The EA-18G is one of the latest approach to airborne electronic warfare. It’s roots go back to WWII when the radar made it’s first appearance and something as simple as aluminum foil was dropped by aircraft with the intent of fooling enemy radar. Technology made rapid advancements as did radar systems. Various airframes were used over the years to employ “jamming” technology with much success but there were also some limitations. Some of the airframes were effective but had a large crew required to operate and others were stable platforms but if put in a defensive position were sitting ducks. A couple of airframes (EF-111 and EA-6B ) had a great mix of capabilities with a solid jamming platform, defensive and evasive capabilities.
Age and other factors were catching up to the earlier airframes and a new design using a relatively new airframe design was selected for Electronic Warfare (EW) role. The F/A-18 has proven it reliability and versatility over a few decades. With that in mind, it was a logical choice to add EW capability to this airframe. With technology reducing in size, a two man crew can now do what a team of 4 (EA-6B) did. In addition to the EW ability, the defensive capability just made major leaps since it’s airframe is based on a proven dog fighter. One of the defensive “stings” was removed (20mm gun) however it still had air to air missile capability and like it’s predecessors it carried air to ground anti-radiation missiles to take out radar sites. The carrier can now have a common airframe on board with different roles but the same support equipment saving space and simplifying operations.
The kit contains 9 different sprues and a nice decal sheet. There was a nice surprise in the box, a squadron patch from VAQ-141. The parts are nearly flash free and some ejector pin marks are in visible places however these are easily filled. Panel lines are very fine and crisp, care must be taken not to sand them down. The canopy is two pieces with a slight seam down the center that needs to be sanded down if one desires. Wheel bays have decent detail and landing gear had good detail but since I built this wheels up, I did not assemble the gear. As with many 1/72 kits, there is not any intake trunking, a short distance down the intake is a flat wall. Exhaust has some depth to it and unless you have a flash light, you will not see far inside. Flaps and leading edge flaps are molded in the retracted position.
First step in building is to drill holes for various components unique to the EA-18G. In addition to holes, there a few panel lines Hasegawa has the modeler fill. This is not uncommon when using one mold to cover many versions of an airframe. This is where care must be taken to not over fill lines and to not sand too much and remove panel lines that should remain. I wish the IFF antenna (“pizza box”) was a separate part so sanding and painting would be a little easier but that is not a big issue. The cockpit has decent detail with decals for instrument details and moderately detailed seats. With all the choices of aftermarket seats, this is not an issue. Since I built this in flight, pilots were needed and these are not included in the kit. The EA-18G has helmet mounted display (JHMCS) so I used pilots from a F-35 kit for this build.
Building this in flight I needed to add a “socket” to house a rod and support the plane. This needed to be supported internally and there is plenty of room to accommodate this. Next I needed to install the landing gear doors and it was nice to see how well the doors fit compared to other model kits. The doors almost snapped onto place with minimal amount of glue needed. Finally, installing the canopy, it’s fit was very good.
I did have a few issues with installing the intakes and there was a small gap but builder error may have been the issue. Take care when assembling the intakes and do not forget to fill that pesky injector pin mark before you assemble the intakes. The weapons and wing tip pods go together very nicely and have good detail. One thing that was a little confusing were a couple of pieces that change the shape of the “saw tooth” on the wings. I looked up a few reference photos online to eliminate that confusion.
The colors are just like almost all other Hornets, simple two tone gray which are very close in color. Being a CAG bird, there is more color than the other “line” jets and the black portions appear to be gloss unlike the rest of the aircraft. Gloss black enamel was painted first then masked for the grays. Xtracrylix was used for the two tone gray and model master enamel (same FS36375) used on the radome for slight color variation.
Time for decals, this is where I had a few issues. Builder error struck when I rushed the decaling and I pulled two key decals off and I did nothave any spare decals that I could use as replacements. Next were some of the red decals appeared to be missing a white backing. When these red decals were put on the black painted base, it almost disappeared. The red stencils (ejection triangles and other warnings) has a lighter backing and they stand out from the black background. Another issue was the lower stencils being the same color as the painted model. Typically stencils are the contrasting color which they did on upper markings but lower markings appeared to be the same shade of gray. With hope of applying a second sheet of decals and replacement for damaged decals at my expense, I contacted Hobbico for a replacement set. I contacted the distributor for Hobbico and new decals arrived. The replacement sheet they sent must have been for a new release however it did have the replacement markings I messed up but the red issue was still a problem but the contrasting gray appears to be fixed. I was unable to double up on red decals since he original decal text was vertical and the new decals has a slant to the VAQ-141 markings. The decals did go on very nice and be very careful on the fine red lines that separate the black and gray on the upper tail sections.
This build went together without too many issues and other than some decal issues, some builder mistakes. A novice should not have any problems making a show stopper build! Many thanks to Hobbico (Hasegawa) for providing this kit (and replacement decals) to IPMS for review.