Earlier this year, I abandoned 1/48 scale in favor of the larger 1/32 scale. For the most part, I’ve had no regrets. Among World War I and World War II subjects, 1/32 feels like the scale that’s seeing the most innovation.
But I can’t say the same about more modern aircraft.
After much deliberation, I’ve made the decision to go back to 1/48 scale – for modern aircraft only.
There are several factors that, taken together, make too powerful an argument for 1/48 over 1/32 when it comes to lawn darts and boring gray triangles.
Modern jets are big. Even the diminutive F-16 dwarfs basically every single-engine prop job. Larger twin-farters like the F-4 or F-15? They’re positively monstrous. Thanks to relatively manageable wingspans, my display cabinets could accommodate them, but only a few, since the sheer size would quickly eat up available room.
Consider the F-15. It’s 64 feet long with a 43-foot wingspan. In 1/32, that works out to 24 x 16 inches – longer than a 1/32 B-25, and wider than a 1/32 P-47. In 1/48, the Eagle works out to 16 x 10.75 inches. In other words, more or less similar in terms of footprint to a 1/32 Jug. That’s nothing to sneeze at, but it’s way more manageable.
Ultimately, 1/48 jets fall into my sweet spot of kits that fall between 10×10 and 18×18. Just like 1/32 props.
Kit Quality and Selection
Let’s face it. Once you get past 1945, kit selection drops. Fast. For anything flying after 1960, it’s extremely rare to be able to choose between even two manufacturers. Want to build a MiG-21? Get ready to suffer Trumpeter’s kit. An F-4? Congrats, you get to pay way too much for an old Tamiya kit. F-16? There’s an exquisite Tamiya, a selection of dated Hasegawas (raised panel lines) and a line of Academy Falcons that look far nicer in the box than they actually go together. Want to build a MiG-29? There’s Revell’s sad effort. Or there’s Trumpeter’s MiG-29K and MiG-29M, only one of which is even in operational service.
Drop down to 1/48, and the options explode outward…and are continuing to expand. Great Wall’s MiG-29s are exquisite. Kitty Hawk is surprising left and right with interesting subjects. Hobby Boss is releasing a new F-84F and A-6A Intruder. For $20, you can get into the very good Revell F-15E Strike Eagle or F/A-18E Superbug. If you want to go with a MiG-21, there’s Eduard’s huge lineup to wade into.
Aftermarket for 1/32 jets is improving, but it still pretty much sucks compared to what’s available for 1/32 props or 1/48 jets.
The state of play for 1/32 jet markings – in the form of decals and masks – is abysmal. Props are golden…there’s more decal support, plus the steady trickle of books + decals from Kagero and the like. And…props tend to sport larger and simpler markings that can be reproduced with custom paint masks. That’s just not the case for modern jets, which more or less require decals for many of their markings. Decal support is critical, but really lacking. I would say, from a completely subjective, non-scientific poll that consisted of me clicking around various websites, that the decal selection in 1/48 is at least four times greater than what’s to be had in 1/32.
So. When it comes to jets, I’m planning a general shift back to 1/48. Because reasons. Agree? Disagree? Sound off below.