Hasegawa 1/72 EF-111A 'Raven'

KIT #: 04203 (KT 3)
PRICE: $10 at a swap meet
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: Kit had already been started.

HISTORY

One thing about the USAF, if the Navy has something, the USAF wants something just as good or even better. In several cases, it has been a Navy plane, like the F-4 Phantom or the A-7 Corsair II. In terms of jammers, the USAF wasn't about to take a back seat to the Navy so came up with a larger, more expensive, faster and somewhat less capable aircraft by modifying older F-111A airframes with the same electronics suite carried by the Navy's EA-6B Prowler. With only two crew men, this put a bigger load on the EWO and required that there be greater computer integration of the system. This resulted in the EF-111A 'Raven'. The aircraft was quite capable and was eventually allocated to two F-111 wings, one at Mountain Home, Idaho, and the other at Upper Heyford, England. Each of these wings had one squadron of 'spark Varks' as it just made more sense from a maintenance standpoint.

Eventually, the F-111 became too expensive to operate. The airframes were getting old and in an environment of cost cutting, the F-111 squadrons started to go away. Eventually, things were drawn down to a single wing operating out of Cannon AFB in New Mexico. There you found the later models of F-111 plus revamped FB-111As (now designated F-111G) as well as a squadron of EF-111s. Eventually even these were unable to keep away from the budget axe and the last ones were gone by the end of the 20th Century. Now USAF jamming is done by Navy EA-6B squadrons, some crewed by USAF air crew! So they did take a back seat to the Navy.....

THE KIT

Though not exactly the same boxing,here is a preview so you can see what comes in the box.

CONSTRUCTION

This kit was picked up at a swap meet. The price was right and the seller trustworthy so I didn't look in the box first. Imagine my surprise when I found that it had already been started. Not only that, but it was not well constructed. The previous builder had not pre-painted anything other than the interior so the wheel wells and intakes were in bare plastic. The builder had tried to fix seams by putting super glue on them and hadn't sanded them down. There were places on the airframe were glue had dripped, causing some damage to detail. The builder had also glued on the horizontal stabilizers, something that I never attach until near the end of the build. What's more, the seams under them had not been even filed down and so filling them was near impossible. The two wings had also been constructed.

First step was to apply filler to the obvious seams and then sand them and the rest of the airframe down to see what else needed fixed. There were quite a few other little bits. I also painted the wheel wells and (as best I could) the intakes with Floquil Reefer White. This color was also used on the upper and lower wings, slats and flaps.

Then I returned to fill in some more seams that reared their ugly heads. In the meantime, I filled in the seams on the wing tips as well as some sink areas found there. The slats and flaps were then removed from the sprues and cleaned up. I then took the wings, flaps and slats and had the various areas that were to be done in red painted. Once dry, these were masked off (and a real laborious procedure it was too) in preparation for having the camo colors painted on them.

The intake bits were then cleaned up, the visible ejector pin holes filled and then they were painted the underside color of FS 36492. Once done, the inside portion of the intakes (those bits that butt up against the fuselage) were glued in place. This was made quite difficult due to the poor installation of the main gear well and getting a proper match was not possible. I then applied superglue to take care of the more egregious gaps, followed by an application of standard filler. In the mean time, the tail section was glued in place, it also requiring some filler.

Meanwhile, the exhaust bits were cleaned up and painted using Alclad II's Jet Exhaust and Steel. I also assembled the little vanes forward of the wings that tilt up when the wings are straight out. The undersides of these parts has ejector pin marks that must be filled. I also placed the fairings over the main gear doors. A lot of jumping around on this one. Partially due to the state of the sprues. They all are cut into small squares and there are extra sprue bits in there as well. I'm only hoping that there are not any missing bits, but so far, so good.

The vanes and small doors were then painted white and then red once the white had dried. Later, they were painted on the outer surface whatever color the surrounding airframe was. I also took the time to paint the flaps and slats so that they would be ready. The wings have a pair of pylons installed on them, but oddly, they are not supposed to have the drop tanks attached. I'm not sure why that is so I'll do some research to see if they actually carried these or not. After gluing on the drop tanks, the upper and lower wings were painted the appropriate shades and set aside with the flaps and slats until later.

Back at the fuselage, I returned to the intakes. What I guess are shock cones were painted with the aft portions being done in steel as listed on the instructions. Then I glued on the outer intake sections. The fit here was poor, but mostly because some tabs had broken off and the back half of the intake was not properly glued in place. It is a real hassle sometimes when working on a kit someone else has bollixed up!

I then used quite a bit of filler to get the intakes properly faired. I then started adding on various antennas and did a proper job of masking the canopy (not easy when it is already [poorly] glued in place). Then it was time for more paint.

