Review: 1/48 Kinetic F/A-18C Hornet

Hornet

Welcome to the second entry in the Contributor-Funded Kit Review series! This time out, the subject is Kinetic’s new-tool 1/48 F/A-18C Hornet.

Curious about contributor-funded thing, or want to see past reviews? HIT THE REVIEWS PAGE FOR MORE.

Round Two Go

While there was some early contention in the Round Two voting, with the Hasegawa 1/32 A6M5c Zero and 1/48 Bronco P-40 putting in strong showings, Kinetic’s legacy Hornet soon drew away from the pack, indicating a high degree of interest.

I have to confess – this one interested me as well. I have a fondness for the legacy Hornet, and a new-tool challenger in 1/48 is worth sitting up and taking notice.

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Going into this review, I had two big questions beyond the usual detail/fit/etc:

1 – Is it good enough to overcome the old Hasegawa kits?

2 – Does it live up to the hyped expectations Kinetic has set for it?

If you want to get straight to the answers, hop on down to the final video. I’ve kept it under three minutes for those with short attention spans.

Otherwise, this review proceeds mostly on video. But I’ve added a bit of setup along the way below.

INTRODUCTION

A look at what Kinetic gives us to work with, and some initial thoughts. Overall, the plastic looks quite good, with the exception of the provided stores, which seem like they were ported over from other, older kits.

The instructions look good at first glance, but they aren’t. Treat them as an unreliable source and they’re easy enough to overcome, however.

The decals – they are a thing of beauty. Designed by Fightertown, printed by Cartograf, and showing a lot of effort in creative ways to minimize carrier film.

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The only thing I’d say against them is that all of the schemes are quite recent – the oldest is the Finnish option, which dates from 2006. Everything else is 2009 or newer. Considering that the F/A-18C has been flying for nearly 30 years, it seems an odd choice to limit the options to only the last decade, completely skipping Operation Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom and other actions. Fortunately, there are aftermarket decals galore for the -C model in 1/48 scale.

Part 1 – The Cockpit

It’s a cockpit. It’s a good cockpit at that, and with the way it fits so well into the fuselage, I’d be really hesitant to opt for a resin cockpit unless it was specifically designed as a drop-fit.

I would, however, recommend a resin ejection seat, and seeing what aftermarket companies decide to do about the not-great rear deck.

Part 2 – The Internals

The main gear bay is an amazing example of going beyond drop-fit to press-fit. It’s a bit janky getting it into the fuselage, but once you do, it locates almost magnetically.

I wish I could say the same about the intakes. They’re very definitely, uh, “inspired” by the 1/32 Academy Hornets, which is better than cribbing the 1/48 Hasegawa I guess, but leads to a dicey fit between the intake faces and the intake trunks.

I would wait – and hope – that someone comes along and does a set of seamless intakes for this kit. They would be rather welcome.

As for the intake faces – fortunately there’s no need to worry overmuch about alignment on the outside – as pics of the real thing show there is no panel line of any kind anywhere near them.

Part 3 – The Nose

Another tricky subassembly is the nose.

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It’s a dicey bit of engineering – as the fit demonstrates. There may be a better way, though, which is discussed in the video.

Part 4 – Wings and Fuselage

The stuff dreams are made of. Kinetic really nails this aspect of the build.

Part 5 – Control Surfaces

Up or down, Kinetic handles these nicely. Just be sure, if you’re folding the wings, to fold them at the proper angles. I’d even go so far as to suggest adding the control surfaces FIRST to help mitigate any interference.

Part 6 – Landing Gear

Ugh.

Part 7 – Pylons

From ugh back to great. The pylons build up easily and fit nicely. Hard to go wrong here.

Part 8 – Tails & Canopy

The fit of the windscreen leaves things to be desired – but this relates back to the nose.

Part 9 – Ordnance

The ordnance, as mentioned higher up, is a mixed bag. The Sidewinders are worth keeping, but if you can swing it, go resin for the other explodey things.

