F/A-18A Hornet Blue Angels
At the end of World War II Admiral Chester Nimitz ordered the formation of the Blue Angels flight demonstration team to showcase Naval Aviation. In June 1946 the Blue Angles flew their first show with the Grumman F6F Hellcat. In 1986 they completed their 40th anniversary season when the team transitioned from the McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawk II to the F/A-18 Hornet. The main difference between the Blue Angles F/A-18 and their combat brethren is the removal of the weapons systems and the addition of the smoke generator system. The system consists of a tube on the left engine that injects paraffin based oil into the exhaust. The oil produces a white smoke making it easier for spectators to follow the maneuvers.
The parts of this kit are molded in a Medium gray, slightly grainy plastic packaged in 3 plastic bags. Two of the bags hold the gray plastic sprues. (One contains three trees and the second contains two duplicate trees of parts like the ejection seats, fuel tanks, wheels, struts and exhaust nozzles.) The last bag holds the clear parts. This tree is a heavy sprue due to the multiple component mold which allows for the subtle undercut of the canopy. There are approximately 130 parts, of which almost half are unused. They have excellent surface detail with finely engraved panel lines and few visible ejector pin marks or flash. The only exceptions are ejector pin marks on the wing tip missile rails that need to be filled. The parts layout is well thought out to model the subtle elegant curves of the F-18 and, as you might expect, the wings have the proper wing tip washout. However, all that comes at a cost. It will take more care to keep parts in line when assembling. That is especially true of the lower nose that holds the cockpit tub. It needs to set while it is being temporarily held to the upper fuselage.
The instructions are well illustrated with 15 steps on six pages which I generally followed; deviating only when it came to the small bits and color separated pieces. There is also a parts layout page showing each of the sprues.
The decals are printed in Italy by Cartograf and have a 2010 copyright date. As with any Blue Angle kit the yellow over that dark blue paint is worrisome. Is the yellow going to be too thin to cover? Not a problem. The decals were very opaque and the yellow was printed on a background of white to help them stand out. Because of that the yellow decals are thick and hard to settle down, especially around compound curves. I used Solvaset in strength increments and found that full strength worked well and did not distort the decals.
The fuselage is made of 10 beautifully detailed pieces. A lot of thought went into the molding because the part edges follow panel lines and almost disappear when glued in place. There are many surface features that need to be cut off or filled in, such as formation lights and various antennas to make the Blue Angle version. The instructions did not indicate filling the four external stores pylon mounting holes on the bottom of the wings was also necessary. The cockpit tub does have raised detail, but it is fairly sparse. The ejection seat is made up of 4 separate pieces with the shoulder harness molded in but no lap belts. The canopy is molded very thin and clear with no distortions. It has a slight center seam that needs to be polished out. It only took a few licks with my polishing stick to accomplish the task.
This is a well-planned and engineered kit. Even with all of the complexities of the F-18 design, the parts fit together very well which made the building of this kit an absolute pleasure.
I want to thank the kind folks at Model Rectifier Corporation for making this kit available for review.