McDonnel Douglas F/A-18A Hornet

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This page was last updated on 26/10/2019


Aircraft McDonnell Douglas F/A-18A, A21-8
Kit 1/48 Hobby Boss F/A-18A Hornet, 80320
Model Build Year 2019
Additions/Modifications Aussie Decals A48005, 'F/A-18 Hornets - RAAF: 3 Squadron - "Cobra"'
Others as per text
References 1. Wilson, S., "Phantom, Hornet and Skyhawk in Australian Service, Aerospace Publications, 1993

2. http://www.adf-gallery.com.au/gallery/Hornet-A21-8

3. https://www.facebook.com/HistoricAustralianAircraft/posts/a-nice-little-article-on-fighter-worlds-mirage-iiid-a3-102-enjoy-the-read/605201019562587/

4. https://www.jetphotos.com/photo/400393

5. https://fsb.raafansw.org.au/warries.php?nID=95

6. https://www.tapatalk.com/groups/aussiemodellerinternational/f-a-18a-hornets-t1250.html






SUBJECT

This model represents F/A-18A A21-8, the first Hornet to be delivered to a RAAF combat squadron.

In August 1985, 2 Operational Conversion Unit (2OCU) commenced training Hornet pilots using the first four F/A-18B two-seater Hornets to be delivered to the RAAF (A21-101, A21-102, A21-103 and A21-104).  A year later, 3 Squadron was the first combat squadron to be equipped with the single seat F/A-18A Hornet, accepting delivery of A21-8 and A21-9 on the 29th of August, 1986.

A21-8 became the aircraft of WGCDR B. J. S. Mouatt, 3 Squadron's CO, and featured in a number of publicity photos (Ref 1).  These early photos show a very clean aircraft with the standard national insignia plus the squadron emblems of the southern cross on the tail and fuselage flash with fleur de lis.  The former squadron emblem dates back to the 3 Sqn Kittyhawks and Mustangs operating over Italy during World War II and the latter dates back to 3 SQN operations in France during World War I.

The decal sheet instructions state that in November 1986 the aircraft had acquired a cobra head nose-art in grey.  This was re-applied as a shorter version, in black and grey, in August 1987.  The final version , with the lips now painted, red was on the aircraft in November 1987.  There are a number of photos of the aircraft at this time in Reference 1, again looking very clean, and Reference 2 includes a couple of colour photos.

A search of the internet reveals another photo (Ref 3) with the red lips dated 30th November, 1985, which obviously contradicts the decal instructions.

From photographic evidence on the internet, the aircraft has been sporting 75 Sqn low-viz markings from 2008 (at the latest).

Over its service life, a number of RAAF Hornets have had artwork applied, usually commemorating an anniversary or other milestone.  Two other aircraft have had unique markings added:

  • "Daphne de Dual" - Dating back to when they operated Dassault Mirage IIIOs, 77 Sqn has christened their two-seater aircraft "Daphne de Dual" (Ref 4).  They continued the tradition by adding the nose art to, firstly, F/A-18B A21-106 (crashed 10/05/'92 with the loss of FLGOFF Robert Jepsen and DSTO scientist Michael Howlett) and then F/A-18B A21-105.
  • Top Hat and Cane - In May 1990, 75 Sqn CO WGCDR Ross Fox's aircraft, A21-29, had a Top Hat and Cane painted on the vertical tails.  The Top Hat and Cane dates back to when 75 Sqn flew F-86 Sabres (Ref 5).  The Top Hat and Cane has been maintained on A21-29 ever since.

However, to my knowledge, A21-8 is the only example of personalised markings on a RAAF Hornet.

CONSTRUCTION

This kit dates back to 2007 and out of the box represents, more or less, a standard USN/USMC F/A-18A.

While the kit is, to my casual observation, quite detailed and appears to be accurate, there are a number curious omissions.

  • The most obvious omissions are the lack of clear parts for the position lights.  There are molded voids in the upper surface of the LEX near the wing root but no corresponding clear parts.  Likewise there is a notch in each of the under-wing fairings but no clear parts.  I filled these all with white glue and painted them clear red (port) and clear green (starboard).
  • There are no clear parts for the ant-collision strobe lights mounted on the upper outside of the fins, even though their location was indicated by an oval panel.  I shaped some clear sprue with a file and painted them both clear red.
  • There are no countermeasure dispensers (CMD) under the engine intakes.  I scribed a square at the appropriate locations and cut out the plastic with a modelling chisel.  I used the two spare etched CMD grids from my Kinetic hornet (F/A-18A/B has one CMD under each intake while the F/A-18C/D has two).

The cockpit is reasonably detailed although the side consoles are a bit simplified. The cockpit was hand painted in grey and black, with the screens painted clear green over black as they would look when powered down.  I carefully painted the detail on the instrument panel and side consoles to match the decals for the Kinetic kit.  I thought about using the spare seat from the Kinetic kit but it didn't fit and the Hobby Boss seat was actually quite good.  I did add the ejection cylinder to the back of the seat from the Kinetic kit.  I looked for after market seat belts but none seemed to be available at that time, so I made some out of the foil from a yogurt tub.

The landing gear bays were painted white with dark silver and black piping.  I added a bit of a wash to dirty things up a bit.   The inside of the doors were also painted white with red trim.