Quick Review: 1/32 Special Hobby Hawker Tempest V

Around the time Alaric was leading his Visigoths toward Rome, Special Hobby began work on their 1/32 Hawker Tempest.

Okay, maybe not that long ago. But this kit has been in development for years.

Now that it’s out, I told my usual aversion to short run kits to STFU and snagged one. In part because I’m a glutton for punishment and/or stashing. And in part because I really like the Tempest.

I haven’t intended to touch it, but so far the conversation out there about the kit has been…frustrating. There’s been plenty of ejaculatory praise given to its surface detail – I’ve even seen comments to the effect of “Tamiya has some catching up to do”.

Please. The surface detail is good – really good for a short run kit – but let’s not get carried away.

Anyway. There’s been this sort of weird non-evaluation evaluation going on. The detail is great! Yay! It only includes one type of spinner! Boo! And that’s about it.

As is sadly usual, nobody seems to be talking about the kit as, well, a kit. About how it’s engineered. About how it fits.

So I couldn’t resist.

I won’t bore you with a bunch of pictures of sprues. Suffice to say, the Tempest looks great in pieces. Unlike Fly’s Hurricane and other shorties, the crisp detail extends beyond the exterior surfaces. Control consoles, gear bays, cockpit framing, they all look rather good. And the surface detail is definitely the best I’ve ever seen from Special Hobby.

HOLY FUCK LOCATION AIDS

If you expect a short run kit to have much in the way of location aids, you’re usually going to be in for a bad time. So imagine my surprise when I turned the nose parts around and saw this:
And inside the main fuselage, this:
There are locator pins and location ridges throughout. And while there is some flash here and there, some mold seams, they’re on a level you might expect from one of the second-tier mainstream kitmakers like Kinetic or Kitty Hawk.

Fit Test

Being both curious and impatient, I did a quick removal and cleanup of the main components – wings, fuselage, spinner, stabs, rudder – and jammed them together with some tape to hold things in place.
The result?
As you can see, some small gaps remain, but they’re really small and some of them will almost certainly turn invisible during a proper cleanup and build. For the others, we’re talking relatively minor amounts of putty.
The wing-to-fuselage join is particularly impressive. I know a small gap is visible above, but it’s significantly smaller than what I’ve encountered on kits from Hasegawa and Trumpeter in the past.
Engineering-wise, everything appears to be solid. The cockpit is slightly concerning – getting the tube frames and front and rear bulkheads aligned could be a minor challenge, but the fuselage’s location ridges should allow it to serve as a jig. There’s no fancy bullshit to complicate things really anywhere. This unfortunately means no Sabre engine, no lowered flaps, no exposed gun bays, but I’ll take a clean, well-fitting build any day. And Eduard will be releasing flaps in August if one is so inclined.
The only frustrating bit is probably the separate leading edge bits at the wingroots. But these mean we will be getting two kits I never thought we’d be seeing in 1/32 scale – a post-war Tempest VI, and the Centaurus-engined Tempest II.
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Quick Verdict

Short run kits are usually synonymous with “this is going to be a bitch to build”.
With the Tempest, Special Hobby has smashed the usual expectations of what a limited run kit can be.
If I were completely unaware of this kit’s development, and someone put the sprues in front of me and told me it was an upcoming Trumpeter release, I’d have zero problem believing them.
And not one of Trumpeter’s shitberg releases, but one of their good ones like the Dauntless or Me 262.
Now – I’m not going to do the whole HIGHLY RECOMMENDED thing. Not until I’ve built it.
But if you’ve been squeamish on this kit because of its short run origins, I would personally consider those fears allayed. This is not only the best Tempest in 1/32 scale (not a hard title to claim), but it’s a legitimately solid kit that can stand toe to toe with mainstream kits in terms of detail, engineering and fit.

