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Academy 1/48 scale USAF A-10C Thunderbolt II plastic model kit review

Amazing engineering makes this the best modern A-10 in 1/48 scale
Kit:1238 // Scale:1/48 // Price:$69
Academy (Sample courtesy of Model Rectifier Corp.)
Wonderful engineering and surface details; good fits; great decals
Deep ejector-pin marks inside split ailerons; no seat belts
Injection-molded plastic (light gray, clear); 319 parts; decals, precut masks
There are three 1/48 scale A-10C kits on the market, and you might be asking, “Which one is the best?” Academy’s is the newest, so let’s see how it stacks up against the HobbyBoss and Italeri offerings.

When opening the box, you’ll see it packed with trees of light grey plastic. Academy provides the aft fuselage as a single, slide-molded part marked with fine recessed panel lines and raised rivets. Most kits split this area in half, risking damage to or the elimination of surface detail through filling and sanding. Three faint mold seams are visible, but I removed them easily by lightly scraping them using a hobby knife. As if that’s not enough, the same process was used for the engine nacelles. Such awesome engineering!

Sharply molded clear parts include a two-part canopy, lights, and optics for some of the windows. Precut masks for the canopy and wheels make painting your A-10C a breeze.

Decals and color diagrams show four marking options with multiple serial numbers for 11 possible aircraft that can be produced with this kit. All are in the current scheme of dark ghost gray over light ghost gray. Three are from the 75th Fighter Squadron, the “Flying Tigers,” with one in a heritage scheme honoring the 23rd Fighter Group that grew out of the American Volunteer Group. The last options are for aircraft from the 25th Fighter Squadron, the Assam Draggins, at Osan Airbase, South Korea.

In a change from many aircraft, construction starts with the nose gear bay, which builds from separate sides and upper panels. Individual hoses, actuators, and bulkheads finished the well.

The cockpit is well-appointed and detailed, and the multipart ejection seat looks great, but I wish Academy had included seat belts. There is a pilot (actually, you get two, since there are two “D” parts trees) with options of arm positions, two styles of helmets, and a separately-molded oxygen hose. The completed cockpit nestles into the forward fuselage, another example of the kit’s terrific engineering. Separately top and bottom panels finished the forward fuselage before I added the aft fuselage. There appeared to be a slight difference in diameter between the front and rear, but it’s not apparent on the completed model. I had to do minimal sanding and filling anywhere on this kit, especially the fuselage.

The wing assembly has separate flaps and split ailerons/decelerons. The flaps simply click into place. One of my complaints about this kit; ejector-pin marks are apparent inside the split ailerons, and they were deep and difficult to eliminate, so I posed the ailerons closed. There are also ejector-pin marks on the weapon pylons, but they pretty much disappear with primer and paint. The only fit issue I had was with the rear fairings where the fuselage meets the wings. Other manufacturers mold this right onto the fuselage, but Academy created these separately, and they need a touch of sanding to fit tightly.

The engines look great, with fan and turbine blades and the engine exhaust halves.

Detailed landing gear legs get weighted tires.

The weapons and targeting systems are nicely detailed and fit well, but there are few options, with only one loadout shown in the instructions. Ordnance includes a pair each of AIM-9M Sidewinders, AGM-65 Mavericks, GBU-54s, GBU-12s, and LAU rocket pods, as well as an AN/AAQ-28 Litening targeting pod and an AN/ALQ-184 electronic attack pod. A centerline fuel tank is also given.

I finished my Thunderbolt II as a 75th Fighter Squadron aircraft at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan in 2014 with Vallejo acrylics. Closed wheel well doors are included; they aren’t called out in the instructions, but they work great as masks.

Beautifully printed, the decals settled into and around surface detail with little encouragement. The only decals I had trouble with were the squadron insignias on top of the vertical stabilizers and the LCD screens on the instrument panels. Note that the walkway decals are mislabeled: H and F, which are for the horizontal stabilizers, should be G on the placement guide. I didn’t catch the discrepancy until I placed them on the wings. I should’ve paid more attention here.

Academy’s 1/48 scale A-10C plastic aircraft kit was a pleasure to assemble. Other than the pesky ejector-pin marks, it is a high-quality model. I wouldn’t offer this kit to a beginner, but if you have built a few kits, it won’t be an issue.

So, it remains to answer the question: Which 1/48 scale A-10C is the best? Academy. It’s not perfect, but any minor shortcomings are trumped by the fit, engineering, surface detail, and building experience. Plus, it’s an A-10, and who doesn’t want one in their collection?
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