Kitty Hawk Models continues their great releases with an F-35B Lightning II. The F-35 is a development from the JSF (Joint Strike Fighter) program and is a short/vertical takeoff and landing plane with bomb, cannon, and missile capability. This version, the “B”, is designed for use by the US Marine Corps and various overseas navies. It does not include a tail hook or foldable wings like later versions.
The kit itself is in dark gray plastic with no flash and excellent panel lines. There are six sprues plus separate parts for the upper and lower fuselage and a forward cockpit piece. There is also an excellent clear sprue which is very thing and crisp. Last are two decal sheets and the instructions.
Looking over the instructions, you need to decide which configuration you will build. All of the doors can be closed and there are a lot of them – 17 in total: four for the wheel wells, three for the upper air intakes, two for the chaff/flare dispensers, four for the lower VTOL configuration, and four for the weapons bays. If you elect to close some or all, the fit is excellent, which is great. I elected to have them all open to show the flexibility of the plane. There is also the option for six underwing pylons to hold bombs and missiles. I left these off as I wanted a sleeker look – although this is not a sleek plane. I do want to mention that there is a note for the inclusion of GBU-32/38 JDAM’s. These are not included and I did not have any kits I could take them from, so my bomb bays are empty until I get a set.
Construction starts with the cockpit and it is well-detailed with a nice multipart seat and decals for the display screen. I did add a set of Waldron Jet Buckles and foil to get some seatbelts while replicating the actual seat belts as closely as possible. One thing to note – there are no color call outs, so I did have to do some Internet searches for the plane, but being a modern jet, the cockpit, landing gear bays, etc., were readily available. The front wheel bay was next, and I elected to not add the nose gear strut until later (but I did check to see if it could be added later and it can be).
The engine occupies the next three steps and, while it mostly won’t be seen with the doors open, it is well worth the modeler’s time to fill and sand the seams on the intakes and vertical lift fans. I paid special attention to the vectoring nozzle. Kittyhawk gives you the option of having it out the back like in horizontal flight or aimed down for VTOL use. I chose the latter just for visual interest. There were given a gloss black base and then various shades of Alclad used on the nozzle and exhaust. There were no fit issues.
The last steps before closing the fuselage up were to construct the weapons bays and the wheel bays, and there were no incidents except for a few ejector pins marks that need a few swipes with a sanding stick. I also left the main gear off at this time. Add the two weapons bays and then the wheel wells in order to the bottom fuselage, and you get an excellent fit and detail. The completed engine was added and there are some stout posts to secure it and make sure it was aligned. The lower front fuselage with the cockpit and nose gear wheel well was added, along with the fan ducts to the lower fuselage.
Prior to joining the fuselage, I looked at the aft top section where the exhaust nozzle would bend down. There is no structure there and I added some strip and gave it a quick zinc chromate color just to eliminate the bare plastic look. When joining the fuselage parts, take your time here and test-fit the top fuselage and you will save time later. Once the bottom is dry, the top fuselage can be added (don’t forget part B-33 – it can’t be added later). I used Tenax and a little tape to hold things together, and only puttied around the front intakes and the rear stabilizer supports.
Prior to painting, I prepared all the doors – all seventeen of then. Many are multipart and they are all specific to the right/left side of the plane. These were simple but time consuming due to the number of doors. Next, I prepared the tails and stabilizers – these are two parts apiece and took some filler to get smooth. Each part is sizeable and fits along panels lines, so the design is good and it may have been me that caused some of the gaps. Anyway, a little filler and these were added to the plane.
Last before painting were the wings. Fit is good and there are separate leading edge slats and rear flaps. I added the wings to the fuselage and had my first issue. The wings attach via a lap joint and I could not get the seam to go away on the bottom – when the top fit well, there was a step at the bottom. The solution is easy. I used strip to spread the wing thickness until both sides matched perfectly. I used .10 strip and it took a couple pieces and in the end, there was no step at all. I did need putty to close the gap but only one application and the fit was good. No problem.
There are three choices for schemes – two Marine Corps planes and one of the test beds with a black tail. I elected to build the markings for VMFAT-501, which is all lo-viz. The primary color is FS36118 Gunship gray and I used Xtracolor enamels to lay down the paint. I touched up all the wheel bays and weapons bays with white. I also painted the inner and out door colors at this time. And then I masked to highlight the raised panel lines. And I masked some more and more again. It took a while but eventually, all the raised lines were masked with Tamiya tape. I them shot medium gray which took maybe 15 minutes total. This dried and I masked the antennae area on top and the nose and sprayed a light shade of medium gray. These colors had me concerned and I did it visually to match pictures on the Internet. I had also masked and sprayed the canopy at that time. A note here: the instructions call out FS36118 and then FS36622, which looked too light, so I went by eye.
I was concerned about the decals, as they were very flat, which proved unfounded. They worked perfectly and snuggled down very well. I flat-coated and applied a wash and some light pastels and another flat, and the main painting was done. I attached all the bottom doors first, along with the exhaust, landing gear, and wheels. The top doors were then added, and then the canopy. Under the nose is a small glass box used for targeting systems. The kit recommended clear orange and then Tamiya clear, but after looking at pictures, I might be tempted to used a bright gold and then some clear orange. This was added and I had a great representation of the next phase of Marine and Naval aviation.
This kit is great and it is hard to believe Kitty Hawk has only released a couple kits to date. Overall fit and finish is excellent and the subject matter is great. I do wish that there were some more color call outs in the instructions and that it did include the GBU's, but that is very minor. This kit is highly recommended. My thanks to Glen Coleman and Kitty Hawk Models for such a great choice of subjects and their superb execution. Go buy one – you will have a great time building this new jet!
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