This kit provides aircraft and markings for two Super Hornets, the single seat F/A-18E from VFA-115, Eagles, and a two-seat F/A-18F from VFA-102 Diamondbacks. Both squadrons are based at NAF Atsugi, Japan.
The F/A-18E and F are redesigned, becoming the “Super Bugs”, larger than the F/A-18A through D aircraft. Other noticeable changes are the squared intakes and serrated edges on the main landing gear doors and several of the panels. These have reduced the frontal and rear radar signatures, making the E and F models almost stealthy, although not as much as the F-22 or F-35. One of the weaknesses of the early model Hornet was range. The E and F models overcome this by being able to carry 5 extra fuel tanks instead of the 3 carried by the A through D models.
You get almost two of everything. You only get one single-seat canopy and one for the “family model”. Otherwise you get two of all parts, including the extra seat and panel for the F model and the part which extends the fuselage spine forward on the E. Nicely molded in gray plastic, with no flash or molding faults. It’s what we’ve grown to expect from Dragon.
I started the E model, as I already have a 2-seat F/A-18G in my “built” collection, and I wanted a single seater. A few details added to the cockpit, paint the seat, and then the main fuselage assembly.
Assembly of the main components was easy, and everything fit pretty well. I’m not sure why, but nobody gets a good clean fit on the rear fuselage between the wing and horizontal stabilizer when they split the fuselage horizontally. F/A-18s always require lots of putty there. This kit was better than average, only requiring a bit of light scraping. The intakes were a little tricky, but once I figured out how they went on, they fit pretty well too. These required a touch of filler, but Mr. Surfacer 500 matches the color of the plastic quite nicely, and I was able to use a cotton swab dipped in Mr. Thinner to remove the excess. No sanding required.
The painting was quite easy; the F/A-18s use the Ghost Gray scheme 36320 on top and 36375 below. I left the vertical stabilizers off until I finished the decals, as they’re all black with some nice yellow/gold markings. While I had the black out, I also painted the tires.
The decals are really good quality, printed by Cartograf of Italy. They are very nicely printed, in register, the colors are right on, and they come off the backing paper cleanly.
You need a really good set of decal scissors, as there’s a lot of stuff packed onto that small decal sheet, and it’s hard not to cut into the next decal over while removing a marking from the sheet.
The only problem I had with the decals was the two patches on the top of the intakes. Somehow these were printed to exactly match the Dark Ghost Gray, so they disappear when you apply the decal. The picture under “finishing” has those decals applied, but they’re invisible.
And then the “fiddly bits”: I always leave off anything which is breakable until after decals, as I have to really concentrate to get them in place and fairly straight, and I usually break something. Note that I didn’t put the vertical stabilizers on until after decals.
One nice touch on the landing gear is that Dragon gives you two nose gear legs. One has the launch bar, which catches the catapult shuttle in the down, ready to launch, position, and the other has it up as it would be at all other times. The problem here is the same one I ran into on the EA-18G, that there are no pilot figures in the kit. As a taxpayer, I might be a little peevish if I discovered that the Navy had launched an F/A-18 off a carrier with no one in it. This provides a good excuse to put the launch bar up with the wings in the folded position. The wing fold is a super feature, which works nicely on this kit.
Another peeve on the instructions is the main gear doors. The instructions show cutting the 3-piece doors with two swift slashes of the knife blade. Nope. The doors have saw tooth leading and trailing edges for radar cross section reduction. This requires cutting the edges with care, and a number of fine cuts are required.
The canopy is clear, thin, and fits cleanly onto the top of the fuselage. The landing gear fit and is sturdy. It’s nice that the main gear is so far back on the Hornet that no weight is required to keep the nose down.
I didn’t put any weapons on the pylons, just the fuel tanks.
Recommended. If you’re going to do jets in 1/144 scale, this is a great addition. Fit is good, the decals are wonderful, and there’s only that one problem in the instructions. I’ll fix the decal “color problem” over the intakes before I take it to my next club meeting.
Thanks to Dragon USA for an excellent model of an interesting aircraft. And thanks to John Noack for allowing me to build it.