|KIT:||Airfix 1/72 F-117A Stealth Fighter|
|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
It isn't that easy to keep secrets in America, what with it still being a pretty open society. It was even more difficult 20 years ago when things were even more open, yet the USAF and Lockheed managed to design, develop and build a fleet of stealthy aircraft without anyone on the 'outside' knowing anything about it. What is more incredible is that they brought a fighter wing into operational capabilities, even suffering a few losses while doing all of this at night to keep the public from finding out about it. In the late 1980s a daylight crash started removing the mantle of secrecy and the aircraft was slowly made public. I can remember the excitement of seeing my first F-117 at an air show at NAS Miramar the first year they were publicly displayed in 1991. The aircraft were ringed with double rows of armed security guards, but we finally got to see one.
The kit makers all got on the bandwagon and as soon as the first images of these planes were published, there were kits in the works. Unfortunately, the shape of the F-117 is a bit elusive and so those early kits were not exactly accurate. However, accuracy wasn't relevant at the time as there was a demand to fill so they did the best they could. I'm not sure just where this Airfix kit fits into the mix of things in terms of accuracy. I do know that the kit was produced while the F-117s were attached to the 37th FW, then based at Tonopah, Nevada (Area 51). This was before their move to Holloman AFB and the 49th FW, where they have been based ever since.
Molded in black (naturally), this kit is fairly well detailed. Engraved panel lines and an adequately equipped cockpit are provided. There are not a ton of parts, which makes this a fine kit for those who are seeking an uncomplicated build. I found some of the detailing to be a bit hefty (such as the nose probes), but this will keep them from being easily broken off during construction (a problem I have had with other F-117 kits). As an option, you can have the canopy open or closed as no stand is supplied. No actuating mechanism is provided and if one does that, it would be a good idea to get an aftermarket seat to replace the rather basic design provided. Another is to have the rudders deflected as they are provided separately from the fin base. The little transponders to allow ground control radar to see the plane during peace-time operation are also separate.
Instructions are typical of what you get from Heller - Airfix kits with several sheets providing well drawn construction steps. Heller - Airfix continue the most irritating habit of not providing color names; only Humbrol paint numbers. This is not at all useful to those of us who either can't get Humbrol paints or wish to use paints from other companies. Markings are for two Wing CO planes when the unit was based at Tonopah. The decals are adequately printed and rather matte. I've had some success with Airfix decals and they can be successfully used with setting solutions.
This is but one other choice in a wide range of 1/72 F-117A kits that have been produced. I'm unsure of the overall accuracy of this kit as I'm not one to compare things against plans. However, it definitely looks the part, and being an Airfix kit, will be something that the younger modelers will be able to successfully complete.
Kit courtesy of a raffle as there is no way I'd pay $16 for it.
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