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Kitty Hawk 1/48 scale F-35B Lightning II

Kit:KH80102 // Scale:1/48 // Price:$59.95
Kitty Hawk, from Pacific Coast Models, 707-538-4850
Shape and stance look right; good cockpit; nicely portrayed LO panels
Incorrect/incomplete instructions; inadequate paint callouts; certain inaccurate details; missing ordnance
Injection-molded, 208 parts, decals

This 1/48 scale F-35B, only the second kit from a new model company, Kitty Hawk, is a welcome release, as this aircraft may well be the last manned aerial combat vehicle designed or produced in the U.S. Slated to be built in large numbers, the F-35 will be flown by a widely diverse customer base. It is designed, essentially, to replace the F-16 and F/A-18 in frontline combat service in three distinct variants: the A, a dedicated “hard field” aircraft flying from conventional paved runways; the B, as depicted by this kit release, a STOVL (Short Takeoff/Vertical Landing) aircraft flown by units presently using the Harrier (such as the U.S. Marine Corps and Great Britain); and the C, a carrier-borne strike aircraft to take on the roles performed by the F/A-18 Hornet.

So, how did Kitty Hawk do? Well, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Opening the box reveals 208 pieces, all of which (except the six clear parts) are molded in a dark gray, oily, soft yet brittle plastic that likes to tear as you remove it from the sprue. Surface detail includes both engraved and raised panel lines. The LO (Low Observable) radar-absorbent material panels are well depicted. Doors for the undercarriage and jet/fan inlet/exhaust are molded to be open; some modification would be required to model them closed.

Construction starts with the cockpit. Everything is straightforward and well representative of the actual aircraft. The Martin-Baker Mk.16E seat looks good, lacking only belts. A decal represents the large, single display screen on the instrument panel. However, the first glitch is also encountered in Step 1, with the side-stick controller and throttle being mislabeled.

Step 2 deals with construction of the nose-wheel bay. Again, here things are fairly straightforward and fit is good. But, again, there are parts that are numbered incorrectly or not even mentioned at all. This trend of incorrectly numbered and unidentified parts continues throughout the instructions, unfortunately. I was going to make a list of the parts that are mislabeled, with their corrections, but it would almost be quicker to list the parts that are correct!

The instructions specify Gunze Sangyo Mr. Color paints, but only for the exterior; there are no color callouts in the construction stages at all. So, research will be required to find out what colors to use where. (Note that there is a lot of white on this model!)

I deviated from the instructions in a few areas. I attached the cockpit module to the fuselage top (Part A2). This ensured correct fit of the cockpit to its opening. I fitted the nose-wheel well to the fuselage underside (Part A3), then removed the pins on the top of this part so they would not interfere with the cockpit position. After joining parts C15 and C16, the intermediate intake duct leading to the engine, I again attached this assembly to the fuselage top. This ensured correct alignment and allowed filling and sanding of the resulting seam.

I also left the undercarriage off until after painting was complete. The fit of the undercarriage is simple and positive. The wheels, however, bear little resemblance to the real thing.

The inserts that complete the horizontal and vertical stabilizers are a rather interesting choice. Their seams fall in tricky places, making them difficult to work on. Surely this could have been thought out better. Speaking of control surfaces, even though the horizontal and vertical stabilizers, “flapperons,” and leading-edge flaps are separate parts, it’s not possible to mount them deflected without modifications.

I chose to mount the canopy closed, mainly to see how well it fitted, and I am happy to say it does fit well. With all the other doors mounted open, I wanted to preserve at least some of the aircraft’s graceful lines.

Another strange thing with this kit is the weapons bays. There are two pins for mounting the weapons, but no weapons — not even racks for them! The instructions tell us that neither GBU-32 nor -38 bombs are included, but there is no mention of where they may be obtained or how they may be installed. There is a loadout diagram on one of the last pages of the instructions; it shows weapons mounted on pylons, which are in the kit but not identified in any way other than this diagram! I did check to see if a GBU-38 JDAM would fit in the main internal weapons bay; they will not, as parts B47/48 and B53/54 are in the way. (These items do not appear in any photos that I have seen, by the way.)

The prominent internal power-plant exhaust on the rear fuselage is missing entirely. Hopefully an aftermarket company will provide this missing detail, along with more-accurate wheels. There are already a great-looking resin cockpit and several photoetched-brass sets available.

I chose to depict F-35B-01 with its striking black tails and lightning bolts. This aircraft wears an overall scheme of Federal Standard 36118 gunship gray. The other schemes depicted all wear an unusual metal-like LO paint, which is darker than FS36118. I intend to build another F-35 in this scheme, but am not sure how to create the desired effect yet.

The kit decals went down with no hassles at all, hugging every little detail with no use of solvents.

Prior to the release of this kit by Kitty Hawk, there had only been one other kit of the F-35 in 1/48 scale. Even with its anomalies, Kitty Hawk has blown its competition out of the water. The model captures the look and stance of the real thing. There aren’t any insurmountable hurdles as long as you use common sense and dry-fitting to make sure you are using the correct parts.

At the time of this review, the F-35A had just been released and the F-35C seemed not too far away. Will I be adding them to the stash? Why, yes, yes I will!

Note: A version of this review appeared in the March 2013 FineScale Modeler.

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