1/32 Trumpeter SBD-5 Dauntless – Part 1

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When The Weathering Magazine’s aircraft-focused spinoff, Weathering Aircraft, reached out to me about doing a build for an upcoming publication, the request was pretty wide open. World War II, with a focus on painting a camoflage scheme.

After a few false starts, I decided to tackle a late-war SBD-5 Dauntless. The Douglas SBD Dauntless is one of the unsung workhorses of the war. Slated for replacement before the first bombs even fell at Pearl Harbor, it proved instrumental in turning the tide in the Pacific, and was ultimately responsible for sinking more Japanese ships than any other aircraft.

The SBD-3, which distinguished itself at Coral Sea, Midway and Guadalcanal, gets the lion’s share of the attention, but the -5 was the most produced variant, and did a lot of the dirty work later in the war. It also wore the tricolor camoflage that I personally find more interesting than the bluegray over light gray of the early war dive bombers.

It’s been nearly six years since I built my last Dauntless – Accurate Miniatures’ SBD-3 (my second build after coming back to the hobby). My memories of that kit have dimmed, but I clearly recall the frustration with the cockpit, which built up in a sort of top/bottom sandwich with the cockpit floor loading up and into the fuselage. This made test-fitting next to impossible and ultimately caused some issues getting everything installed, with some elements hanging down trying to occupy the same space as those loading up.

The wingroots, too, were a challenge on that kit. But it was my second kit back to the hobby, so just as likely my own incompetence.

Trumpeter’s side-load approach to the cockpit clears away the problems the AccuMini kit ran into, though the initial test-fit shows that the wingroots are still an issue.

More on that later. Continue reading

Contributor-Funded Kit Reviews – Round 2 Winner

Voting’s wrapped on Round 2, and the winner is…

Kinetic’s new-tool 1/48 F/A-18C Hornet!

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Ultimately, this round came down to the Hornet and the Bronco P-40C, with Hasegawa’s 1/32 A6M5c and Kinetic’s Super Etendard running a distant race for third.

The Hornet held off the P-40C, though, winning 159 votes to 127 and 33% of the total vote.

A Hornet We Can Believe In?

Honestly, I’m excited the Hornet won. For two reasons.

First, I love that Kinetic is putting the effort into a new-tool 1/48 Hornet. Hasegawa’s been sitting on its laurels on many fronts, and the Hornet is very much one of them.

Second, I’m eager to put Kinetic’s “this time!” claims to the test. It seems that, with every kit going back to at least the Mirage IIIE, Kinetic’s been in this mode of promising that [insert kit coming out soon] is going to be on a whole new level from what they’ve offered in the past. And inevitably, when said kit is released the consensus seems to be “good, but…”

At this point, it’s kinda starting to seem like the kitmaker who cried wolf.

That’s not to say I’m coming in anti-Kinetic. In my experience their kits have some very good elements…and some that could use some work. They’re like a sports team that has all the right elements, but can’t seem to bring them all together at the same time.

Has Kinetic done it this time? Is their F/A-18C going to dethrone Hasegawa’s a kick off a new age of 1/48 Hornet glory? We shall see.

As to the Rest…

So, what kits will carry over to Round 3?

The following all managed to get more than 30 votes, so they live to fight another day:

  • 1/48 Kinetic Super Etendard
  • 1/48 Eduard Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6 Late Series
  • 1/32 Hasegawa A6M5c Zero
  • 1/48 Bronco P-40C Tomahawk

Stunningly, armor kits were completely blown out this time around. The winning armor kit was the AFV Club Husky III, with a whopping 8 VOTES.

 

 

Building Kinetic’s 1/48 F-5B Freedom Fighter

It’s been a while since I’ve done any kind of build log on here, so I decided it might be worth revisiting a few past builds to walk through the process and various encounters along the way.

