Hasegawa 1/72 EP-3B Orion

KIT #: K-15

€25,= (second hand)

DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Jeroen Koen
NOTES: Lone Star conversion, Wolfpak 72-025 decals



Getting a proper history here that does the huge number over versions, operators, modifications and technical details right is probably far too much, so I'll focus on the EP-3B version here.


The EP-3B was flown by the US Navy as an electronic surveillance aircraft from the late 1960s for well over 20 years -which is pretty amazing, given that the two original EP-3Bs were based on  early P-3A's (old designation: P3V-1). Their story starts with 3 P-3As being being used by the CIA for clandestine missions first. After conversion for that use -shorter propeller tips, exhaust shrouds, double cargo entry doors to get all equipment inside, radar, and a whole lot of infra-red equipment, as well as a few humps and antennae not present on normal Orion, they were flown mainly for observing Communist China. For that were they not only painted completely black, but also carried AIM-9 Sidewinders for self defence -the story goes that one even shot a MiG down! Later they were flown by the Taiwanese crews, in Taiwanese markings, but by 1967 all three aircraft were returned to the US Navy.


The Navy in turn modified 2 of them again for electronic surveillance. These modifications were visually different, since the APS-20 radar had a big radome underneath the fuselage, and it sprouted big canoe-shaped bulges on the top and bottom of the fuselage. To prevent the insides from getting too warm, the fuselage top was painted white, resulting in it's unique (for P-3s) paint scheme.  These aircraft were heavily employed in Vietnam. The experience with the EP-3Bs helped development en improvements for the EP-3E -so in essence, the EP-3Bs were the informal operational prototypes for the EP-3E. Both aircraft were modified to EP-3E standard in the 1970s and painted in the standard grey/white scheme. (When your editor arrived at VQ-1 in late 1974, they were in white/grey. Ed) Eventually, after a long career, both were retired because they had run out of flight hours. The EP-3E eventually became the EP-3E Aries II.



The Hasegawa Orion has been around for a while and has been previewed already here by Scott. Mine was an earlier boxing, which came in a large white box with decals for 3 versions; VP-50 with blue trim and a large dragon, VP-5 “Mad Foxes”, and an Australian version.

As is mostly the case with those old style Hasegawa boxes, the decals have overly bright reds, the blue trim for the VP-50 option is nearly turquoise, and they are very thick. Unlike Scott’s boxing, the walkways will have to be painted by the builder. Instructions are a stapled booklet with mostly clear instructions, and an extra A4 sheet of marking options in full colour, a nice touch.

As for the rest, I already had the Wolfpak decals (bought for the Intruder option) but became intrigued by the EP-3B, so I wanted to build that one first. As the Hasegawa boxing of the EP-3E with resin domes and bumps is rather rare and expensive, two alternatives are indicated in the Wolfpak instructions: Falcon triple conversion, and Lone Star resin. Unable to find the Falcon conversion, I went for the Lone Star resin, which is very basic, and quite a lot of work went into getting it onto the model. The parts have rough, balsa-like surfaces and quite a few humps and dents, particularly the nose and APS-20 radome. With these sets in hand, a Hasegawa kit was found through a forum and construction went underway.



In this case, construction did not start where normal modellers building normal kits start, the cockpit. Instead I snipped all big parts from the sprues and tested the fit. Not too bad... so I taped the fuselage halves together and proceeded to saw the resin from the rather thick casting blocks. The casting blocks are attached to the mating surfaces, requiring the builder to sand the fuselage top curve into the resin undersides for the canoe-shaped fairings. This was achieved by taping a piece of thin sandpaper to the fuselage and simply sanding the fairing over that for ages until it had the proper curve inside. This job is both boring and messy, but it had to be done, so better do it first lest I lose interest! After it roughly fit I found out that one needs to cut a bit off the tail to fit the upper canoe into its proper place, which is not indicated in the instructions. I also had to de-warp it (did not succeed entirely) with hot water and polished it it to get rid of the rough texture.

I then turned to the nose piece, compared it to the kit part and decided it was not worth the effort to free it from it's casting block, fix the dents and damages and re-add the raised lines on it, while all that needs to be done to the kit part is fill the lower cut-out where Hasegawa would have you add some camera windows or something. So I stuffed that with Milliput and sanded it into shape.

