by: Tim Hatton [ ]
The Boeing Super Hornet is an evolutionary redesign of the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet. The Super Hornet was first ordered by the U.S. Navy in 1992. The Navy retained the F/A-18 designation to help sell the program to Congress as a low-risk "derivative", though the Super Hornet is largely a new aircraft. The Hornet and Super Hornet share many characteristics, including avionics, ejection seats, radar, armament, mission computer software, and maintenance/operating procedures. The initial F/A-18E/F retained most of the avionics systems from the F/A-18C/D's configuration at the time. The forward fuselage of the Super Hornet is the only unchanged structure from the ‘legacy’ Hornets. The fuselage was stretched, wing area increased by 25%, though the Super Hornet has 42% fewer structural parts. There have been significant aerodynamic changes employing enlarged leading edge extensions (LEX) which provide improved vortex lifting characteristics. The General Electric F414 engine, developed from the Hornet's F404 has 35% more thrust and this led to along with a more stealthy aspect to a redesign of the air intakes. The Super Hornet has a greater ‘bringback’ of unspent fuel and munitions than the legacy Hornet. The Super Hornet has an extra two hardpoints on the wing giving a total of eleven. The F/A-18E/F's radar cross-section was reduced greatly from some aspects, mainly the front and rear. While the F/A-18E/F is not a stealth fighter like the F-22, it has a frontal radar cross-section in order of magnitude smaller than previous generation fighters.
The Block II Super Hornet update programme incorporates several improvements in electronics, avionics and weapons systems. The update saw the introduction of the Joint Helmet Mounted Cuing system [JHMC].
The Super Hornet has seen action in Operation Southern Watch, Operation Iraqi Freedom and in Afganistan. The first aerial kill occurred 18 June 2017 when a Syrian Air Force Su-22 was shot down.
The plastic parts from Hasegawa were originally released according to Scalemates in 2005. The finesse of the surface detail is quite superb and Eduard has chosen wisely to utilise the Hasegawa moulds for this release. In the box there are:
6 x large plastic sprues
1 x clear plastic sprue
9 x resin parts
1 x acetate sheet
1 x pre-painted photo etched fret
1 x sheet of paint masks
1 x decal sheet created by Furball Aero Design
The cockpit tub and instrument panel have raised moulded detail replicating the instruments. You have the option of painting and highlighting the detail, using the supplied decals to represent the instrument detail or of course you can take advantage of the pre-painted photo etched detail. To fit the photo etched parts will requires you to remove the raised plastic detail. Eduard supplies a photo etched floor in the foot well as well as rudder pedals. There are also some PE handles, throttle levers and a couple of boxes to add, these like the rudder pedals will require folding. A nice touch is the pre-coloured parts that fit on the side wall of the cockpit. The control stick has a small photo etched part to replicate the various buttons. The HUD is made up from a folded photo etched part and the acetate sheet represents the glass. The acetate needs cutting before fitting. The ejector seat is resin and is highly detailed. The resin seat cushion is separate as is the seat firing handle, plug and electrical cables. The seat harnesses and leg restraints are pre-coloured photo etched parts. The cockpit tub has the RIO station for the F/A-18F moulded on. This area is covered over for the single seat variant. The detail on the plastic cover is supplemented with a number of pre-coloured photo etched parts. There is a pilot figure included and it has separate positionable helmeted head and arms. There are two types of helmet included the standard flight helmets and the later JHMCS.
The canopy and windscreen are separate parts and the quality and clarity is excellent. There is a slight mould seam along the apex of the canopy that you might want to polish out. The sprue has been cleverly designed to offer a fair amount of protection during transportation. There are three photo etched mirrors to add the canopy and there are parts to represent the jacks that lift and close the canopy. There are paint masks included for the windscreen and canopy.
The fuselage is made up from multiple parts to allow both the single and twin seat variants to be created without too much additional cost in production. Essentially the fuselage is split in two with upper and lower halves. The nose and cockpit area is split vertically into two parts. There is ducting for the engines and each of these is split into two. Unfortunately there are some deep ejector marks to fill on the visible surfaces. From past experience the fitting of the intake, intake trunking and fairing does present some problems. You will need to do some dry fitting and perhaps take off some of the locating tabs for a good fit. There is a primary compressor fan to add to the end of each duct. Each of the jet nozzles are made up from three plastic parts. The interior of each nozzle has twelve decals to create the detail on the surface of each petal.
