Academy 1/32 F-16CG/CJ Block 40/50 Fighting Falcon

By Gary Meinert

History

The genesis of the F-16 was the Lightweight Fighter Competition of the early 1970s, which pitted the General Dynamics YF-16 against the Northrop YF-17. Each of these aircraft led to the development of successful fighters--the F-16 for the Air Force and the F/A 18 for the Navy and Marines.

Since it was introduced into operational service in 1979, the F-16 Fighting Falcon (often called the Viper) has been the workhorse of the US Air Force jet fighter fleet. In March 2005, the last of 2231 F-16s built for the USAF was delivered, although production continues for international customers. About 1300 are presently in the USAF inventory. In addition to the USAF, 20 countries now operate various versions of the F-16, and four additional nations (Poland, Chile, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates) have ordered the F-16.

The USAF plans to keep its fleet of F-16s operating until at least 2020. Significant efforts are being made to upgrade this versatile multi-role fighter. An example is the addition of the AIM-9X (the newest version of the Sidewinder air-to-air missile) capability to Block 30 F-16s this year, with application of the AIM-9X and its associated Joint Helmet-Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS) to other blocks in the near future. Also getting underway is the Common Configuration Implementation Program (CCIP), which is designed to evolve Block 40 and 50 aircraft to have the same software and avionics capability so they can perform the same missions.

The Kit

Academy's new kit of the F-16C figher has good surface detail and so many features and options that I will probably exhaust myself trying to tell you about them all. The part trees are well packaged in 4 bags plus one small box for the clear parts and radome. All parts are plastic--no photo-etch or vinyl parts are included in the kit.

First and foremost, the kit gives the builder the option of powering his F-16 with either the General Electric (for Block 40/50) or Pratt and Whitney (for Block 42/52) engine. Appropriate engine nozzles and air intakes are provided for each version. The air intake trunking goes all the way back to the engine face, but the actual engines themselves are not included in this kit.

Looking at the cockpit area, there is a choice of canopy (clear or tinted) and this can be positioned open or closed. (I noticed that the canopy raising mechanism was unfortunately omitted by Academy.) There is also a choice of HUD units and a choice of two different styles of "bird cutter" 4-vaned IFF units that are installed just ahead of the canopy on some of the latest F-16Cs. The instrument panel, consoles, and multi-part ACES II ejection seat with molded-on belts are very convincing.

An intriguing feature is the optional long parabrake housing at the base of the vertical tail. Although not found on USAF F-16s, it is applicable to some foreign users.

The Vulcan 20mm cannon bay is complete with gun, ammo drum, and other details should you wish to leave off the cover and display this area. Likewise, the radome can be swung open to reveal the highly detailed radar unit.

Other nice features include a boarding ladder, two pilot figures, and one ground crew figure. The seated pilot figure has a regular or JHMCS helmet, and two sets of arms. The standing pilot figure has two different heads. Believe it or not, there are unit arm patch decals for the pilot figures.

There are enough external stores to delight the weapons connoisseur: both centerline and wing drop tanks, AIM-9L & 9X, AIM-120, GBU-31 JDAM, GBU-12 Paveway, AGM-88 HARM, LANTIRN targeting/navigation pods, HARM targeting pod, and ALQ-184 ECM pod. There are even a pair of towed decoy system containers that fit into the outboard pylons.

Decals

The kit includes two large decal sheets printed by Cartograph. One sheet contains the decals for the airframe, while the other has all the small markings for ordnance, pylons, landing gear, cockpit, etc. The instructions have very detailed decal placement guides.

Decals are provided for a total of 6 aircraft: 2 F-16CGs of the 8th Fighter Wing (the famed Wolfpack), 2 F-16CJs of the 35th Fighter Wing, and one F-16CG of the 51st Fighter Wing. (All of these are Block 40 or 50 aircraft powered by the General Electric F-110 engine.) In addition, there are markings for a Block 52 Pratt & Whitney F-100- powered F-16C of the Republic of Korea aircraft.

Conclusion

Academy has produced an excellent state-of-the-art kit of this important aircraft. The many options will certainly add to the kit's appeal and please the 1/32 scale jet modelling community.

Thanks to Academy Hobby Model Kits for the review sample.

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