|Building Revell-Monograms F/A-18C "Hornet"
By: Steve Filak, Sr.
The F/A-18C Hornet is arguably the most versatile aircraft in US Navy service today. As its 'F/A' designation implies, the Hornet is cross-designated as a fighter/attack aircraft, and is purported to be equally suited to both roles. Critics of the aircraft would probably argue this point, stating that the main drawback of the Hornet is its limited range. This problem will be corrected to some extent with the new E and F variants, but whatever the case, the Hornet will be around for years to come, serving in various roles with the Navy and Marines.
Like many others, I have gazed longingly at the US$80.00-plus Hasegawa kit at my local hobby shop. Unfortunately, I simply couldn't justify the cost of the kit at the time, so I went with the Revell/Monogram kit, number 4821. I had my doubts about this kit at first, but after opening the box and giving the sprues the 'once-over,' I was pleasantly surprised at the detail afforded by this $13.00 kit. Sure, there would be a little extra work required, but my wallet was also about $67.00 heavier than if I splurged on the Hasegawa kit.
Building the Model:
Prior to construction, I decided that I wanted to drop the flaps on this plane. I did so by cutting the flaps and ailerons from the upper and lower wing halves before doing anything else. I used a combination of an X-Acto saw blade and a jeweler's saw. These parts were marked (so I wouldn't forget which was which later), and the trailing edges were thinned with various sanding sticks.
All panel lines were scribed next. To keep track of my progress, I mark the scribed lines with a Sharpie marker. Then, as sanding and polishing progresses, the excess is removed, and the only thing left is a neatly filled black panel line. This also gives me an idea of how smooth the surrounding surface is, and reduces the amount of burr that I have to clean up afterwards.
Construction continued with the cockpit, which was fairly straightforward. I painted the instrument panel, picked out all the buttons on the MFDs with Light Ghost Gray, and squared up all the edges of the buttons with Flat Black, using a #18/0 liner. I also decided to include the pilot with this plane; in doing so, I upgraded the pilot's helmet to the lightweight HGU-55 currently in use. The pilot's visor shield was sanded smooth, and a new visor was thermoformed with clear plastic from a bubble pack. It was then painted Black on the inside, and attached to the pilot's helmet. The pilot was painted using several shades of Humbrol green, and drybrushed very lightly with a mixture of Model Master pale green.
The rest of the model was then assembled per the kit's instructions. The only downside to this kit was the several fit problems that I encountered, most notably the underside of the LERX, the intakes, and the chaff dispensers. Mike Benolkin has a great article on the Albuquerque Scale Modelers page describing how he fixed these various fit problems. I wish I had read it before I built mine, as I probably would have saved myself quite a bit of glazing putty (along with a headache or two).
The other thing to watch for is the alignment of the main gear struts. I suggest using epoxy or a slow-cure CA to attach these, because some tweaking may be required to get the aircraft to sit level on its gear.
Construction was completed with the re-attachment of the flaps and ailerons, using the weapons pylons as a guide.
Painting and Decals:
I used an undershade of Military Brown on all panel lines. Several panels were also undercoated with White to make them stand out. The model was then completed in the Light Ghost/Dark Ghost Gray scheme and glosscoated with Future after drying.
Decals were then applied, using the markings for VFA-105 'Gunslingers", assigned to the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. The kit's decals were in perfect register and went on fairly easily without silvering, but a word of caution: make sure you have them where you want them fairly quickly, because you'll only have a few seconds to manipulate them into place, after which they become brittle and tear.
The model was finished off with a coat of matte varnish, and the kit's weapons: four MK 83 iron bombs on VER (vertical ejection racks), 2 Aim-9 Sidewinders, 2 AIM-7 Sparrows on the fuselage stations, and a pair of AGM-88 HARM missiles on the outboard wing stations.
All in all, the kit was enjoyable to build, despite some problems that were encountered during construction. Then again, the challenge of fixing problems such as these make the satisfaction of the end result more worthwhile (not to mention the money I saved). That's not to say that I wouldn't be willing to build the Hasegawa kit- I'm always open for accepting donations!