In 2015, I was asked to build Kinetic’s F-5B Freedom Fighter for Model Aircraft magazine. I know Kinetic can be a bit…inconsistent…but the F-5B is one of those aircraft that just bristles with interesting schemes, so I decided what the hell?

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As for schemes…I considered a few, but let’s be honest. It was always going to be a dirty Hellenic Air Force ship wearing the ghost scheme.

The kit itself is a mix of good and…less good. And proved a good workout for those “basic modeling skillz” everyone goes on about. Continue reading

On Conflation

Conflate

In wrapping up my review of the Fly Hurricane, I touched on the idea of modeling preferences falling on a spectrum (or really, multiple spectrums).

There was a reason for this.

This hobby, perhaps more than any other I’ve been a part of, is given to rampant conflation. That is to say, taking two separate ideas and combining them into one. It’s lazy, it’s reductive, and I’m convinced it’s responsible for probably about 80% of the internet bitchfights that break out on forums and social media.

What do I mean by conflation?

Simple.

If you call a kit out for shoddy mold planning and engineering – as I did with Kitty Hawk’s Kingfisher – you can expect plenty of responses that you just need to “use your modeling skills”. The implication, of course, being that you lack said modeling skills.

This is conflation.

Can the Kingfisher be built? Yes. Will I build it at some point? Almost certainly yes – if only to shove it in the teeth of internet conflationsists because whether or not it can be built and whether or not I can build it is beside the fucking point.

The point is that the kit is poorly thought out and executed – especially at the $90 pricepoint that Kitty Hawk placed on it.

If you went out and bought a $50,000 car and it turned out that the passenger door wouldn’t latch, the transmission was constantly hunting for the wrong gear, and the sunroof leaked, nobody would respond with “you just have to use your driving skills”.

If you bought a new tablet, and the wi-fi antenna was shit and the battery couldn’t make it past four hours, who would suggest “you’re just using it wrong”? Or “I got by fine on a Palm Pilot, just be grateful that you even have a color screen”?

It’s entirely possible for things to suck – or to be good – completely independent of a person’s skill, preference or experience. Continue reading

Contributor-Funded Kit Reviews: Round 2 Selection Time!

Now that the first contibutor-funded kit review – of Fly’s 1/32 Hawker Hurricane Mk.IIc –  is done and the build videos are rolling out, it’s time to start looking ahead to the next one.

First, some quick housekeeping…

What’s the deal with these reviews? Check out the REVIEWS PAGE, MANIFESTO and FAQ is you want to get up to speed.

Voting for Round 2 is changing to address some snags noted with the first go-around. You can read up on the changes HERE. Basically – if you vote for the kit that ends up winning, some portion of those votes will be “retired”.

Want to contribute to the effort and get on board the Round 2 selection train? Visit the FundRazer link:

FRZR

Okay, okay, enough housekeeping. Let’s get on to the Round 2 contenders.

Round 2 – Fight!

As a reminder, kits that racked up 30 or more votes in Round 1 carry over to Round 2. The remaining options are new.

Here are your tributes –

  1. 1/48 Kinetic Super Etendard – carryover
  2. 1/48 Eduard Bf 109G-6 Late Series – carryover
  3. 1/35 Meng ZSU-23-4 Shilka SPAAG – carryover
  4. 1/48 Airfix Gloster Meteor F.8 – carryover
  5. 1/32 Hasegawa A6M5c Zero
  6. 1/35 Takom T-55AMV
  7. 1/48 Great Wall Hobby T-33 Shooting Star
  8. 1/48 Bronco Curtiss P-40C Tomahawk
  9. 1/35 Panda Marder I
  10. 1/35 AFV Club Husky III VMMD
  11. 1/48 Kinetic F/A-18C Hornet

Sheesh. Eleven contenders! I think next time around we may need to be a bit more stringent on that carryover threshold…

Voting should go live sometime around or just after the Memorial Day weekend – so if you’ve contributed, keep an eye on your inbox! And if you want to have a say, you can contribute HERE.