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Tamiya 1/72 scale Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II plastic model kit review

The detail of a large-scale model stuffed into a tiny package
Kit:60792 // Scale:1/72 // Price:$50
Tamiya (Sample courtesy Tamiya America)
Excellent fit; excellent detail; “beast mode” external weapon load; detailed pilot figure; easy-to-follow instructions; very good decals
No internal weapons bay; painting instructions call out only Tamiya paints; tricky nose-gear strut installation
Injection molded plastic (gray, clear); 121 parts; canopy masks; decals
It seems like every kit manufacturer has produced a kit of the F-35. Now, Tamiya has issued a 1/72 scale kit of the conventional, land-based F-35A now seeing service with several air arms.

Although the Tamiya 1/72 scale Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II plastic model kit assembly seems complicated, it’s trouble-free due to clever designs, concise instruction steps, and – dare I say it? – perfect fit!

One trick to watch for comes in Step 3: You are directed to place – but not cement – the nose gear strut in the retracted position into the nose gear bay. Whaaaat? Adding the sides of the forward fuselage closes the bearing surfaces around the strut’s retraction axle. You will find out in Step 14 that you need to snip off a small tab at the top of the strut to allow it to swing down into the deployed position. Once there, the retraction actuator can be installed.

The cockpit detail is excellent, with separate side walls, throttle, and side-mounted control stick. I found the six-part ejection seat particularly impressive. Decals provide the harness. Although I didn’t use it, the four-part pilot figure shows excellent detail featuring the sensor-display helmet.

The clear canopy has a separate internal frame and can be installed opened or closed. Tamiya supplies a small sheet of canopy masks, but the masks are not precut – you must carefully cut them along the printed lines. I found them unnecessarily complicated and masked the canopy with a single piece of burnished Bare-Metal Foil and trimmed it around the frame lines with a sharp blade. I couldn’t handle the slender antenna decals that go inside the canopy, so I left them out.

I was surprised this kit has no internal weapons bay, but there are raised reinforcements cast inside the bottom fuselage along the lines where the bay doors are located. Perhaps it indicates a follow-up kit with a weapons bay? I’d suggest keeping an eye out for that.

The rest of the kit’s assembly went quickly, helped by parts with keyed attachment tabs that just can’t be misaligned. I usually put parts together and then brush liquid cement along the joint. In several cases with this kit, the fit was so precise that I had trouble finding the joints!

The “beast mode” weapons are excellent, molded as a pair of AIM-9X Sidewinders and four GBU-12 Paveway II bombs.

Tamiya has always given only its own paint numbers in the instructions and, for this model, suggests a mix of two of its Japanese gray colors for the overall finish, plus another mix for select panels. I didn’t have these paints in my workshop, so I chose Mr. Color lacquers with gunship gray (FS 36118) for the overall color and dark gull gray (FS 36231) for the select panels.

I spent more time decaling this model than building it. There were more than 200 individual decals on the sheet, although some were for the two Japanese Air Self-Defense Force versions. I chose not to use some of the tiniest stencils on the airframe or weapons.

With 23 hours spent on this project, the result is a fine-looking model with enough detail to satisfy even those who prefer larger-scale models. Here’s hoping Tamiya will return with more 1/72 scale versions of the Lightning II. They’re off to a great start!
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