With that done, I turned my attention to the APS-20 radome, which turned out to have a prominent ridge where apparently 2 mould halves mate, and also had to sand away remains of the casting block. The curve of the mating surface does not match the fuselage, and has some damages/protrusions that need removal. More sanding ensued, and after a test-coat of paint I noticed there are many pinholes in this part I had to fill. I used Milliput for all this, and though time consuming, it worked pretty well. 3 Parts down, 2 to go!


However, the lower parts can't be installed until the wing is in place, so feeling like a normal modeller building a normal Hasegawa kit, I filled a million pinholes in the cockpit interior and airbrushed it dark gull grey. The seats were painted orange, and after that came the test of decals. Actually, in spite of being something like 30 years old, they worked very well and settled down pretty good using Mr Mark Softer. The cockpit was glossed and given a dark grey wash and a light grey dry-brush. I also made some tape seatbelts, and glued a massive amount of lead to the cockpit floor, especially since the resin fairings add quite a lot of weight after the main gear, not quite compensated for by the forward radome!

A final matt coat finished off the cockpit.


Again feeling like a normal modeller, I assembled the top and bottom wing halves and glued the left hand engine nacelles in their intended spots, as a dry-fit indicated they did not quite meet Tamiya-standards fit wise. The next morning the other halves were glued and clamped in place, resulting in a tiny height difference on the bottom and near their mounting point on the wing, that was duly sanded away and levelled using Milliput. After a primer check and some more filler I was satisfied and using thin strips of Dymo tape with small triangles cut out to improve their ability to go around curves, all four nacelles had their panel lines re-scribed.


Turning the wing over, I noticed that Mr Hasegawa had used Lego blocks for pylons and thus the lower wing has some huge slots to accept those -again filled with strips of Evergreen and levelled off with Milliput, then sanded. They needed a bit of Mr Surfacer 500 and more sanding until I was satisfied. The sono-bouy launchers were stuffed with stretched sprue and filled in the same way -the joys of sanding and filling. I think my wife can still hear the sound of sandpaper on Hasegawa plastic...


By now I felt the need to glue plastic together, so I glued the interior into the left fuselage half and taped the wing and fuselage together. Then I put cocktail sticks in the gear openings to check the balance, with the resin stuff taped to the model. Since that was good, I glued some stiffening strips into the fuselage halves and section by section I closed the fuselage. After that was thoroughly dry, I added the rear sonobouy insert -a poor fit and requiring some strips to be glued in to prevent it from sinking too deep. Even with that it isn't a well fitting part, so break out the Milliput, sandpaper and Mr Surfacer again. Starting to get repetitive? Sorry about that, so I won't bother you with how I sanded the lower canoe-shaped fairing in shape and added the small triangular radome, also sanded in shape. Maybe I should mention the lower canoe looks too long, so I cut about 4mm off it until it ended near the rear entry door and, yes sir, sanded it into shape again!


By this time I ran out of sandpaper and had to get more to sand and fill all the pin-marks on the wheels, gear parts, propellers, and gear doors. Again, a boring and time consuming job... but one that needs to be done.


So, are we done by now? Of course not! The fuselage halves needed sanding (not a lot of filler, save for the inserts and nose), and I added the forward wheel bay insert and entry door. Obviously all this needs more sanding and re-scribing done... so again, it was done...

By this time I again felt the need to glue parts, so after making sure the balance was OK for the last time, I glued the lower wing in place. After letting this harden, it was obviously in need of more sanding and filling, and since I had the stuff out anyway, I also filled the panel lines for the bomb doors. After making sure it looked pretty good, I broke out the 5 minute Epoxy and, after drilling holes and adding pins to the resin parts, glued the resin pieces in place for good. I chose Epoxy over super-glue, as it is much thicker and helps fill the largest gaps. Do I need to tell what happened next...? again, it was tedious, but done! I think this model ate up half a stick of Milliput!

The only place where I did not use Milliput, was with the APS-20 radome. I used Vallejo putty to fill the gaps, smoothed out with a small q-tip. Worked quite well, but the gaps on the rest were simply too large for this method.


By this time, the end was in sight, and the not-quite-horizontal tails were added, with a tiny strip of 0,25mm Evergreen added to help fill a small gap, as well as the cockpit glazing. All other windows were to be added last. Obviously these parts needed more sanding and filling, as well! At this time, the hole left for the MAD boom was rebuilt with a V-shaped plug from Evergreen as per pictures. It actually amazed me there were so many pictures of an aircraft of which only two were built.


