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OrangeModel F-35C Lightning II

Kit:A72-001 // Scale:1/72 // Price:$39.99
Good detail inside and out; mostly good fit; tinted clear parts; wings can be posed folded; external weapons pylons; hangar-deck tug included
Cockpit collides with nose-gear bay; insufficient color guidance; poor decals
Injection-molded, 169 parts (64 photoetched-metal, 2 wire), decals

The saga of the F-35 continues. The latest (and quite possibly last) manned attack fighter, with versions to satisfy the needs of practically every air arm, is still undergoing testing and acceptance by its major customers.

The F-35C, made for U.S. Navy carrier duty, differs from the others in having a larger wing with folding outer panels and beefed-up landing gear for those punishing catapult launches and arrested landings.

This is the first C kit available in 1/72 scale. Coming from relative newcomer OrangeModel of Shanghai, it features good detail inside and out. The crazy-quilt radar-absorbing-material (RAM) panels are raised on this kit. Bonus features include a compact hangar-deck tug and photoetched-metal parts to make four tie-down chains with tightening gears. The kit has a detailed weapons bay and external weapons pylons. Weapons included are a pair of AIM-9X Sidewinders, two AIM-120 AMRAAMs, and a GAU-22 gun pod for the centerline. You can pose the wings folded, and the canopy can be open if you choose.

The instructions clearly show the assembly steps and detail painting, but they fall down when it comes to the overall paint colors. "Dark grey" is all you get for color suggestions on the airframe, saying nothing about which particular dark gray you should use and nothing about the different color of the RAM panels.

OrangeModels' website reveals a three-sheet set of masks (No. A72-002-48) for the various RAM panels, canopy, and wheels, but the masks were neither provided with the kit nor mentioned in the instructions. OrangeModel also makes a set of four resin Kongsberg/Raytheon Joint Strike Missiles (now under development) to arm the model (No. A72-005-68).

I was impressed with the fit of the parts as I installed the cockpit tub, landing gear, and weapons bays in the upper and lower fuselage/wing moldings. The ejection seat is impressive, with bolstered cushions and photoetched-metal harness and pull-handle. The separate side-stick and throttle seem large for the scale. Inner faces of the intakes fit particularly well.

With everything clicking right along, it was soon time to close the fuselage — and that's where I had trouble. I may have done something wrong, but I can't see how. The bottom of the cockpit tub collided with the top of the nose-gear bay and prevented the forward end of the fuselage from closing properly along those sharp, stealthy lines. I had to grind away the top of the gear bay to get the fit reasonably close, then used gap-filling super glue on the remaining seams.

The canopy is lightly tinted and looks great, but there is no mention of the black inner bow. Is it a brace? An antenna? I used a strip of black decal there. OrangeModel gives you a simple mount for opening the canopy, but it must be glued to the very front of the clear area in the canopy. I decided to leave the canopy closed.

The landing gear is well detailed, but I found I couldn't install the nose strut in the bay without clipping the wingtips off Part E18. The weapons bay doors are complicated but well designed, and fit as directed. I didn't try, but it looks as though they can be closed if you leave off the hinge mechanisms.

The underwing weapons pylons are a nice addition but, interestingly, there are no pins or holes to mount them. The instructions show shaded areas where they should be installed.

To check the fit of the outer wing panels, I installed one folded, the other spread; they fit fine either way.

The little aircraft tug was fun, but the photoetched-metal parts for the caster-wheel guard and seat are difficult to handle. I didn't attempt to build the photoetched-metal tie-downs; each 1/4" tightener is made from 12 separate pieces. No way! But I'd welcome a resin casting someday.

So, it came to painting. The proper color applied to the F-35s is FS36170, and I couldn't find a model paint to match it. Instead I used Testors Model Master engine gray (FS36076). I just couldn't bring myself to paint all the RAM panels without the requisite masks.

The decals were trouble. You have a choice of high- and low-visibility markings for VFA-101. While the high-vis insignia and emblems are good, the gray stencils and warning placards are printed in translucent ink and have a visible pattern. They disappear when applied to anything but white. I'll be looking for aftermarket decals soon.

It was a quick build with a simple paint job (lacking the masks to do the RAM panels), so I needed only 22 hours for my F-35C. It appears accurate, but new, developing aircraft often change in detail. So, we'l see what the future holds for OrangeModel's rendition.

Note: A version of this review appeared in the July 2015 FineScale Modeler.

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