Trumpeter 1/32 A-10A Thunderbolt II
In 1966, the Air Force wanted a close air support (CAS) aircraft that was better than the Douglas A-1 Skyraider and cheaper than the LTV A-7D Corsair II. This requirement led to the A-X competition that ultimately pitted the Northrop A-9 against the Fairchild A-10. In 1972, the Air Force completed flight evaluations of both companies' prototypes and Fairchild was awarded a production contract for the A-10. (Ironically, the Soviets evidently selected the A-9, as the Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot shares much of the same design philosophy).
Powered by a pair of GE TF34 engines (the same engine family that powers the S-3 Viking), the A-10 was designed with survivability as its motto. The aircraft was supposed to be able to come after having one horizontal and vertical stab shot away, one engine shot up and even one third of a wing shot off. These claims were tested to a limited degree, but the A-10 would spend much of its operational life facing skeptics in high places. Would the A-10 survive on the modern battlefield?
Even as the aircraft was entering service, the 'fast jet' opponents were already working to rid the Air Force of the A-10 'Warthog' (or Hog for short). As new technologies and capabilities entered service, the A-10 community was usually the last (if ever) to see them installed on their aircraft. Only after its baptism of fire in the Gulf War would the A-10 be taken more seriously.
Armed with the GAU-8 30mm gatling gun, the A-10 can fire up to 4000 rounds per minute of spent-uranium rounds at its helpless prey. A single 30mm round will defeat even the most modern battle tank. In the Gulf War, the Air Force A-10 and Army AH-64 would become the star "tank plinkers." In addition to the gun, the A-10 can carry a wide range of guided and unguided weapons.
Because the A-10 opponents had kept the Hog from being equipped with night attack capabilities like LANTIRN, it was primarily used during daylight hours. This did not deter one squadron from using the Infrared Maverick missile as a surrogate LANTIRN pod and plinking targets in Kuwait and Iraq at night.
As for its survivability claims, many of you have seen the photos of a shot-up Hog with huge hole in the wing and a Squadron Commander's aircraft riddled from nose to tail with holes from a nearby SAM detonation. These aircraft took a lot of abuse and brought their pilots home.
Those of us who enjoy the larger scale aircraft models have been hearing rumors for years that one company or another was going to produce a 1/32 A-10 kit. In the last year, one name emerged that changed rumor to reality - Trumpeter. This Chinese model company was the first to provide us with a 1/32 MiG-15, a 1/32 MiG-17, and the unique two-seat variant of the MiG-17 produced (in one-scale) only in China. While these MiGs were not bad, one had to wonder how they would fare with an A-10. When the A-10's release date approached, we learned of the near $100 USD suggested retail price for the kit and wondered if it would be worth it. Is it? Check it out:
The kit is a multimedia work of art. The HUGE box contains 18 trees of parts molded in light gray plastic, 3 trees of crystal clear plastic parts, two gorgeous resin TF34 engine cores, white metal landing gear struts and rubber tires! The packaging for this beast is also a nice bit of work, with the internal box divided into three bays. The left and right bays contain 20 of the styrene trees whilst the center bay holds the protective container with the landing gear struts, wheels and ejection seat, as well as the clear tree with the canopy and windscreen.
The cockpit begins with the tub. The side consoles have some soft detail, but nothing approaching what one would expect to see in a 1/32 scale cockpit. The instrument panel is interesting two-part affair consisting of a back plate and coaming and an instrument panel face that is clear. You sandwich a decal between the gray part and the clear part and you have an instrument panel. Hmm, I think they've taken the concept of the "all-glass cockpit" a bit too far on this one. A stick and throttle are included as well. The good news here is that Black Box is scheduled to have a resin cockpit detail set available for this kit very soon. With a BB set installed, this model will be stunning! The cockpit assembly is then installed inside an assembly that replicates the real titanium tub that protects the pilot. Nice touch!
In complete contrast to the bland cockpit, Trumpeter has provided one of the nicest ACES II ejection seats in 1/32 that I've seen. The details rival anything I've seen done in resin. The correct shoulder-harness links are also visible, but the seat doesn't have the lap belts. Why? You wouldn't be able to install the seven-piece pilot that is also included in the kit. The pilot figure is a keeper. They've replicated the look of the current flying gear used by US aircrews, including the lightweight helmet.
Another interesting feature of this kit is a completely different model that is included of the GAU-8 30mm gatling gun. The gun is comprised of over 40 parts that replicate the gun, drive mechanism and storage drum. The only detail 'bug' with this portion of the model is the ammo chutes. Trumpeter depicts the ammo being fed from the drum to the gun exposed, as if on a belt. The ammo is indeed fed on special belts, but these belts run through metal chutes. A very simple fix would be for some aftermarket company like Eduard to produce the photo-etched chutes that would overlay the kit belts and result in a stunning gun model.