So, by this time, you, as was I at that time, must be thinking it would now finally be time for primer and paint? Wrong! By this time, actually very fortunate and extremely timely, Marco P.J. Borst from www.p3orion.nl showed up on the Dutch forum where I keep my build log. He was very helpful with my questions and had some great pointers on what else to modify.

So, to summarize a bit, by this time I had done:


-fill bomb doors

-fill nose opening

-fill sonobouy launchers

-add V-shaped plug where MAD boom normally goes.


In conjunction with Marco, the following extra modifications were done:


-original entry door filled, and new double doors unique to both EP-3Bs (and kept until phased out as EP-3Es) scribed and hinges and latch added (see: http://www.p3orion.nl/p-3%20cargo%20door%20mods.pdf. )

-2 small windows filled on the right rear aft fuselage

-another small window filled halfway above the wing in the right fuselage half

(these small windows were only present on P-3C and the EP-3Bs were based on the P-3A)

-we also determined it was very likely the EP-3Bs had the small vanes above the APS-20 radome, but they proved very elusive to confirm on a black aircraft, (until a much later Google search found me some previously unfound pictures that confirmed their presence so the estimate was good!) I made these from slightly bent strips of 0,25mm Evergreen.


And, since I felt I had nothing to do, I also opened up the engine intakes, which are about 2mm deep on this model, and quite prominent. Since I thought about that rather late, I could not add some ducting or so, but still, it looks better, even if there is nothing in there.

At this stage I also drilled the 3 holes for the antenna wires -unlike the later EP-3Es, the EP-3B had much less antenna wires, and blade antennas for that matter. I'd have to re-do all of those as well, since all that sanding had obliterated the moulded on antennae.


 By then it was finally time to mask the cockpit windows and go for primer, which was duly shot and the ever present rework of joints, filler and panel line re-scribing was carried out until I was either satisfied or fed up! ;-)


Obviously, painting being my weak spot, I was not helped with a sputtering airbrush ruining the white. I polished it as best as I could and proceeded with the metal parts and the black. I had issues with leaking tape, overspray, and more overspray, and again leaking tape, and, finally, some not-quite-niceley done seamwork. In the end there was so much paint and ugliness I felt I could only strip it and start again, so, using my trusty oven cleaner, I went ahead and stripped it all off. Re-addressing the seams with Mr Surfacer 500 and sanding and scribing again, I went ahead and tried to make this my first all-acrylic project.

So after making triple sure all seams were properly treated, I shot the whole thing with Vallejo Urethane primer. This stuff airbrushes well, unthinned with a larger nozzle, or slightly thinned with Tamiya X-20A through a smaller nozzle. It does not withstand sanding very well, as it comes of in large flakes, but if the seamwork is done, it does serve well as a holding coat for acrylics, most of which don't adhere well to bare plastic. It is simply not as durable as Mr Surfacer or enamel, but does not smell that bad either!

Eventually, after losing interest and doing other things in life (like becoming a dad!) I washed the model to get rid of a year's worth of dust, and thought about putting paint on it.

As I did not want too much preshading or postshading, I used a technique I saw somewhere on a forum. I first pre-shaded the panel lines (but not all of them) on the white with dark grey, and used medium grey, blue-grey and pure white in blotches and spots. I then misted over it all with Revell Aqua flat white, and had to cover up the pre-shading of the panel lines a bit more, as I used a too-dark grey. Then, filling spots, spotting, dotting and dashing with Revell Aqua Gloss white (which does not cover that well, but is more pure white than the flat version) for an hour or 3 until my fingers started hurting! I was very happy with how this came out, so I used it on the black as well, but this time using red and blue for the spots and dashes, and pure black for the panel lines. I used Revell Aqua Tar Black with a bit of white in it for the filling in and misting over. It looked even better on the black, subtle, yet with colour variation. One of the things that turned me off on the original paint job was the big expanse of dull black. (even though I used a “scale” black). Another turn-off was the colour of the nose and panel on the tail, which I found difficult to match when painting them first, and then the fuselage. I also made a cut-out on the location of the rear fuselage insignia, predicting colour shift when putting a white star half on white, half on black. This turned out to be wise move!


The downside of doing the reverse, is more masking, but I would be able to match the colours better, so I did it this way. After all the black was done (needing some touch-ups or some extra misting here and there) I masked off the radomes and fairing, and airbrushed those with pure Tar Black; my reasoning being that they are newer than the black paint job on the aircraft. The curved APS-20 radome was particularly fun to mask! The nose and panel on the tail were done with 50% RLM66 and 50% Tar Black, and since the airframe was already in colour, it was a lot easier to adjust the colours.


