Academy F/A-18C Special Edition – Chippy Ho! 2009

History –   The F/A-18 Hornet is a twin-engined aircraft designed for both fighter and attack missions.  The initial versions, the A and B (two seat) entered operation in 1981.  The F/A-18C was a visually similar but had a number of improvements related to avionics and weapon carrying capability.  It started production in 1987 and has proven successful in the various roles.  The Hornet participated in Operation Desert Storm and proved very successful in combat situations.  The Hornet is also operated by the Air Forces of Australia, Canada, Finland, Kuwait, Malaysia, Spain and Switzerland.

The subject of my model is the CAG airplane of VFA-195, Dambusters.  They are based at the Naval Air Facility Atsugi and the scheme shown existed in April, 2009.  I tried to find out the origin of the name “Chippy Ho”.  The best answer that I got was VFA-195’s callsign is ‘Chippy’ and sometime in its early dogfight history someone spotted their VFA-195 adversary and instead of calling Tally Ho, they called Chippy Ho and the rest became a very unwritten history.

The Kit – This kit contains five sprues with about 135 parts.  I have not seen Academy’s 1/32 Hornet but I am told that the 1/72 kit is almost like a shrunken version.  The kit features finely scribed panel lines and loads of surface detail.  It seems like every panel, grille and seam of the real airplane is reproduced on this kit.

The clear parts are well protected.  The sprue actually forms a protective structure for the canopy parts so that they do not even touch the protective plastic bag.  The parts are perfect.

 Three color schemes are given, two versions of the Chippy Ho and a normal scheme bird, also from VFA-195.  A large, well printed decal sheet from Cartograf is provided.  The colors are bright and true and cover perfectly.  The decals had some hard areas to conform to but did a good job.

The Build – The build starts with the nose/cockpit section.  In order to include all of the surface detail found on the nose of the aircraft, the nose consists of four pieces.  Care must be taken in assembling these parts to preserve the detail.  I found that the sides had drawn in slightly when it came time to install the cockpit tub.  When the nose was glued to the fuselage assembly, Step 5, I ended up inserting a couple of shims in the nose next to the tub and added a couple of tabs to the fuselage to ensure accurate alignment.  Note attached photos.

The result looked perfect.  One area to be cautious is with the dive brake.  I decided to have the brake closed so I simply glued the part to the well in the fuselage.  The fit was tight and I ended up pushing the brake below the surrounding surface – the supporting flange was too deep.  Rather than mess up the surface, I left it for something for the judges to find.

A couple of alternative parts under the intakes are provided without any explanation of which one to use.  I checked all photos that I could find and used the simple grille.  Also, a complete assortment of weapons, fuel tanks and pods is provided without any specific directions of which ones to use.  Even the box drawing and photos of the completed model were different.  I chose three tanks with the center one having the checkerboard marking (only one set of these markings were given).  I also added wing tip Sidewinders and GBU-12s on the empty pylons.  I suspect that one of the pods should have been included but I did not know which one so I left them off.  I think that the final result was sufficiently “mean” looking.

Painting and finishing – The model is painted in the standard colors of Light and Dark Ghost Gray.  Generally clear instructions are provided and no major problems were encountered although some of the items were very small.

Regarding the decals, you need to bring your best decal application game.  Some of the decals are very large and care must be taken to float them into place before blotting them down.  The green decals on the fuselage, wings and stabilizers are examples but they fit very well.  Green decals were also provided for the canopy frames and went into place perfectly.  These were a great addition.  The black decals that provided the walk way covered the LEX and came to a point on the fuselage.  The vanes on top of the LEXs must be applied only after the decals are in place.

The biggest challenge was the eagle decals on the fins and  rear fuselage.  The bird covers the complete outer fin and requires a lot of attention.  These decals also include “Navy” and “USS George Washington” markings for the lower fuselage.  With my first decal, this part became hopelessly rolled up.  Fortunately, these same decals were provided for the normal scheme version so the problem was easily fixed.  For the other side, I cut the decal in two along the fuselage/fin line.  This worked much better.  The best key to alignment is to use the location of the formation lights.  Finally, the areas around the fin tips require lots of setting solution.

Conclusion – Please do not take my comments above to be negative. I was really pleased with this kit.  It caused me some hair pulling but I was extremely pleased with the final result.  I believe that this is the most accurate F-18C on the market and can recommend it to most modelers with some building experience.

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