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1/48 Italeri EA-18G

by Karl Sander

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First, I’m not calling it a Growler.  That means something else entirely.  Actually, given differences in slang on opposite sides of the  Atlantic, it means two something elses entirely.

That not withstanding, I had been pondering one of these for a while.  There were some decent -18Fs on the market, all I’d have to do would put on the pods… and wingtip receivers.  I hadn’t figured out how to make those… then, along came Italeri and their EA-18G.  It’s not perfect – there are some fit issues and omissions, but it’s a decent place to start and I’m sure as the “Shocker” goes through developmental and operational test, then hits the fleet in 2009, the aftermarked will catch up.

In engineering the kit, Italeri basically took their retooled F/A-18F and added the wingtip receivers and ALQ-99 jamming pods.  As a Hornet, it’s decent. The shape and dimensions are reasonably accurate, panel lines are finely engraved, and landing gear is respectable.  On the other hand, the cockpit is pretty basic with consoles and instrument panels being represented by decals. Furthermore, the kit is based on a pre-ACS Super Hornet (it’s not the only out-dated aspect of the kit; read on).  The wing pylons aren’t quite right, either. The biggest issue is the fit of major assemblies, especially the wings to the fuselage.  Some people will elect to use Revell’s 1/48 Super Hornet as a starting point – the fit is better.  To me, it didn’t seem economical to buy two kits to build one model.

Construction starts in the cockpit.  I decided I could live with the decal consoles and instrument panels, though as things turned out I didn’t need to settle for it in the back.  Darren Roberts of Steel Beach fame was kind enough to send a resin ACS aft cockpit (he also sent resin tailpipes and FOD covers, but the kit tailpipes weren’t of the same diameter, so I’ll save those for the next Super Hornet).  It was easy enough to put that in the aft cockpit later in the process, despite the fact I had already installed the cockpit tub into the forward fuselage.  Seats are pretty basic.  I highlighted what detail I could with painting and drybrushing.  After closing the cockpit tub and nose wheel well (painted white) into the forward fuselage and attaching the radome, I moved on to the rear fuselage. 

Things here are if not over-engineered, then at least strangely engineered, leading to some interesting fit issues.  Most of these were where the intakes fit to the underside forward of the main landing gear wells, though I did have to do some work on the joints behind the gear wells.  The joints here aren’t along real panel lines so I put the effort into making the joint invisible.

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Putting everything together reveals the fit issues at the wing root.  There’s also a large square shaped opening at the forward edge of each wing root.  It takes a fair amount of filling on both upper and lower sides to make this area look as smooth as it is on the real plane.  There were quite a few cycles of fill, let dry, file, sand, fill again.  But, while all this was going on, I could make the additions to the airframe that make the EA-18G not really a Super Hornet – additions that Italeri didn’t include.  First is a SATCOM antenna on the spine.  I cut it from sheet styrene following pictures.  I rolled the styrene a bit, but not too much – it’s curved but not to the same profile as the airframe beneath it, so it winds up looking a bit like a saddle. I secured it to the model with CA, then used CA and filler to blend it in.  Next are 3 pairs of antennae that go on the side of the nose (1 pair) and the rear lower fuselage (2 pair).  The front pair were cut and shaped from scrap sprue.  The first pair on the aft end of the jet are “D” shaped and located between the stab and wing trailing edge.  Again using pictures as a reference, I made these out of laminated sheet styrene.  The last pair is further aft, beneath the stabs and closer to the tailpipes, and these were made from scrap sprue, as the first pair. 

On the wings, there are fences just inboard of the wing fold joint.  These were made from sheet styrene cut as close to shape as I could get, superglued to the wing (which helped fill gaps between the wing’s upper surface and the underside of the new fence), and sanded to refine the shape.  Lastly, the “dogtooth” on the wing leading edge is faired on the EA-18G and I represented this with sheet styrene, blended in with CA (unfortunately I did this AFTER I took the picture of the wing fence – sorry!).  There is a subtle difference in the wing fold cover between the -18F and -18G but I did not model it.  I couldn’t figure out how I wanted to do it, and after spending some time pondering it I figured it was too subtle of a difference to be worth the angst.

 

Two more additions are not EA-18G specific, but have to do with the block of Super Hornet Italeri used for their kit.  The ECS pipes between the tails need to be changed – which is easy to do thanks to Darren at Steel Beach .  The resin pipes are easy to install and look great.  Next is the “pizza box” IFF interrogator on the nose.  I cut and laminated sheet styrene, superglued it down then tapered the edges with putty to match photos.  While I was working on the nose, I should have done something with the gun ports.  I didn’t but will next time.

While all this was going on I built up the underwing stores.  I used Cutting Edge resin ALQ-99 pods because I thought they looked better than the kit pods, but the kit drop tanks and AIM-120 looked fine.  I got the HARM and launchers from a Hasegawa weapons set.  As mentioned, however, the pylons in the kit aren’t right.  Brian Marbrey offered to send correct pylons from a Revell kit – what I didn’t expect was for an entire Revell kit to arrive! (There’s a slicked out F/A-18F in my future). 

The last step before painting was installing the windscreen, previously dunked in Future.  I mounted the canopy on its rail assembly, then temporarily stuck this in the closed position with blue-tac.  I masked the windscreen and canopy with tape, and spots like gear wells and intakes were masked with blue tack.  I painted the plane with Testor’s Model Master Acryl Light Ghost Gray and Dark Ghost Gray.  White parts (landing gear, wells, door interiors and HARM) were done in Tamiya acrylic flat white, and the tailpipes were done in Alcad. 

After a coat of Future, I applied the decals. I didn’t like the kit options, which are VAQ-129 (the FRS) and VAQ-209 (the reserve squadron – which last I heard is supposed to disestablish instead of convert, but I don’t think anyone really knows what will become of them at this point…).  So I struck out on my own.  I used the stencils, intake warnings, national insignia, and that sort of stuff from the kit.  The modex on the nose and tails also came from the kit, but for whatever reason they didn’t provide numbers for the wing.  I scrounged this from the spares box.  For squadron markings and tailcodes, I raided a Superscale set to get markings for my old squadron.  Since I was out in conjecture land, I decided not to tie myself to current Hornet practice when it came to tailcodes.  Happily the angles matched up reasonably well with the angles of the tail itself.  I rather like having the tailcodes on the inside of the tails. 

I kept this one clean, so after the decals set I applied dullcoat, brush painted the lights, and applied antennae.  There seems to be an extra dorsal blade antenna on the EA-18G compared to the E and F, but I had plenty in my spares box so I didn’t have to resort to making one – not that it would be splitting the atom.

Despite its shortcomings, Italeri’s “Shocker” looks good in fleet colors and goes nicely with the 1/48 Prowler from the same squadron.  It will be interesting to see what the aftermarket provides with regard to the added bumps and blisters on the G!

Karl 

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Photos and text © by Karl Sander

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