Internet Modeler : First Look : Aviation

Academy 1/48 Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star

By Michael Benolkin


Built initially as the TF-80C, the Lockheed T-33A first flew in March of 1948 as a conversion trainer to acquaint the US Air Force's WW2 veterans to its new generation of jet-powered fighters. The T-33A would remain in production for over ten years, and additional variants were produced to support the training requirements of the other air services, namely the TV-2 (T-33B) for the US Navy and Marine Corps. When production was finally terminated, Lockheed had built 6,749 T-33s for the US and many foreign air forces, with a further 656 built by Canadair and another 210 built in Japan.

The Kit

I was very pleased to see Academy's release of this kit! As with many previous 1/48 Academy releases, this is another issue of the Hobbycraft kit. If you've been looking for a T-33A lately, they've been in short supply on store shelves (here in the US at least) for a some time. While I've spotted the occasional RT-33A or Korean War T-33 variants (the one with the under-wing tip tanks), the basic trainer T-33 that many of us grew up around has definitely been absent.

As with the previous release of the T-33A, the kit is molded in light grey plastic, features scribed panel lines and details, and builds up into a nice airplane straight out of the box. The fit of the kit from these molds has been trouble free in the past, and I have no doubt nothing has changed in this release.

The parts count appears to be around 80, including the clear two-piece canopy. Some of the parts that are included would not normally be used on a vanilla T-33 trainer, including a set of underwing rockets and a pair of 500lb bombs w/wing pylons. The canopy in my example was not quite a clear as some of Academy's previous kit releases, but still quite usable (a dip into Future should 'clear' things up}.

Now for the good news/bad news: the bad news is that the cockpit is a little Spartan, just as it was in the original release. The good news is that KMC produced a dynamite cockpit detail set, as well as sets for the intakes and control surfaces. The bad news is that these sets are out of production - KMC sold the molds. The good news is that Squadron Mail Order has purchased the KMC molds and will be releasing the KMC details under the True Details banner. True Details already have two sets of wheels for this kit available, as well as a set of ejection seats. Another great resource is Eduard set 48193 - T-33 Detail Set.

While the vast majority of T-33s were bare metal, you'll find a number of camouflaged and/or distinctively painted T-33s (especially those from the RCAF!) to make your T-33 come alive. For those of you ready to try your hand at a bare metal paint job, you have several approaches to choose from. Re-read Bucky Sheftall's F-84G built-up article that we featured a few months ago on how to apply metal foil, or try your hand at airbrushing a silver acrylic. There are several good silver acrylic paints to choose from - my favorites are the Tamiya Acrylic Silver and the Polly Scale lines of acrylic silver shades. The latter can be found in the model railroad department of your favorite hobby shop. Both brands dry hard and resist fingerprints. Lastly, you can do what I'm about to do - play with the new Alclad 2 line of lacquer-based paints from the UK. I purchased mine from Hannants.

The pleasant surprise in this kit is the decal sheet. Markings are provided for a USAF T-33A, as well as an example from the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) and a West German Luftwaffe machine. The decals are spot-on in register and the carrier film appears to be thin, so application should require little or no setting solution.

If straight out of the box decals are not your thing, Aeromaster has produced three different decal sheets for the 1/48 T-33. Superscale had also previously released five decal sheets of their own, but Superscale ceased producing their older decals a while back. Nevertheless, you might find some of these decals still in your nearby hobby retailer's stock. Leading Edge of Canada has produced a number of the unique RCAF T-33 paint schemes as well. Check with your hobby retailer for availability.


As I said earlier, I am very pleased to see this kit available, and Academy did their usual fine job of producing this release. This kit will provide the foundation for intermediate and advanced modelers to do some terrific superdetailing, yet it is simple enough for beginning modelers to build. I'll be stashing several of these kits away for a rainy day. My sincere thanks to MRC for this review sample!

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