1/48 Revell-Monogram F/A-18C Hornet

by Everett McEwan

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This is Revell Monogramís latest F/A-18C kit in 1/48th, which I picked up at Wal-Mart for $9.95, and all in all was a good build. I just got back into building models since I was a kid, and I thought this would be a good learning kit, being the third model I have built so far. Please forgive my lack of paint skills and other problems, I am still learning new things, besides when I was a kid I didn't even know what an airbrush was.

Even though I was just going to learn from it, I wanted to do the best I could with it, and ended up taking a month and a half to finish it. I wanted to cut and move the Flaps, Slats, Ailerons, Horizontal Stabilizers, and Rudders since every reference photo of the Hornet parked shows these deployed. I thought about folding the wings but passed on it due to complexity and decided to buy Hasegawa's excellent "folding wing" F/A-18C instead (have yet to build it). The moving surfaces separated well for the most part, (the slats were the hardest) and went back on ok (again slats were the worst and never did look right on one side) but there needs to be two add ons to make it right. The flaps and ailerons are covered by a small, wing long faring that sits over the joint, this I scratch built using Evergreen plastic sheet, and it has the added benefit of covering up the top of the joint (hiding any errors or roughness). The other item needed is the bulkhead on the fuselage that is exposed when the flap is down, this I also built with Evergreen plastic. On the real thing this bulkhead has ribs, I tried to show this by cutting into the card small channels which did not look good and was washed out after painting. Now I realize I should have used small plastic strips glued onto the small triangle bulkhead. Oh well, now I know for the next time I build one. One other scratchbuilt item which is simple but important, are the braces on the inside of the vertical stabilizers added to all F-18's after cracks developed on a few planes. Since Revell is using an old F-18A kit as its base, these are missing. Again Evergreen plastic came to the rescue, I bent six small strips and glued them to the approximate location (three on each side). Another external modification was cutting the gun holes out and the putting plastic card under it before gluing the nose on, this gave the gun more depth. Also I scratch built the single point refueling panel, which was simple to make, including shelving, three black boxes, and a piece cut from plastic tubing to make the nozzle receiver, again Evergreen plastic.

Lets take a step back and talk about the cockpit, Revell really has a nice cockpit with lots of details but was made better by a few small additions. I used the kit seats, which are fair, and Revell even has paper shoulder straps in the instructions which you cut out and paint. Although the seat looks ok, next time around I'll use one of the many aftermarket ones. The front and side panels all have raised detail and are mostly accurate, (the front more than the side console) and the throttle and stick are nice. The missing items that I scratchbuilt were mostly above the side console, including ribbing, FLIR control box with wires (even if there is no FLIR mounted, F-18s have these left in), canopy controls and other boxes on the right side. I tried to make the compass mounted to the front canopy, but it proved difficult, I wish someone would make this little thing aftermarket. The rear deck is decent, but has the screen over the avionics bay (Black Box now makes a great cockpit set for the F-18 that includes this bay) and looks good with the canopy strut in place. The another add on I made was the large yellow/black striped handle on the left side of the front panel (I think it is a safety pin for the ejection system). I of course added three mirrors to the canopy (one broke off and got lost) and two handles made from stretched sprue. Revell did include excellent detail in the canopy sill such as the white pistons on each side and a handle. The HUD is the only weak part having no framing, and although I just painted the sides, I now know that Re-heat makes a HUD set for modern jets that could have provided framing. The only fit problems were in the rear of the fuselage halves, leaving a small seem because of uneven width, and a gap. I minimized the size of the seam but never quite killed it, I probably should have stuck some plastic stock into the seam, instead of just supper glue. There was also a small seem where the intakes met the fuselage which I thought I filled with putty, but showed up again after painting (always test paint over a joint!) Of note here is the closed intake trunks which I drilled out, but be careful the landing gear bays stick up into this area. Although my holes are not completely accurate (I wonder if seamless suckers is on this one) it is better than having a wall of plastic inside.

The other problem in the rear of the plane is the fragile horizontal stabilizers held on only by a small thin pole that connects the two, which I soon broke off with simple handling of the model. Revell instructs you early on in construction to place these in between the fuselage halves without gluing (I think so you can rotate them like it's a toy) but this breaks way too easy as I found out. After painting I tried to glue them on to the fuselage several times to no avail, finally I glued short poles back onto each one and then inserted them into them holes, this finally held and worked fine. So in other words if you are going to build this kit, skip this part of the instructions, and cut them in half (the center connecting pole), shave down the pole to fit in the hole, and insert them when sanding and painting are done.

Another thing to do is add panel lines that are missing to the hump on top of the fuselage, since this is a prominent location on the model and looks great when added. Next time around on this kit, I will scribe a lot more lines, but I tried to do some of the more visible ones such as the refueling probe on the nose. This was my first time doing this, and my first time doing a wash into the panel lines but I think it was well worth it. Revell/Monogram likes to do raised panel lines or none at all, like on the hump, but they sure do a great job with rivets and bolts so be careful not to sand these off. I have a Revell 1/48 A-10 I will be building, and this is a great example of nice Revell rivets since the real A-10 is full of them. 

The paint was all Testors enamels airbrushed on and was finished with a flat acrylic. The major problem I had panting was the demarcation between the upper surfaces (Dark Ghost Grey) and lower surfaces (Light Ghost Grey) was very faint due to the paints similar colors. This is the proper paint scheme, but even when I did a hard demarcation (with tape) it still blended too easily, the only place it looked right was on top of the nose.

The decals gave me a lot of trouble, I liked the bright colors and they looked good at the store, but proved very fragile. They are made by Eagle Strike Productions, I think they were old, and they were made in Mexico. I even had to use a second set of wing walks from another sheet because the first had so many rips in it. No amount of decal set and solvent made things better. Amazingly, the only one that was easy was the big two part devil on the tail (although it was slightly off scale). When I was in the store the other day, I saw that Hasegawa has now issued a kit with these markings for VMFA-232 (although the devil on the tail was slightly different). If you like these markings, that might be the better way to go.

Weathering was done with black pastel chalk dust around the gun on the nose, and watered down Tamiya Acrylic (color smoke) on the underside tail section, to simulate the staining that Hornets get (I think from dumping fuel).

The last touch I added was the weapon loadouts, somewhat typical of recent Hornets flying over Kosovo or Iraq. All except the kit sidewinders came from Hasegawa weapon sets (missiles and guided weapons) included GBU-31 JDAMs, AGM-45 Mavericks, and AIM-7 Sparrows (I wanted the Nighthawk FLIR pods but no one makes it, and I am saving the one that comes with the Hasegawa F-18 for that kit). I painted the JDAMs grey since the Navy is now coating all bombs in a grey anti-fire coating, even though I have since seen green JDAMs on F-18s. The mavericks also were modified, first by cutting the triple ejector racks into single rails, since due to problems with triple ones all services are using single rails. I also painted the clear nose piece a milky red to make it look like an Infra Red Maverick, for this I used Tamiya smoke and Testors Clear Red mixed on the part (because one is an enamel and the other acrylic, they didn't really mix, giving the "milky" effect).

All and all, this is a great kit and I would recommend it. For a sixth of Hasegawa's F-18, you get a decent model that only has a few fit problems and raised panel lines. There are lots of aftermarket parts for this kit and even a Black Box cockpit will help make this kit a beauty. This is not to say that the kit needs a lot of help, but with extra work can be a really nice Hornet!

Everett

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Photos and text © by Everett McEwan