The construction of the wing initially looks complex, but you have the choice of depicting the flaps and slats dropped. That’s really handy if you want to depict your model in launch position. The wing tips can be shown folded, but you need to cut the tips off and use the additional parts. The central part of the wings has large tabs to fit into the fuselage providing an exceptionally strong join. If you want to fit the pylons for the weapons you will need to open the holes in the lower wing. Recesses on the inside face of the wing mark where to drill.
The two vertical fins are made up from two parts. The rudder is one piece and is position able. The slime lights are separate pre-coloured photo etched parts or decals. The horizontal stabilisers are each one piece. They can be moved if you follow the instructions correctly using polypropylene push on stops. Though I suspect most modellers will glue the stabilisers in place in place.
The undercarriage legs initially look very good, but there an awful lot of recessed ejector marks on them. Hasegawa has tried to keep the part count down on the legs to provide more strength in what is a large model. Despite the ejector marks the level of detail is very good. There are a few decals to add to the legs once painted. The resin wheels also have a good level of detail; the main wheels have separate hubs and the tyres are weighted. The paint masks for the wheels are a welcome inclusion.
The gear doors have raised detail on the inner surfaces although there are a few ejector marks here and there. The undercarriage bays have excellent detail although I suspect you will not see much of it in the forward bay.
There is plenty of ordnance to hang under this Super Hornet including up to four fuel tanks, there are two wing tip mounted AIM-9X’s, two AIM-120C AMRAAM’s and a AN/ASQ-228 ATFLIR pod. The AIM’s have one piece bodies with separate stabilising and guidance fins.
A BuNo. 166830, VFA-81 “Sunliners”, USS Carl Vinson, 2013
B BuNo. 166650, VFA-105 “Gunslingers”, USS Truman, 2010
C BuNo. 165782, VFA-192 “Golden Dragons”, USS George Washington, 2015
D BuNo.166950, VFA-86 “Sidewinders”, USS Reagan, 2015
E BuNo. 166783, VFA-31 “Tomcatters”, USS Bush, 2017
There is a good range of marking options including what should be less weathered CAG birds and Eduard has thoughtfully included a regular service aircraft 166783 [E] if you want something a lot more used looking. If you are not aware CAG aircraft, usually with a number ending in ‘00’ are the commander’s aircraft and are generally kept clean. Also they tend to have a bit of colour too. 166783 has low visibility paint markings and it saw a lot of action during Operation Inherent Resolve. Sporting 56 mission markings, this aircraft supported Coalition Forces in their fight against the Islamic State.
The decals are designed by Furball Aero Design and printed by Cartograf. Thankfully Furball has avoided large areas of coloured decals as you would expect on the fins and spine. Instead the large areas of colour need to be painted. The resolution of the detail, colour density and minimal carrier film is excellent. With paste use I have always found them no problem to use and they settle down with the popular fixing and setting solutions.
The build instructions will be familiar if you have the any of the Hasegawa F/A-18E Super Hornet kits with the addition of the extra detail parts from Eduard. The extra information on the positioning of the flaps and slats will be appreciated by modellers. The coloured painting instruction include four view drawings with a separate stencil guide.
I suppose the main question is whether this is an improvement on the Hasegawa releases of the F/A-18E. Well you do get the extra pre-coloured photo etched and resin parts as well as masks. The Furball decals are a real plus and would probably cost around £20 if bought as an individual release in the UK. I did a little searching for the price of the Hasegawa quarter scale F/A-18E and the best I could do brand new is £49.61 on Amazon. The price on Eduards website for this release is £72.58 at the time of writing. So you have to weigh up whether you want just the plastic or do you want the additional extras.
Whether this kit represents value for money or not it is an excellent release. The quality of the plastic is very good and along with the photo etched and resin parts, this should build into a superb model. Plus as already mentioned the Furball decals are some of the best on the market and there are five marking options to choose from.