Then, real life and a loss of interest intervened... again, the model sat for a year or so, while I finished my Polish Albatros and even older Fokker D.VII first -I  had to move about a lot of kits for our second expected kid's room, and decided I could live without some of them and sold them off, and really, really needed to finish off some of those old hangar queens.

So, with the Fokker and Albatros done, I turned again to my EP-3. The paint job still looked good, but I wasn't done yet. After washing another year's worth of dust off, I masked and painted the engine intakes with Revell Aqua Steel, made the wheel bays and gear parts white, and the panel on the belly grey. The APU exhaust was also painted Steel. For acrylic metallics, these are actually very good -not Alclad good, but much better than most other acrylic metallics I've tried. I wonder why Revell does not make more ready-made colours and market them more aggressively -they are really the best water based acrylics around in my opinion, not counting the alcohol based Tamiya and Gunze, but I digress. Painting being done, it was time for a clear gloss of Tamiya X-22 which ended up nice and glossy, which is most unusual in my case, as I usually end up with half-dull coarse coats that need a lot of polishing and rework...


So, happily, I went to work on the decals.

I was, honestly, a bit disappointed by those. Despite the gloss and smooth surface, I had issues with silvering of the rather large carrier film. Unfortunately this did not show up until the next morning, or I could have glued the rest on using Future, as I tend to do with Roden decals. On a black aircraft one would expect properly covering decals, but unfortunately this is not the case, they are quite transparent. This was somewhat unexpected, as my AD-4 Skyraider in almost equally dark Gloss Sea Blue was done with Euro Decals -also printed by Fantasy Printshop, which did not show a hint of transparency. On the other hand, the silvering could have something to do with for example floating the decals too long on the water, which dissolves too much of the glue -a next model from this sheet will be the final proof!


So, what's wrong then? First of all, the blue of the insignia is really too light, which is unfortunate, as it also affects the other options on the sheet. Also, the NAVY text on the rear fuselage is slightly too large, it should be the same size as the bars of the insignia. (or the bars are too small?) There is also a rescue arrow missing near the rear exit doors (which I found out too late, there are extras for the EC-47s if you don't build that one).

The “32” on the nose appears a bit small, but I can live with those little niggles. No stencilling is provided, as it is not readable on most pictures. I used the Hasegawa kit decals for the APU warning rectangle and the red patches with the bomb door markings, though the text is wrong, there are warnings on the same red rectangle on the EP-3B about the radome. I also had to shorten the propeller warning stripes since they do not go over the vanes. I later found a close-up with a crew, which showed the rescue arrows to be of a different style, with < shaped ends. (“old style” so to speak). I can live with that in 1/72, but there you are if you are a better modeller then I am.:-)

The silvering was taken care of with a sharp knife blade to try and cut the film and use tiny bits of tape to pull it off, and on other spots 000 brush and some Tar Black paint. Not the prettiest, but it was all I could do to turn a 70cm model into a 30cm viewable one. Did I mention the few 30+ year old Hasegawa stencils I used went on beautifully without any silvering and responded well to Mr Mark Softer...?  I have to admit I found that rather frustrating...


There are few other issues as well. While the historical background is excellent, the actual placement guide is less than stellar. Fortunately a lot of pictures can be found on the internet, most curious, since there were only 2 Batracks in the first place! The NAVY text on the rear fuselage is missing, and the fuselage insignia is not in the correct position. Also, the bottom insignia placement is incorrect, both the white NAVY text and insignia should go between the engines, as per Hasegawa instructions.


Finally the metal parts were masked off again and a coat of Revell Aqua Gloss varnish airbrushed, which is not quite glossy, but gives a nice satin sheen. Then the nose and lighter panel on the fin were masked and airbrushed with Aqua Flat varnish.


Other than small details, the last thing to do was the walkways. Since these were also to be matt, they were saved for last. They also turned out to be small disaster, since after laboriously masking them off and then painting them with a brush and several grey colours, removing the tape revealed paint creeping underneath the tape onto the black -not much to do, except remove some with a cloth damp with Humbrol thinner and letting it dry, then touch-up again with Aqua black paint. The colours of the walkways also looked ugly, so I bit my tongue again and airbrushed Revell Aqua Gloss mixed with some black over it all to tone the colours down and help blend in the touch-ups.

Finally, I painted them with Aqua Matt varnish -negating any advantage by doing them last!

