Hobby Boss 1/48 F-111C "Pig"
|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
|NOTES:||Third variant of the kit.|
The General Dynamics F-111 "Aardvark" is a medium-range interdictor and tactical strike aircraft that also fills the roles of strategic bomber, reconnaissance, and electronic warfare in its various versions. Developed in the 1960s and first entering service in 1967, the United States Air Force (USAF) variants were officially retired by 1998. The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) is the sole remaining operator of the F-111.
The F-111 pioneered several technologies for production military aircraft including variable-sweep wings, afterburning turbofan engines, and automated terrain following radar for low-level, high-speed flight. Its design was influential, being reflected in later Soviet aircraft such as the Sukhoi Su-24, and some of its advanced features have since become commonplace. During its inception, however, the F-111 suffered a variety of development problems, and several of its intended roles, such as naval interception, failed to materialize.
In USAF service the F-111 has been effectively replaced by the F-15E Strike Eagle for medium-range precision strike missions, while the supersonic bomber role has been assumed by the B-1B Lancer. In 2007, the RAAF decided to replace its 21 F-111s in 2010 with 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets.
The Australian government decided to order 24 F-111C aircraft in 1963 to replace the Royal Australian Air Force's English Electric Canberras in the bombing and tactical strike role. While the first aircraft was officially handed over in 1968, structural integrity problems found in the U.S. Air Force F-111s delayed the entry into service of the F-111C until 1973. USAF F-4 Phantom IIs were leased as an interim measure. Four F-111Cs were modified to RF-111C reconnaissance versions.
Since their introduction Australia's F-111s have been operated by the No. 1 Squadron RAAF in the strike role, with the No. 6 Squadron RAAF operating the aircraft as an operational conversion unit. A temporary flight designated the Washington Flying Unit ferried to Australia the first 12 F-111Cs from the United States in 1973, and F-111s had been lent to the RAAF's Aircraft Research and Development Unit.
The Royal Australian Air Force's F-111 fleet has at times been controversial. Controversies surrounding the F-111 include:
The F-111's long-time nickname, then official name Aardvark literally means "earth pig" in Dutch/Afrikaans. Consequently in Australia, the F-111 is often known by the affectionate nickname "Pig".
In mid-2006, an RAAF F-111 was chosen to scuttle the North Korean ship the Pong Su which had been involved in one of Australia's largest drug hauls in recorded history. The ship had been sitting in "Snails Bay", off Birchgrove, while the government decided its fate, and it was decided in March 2006 it would be scuttled by air attack. She was sunk on 23 March 2006 by two GBU-10 Paveway II laser guided bombs.
In 2007, Australia decided to retire all of its RAAF F-111s by 2010, and the government signed a contract to acquire 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets as an "interim" replacement,pending the acquisition of the under development F-35 Lightning II. In March 2008, after a review, the new Labor government confirmed its purchase of the Super Hornets. The drawdown of the RAAF's F-111 fleet has begun with the retirement of the F-111G models operated by the No. 6 Squadron RAAF in late 2007. The No. 1 and No. 6 Squadrons are to be reequipped with the F/A-18Fs beginning in 2010. One of the reasons given for the retirement is the average of 180 hours of maintenance required for every flight hour.
Starting with the A model Hobby Boss has released a D/E version and now the C model. This should given them all the bits they need to do an F, G and FB-111. The look of the kit reminds me quite a bit of the Hasegawa 1/72 F-111 series, but there are probably only so many ways to mold a kit like this. Like the Hasegawa kit, it is designed to be built with the wings fully forward, so you need to keep that in mind when it comes to shelf space. I didn't see any swept back option.
Once one is able to get the box open, a virtual plethora of sprues awaits one's eyes. This is not a bare bones kit by any means and among its features are complete engines, a separate escape pod, a full radar set, deployed flaps and slats for the wings, and the ability to show the canopy sections open or closed. The bomb bay can also be posed open or closed.The kit also includes rubber tires and removable panels on the nose section to show off the equipment bay. This kit also has the longer wings of the F-111C which means that an FB-111A is probably in the offing. A most complete set of weapons and stores are also provided that include MERs and TERs, Mk 20 Rockeye cluster bombs, Mk 82 slick 500 lb bombs, AMC-142 missiles. GBI-10 and GBU 15 Laser Guided Bombs, ALQ-119, 131 and 87 jamming/ECM pods, AIM-9B Sidewinders and a pair of large fuel tanks. Some of these weapons may not be appropriate to this version, but it is nice to have them. The bomb racks include separate hold downs. A nice touch is that the upper and lower fuselage halves, clear bits and rubber bits are all contained within a separate box to keep them from damage.
Instructions are typical of Hobby Boss in that all twelve construction steps are well drawn. They also cover both sides of two large folded sheets. A load out diagram is also included that oddly, shows nothing carried on station one. Markings are provided for two aircraft.
The decals are very nicely done and include all the various data markings needed. A separate sheet contains markings for the pods and weapons. Markings are included for two planes. One is the box art plane in the 2003 greys scheme with a 30 years fin marking. The other is in the initial introduction scheme which is basically the same scheme that the plane carried in the USAF when it was first introduced. Paint information is for several paint makers but not for FS595, which would be quite useful. Even though the instrument panel and consoles are nicely detailed, you are given a decal to add to things. A full color painting and markings instruction sheet is provided and the decals are very nicely printed. I've had good luck with Hobby Boss decals so they should prove no issue.
In all, this is a very complete and quite detailed kit. It is a far cry from the troublesome Academy versions and should make a lot of 1/48 F-111 fans quite happy.
My thanks to Squadron Products for providing the preview kit. Get yours today at your local retailer of have them order one for you.
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