The AIM-9X and AIM-120C are the latest generations of the venerable Sidewinder and the slightly younger AMRAAM. Both are characterised by reduced control surfaces, driven by the need for internal stowage in the F-22. The AIM-9X adds yet another new seeker and motor to produce the sixth broad type within the missileís long history.
The ALQ-184 is the latest generation of a line of ECM pods that can be traced back to the ALQ-101 from the late 1960s. It retains the long cylindrical body and full-length gondola of its ALQ-119 predecessor, and adds another shorter gondola under the front to increase the frequency range still further. (Much more of this and theyíll have trouble landing ...) The ALQ-188 is an attack training pod thatís designed to simulate enemy ECM threats. It looks for all the world like a prehistoric amphibian, with four antennae that poke out of the sides like little legs Ė and indeed itís sometimes known as the Dead Gecko. Both pods are used by the USAF, the 188 mainly for Aggressor training.
The set consists of three identical sprues. On the armament front, each gives you four AIM-120C, two AIM-9X, four LAU-127 common launch rails, and one each of the LAU-115A and LAU-115C pylon adapters. On the pod side, you get one each of the ALQ-184 and the ALQ-188.
The balance of missiles may seem a little odd but it reflects the way the AIM-120 has taken over a lot of work from the AIM-9. The box top shows an F-18E carrying six of one and only two of the other. However, there are too few launchers to carry all the missiles in the set, so youíll need to rely on kits themselves for the rest. Three ALQ-184s you might just find a use for, but I suspect many will struggle to get through three ALQ-188s.
Each missile comes as a single part, including all the fins, and the launch rails are one-piece too. All the other parts come in halves. Itís not immediately clear why Ė they have no undercuts or awkward corners that would need this treatment, and youíll only end up with joints to clean up, including some in tricky places where antennae are close together. As there are no obvious mould seams, there doesn't seem to be any advantage.
Surface detail is finely engraved for panel lines and rivet heads; otherwise itís nice, subtly raised panels and hoops. Hereís a couple of highlights: the cooling inlets on the ALQ-184, which are probably as good as you can get in this scale; and the actuators on the rear fins of the AIM-120s. The new shape of the AIM-9ís rear fins is nicely captured (amazing! All that mucking around with the pointy end and this is the first time theyíve looked down the back). As a result of being in one piece, though, some fins are a little coarser than others. The ones in the plane of the mould are well tapered; the ones that project up and down are a little fuller and taper less. Also, the subtle aerofoil shapes are missing. But these small flaws shouldn't be too obvious.
There are many, many decals, for coloured bands and warning markings and such like. A few may be spare, but thatís not common. Colour is accurate and dense, with no register problems, and the very small areas of white do seem to be genuinely white. Most of the lettering is legible and not misspelled. The carrier film is reasonably thin and not too extensive. However, you may have trouble with the ones for the AIM-9 tail fins and the ALQ-188 antennae, as they go on very small spots and will need a lot of trimming and setting solutions to make them conform.
The only real disappointment in this set is that itís so limited. This is probably fair enough when you bear in mind that Hasegawa sticks rigorously to US (and Japanese) subjects for its weapons. The US uses precious few types of air-to-air missile these days, so a choice of two is representative, provided you want only to depict the latest aircraft in US markings. But it would have been nice to see some of the weapons developed elsewhere, as theyíre getting more interesting all the time. Of course, if you have, say, a Revell Typhoon, youíll have a good cross-section of armament with it. Only Hasegawa kits routinely come without stores. Itís hard to shake the impression that this set is designed to fill a hole thatís of Hasegawaís own making, so that you pay extra for what a lot of other manufacturers throw in for the price of admission. Still, price-wise itís not too bad. The 1:48 set that includes these missiles is nearly twice as much, and it leaves out the Dead Gecko. Although the larger set includes some air-to-ground stuff as well, which is separate in 1:72, for the same money youíll end up with more accessories in the smaller scale.
Highs: Fine moulding; accurate depictions of most recent weapons; ease of assemblyLows: Limited selection; possible some tricky decalsVerdict: If you need modern US missiles and pods, and the kit you've got doesn't have them or has rubbish ones, this set is worth laying in