Czech Model 1/32 T-33A Shooting Star
KIT #: 3203
PRICE: $79.95 MSRP
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver
NOTES: Short run kit with resin and photo etch parts


            Since its introduction in 1949, the Lockheed T‑33A “Shooting Star” has been the most widely used jet trainer in the world having flown with 20 different air forces during its career, and continues to serve in various air forces around the world today, as well as appear on the warbird circuit as one of the most widely-operated private ex-military jet aircraft. There were no fewer than four T-33s on the flight line at the recent air show put on by The Air Museum, Planes of Fame, in Chino, California, as an example of the type’s ubiquity.

            Essentially, the T‑33 is a F‑80 with a fuselage lengthened by three feet ahead of the wing, to make room for the second tandem seat.  Interestingly enough, with a better fineness ratio, the trainer is faster than the original fighter.

            With the introduction of the P-80 Shooting Star in Air Force service in 1945, pilots discovered there were many differences between a jet and a propeller airplane, not least the slower throttle response, which had led to several  fatalities when even experienced pilots flew the airplanes with their piston-powered flying habits.  It was felt there was a need for a two seat conversion trainer, to allow pilots to get used to the new powerplant.  Lockheed had already been thinking along these lines, and was able to meet the Air Force’s new specification very quickly.  It was the single smartest commercial decision Lockheed ever made as a company, since the T-33 became the best-selling Lockheed product ever.

            Originally designated the TF‑80C, the T‑33 made its first flight in March 1948, with Lockheed test pilot Tony LeVier at the controls.  LeVier’s report was that the airplane flew better than its predecessor.  Series production began in 1949, when the airplane was finally designated T-33A, and production continued until August 1959 with 5,691 T‑33s built, as compared with only 1,718 F-80s.  By the early 1950s, it was the basic jet trainer for both the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy. T-33s were found at every Air Force base around the world, serving with nearly every unit as a “hack” for communications and transportation.

            The airplane equipped NATO Air Forces during the 1950s through the MDAP program.  By the mid-1960s, as more advanced trainers were developed, the airplane served with air forces throughout the developing world.  Even though it was obsolete by the 1960s, the T-33 performed many different tasks and was found in Air Force, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard service until the early 1990s. 

            The T-33 was produced under license in both Japan and Canada. Kawasaki built 210 for the new Japan Air Self Defense Force, while Canadair produced the CL‑30 “Silver Star,” with the original Allison turbojets replaced with Canadian-built Rolls‑Royce Nene-10 engines. Both the JASDF and the CAF still use the T-33 as a trainer.  

            In the 1980s, there was a development of the T-33 called the Sky Fox, which was planned to utilize low-time T-33 airframes with the engine replaced by two CJ-60 turbofans.  The airplane was planned to compete directly with later jet trainers for service in Third World air forces.  Tony LeVier, by then retired from Lockheed, was involved with the project, though it never got past the mockup stage (actually, there was a single prototype as you can see by the photo. Ed).


             For a full review of what’s in the box, see Scott Van Aken's preview HERE.

             This is the first 1/32 scale kit of the T-33.  There is an ancient 1/48 T-33 that was released by Hawk back when yours truly was in junior high school, making that kit 50+ years old now, and it can still be found, released by Testors for the past 40 years.  In the 1990s, Hobbycraft released a 1/48 T-33 which has basically been the “go to” kit, though most modelers who have built it have had to invest heavily in aftermarket resin cockpits, seats, etc.  Hasegawa released a 1/72 T-33 in the late 1960s that is still available (and there is the much nicer 1/72 Heller kit from the early 1970s. Ed).  It was also recently released in that scale by MPM.

             This kit is released by Czech Model, a division of MPM marketed through Military Model Distributors (Squadron).  A development of their F-80 kit, the kit provides a good cockpit and decent detail, making it the best OOB T-33 kit available in any scale.  Decals are for a USAF T-33A circa 1980, a Luftwaffe T-33 and a Belgian Air Force T-33, both from the 1960s.  Both of these aircraft are camouflaged, while the USAF airplane is in overall ADC grey.


            Overall, the kit fits as well as the earlier F-80 kit.  It is definitely a short-run kit, and a modeler is well advised to “test fit thrice before gluing once.”  I found I needed cyanoacrylate glue on the fuselage centerline seam to make it disappear, as well as for the jet intakes.  I used Mr. Surfacer on all seams.  That said, the model went together easily over the course of a weekend.

