1/72 Academy F/A-18C Hornet

In-box review by Mark Littrell



1/72 Academy F/A-18C Hornet
VMFA-212 Lancers, product # 12411
(Price)   $13.50 from EricYYmodel.com

This is the latest edition to the 72nd scale F/A-18 Hornet family of model kits. The Hasegawa kit is outdated and has a few drawbacks. The Fujimi kit is said to have an incorrect shape of the curve of the nose and spine, and is much more expensive and harder to find. The Academy kit provides modern equipment (IFF on nose, LGBs for weapons) and does it with an all-new tooling. I would say it is a most welcome change,
considering the age of the previous kits.

Please forgive the quality of the images, my regular camera is unavailable and I'm using my 2.0 mp camera phone. Lighting is inconsistent because there is no flash.

I will be honest: The price is a turn-off for me. It's a bit hefty. I might not have bought it if I hadn't found such a good deal on it. I told myself "you know what, I'll get maybe one, but I won't go stocking up like some folks do" and time will tell if I get another kit later.  Then again, I'm frugal in my 72nd dealings, and have noticed this is the trend in recent years, so it may just be how things are from now on. The up-side is that for that money you are getting a very decent kit.

Click on images below to see larger images




The kit is molded in 5 sprues (4 of dark grey, 1 of clear plastic) with a large number of parts. The molding is crisp, clear, very well defined inside the detailed areas, and has no flash to speak of. It is quite impressive. The surface parts have a slight orange-peel texture to it.  Not enough to detract, but just enough to give it a diffuse texture. I imagine this will help immensely with paint adhering to the plastic. The panel lines are nicely detailed, but recessed enough that they will survive a coat of paint. I've had a number of small 72nd kits lately
that think hair-line panel lines are a nice thing -- which they are, at least until the first layer of paint obliterates them. I'm glad Academy made them deep enough.
The parts breakdown is fairly logical. There are intake trunks, but they extend only about 1/2 an inch. This is better than nothing. It also leads to a much better curve inside these intakes. Normal "walled-off" intakes don't have the right internal wall shape. While these are short, they definitely look better than the Hasegawa or Revell of Germany,
which have about the same depth. The parts are a fine balance between brittle and pliable. Soft enough to work with, but strong enough not to have to worry about breaking them as you work with it. On the sliding
balance (extremes being "brittle" and "soft") the quality of plastic lies just off-center leaning towards the "hard/brittle" side of things.

There is one area where parts layout is not very logical. The nose. The upper fuselage is all one piece, which is nice. However, the lower nose all the way back to the intakes is made up of no less than 4 pieces, not
counting the fuselage that they attach to. This is basically a box with 4 walls, but as you can imagine it means that dry fitting and test fitting is a total nightmare. It takes ungodly amounts of fiddling to hold in place, and plenty of annoying tape if you don't want to hold it. I think it's noticeable over-engineered. However, the way it is modeled allows high quality detail to appear under the fuselage by the nose gear and around the nose. This is a plus. I just wish it were more inter-locking to avoid fitting it all together at once. The two sides
meet and the bottom "cap" rounds out the shape. However on mine the bottom "cap" wasn't a perfect fit and is just a hair too wide for the sides. I've been able to correct this by scraping it with a hobby knife. You will need to glue the left and right to each other while dry fitting them into the fuselage upper half, so that they have the proper width when you need them later.

The overall detail is admirable. The late-model sparrows have the box down one side (data pathway, if I recall?), the LGBs have separate rear fins to make the aft end recessed properly. The targeting pods are quite nice. The weapons sprues share one engine exhaust, one seat, one stabilizer fin, one wheel, and many of the parts that are needed twice.
They simply give you two sprues that are identical. The pro to this is that you get 2 drop tanks on each, for a total of 4 (you won't need to raid spares to do a 3-tank, or even 4-tank, setup). You get a VER and two LGBs (which means 2x VERs and 4x LGBs total) and one sparrow and one sidewinder missile (2x each total). However, they assume you are going to mount drop tanks and VERs, and don't supply anything else. It is nice to have 4 LGBs in a kit, but with no other options seems a bit lacking. 
One major flaw in the details is the detailing on the main wings. There is a noticeable trench/gap where the flaps meet the wing proper. There are 2 problems with this. First, on the real plane this is almost a
smooth juncture. Second, the trench is molded in the wrong place, up at the panel line past the flaps/wing joint. It will need to be puttied in and smoothed out, for sure. It's an oversight on Academy's part. There
are resin kits made for this model that will simply replace the wings if you want to drop the flaps or fold the wings. Either of these would avoid the issue of the gap/trench altogether, but cost as much as the kit itself.

Another major flaw that this kit shares with the Hasegawa kit is the extremely shallow depth of the landing gear wells. You could never fit the landing gear in there if you wanted to. At least the RoG kit had proper depth. The nose wheels wouldn't fit at all in the nose well. I find this severely detracts from the quality for me. It reminds me of those cheap old 1960s kits that had the barest of depressions to simulate landing gear wells. However, if the rest of the kit has been made to reflect a decent F/A-18 Hornet, why did they skimp on the wheel well accuracy? This is a blunder on their part. It won't detract from the kit per se, but in my eyes I was hoping for more. 

Not to be outdone, Academy has released a MASSIVE decal sheet with this kit. It has hundreds of stencil/data details, including shades and grid details for vents, exhausts, grill-plates, lights. It is extremely
comprehensive and to quote the Dark Lord of the Sith, "Impressive!" For me the issue will be using my after-market decals and trying to figure out what stencil/detail decals to use along with those. While the decal
sheet is a work of well-planned art by itself, the individual markings they chose for their kit are rather bland to me. I like the really colorful eye-catching hornets, and just a flash of blue on the fins isn't enough for me. No offense to anybody else; that's just my preference. In conclusion, you have a well-molded kit but it has a few incorrect details. It's over-engineered in an important area, and may be tricky to fiddle with. However, it's also an easy kit to assemble. Aside from the nose I've run into no problems assembling the parts yet. They all fit
with modern Tamiya/Hasegawa quality. I like the crisp details and the plastic quality, as well as the texture on the surface. I love the effort they've put into their decals and hope they do more of this in the future. Overall it is definitely a great kit to have. It will be "the" decent 72nd kit to buy for a Hornet now, despite the hefty price.
If you're going to pay for a good kit, you'll get this one. If you don't want to spend the money, get a plain old Hasegawa kit and aftermarket decals.

Click on images below to see larger images



Photos and text by Mark Littrell