1/72 Hasegawa F/A-18F Super Hornet

Gallery Article by Eric BADE on July 15 2010

 

F/A-18F Super Hornet – VFA-103

This kit actually is my second Super Hornet, both based on the excellent Hasegawa kit. The first was featured here on ARC some time ago now. My first kit was built almost straight from the box, with some details added mainly in the cockpit area.

http://www.arcair.com/Gal5/4701-4800/gal4785_F-18_Bade/00.shtm

Unfortunately the first model was crushed in a display case, when the vibration of a lorry passing in the street made the shelves collapse one on the others. Some kits could be repaired, but the Super Hornet was amongst those that just could not be restored to display condition. I salvaged some parts, just in case, amongst them the resin ejection seats. The spirit on this first Rhino model lives on as these are these seats that were used on this project, out of laziness probably.  ;^D).

Now this project is a bit more ambitious. After reading so many comments about the 1/48th Revell Super Hornet in the 1/48th scale, I thought that I should deflect flying surfaces on my model, as they should be on a real Super Hornet at rest. I also had decided my final livery, a VFA-103 machine. Checking photos I then found out that this very aircraft had a different cockpit installation (ACS cockpit) than the one which is provided by Hasegawa. I then had to partly scratch-build part of the cockpit, specially at rear office level.  

As a consequence building started with a huge cutting session, trying to cut all flying surfaces as sharply as possible so that I could re-use parts. I also heavily altered the RIO instrument coaming building a taller upper deck with plastic card. The rest was detailing instrument panels with photo etched parts, an again a few alterations on the RIO instrument panel, building it around a ultra large center screen. I also scratch-built the canopy retraction system behind RIO’s seat with bits of plastic and made my landing gear a bit busier with stretched sprue, electric wire and a few photo-etched bits.

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I generally followed instructions for the main build. As ever attention was given to protect surface details. Filling and sanding were kept to a minimum. In a few instances panel lines were restored or enhanced with a scribing tool, trying to be as delicate as my big fingers would allow to keep re-scribed as petite as the original Hasegawa panel lines. Care was also exercised when I put flaps and rudders back in position so that all would align correctly and with proper angles. 

Antennas or receivers are cemented in position, documentations is useful here.  Most antennas are made of thin plastic card, thinner and sharper than plastic original parts. Landing gears are glued at this stage as I generally find it easier putting model on it gears while I paint main camouflage and progressively add details.

Weathering

As  a fan of US naval aviation, painting a TPS camouflaged model always is a challenge to me. I try to reproduce an operational machine with touch up effects. I always liked the idea of trying new ways, adapting solutions from model to model.

I also have general principles. I am no fan of pre-shading and all my weathering effects are built up on plainly applied standard camouflage. I feel that is how thing happen in real life. That is also why I slightly change my ways on every model as I believe no two aircraft weather the same way. A second principle is to build up my stains, discoloration etc… over a period of tome, progressively, slowly piling up effects over time. This avoids me systematical or symmetrical effects... again with the will to copy real life.

I started airbrushing the plain TPS scheme (FS 35237, FS36320 and FS36375) using Gunze acrylic paints. I then worked on panels either darkening or lightening them with black, white, blue or close colors (remember we are working on basically bluish greys.)

I then worked on touch ups, mostly along panel lines. After most painting is completed, model is decaled. Decals are from the excellent VF-Decals set VFD-72001 for VF/VFA-103 Jolly Rogers F-14B and F-18Fs. That is receiving this set that made me start building another F/A-18F.

Weathering then is continued over markings. I will generally spray a very thin layer of base color over main decals as this helps making them as painted on. Panel lines are then enhanced with thinned sepia  or dark grey artist oil paint. Oil paint is used here so that solvent (thinner) is not acrylic compatible. This ensures that my main painting will not be spoiled when I wipe my dark wash off.

As people (mechanics, crew) walk on aircraft leaving soot all over the aircraft I airbrush an extremely thin black wash over the aircraft upper surfaces, where people are supposed to walk : that is over LEX, between fins, over wings or stabilators center panels etc…When done I will add a few touch ups again over grime, often using lighter grey shades. All this is completed with a very thin uneven layer of matt varnish.

Details as pylons and main transparent parts are added now. Folding ladder was found in a photo-etched part set. I was glued in position, putting an end to a very rewarding build.

Eric BADE

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Photos and text © by Eric BADE