|Scott Van Aken
The Boeing E-3 Sentry, commonly known as AWACS, is an American airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft developed by Boeing. Derived from the Boeing 707, it provides all-weather surveillance, command, control, and communications, and is used by the United States Air Force, NATO, Royal Air Force, French Air Force, and Royal Saudi Air Force. The E-3 is distinguished by the distinctive rotating radar dome (ROTODOME) above the fuselage. Production ended in 1992 after 68 aircraft had been built.
In the mid-1960s, the US Air Force (USAF) was seeking an aircraft to replace its piston-engined Lockheed EC-121 Warning Star, which had been in service for over a decade. After issuing preliminary development contracts to three companies, the USAF picked Boeing to construct two airframes to test Westinghouse Electric and Hughes's competing radars. Both radars used pulse-Doppler technology, with Westinghouse's design emerging as the contract winner. Testing on the first production E-3 began in October 1975.
The first USAF E-3 was delivered in March 1977, and during the next seven years, a total of 34 aircraft were manufactured. NATO, as a single identity, also had 18 aircraft manufactured, basing them in Germany. The E-3 was also sold to the United Kingdom (seven) and France (four) and Saudi Arabia (five, plus eight E-3-derived tanker aircraft). In 1991, when the last aircraft had been delivered, E-3s participated in Operation Desert Storm, playing a crucial role of directing coalition aircraft against the enemy. Throughout the aircraft's service life, numerous upgrades were performed to enhance its capabilities. In 1996, Westinghouse Electric's Defense & Electronic Systems division was acquired by Northrop Corporation, before being renamed Northrop Grumman Mission Systems, which currently supports the E-3's radar.
The Northrop Grumman E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) is a United States Air Force airborne ground surveillance, battle management and command and control aircraft. It tracks ground vehicles and some aircraft, collects imagery, and relays tactical pictures to ground and air theater commanders. The aircraft is operated by both active duty Air Force and Air National Guard units and also carries specially trained U.S. Army personnel as additional flight crew.
What Minicraft has done with this kit, is to take their much older B.707 offering, add a new sprue, decals and instructions and provide us with either an E-3 or an E-8. The detailing on the original sprues is fairly soft as were all Minicraft kits of that time. The kit will build either an E-3A or an E-8A and one has to open holes in the fuselage depending on which version is done, so this choice has to be made from the start.
There is no cockpit so one simply puts the obligatory half ounce of weight in the nose, closes up the fuselage halves and installed the clear transparency piece. Unlike the 135 kits, it seems Minicraft has the aft window angles correct. There are quite a few scoops and other bumps to fit on the fuselage sides and bottom depending on the version you are building. There are NO upper fuselage antennas of any sort so you will need to add those from scrap if you want those.
Wings are upper and lower halves onto which the four piece TF-33s and pylons are attached. Tailplanes are a single piece per side. Wheels are pretty much like the 135 kits though the door and gear attachments are simpler, and in this case that is a good thing. You can also build the kit wheels up, though no stand is provided. The rotodome and supports for the E-3 consist of four parts and the rododome cannot rotate. You can only build an early E-3A as the various bits added since then are not included.
Instructions are landscape format and offers good construction drawings. There is one option for each type. The E-3A is a very generic 557 AWCW plane. Each squadron in the 557th had a different color tail band. Research will help in this case. The E-8 is from when the aircraft was assigned to the Georgia ANG. In 2011, they lost all their aircraft to the newly formed 461st AWCW and are now the 116th is simply a repository for crews and technicians, a fate that has befallen many ANG units. I guess it is better than drones. Decals are nicely done and will need setting solution to prevent silvering.
Whether you are building a stable of Boeing 707/135 variants or just want a nice kit, this is for you. The E-3A was released by Revell by modifying its 1/139th KC-135 many years ago and Heller produced the huge E-3 in 1/72, but 1/144 is a more sensible scale as these will fit your display shelves.
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