COLORS & MARKINGS

After masking off the wheel wells, I sprayed the underside with Testors ModelMaster enamel, FS 36492, a color that seems to be one that was used on few aircraft. When dry, the upper side was painted in FS 36320, again using Testors enamels. The radome had been masked off as it was to be in the lower color. For the upper surface, I've seen photos of the demarcation between the upper and lower colors on the nose being both a hard and soft line. I chose a soft line on this one. There is also room for differences for the fin leading edge radome. It can be a different shade from the upper color or the same color. I chose to paint mine FS 35237 just to give it a bit of difference from the surrounding grey. Same goes for the flexible area around the wing. It could be any shade from the underside color to a brownish shade. I picked a slightly different color in FS 36375, again, just to give it some visual impact. When all that was dry, I went back to the bench to add on the landing gear.

The main gear is a rather complex looking construct, but with careful construction, you'll get all the bits in place. This glued against the rear of the well, but under the lower body. Thanks to the shoddy work done by the previous builder of this kit, getting this part in place wasn't easy. Slow and steady pushing with a bit of glue as lubricant finally got it in place. Also thanks to the mis-glued wheel well, getting the forward speed brake in place was not easy and I don't think it is down low enough. The aft gear door was glued in place and then the wheels.

Moving to the front, the nose gear was glued in place. This also took some grunt work to get installed. Then the forward piece and the retraction strut were glued in. This strut doesn't seem to fit very well and I'm even inclined to think it may be shown backwards. However, having no proof, I left it as it was. The nose wheels were then put on. I also installed the lower section of the burners at this time. Previously I'd assembled them, painting the lower section aluminum and the upper with Alclad II's Jet Exhaust. I'd forgotten to glue on the little ridge-like bits that hold the burner nozzle so had to attach those and then repaint the cans. These were then put in place with super glue, making sure there was room for the nozzle before the glue dried!

While in a 'build mood', I also unmasked the previously painted wings, leading edge slats and the flaps. I also realized that there was a hole in each wing that didn't look as if it should be there. Sure enough, the instructions would have me fill that in. Taking the super glue and accelerator, I filled in the hole in each wing and sanded the area smooth. Back to the paint shop for those to get the underside areas repainted. When dry, I glued in the flaps. Not the greatest fit, but not really that bad. It was the slats that were a pain. There really is no positive locator for these. They simply butt glue as best as can be done to the little stubs on the leading edge of the wing. Hasegawa should take a clue from Fujimi who puts the guide rails on the wing and then has the builder glue the slats to the guide rails. It not only looks more prototypical, but offers a much more positive gluing surface.

I then glued on the nose gear doors and the little flap areas just ahead of the wings. The tail bumper was also glued on at this time. All of these parts had been painted ahead of time and just needed glued on. A coat of clear gloss acrylic (Future) was then applied in preparation for decals.

For this model, I decided to use a scheme at the end of their operational life. In this case, it wasCutting Edge 72-048, which I had picked up with a bunch of other sheets at a swap meet. I chose the CO's bird with the nice nose art on it. I dropped a few of the common markings decals into the water while I took a good look at the rest of the sheet. To my horror, all of them were shown with hard demarcation lines between the upper and lower colors. Mine was soft. There is also a GPS antenna on the nose that my kit doesn't have. Well, nothing to do about the decals except to put them on. Once they were dry, I gently masked the nose again and did the light grey in a hard line as shown on the sheet.

Returning to the decals for the wings (which were not glued on), I found the decals to be a bit brittle. Those for the slime lights that wrap around the wing tip cracked when bent. Despite adding Solvaset to help things out, they just didn't look 100%. Sort of fits with most of the rest of the build! I found having to make the serial on the rudder with individual numbers to be quite fussy and I'm not sure everything is properly aligned, but it looks OK. With all the decals in place, the airframe was wiped down and then it was time for some matte clear. I used my usual mixture of Future mixed with Flat Base from Tamiya or Gunze.

FINAL CONSTRUCTION

Not really that much to do for final construction. I did glue the wings in place as I didn't like that they were a touch loose. I also glued on the burner cans and added some color on the wing tips for formation lights. The nose probe and all the clear bits had gone missing so no landing lights (the canopy was already glued in place when I got the kit, if you recall). I used two sizes of stainless tubing to make a new nose pitot and it looks a lot better than the plastic one anyway. Still no idea of how to do the GPS antenna on the nose so I left it off. I also left off the drop tanks as the instructions didn't even mention them. Not sure just what is supposed to be on those pylons, but they look a bit lonely with nothing on them. I popped off the masking and that was it.

CONCLUSIONS

Well, there you have it. I've always wanted to do a Hasegawa F-111, but really didn't have that much motivation to do one at all, and especially an EF as I'd already done the Monogram kit many years ago. The overall impression that it left me with is that it is a fiddly kit, but nothing that is horribly difficult. I'd like to be able to do the wings swept back to save on shelf space, but that isn't an option. It would probably have gone easier had I not started with a bollixed up kit, though with me that isn't a surety. I have to say that it is still the best detailed F-111 in this scale, despite being near 15 years old. They are not readily available and when I do see them on shelves, they are about $25. Seemed like a lot in 1990, but fortunately, you can find them at swap meets for less. If you like modern aircraft and want a good representative of the type, then this one is for you.

February 2005
#1351 in a series

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