Air National Guard F-16C Special Edition
The F-16 Fighting Falcon began life as part of the U.S. Air Force Lightweight Fighter Program (LFP) in January of 1972 as the General Dynamics entry in the competition. The evaluation YF-16 first took to the air on 8 February 1974. Sharing an engine with the F-15 Eagle gained the favor of the plane with the Air Force. The Falcon has a unique ejection seat that is reclined in the cockpit, and utilizes a fly-by-wire system to aid in flight. Due in part to a multi-stage improvement program or MSIP, the F-16 was upgraded to the C and D variants, which began replacing the A and B variants in 1983.
The F-16 is forty-nine feet, four inches long, thirty-two feet, nine and ¾ inches wide, with a height of sixteen feet, eight and ½ inches. The current power plant is either the General Electric F110-GE-100 (Blocks 50 and 52) or the Pratt and Whitney F100-PW-220 (Blocks 40 and 42). The plane weighs in at just over 19,000 pounds empty, and can take off with a maximum weight of 42,300 pounds, or just over 25,000 pounds if flying in an air-to-air role. The plane can fly a combat radius of 340 miles with a maximum speed of 915 mph at sea level, or 1320 mph “clean” at altitude. The plane carries an M61 Vulcan 20mm gun, and has the ability to carry loads on six underwing pylons as well as one centerline pylon.
The markings that I used on this particular build represent the South Carolina Air National Guard’s 169thFighter Wing (nicknamed the Swamp Foxes), which operates from the McEntire Joint National Guard Base near Columbia. The unit traded in their A-7D Corsairs in 1983 for the F-16A model, then upgraded to the C in 1994. The unit has been recognized for their readiness, was one of the first squadrons on the scene during the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, and supported the departure of the Army from Iraq during the end of the operation.
When this kit arrived at my home, I was extremely excited to see the box art was of a plane from the 180thFighter Wing (the Stingers) attached to the Toledo airport, near where I grew up. I completed all of the construction for this particular plane as there are a few subtle differences between the two planes represented by the decals in the kit, but due to a decal mishap, I wound up going with the South Carolina markings. This is one of the kits that I have reviewed that I will go and buy another one, just so I can build the other variant that is available.
Upon opening the box for this kit, the modeler will find five sprues of light gray plastic parts, one sprue of tinted clear parts, an eight-page fold-out instruction sheet, a four-page instruction sheet (showing part layout, common data (decal placement), painting an decal placement for the two planes represented, and painting and decal directions for the underwing stores), and a decal sheet by Cartograf. The plastic used by Academy is smooth, and was easy to work with, but I did run into a paint issue that I will provide additional comments on later in this review. The clear parts have a slightly brown tint that looks very convincing, and the fit of the canopy pieces was very good in their alignment with the fuselage as well as between the two parts themselves.
The directions provide variations in step 13 based upon which plane you are building as the Ohio squadron flies the F-16C Block 40F, while the South Carolina wing has the F-16C Block 52Q. The differences are for the gunsights (both options are contained on the clear parts sprue) and the panel in front of the cockpit. There is a lot of ordnance included in this kit with AIM-9L/M and X Sidewinders, AIM 120 B AMRAAM, AGM-88 HARM missiles; GBU-31(V)1 JDAM bombs; AN/ALQ-184 ECM Pods, AN/AAQ-33 Sniper, AN/AAQ-28 Lightening Pods; 300 gallon centerline tank; and 370 gallon wing tanks all being included. The items are all well molded, and look fantastic with decals being provided to make them look just like the real thing. As I am used to seeing the Air National Guard planes “clean”, I decided to make mine a representation of one here in the states. Based upon my experience with the Cartograf decals (again, I will provide additional comments later in the review), it was also an easy decision to keep the stores off of the plane.
Construction was straight forward enough with few problems being encountered along the way. There is a very good level of detail in this kit with parts for the throttle and control stick in the cockpit along with the front ejection seat handle all being individual parts. The forward landing gear consists of seven separate parts (not including the five for the door), while the rear consists of five pieces per side (four additional parts for each door as well). In this scale, many of the parts are small, and when they launch from the tweezers, they are pretty much gone. Fortunately, I only had this happen a couple of times, and it was with parts that only I know are missing. The Cartograf decals form just fine using only Micro Set, but out of habit, I did use a coating of Micro Sol on the decals for the refueling probe connection, side insignias, and tail markings.
I had an odd issue with my painting of this kit as the paint went on with a very grainy texture that I have never seen before. I have been using an airbrush for about twenty-four years now, so I really am stumped as this happened with both the acrylic and enamel paints that I used. I clean my airbrush after every use with thorough disassembly after every two or three uses (sooner if the needle begins to stick). This only happened on the body of the aircraft as the tail, tailplanes and landing gear doors all turned out just fine. I used Model Master Enamel, then Acryl Neutral Gray, MM Acryl Gunship Gray and Semi-Gloss White, Gunze Gray FS36231, MM Metalizer Steel and Burnt Metal, Tamiya Clear Red and Clear Green, Humbrol Chrome Silver, and Warbird Tire Black for my paints.
My hits for this kit begins with the level of detail in the parts with this being the best Falcon that I have seen in 1/72 scale to date. The amount of ordnance included, as well as the detail of those items, and the decals for them, also makes a great addition to this kit. Cartograf did a nice job of capturing the markings for both available squadrons, and all of the colors look to be accurate from my research. There were few assembly issues (there is a small seam line inside the intake that is difficult to deal with, but this was my single issue), which makes things more enjoyable for those with less experience.
There are few misses that I had with this kit, but what I did find was that in step 4, there was no hole in A25 for A16, and there is no clear location for parts A25 and 26. In step eight, there were no holes in C14 or C15 for parts E26 (one attaches to each), and although not a miss, I would have preferred a mounting post on parts F3 to mount them to the open holes on the sides of the intake. My other miss would be that the “common data” has you install decals F (on the left side of the fuselage) and J (on the right), but decals 44L and 44R, shown on the page with the squadron markings, already contain these items. On the left, I was able to align 44L over F without issue, but to accomplish this on the right side; I think that 44R is a little off from where it should have been.
In addition to my paint issue, I was challenged by the Cartograf decals. As I mentioned earlier, I was excited about the Toledo air wing markings, yet you see a completed plane with South Carolina markings. I opted to start my decaling session with the biggest ones first, and went after the tail. I applied my Micro Set, and when I placed my decal, it immediately set in place. Of course I was a little off from where the decal needed to be, but the decal would not slide for me. I peeled the decal back off, applied more Micro Set, and made another attempt; in short, around my fourth shot, the decal rolled up on me, and I was looking at a plane finished in South Carolina markings. By no means take this as a negative commentary on the Cartograf decals. This is just my way of letting other builders know what I encountered as an attempt to save others from the frustrations that I experienced. There are also several small decals provided for the various service and maintenance markings the planes carry, and I had two of them roll up on me during installation. Due to the complexity of installing decals around the ordnance, I decided to not tempt fate for this review, but will instead work on them outside of this build (just in case).
Overall, I would still highly recommend this kit to any modeler wanting to add a really nice F-16 in 1/72 scale to their collection. Of course this Special Edition kit will likely have limited interest because of the two Fighter Wings provided, but the other releases of the plane itself make it attractive to many others. This kit builds well, and the tailplanes fit so well that I did not have to use glue (which will allow me to position them as I desire). I would like to thank the folks at Academy for providing this review kit to the IPMS-USA, to the review corps for allowing me to perform this evaluation, and to you for taking the time to read it.