Construction of the fuselage and tail was fairly straight forward and the fit was generally good.  By the time the Australian manufacture of the Hornet started, the three strengthening brackets at the base of the vertical fins has been added to the aircraft design and these are present on the kit.  The kit also includes the fences that sit on top of the LEX just forward of the engine intakes but these were not developed until 1988 so this aircraft does not have them at this time.  So, I skipped the step where the instructions would have you drill out the holes to mount the fences.  I attached the air-brake in the closed position but had to add shims to prevent it from sitting too far into the recess.

I was concerned with the strength of the attachment of the wing trailing edge surfaces so I drilled and pinned them in the raised position.  Because of their thickness, and the limitations of plastic molding, the inner flaps are made of two parts, the flap and an insert for the lower, forward, inner surface.  The join lines don't fall along any panel lines and so needed to be filled in.  I only realised this when the wing was fully assembled and painted and decalled.  I decided to fix this, which caused a bit of difficulty and required masking with post-it notes when I repainted.  The Kinetic kit has the same issue, so I'll make sure I fix it before the flaps are attached.

For some reason the upper surface of the wing was covered in what I assume were engraved rivets, which is curious as the wings skins are carbon fiber, and this is completely out of character compared to the rest of the kit.  I filled these in, which was painful.  At the same time, I filled in the under-wing holes for the stores pylons as I had decided to build the aircraft with only AIM-7s on the fuselage stations and AIM-9s on the wingtips.  The latter came from the Kinetic kit as I felt these were better than the kit missiles.

Annoyingly, the intake trunks are only a couple of centimeters long.  The intakes are separate pieces which are joined to the splitter plates.  I decided to cover the  intakes using tissue and white glue to make intake covers, which I then painted bright red.  The splitter plates on the aircraft have a series of holes near the intake that are used to control the airflow.  On the kit parts these are represented by engraved areas that looked nothing like the real thing so I filled them in.  I couldn't work out how to effectively represent the holes so I left things at that.  I delayed adding the intake, including the splitter plate, until after I had painted the fuselage.

Once painted and decalled, I attached the undercarriage and undercarriage doors.

Most parts of the kit were well molded but the port nose gear door looked like it came from another kit.  It was too small and the attachment pins were very flimsy and broke off. Fortunately I have the Kinetic kit which has two versions of the nose gear doors so, I removed the antenna from the one I wasn't going to use on that kit to replace the undersized Hobby Boss part.  

The RAAF F/A-18s differ from the standard USN/USMC F/A-18A in that the nose gear are not fitted with the catapult launch gear or the carrier landing light box, the latter being replaced by a second landing light (Ref 6).   I represented the second landing light by using a dish shaped piece I found (I don't remember where from) that was about the right size.  The internal of both this and the kit landing light were painted silver and lenses created using layers of white glue.  The other issue with the nose gear was that the scissor links were far too long, so I cut them off  and shortened them.

Based upon the Kinetic kit, I scratch built the twin actuating levers for the forward and inner rear main gear doors, which also served to strengthen their attachment to the fuselage.

As is common with most kits of modern jets with bubble canopies, this one had a molding seam down the middle of the top surface that needed to be removed and polished out.  However, there was a step between the two sides of the canopy that needed to be fixed with some effort to get the correct profile.  Unfortunately, with all of this effort, the rear of the canopy cracked.

After adding the landing gear and canopy I added the boarding ladder.  I modified this by drilling out the location of the locking latches and added scraps of plastic to represent these in the unlocked position.  The ladder supports in the kit are too long so I shortened them to get the ladder to sit correctly.

The last thing I did was to drill out and add the Angle-of-Attack sensors.  I added the tip of a pin to the starboard side of the nose and a vane to the port side.  The latter was fashioned out of a flattened piece of nylon from the end of a shop clothing tag.

PAINTING

Australian Hornets are, with a couple of exceptions, painted FS 35237 Blue Gray on the upper surfaces and FS 36375 Medium Gray under-surfaces and vertical fins.  Prior to painting these colours, I pre-shaded the panel lines with black to give a mildly worn appearance.  The wingtip missile pylons were painted Medium Grey on both top and bottom surface as seen in photos.

The end of the radome was painted a sail colour, with the tip painted silver, and various antenna painted white.

The AIM-7s were painted Medium Grey with Metal Black fins and a white radome.  The AIM-9s were also panted Medium Grey with black forward section and fins and a silver nose.  I used the AIM-9 decals from the Kinetic kit.

The decals I used are Aussie Decals A48005, 'F/A-18 Hornets - RAAF: 3 Squadron - "Cobra"'.  This set includes three versions of the Cobra nose art from the original monotone grey version to the final coloured version that I used on the kit.  I had an earlier version of  the decals from this manufacturer that only had the intermediate grey version of the cobra, but when it came to use them the decals shattered on immersion in water.  I therefore had to purchase the newer decal set.

The cobra head was split into left and right parts but was still a little tricky to get in position.  The decals tore in a couple of places but I managed to fit them back together without too much difficulty.

I used the extensive set of stencils from the Kinetic kit on this model because I will use after market decals on that kit, and that set includes most of the stencils.  I have since bought a further set of after market stencil decals for that kit to fill in the gaps.

CONCLUSION

This is a curious kit.  As noted above, it is generally accurate and goes together quite well, but there are a curious mix of omissions of clear parts, strange detail on the upper wing, a few detail errors and one strangely molded nose undercarriage door.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed building this kit and am very happy with the way it turned out.

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