Also, I'm not sure if this aircraft actually had walkways in the first place, I could not find a picture showing the upper surfaces, so it's a guess. The main reason I added them is that they help break up the “blackness”.


However, while far from perfect, it was at least close to completion. After, again, laboriously masking the propellers these were painted white and red, then the tips masked completely and then painted them black -there are many pictures showing this aircraft with both black and standard Orion propellers. The black with red-white tips is somewhat conjectural as well. (as a side note, there was a lot of swapping parts, as I even found a picture of a black EP-3B with a standard light gull grey engine nacelle).


By now you'd probably be thinking, hey, this Jeroen guy is actually going to complete it without fuss, but, you'd be wrong! As I painted the small detail bits like navigation lights and mooring points, those yellow moorings made a slip and I got yellow on the black fuselage. Thinking about how much paint and varnish there was on it, and how long it had been on it (some of the paint was by now 1,5 year old!), I took a moist Q-tip with alcohol, which promptly ate through all the layers of paint to reveal a nice plastic grey spot. Sigh. By now my tolerance limit had been well past, so I all I can say it is thanks to my wife that this model and review are now done, instead of the model flying straight out of the window!

Dutifully I again masked the white and metal, took my airbrush with 0,15mm needle, and painted some blue and red spots, then black again, which looked pretty neat -until I removed the tape and pulled the prop warning stripe off -sigh again! Fortunately there are extras for the EC-47s so I patched it up using those, then re-glossed again...

Unfortunately, again, when all was dry and set, I apparently did not clean my airbrush properly before spraying the gloss, as I now had darkish tinted glaze on some of the white. Sigh... Again, grabbing my remaining courage and motivation to finally get rid of the thing from my workbench, I used polishing paper and toothpaste and cloth to polish out the edges and the most of it off. This actually worked quite well, due to the raised panel details I polished out only the panel centres, making it look a bit like added post-shade. If I hadn't written my confession here, you'd never have guessed!



Unlike my previous WWI builds, actually there was not a lot remaining by now.


Smelling the finish line by now, I grabbed a new can of patience and started working on the antennae. I used 2 or 3 pictures taken from the side for this, and made the antennae by first slicing  bit of 1,5mm Evergreen off a plate of 0,25mm thickness, and then rounding off the edges with sandpaper and some scraping with a scalpel. Only then do I cut them into small pieces and attach them to the model with a tiny drop of super-glue. Amazingly I managed to do all this without losing a single one, without CA glue smears al over the model, and without paint runs when painting them black on the white upper surface. Amazed, I added the wheels (legs were added earlier already) and gear doors, and some small antennae and pitots from the kit, as well as the pre-painted exhausts. The tape was removed from the windshield, some tiny touch-ups there done and tape glue residue removed (it had been in place for nearly 2 years, so no surprise there) and finally the side windows were simply pressed in place. Finally, the three wire antennae were added from 0,08mm fishing wire pulled through a black marker and attached with a tiny drop of CA.

Motivation was simply not present any more to do the windscreen wipers or static dischargers.


I took multiple beers this time, tried to jam it into my display case (doesn't fit) so I put it on the top shelf above the TV to gather a lot of dust... (if anybody wants to give it a better home than that, drop me a mail)



So, what can I say? It's been quite a learning experience, and some journey! I would rate this model as my most demanding and difficult model. It's a combination of an old (but not bad) base kit, not too stellar resin updates, and uncooperative decals.

Did I enjoy it? Well, as you've read before, not all of it.... the part I did enjoy the most was actually painting this model. I was also happy with my previous nemesis, the gloss-coat, which up till using Tamiya X-22, I always managed to screw up somehow. Less than happy I was with the resin and decals, and of course many of the post-decalling mess-ups were simply my own fault.


Overall, it's a very fetching scheme that you don't see often modelled, and I learned a lot about both these aircraft and electronic intelligence gathering. Special thanks go to all that supported the struggle to get it done, instead of smashing it into the wall!


As a final word... I suppose when you read all my latest reviews you'd think I'm only in agony over setbacks and horrors, but I promised my wife to get rid of all the half baked hangar-queens, which were abandoned or stalled for a reason in the first place! They're not all done yet, so stay tuned for more horror-stories! ;-) (which is also why I would never participate in a Shelf of Doom group build!)


Marco Borst of www.p3orion.nl helped my out with my questions and gave suggestions

Scott van Aken via the MM forums was also always helpful and ready with pictures and tips

Google turned up an amazing amount of pictures and information. 

Jeroen Koen

May 2015

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