Model, Text and Photos by: Kenneth Young
The Hasegawa 1/48 Hornet series is widely regarded as the "state of the art" kit for this subject. It's amazing that this kit was first released in 1994. The kit is composed of 232 parts, including three white metal landing gear struts, and twelve PE parts. This special release of the D model includes colorful tiger stripe markings for the VMFA(AW)-224 "Bengals".
Hasegawa includes a decent cockpit, but it is actually more accurate for a B model Hornet. The seat detail is OK, but you will need to add harnesses from PE and masking tape. I added the Black Box cockpit and upgrade sets to create a more accurate cockpit.
I decided to add a set of seamless suckers intakes. They took some work to install, but the results were worth it. The seamless suckers actually touch the top of the fuselage, so the inboard portions of the bottom halves of the wings must be trimmed. I attached the painted Black Box cockpit to the upper fuselage to ensure proper alignment. Once I was happy with the fit, I carefully assembled the fuselage top, bottom, and sides with liquid plastic cement.
I proceeded to add all the smaller fuselage parts. Don't open the holes for the ECM humps on the upper fuselage panel. The holes are too far down on the sides. Check your references before attaching them. I installed the speed brake in the closed position. I found that the nose halves needed shimming to avoid a step where it meets the fuselage. No lead weight is needed in the nose to keep it from tail setting.
The panel lines on the sides of the rear fuselage are very weak, so they will need to be re-engraved. The intake lips, LEXs, and nose all needed the same treatment. The ECM humps on the bottom of the intakes need to be removed to make an accurate D model hornet.
The flaps and slats take patience to get them fitted correctly. The trailing edge of the outboard flaps should be extended by 1/16". The vertical tail stiffeners on all late model Hornets were integrated inside the fuselage. The "L" stiffeners will need to be replaced with small square plates like those on the outside of the vertical tails. I used stretched sprue to simulate the bolt heads. The six slots inboard of the vertical tails will need to be filled in. It's best to leave off the rudders until after decaling.
The white metal landing gear struts are
very nice. One of the main gear struts had a separated "knee" joint.
It must have been caused by a mold problem. With some muscle, I was able to
push it back together.
I cleaned up the mold seam running down the center of the canopy and gave the clear parts a dip in Future. The canopy was then masked with Tamiya tape. The windscreen was mounted with liquid plastic cement and the seam was carefully filled. The rest of the cockpit area was taped off with Tamiya tape.
Paint and Decals
The model was painted according to the instructions using Model Master enamels. Three light coats of Future gave a nice smooth surface for decals. The decals are somewhat thick, but respond well to Micro SOL. Look out for the walkway stripes, they're about ¼" too long. When I applied them, I lined them up with the panel lines on the top of the fuselage. This placed the boarding ladder stripe forward of the boarding ladder. I didn't notice it until I finished everything and attached the ladder. One of these days, I'm going to paint over the old stripes and add new boarding ladder stripes. I gave the model two coats of MM Acryl clear flat to seal the decals. I'm not really into weathering, especially after spending 90 hours on a project, so I left it nice and clean.
I've read a lot of discussion on various forums about asymmetric load-outs for the Hornet. Some folks suggested that Hornets are armed that way because of flight stability problems at the time of weapon release. Others stated it had to do with the LASER designator being blocked by ordinance on the starboard side. I decided to ignore all these suggestions and use three drop tanks, two GBU-24's from the Hasegawa weapons set D, and AIM-9s from Hasegawa's weapons set C. After finishing the kit, I actually found a photo of a D model hornet with this exact load-out. By the way, the drop tank seams will need a ton of work to get a smooth finish. I didn't bother lengthening them since it's barely noticeable on the finished model.
I scratch-built details for the underside of the canopy using reference photos on the web. It turned out much better than I expected. I stole some parts from another Hasegawa hornet to build a more accurate boarding ladder. Finally, I added the pitot tubes and scratch-built antennas for the top and bottom of the fuselage.
For $45, this kit isn't too bad of a deal. But it will take some TLC to bring it up to current standards. Less experienced modelers may find the complex fuselage assembly very frustrating. The problem with the walkway decal stripe really urks me. It's a shame Hasegawa won't invest a little $ in a new sprue of parts for the cockpit and smaller details. I had to invest $35 in aftermarket to modernize this beauty. Regardless of its' shortcomings, I highly recommend this kit for anyone who loves the two-seater "Bug".
Edt.: The Hasegawa F/A-18D is currently out of production. Here are some other things you may be interested in if you want to build an F-18 like Kenneth's:
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