The tragic thing is that this beautifully detailed gun is shoved inside the nose, with the only thing visible being the business end of the gun. You'll either want to cast a duplicate of the gas diffuser/gun barrels to stick in the nose so you can pose the whole gun assembly alongside the A-10, or not spend much time on the internals of the gun during assembly as very little of it will be visible once the model is assembled. Alternatively, you could pose the aircraft will the gun access doors open, but that will call for some research and surgery…
The fuselage is comprised of four main parts, the forward halves and the rear halves. The separate forward halves have enabled Trumpeter to do something even bolder, produce the two-seat A-10B! The rear halves are common to both aircraft. You'll have to pay attention to the aircraft you want to replicate, as this kit represents a very current example of the A-10, complete with GPS receiver. The GPS antenna, part M31, mounts on the dorsal side, aft of the canopy, and this antenna was not present on A-10s during or prior to the Gulf War. Check your references, as there are a few other antennas that will have to be removed, depending on the era of the Hog you're modeling. Trumpeter is to be commended for including all of these details!
The level of detail in this kit is simply amazing. The elevators are separate from the horizontal stabilizer and are movable. The trim tabs on the elevators are separate pieces and can also be positioned as desired during assembly. The ailerons are also movable and can be split open to act as speed brakes. Likewise, the rudders are also movable. Even the flaps can be moved! I doubt that the hinges on any of these surfaces would survive too much movement, it is nice that you have the option of posing the aircraft once and gluing the flight control surfaces into that position, or keep the surfaces movable and re-pose the model on your shelf periodically.
The TF34 engines are another work of art. The resin engine cores are beautifully rendered. The core is installed inside a transparent engine case and attached to the high-bypass fans, also molded in transparent plastic. This unique configuration allows you to create a museum-type model that you can display with the engine nacelle door open and a peek through the engine casing to the detailed core.
Not surprisingly, this model would be a dedicated tail-sitter with all of the detail on the engines. You'll have the pay attention to the weight and balance of the aircraft, taking heed to put the indicated ballast inside the nose in the locations and quantities indicated by the instructions. No small wonder that the landing gear struts are metal instead of plastic!
The kit rounds out with all of the external ordnance, starting with all of the pylons that the average Hog carries. Trumpeter has provided a full set of eleven pylons, complete with anti-sway braces! Bravo.
The weapons included in the kit appear to be partly inspired by an earlier A-10 kit. The weapons options include the compulsory pair of 'heaters' on station 11 (right outboard) and an ALQ-119 ECM pod for station 1 (left outboard). The heaters are supposed to be a pair of AIM-9L/M Sidewinders, but the missile fins didn't come out right. You'll have to replace these. The ALQ-119 is nicely done and is a keeper.
The kit includes 12 Mk.82 500 pound bombs, but the instructions have you mount these on a pair of MERs (Multiple Ejector Racks). While there were some early evaluations of the Hog using MERs, they were never approved for carriage of anything but small practice bomblets on the A-10. Save the MERs for your Tamiya F-4 or the rumored 1/32 F-105. Mount the Mk.82s individually on the pylons of your choice (check your references).
Yet another interesting feature of this kit are its six AGM-65 Maverick missiles. Other than the Revell/Germany Hawker Hunter kit, there haven't been any Mavericks available in 1/32 scale. This kit also includes a pair of three-rail launchers, but like the MERs, the three-rail launchers were not used. Instead, Trumpeter has added single-rail launchers to the kit to reflect how the Maverick is actually mated to the A-10.
Additional weapons include Mk.20 and CBU.52 cluster bombs, a pair of BLU-27 napalm canisters, a pair of GBU-10 laser-guided bombs, and a pair of GBU-8 optically guided bombs. While the GBU-8s haven't been around for a long time, you can save these for one of your Vietnam era projects. The GBU-10s are also out-dated, but you can modify these to the Paveway II or Paveway III configuration with a bit of trimming and detailing.
The only real disappointment I have with the external loading options is the external fuel tank. Singular. This tank is to be suspended on the centerline (station 6). While technically okay, all of Hogs I've seen with external gas bags have carried a pair of them on stations 4 and 8. Unfortunately, the A-10B kit doesn't have that one part tree with the cluster bombs and external tank, so robbery is out of the question here.
The kit comes with two aircraft marking options, a machine from the 75th FS/23rd FW (sporting the historic "Flying Tiger" sharkmouth) and a machine from the 706 FS/AFRES featuring the hog's jowls. A full set of stencils are also included, but the registry on my example was a little blurry on the fine print, so I'll likely look to some aftermarket markings for these.
From what I have learned from others who've already started assembling their Hogs, the kit falls together as well as any current Japanese kit in this scale. In other words, this model is approaches the "drop some glue in the box and shake" to get a beautiful airplane.
Even though the cockpit is a little weak on details, I am VERY impressed with the molding and engineering of this kit! The A-10B is also equally nice and will be the first of my Hogs to get built.
Is it worth the $99.95 USD asking price? You bet! This kit is priced equivalently with Tamiya's line of 1/32 kits, and in many ways this kit is superior. Nevertheless, if you are an effective bargain hunter, you can find this kit for less. For instance, Squadron Mail Order offers the kit at $84.96 USD. Check around, you might find a good deal.
The Black Box cockpits are due out on the street by the time you read this. You can obtain these from Squadron Mail Order or Victory Models.
As a final note, Trumpeter has included some box art inside their A-10 kits to indicate the subjects of some future releases, including the MiG-21MF Fishbed J, the MiG-21U and MiG-21UM Mongols (two seat Fishbed trainers), and the MiG-19S Farmer! All in 1/32 scale! You'd better start planning on a new room to house these beauties!