was the only version of the F-80/T-33/F-94 line that could go supersonic, all the way out to Mach 1.1, but it had to do so in a 60 degree dive, and Tony Levier was the only guy who ever do so successfully.


             This is the first modern injection-molded 1/48 kit of the F-94C.  Back in my childhood, Revell released a a “box-scale”  kit and Lindberg released a “1/48(ish)" kit by Lindberg which has the early blunt radome; neither is of value  other than for nostalgia.  Collect-Air did a pricey 1/48 resin kit that is considered one of their better releases.  This new kit effectively replaces all of those for overall price and quality.  The outline is accurate.  The cockpit provides either decals or photoetch for the instrument panels; I intend to use both.  Given that the instrument panels and side panels as well as the cockpit sides are black, most of what is there will be acceptable, though some will await the inevitable True Details scale-up of their 1/72 F-94C cockpit. 

            The seats are the weakest part of what is provided, and I would highly recommend you get the True Details resin T-33 seats, which will definitely improve the look of the cockpit.  Decals provide markings for the F-94Cs on display at the USAF Museum in Dayton and the Pima Air Museum, which is an airplane from the 324th FIS, which operated from Oxnard AFB here in Southern California.  Since the F-94C Starfire comes from the most colorful period of USAF markings, and other squadrons had equally-interesting livery, there is a possibility that some aftermarket sheets may show up. Sheets are in the works from the aftermarket folks. Ed.


            It needs to be said right out front that this is the best first kit from any manufacturer I have ever encountered.  The design of the kit and the quality of the production are first-rate.  I only used a very little plastic putty along the fuselage centerline and the centerlines of the drop tanks.  Fit is precise; in fact, the fit of the wing sub-assembly to the fuselage sub-assembly is so tight that getting this right is the one problem I encountered.

            Given that all the photos I could find of F-94Cs on the ground had the fuselage dive brakes retracted and the flaps up, I build the model in that configuration.  This is one of the very few kits I have ever found (outside of the various F-86 Sabres) in which dropped anything could be successfully assembled closed without a major (or even minor) hassle.

            Since this model is going out to Planes of Fame for display in a glass case, I did not put effort into using the very nice photoetch parts, other than the various instrument and control panels inside the cockpit.  I applied the instrument panel decal over the instrument panel photoetch, with a nice result.  Were I keeping this model for my own display, I would have definitely replaced the seats and then finished it with the canopy in the open position.  With the canopy in the closed position, the poor quality of the seats is less apparent.


             I first painted everything that needed to be black and masked that off.  I painted the grey panels on the vertical fin and the fin tip with light grey and masked that off.

            I gave the model an overall coat of Tamiya Flat Aluminum as a primer, then painted the model with Auto Air polished aluminum.  Previously I have done that thinned with alcohol.  This time I thinned it with water, and the result was a beautiful shiny surface.  I brush-painted Auto Air “pearlized silver” on different panels, and then gave the model a coat of Testors Modelmaster Sealer, which does not affect the finish of the Auto Air paint as it does the Testors metalizer paints, though it does protect the paint from further handling.  I then used SNJ polishing powder for various areas like the nose and a band around the afterburner.

            The kit decals are VERY THIN. You do not need to apply decal solvent. You should let them soak until they just start to float off the backing sheet, then cover the area where they will be applied with water.  Very careful application will get them on, but be aware that there is only minimum backing, so they want to fold and crumple if looked at wrong.  Taking your time and being careful will result in a decal finish that you do not need to cover with another varnish, and there will be no silvering. If you have trouble with very thin decals, I suggest you do the second markings option, as these thin red markings will give you fits. 

            I attached the landing gear and attached the canopy in the closed position.


             An excellent model of an airplane that has a reputation with modelers it never had in service.  Those who like the Fifties Air Force will want more than one of these excellent models in their collection, once the aftermarket has come out with some of the very colorful options that are possible.  If you take care in assembling it since it doesn’t like ham-handedness, you can be rewarded with a model that could be anything from very nice to a show-stopper.  Highly recommended for fans of early jets.

Tom Cleaver

July 2012

Thanks to Pacific Coast Models for the review kit. Order yours at:

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