             I strongly advise a modeler to cut the intake trunking in half so that it can be attached to the fuselage halves before further assembly.  This allows you to get excellent fit for the intakes and trunking, which isn’t really possible if you follow the kit’s design and instructions.  I would also caution you to be certain to attach the resin intake grills before further assembly after you have the intakes assembled.  I managed to forget these until after the model was painted.  While they fit well, the operation on a model that was already painted in natural metal was dicey enough I wouldn’t care to do it again, and the fit is not as close as I would have gotten had I performed this bit of assembly at the proper time.

             The cockpit is nicely detailed, and the photoetch instrument panels look very good when attached.  I found a color photo of a T-33 ejection seat on the web, and used that for my painting guide (I have included it here for your edification and education, under the “fair use” doctrine).

             The canopy is so clear that I decided to assemble it in the closed position, since the airplane looks better in that configuration.  Beware if you decide to do this.  As with most kits, if a part is designed to be displayed open, it is easier to do that than to close things up.  You need to thin the rear area of the canopy around the hinges, and you also need to shave off a bit of the “hump” the canopy attached to, to insure a nice easy fit. I neglected that last part and forced the fit a bit more than I should have, with the result that there are some needless stress marks in the rear canopy, which are very visible at certain angles under certain lighting. If you decided to do this, be sure to test fit and modiry until you have a very easy fit back there.

            When I attached the wing sub-assembly to the fuselage, after much test-fitting to be sure the upper wing-fuselage joint would be smooth, I found it was a good idea to attach the two sub assemblies with cyanoacrylate glue as I held them together on each side of the fuselage in proper position.

             The horizontal stabilizers did not fit without a gap no matter what I did, so I filled it with cyanoacrylate and then Mr. Surfacer.

             I left the tip tanks off until after the model was painted, since they were going to be different colors and it would ease masking.



             I had decided to do a “hack” from the late 1950s, so the model was painted in Talon Aluminum overall.  I polished the model with my dremel polishing head before painting, to be sure I had all the scratches sanded and filled.

             I first painted the wheel wells in Interior Green, then filled the wells with tissue paper.  I painted the dark aluminum area of the lower nose with Tamiya “Flat Aluminum,” darkened with a brushfull of Dark Grey.  The center spar areas of the wings, horizontal and vertical stabilizers were painted with Tamiya “Flat Aluminum. These areas were then masked off and the rest of the model was painted with Talon Aluminum, “misted on.”

             I wanted to do an airplane from the period when the Air Force had “day-glo” orange on its airplanes.  I painted the outer sides of the tip tanks with Tamiya “Flat White” and then with Tamiya “Orange.” I then applied some Gunze-Sangyo “day-glo” Orange.  I applied a bit of flat white to that after I applied the first coat, and went back over it to “blotch” it for weathering (the reason the AF stopped using this paint was it started weathering badly 5 minutes after application).  I gave the orange a coat of Xtracrylix Flat Varnish with a big dollop of Tamiya “Flat Base’ to get a dead flat finish - I put it on before the undercoat was fully cured, and got some cracking and crazing which added to the realism of this badly-weathered and worn paint.  The inner halves of the drop tanks were painted with Tamiya “Flat Black.”


             I used the kit decals, changing the serial number around.  I used numbers and letters from the decal dungeon for the “Buzz Number”, and then a TAC badge and a squadron insignia for the 335th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing - also from the dungeon - to create a “hack” circa 1960-62, when the unit began equipping with the F-105B.


             I attached the drop tanks and the landing gear, and unmasked the canopy.


             I’ve always liked the look for the T-33, going back to seeing them on the flight line at old Lowry AFB when I was a kid in Denver.  I’ve had the chance to fly in three T-33s, and they are just as nice as everyone says they are (Tony LeVier told me once it was his favorite jet).  This new kit from Czech Model will give you an accurate model of this famous airplane.  I am sure there will be many aftermarket sheets, given the plethora of air forces it served with.  Not a difficult project so long as you bear in mind it is “limited run.”  Highly recommended.

 Review kit courtesy of my billfold. 

Tom Cleaver

May 2010

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and quickly, please contact me or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

Back to the Main Page

Back to the Review Index Page