Dragon 1/144 F-18F Super Hornet 'Lo Vis'
|PRICE:||$11.55 at GreatModels|
|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, later followed by this kit's subject, the F-18F. The F model is a two seat variant that is desined to take over fleet defense missions from the Tomcat and also be able to drop bombs with its single seat stablemate.
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 value, Dragon has recently been putting two aircraft into their newest boxings. These generally retail for less than $15.00, some of that cost required for licensing from Boeing.
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-18E a snap by simply adding another upper fuselage insert for the shorter cockpit section. However, we are talking F-18F 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 pair of believable bang seats and instrument panels.
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 pylons provided though not all will be filled with available ordnance. There are drop tanks for the centerline or 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 standard line birds, a nice change from the fancy CAG planes. There are two sets of markings. One for VFA-213 and the other for VFA-11 as shown on the box art. Decals are well printed and if up to Dragon's normal standards, will work well with most setting solutions. In case you are wondering, the grey stripes are for the trailing edges of the wings and rudders.
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.
As just an additional thought. These kits and many others are molded with the gear doors in the closed position, requiring you to open them up. Why isn't there a stand included? Is it that most modelers don't use them? Is the cost of a couple of extra pieces of plastic that high? Do they take up too much box space? Are manufacturers afraid that kids will eat them?
Inquiring minds want to know!
You can find this and many more superb kits and accessories at www.greatmodels.com. Visit them and see what is new.
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