Dragon 1/144 F-18E Super Hornet
|KIT:||Dragon 1/144 F-18E Super Hornet|
|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
|NOTES:||Two kits in the box|
The average life span of a modern aircraft in US military service is about 25-30 years; sometimes more if the airframe is extensively overhauled. Most modern tactical aircraft (and we are talking fast jets) have an airframe life of around 5,000 hours. Patrol and cargo aircraft are much, much more, but they don't have to deal with the sort of stresses that are routinely a part of the flight envelope of a fast jet.
This is particularly true of those aircraft that deploy on America's aircraft carriers, where they are flung into the air by powerful steam catapults and then snatched from flight by arresting cables. With the retirement of the F-14 Tomcat coming closer, it was realized that something was needed to replace it.
The F-18A-D Hornet was already in service and doing a fairly good job of things, despite being unable to meet the original goals of the design in terms of load carrying and range. It was postulated that a modified Hornet would be able to meet the needs of the Navy as a replacement for a variety of aircraft, like the A-6, F-14 and older Hornets and have commonality with the earlier versions of the F-18. Sounded great to the Navy planners and so they OK'd the design.
Well, as things turned out, many modifications had to be made to what was now referred to as the Super Hornet. The end result was a larger aircraft that has almost no commonality with the earlier version other than the designation. It also suffered from an inability to meet all its design goals, but as it was an improvement over the existing F-18A/C, and with nothing else on the horizon, the decision was made to go with it .
The resulting aircraft, which first flew in 1995, is now becoming fully integrated into the fleet. The first variant to see fleet service was the F-18E, the subject of this kit, an aircraft that started entering service in the late 1990s, initially replacing A-6, then earlier F-18A and F-14 Tomcats as those units retired their aircraft.
Those squadrons flying the F-18E are primarily tasked with the fighter-bomber role, despite being single seat, though it can also operate as a standard fighter, carrying the usual array of air to air weapons. It also incorporates as much 'stealthiness' as it can with the gear doors having serrated edges and other parts of the airframe (such as the intakes) designed to be less visible to radar. Those few that have been used in combat (albeit against light defenses) have proven to work as advertised and more are due to be built until it, too will succumb to old age and be replaced by something else on down the line.
Dragon has to be the leader in producing military aircraft in 1/144 scale. At least modern military aircraft, as their catalogue shows it has Hornets, Tomcats, Eagles, Harriers, and Falcons, to name a few. We can now add to it the F-18E Super Hornet and to provide a perception of value, Dragon has recently been putting two aircraft into their newest boxings. These generally retail around the $15 dollar range and might even be less expensive if the company had not buckled to the greedy lawyers at Boeing in terms of having to pay licensing fees on each kit.
Anyway, the sprues are quite nicely detailed with engraved panel lines which, while grossly out of scale as you'd expect, do provide what modelers want and look very nice once under a coat of paint. Naturally, the kits are designed to make conversion to the F-18F a snap by simply adding another upper fuselage insert for the longer cockpit section. However, we are talking single seat F-18E in this one so the insert and nice, clear, canopy are for this version. The cockpit is pretty much devoid of panel detail, though you do get a believable bang seat, control stick, and instrument panel. As you might expect, the tub is for the two seat plane, but one simply puts a piece in there to cover it up.
The wings can be displayed with the tips folded if you want, and it is on these folded sections that I found the only molding glitch, a slight sink area near the hinge. There are a complete set of pylonsprovided though not all will be filled with available ordnance. There are drop tanks for the centerline and inboard wing stations. the tips have AMRAAMS, while there are a pair of Anti-Radiation Missiles for the outer pylons. Landing gear are well done for this scale and appear to be quite robust. This is topped by a clear one-piece canopy.
Markings are for two CAG birds as shown on the box art. One is from the ex-F-14D unit, VFA-31 'Tomcatters', and the other is from an ex-F-18C unit, VFA-105 'Gunslinger'. Both are in the standard paint scheme with black tails while the VFA-31 plane has black on and around the cockpit area. Not only will the black cockpit surround have to be painted, but so will the thin red stripe around it as I didn't see this stripe in with the decals. Too bad as this will prevent most from choosing this nice scheme. Decals are well printed and if up to Dragon's normal standards, will work well with most setting solutions.
There are many who think that we are in the Golden Age of modeling and I have to agree. This is just an example of the variety of fine models available to us in all scales. For those who like modern aircraft and don't have a ton of space, then this is the kit for you.
My thanks to www.dragonmodelsusa.com for the review kit. You can get this and other fine Dragon kits at your local shop. If not in stock, have them order it for you.
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