Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II
A new tooled kit from Tamiya. It is the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II in 1/72nd scale. This is one of those “Must Buy” kind of kits.
In the Box
Out of the box, this kit has gray sprues labeled A-B, C-D and are connected by a single sprue frame. There are two (2) F sprues for ordnance and wheels. The upper fuselage-wing is on sprue G and the lower fuselage-wing is on sprue G2. A clear sprue labeled E has the canopy, EOTS cover fairing, and lights.
A pilot figure is included, and ordnance includes two (2) AIM-9X Sidewinder Missiles and four (4) GBU-12 Paveway II Bombs.
A large decal sheet is provided for three (3) schemes: USAF 34th FS, 388th FW (June 2022), JASDF 301st FS, 3rd Wing (September 2022), JASDF 302 FS, 3rd Wing (September 2022). For this review I chose to do the JASDF 301st FS.
Instructions are printed on a 16-page stapled spine booklet in black and white with 33 illustrated assembly steps. Illustrations are well done and logical. Also included is a fold-out color print (double sided) of how to place the decals and stencils. The illustrations are in 1/72nd scale so you can place the model directly next to the picture(s) to get “dead nuts” location for your decals. In addition, you get a printed masking set for the canopy, but you will need to cut out the shapes.
When reading the entire instructions, first, you will notice this F-35A kit has the potential for 3 flight ordnance modes. The first one is “Stealth Mode” and will have no external ordnance. The second is “Air-to-Air Mode” and will only have two (2) Sidewinder missiles. The third is “Beast Mode” which will have the Sidewinders and four (4) GBU-12 bombs. Also, you need to decide what ordnance mode you want since this will affect how many holes you will drill in the lower wing. Also, you need to decide if you want to install RCS (radar cross section) enhancers which are affixed during basic training exercises but are not used in live action or more complex exercises. This will determine if you drill holes in the upper and lower fuselage area (Step 1- part F3, Step 6 – parts A9 & A10). For this build I decided on “Beast Mode” and no RCS enhancers.
Note, compared to the 1/48th scale 2022 release of the F-35A from Tamiya, it does NOT have a weapons bay. This will make the build easier but may disappoint others who were anticipating the extra detail like its bigger 1/48th scale brethren.
This is an exceptional model right from the start. It took me about 2 hours to remove all the parts from the sprues, clean up the sprue nubs, and complete most of the sub-assemblies. Parts fit is engineered intelligently and hides nearly all the ejector pin marks and seam lines when glued together.
The cockpit is straight forward in assembly and the instrument decals fit perfectly over the raised plastic details, but a strong setting solution is needed to help settle the decals. I used Solvaset. The pilot fits perfectly into the seat and there is barely any gap between his hands and the instrument yokes. The fit is that precise.
The canopy is molded in clear plastic with no distortion. To obtain a yellow tint, I airbrushed the interior with a mixture of Tamiya Clear Yellow (X-24) and Thinner (X-20A).
The intake trunking and engine exhaust is straight forward in assembly, but you cannot see the engine intake once assembled. Make sure to paint all the parts before gluing together.
The fuselage-wings (G & G2) and control surfaces glued together precisely. If you do it right, there will be no filler to add to the seams.
RAM raised edges are crisp and very well molded and a few RAM decals are provided on the decal sheet. When looking at reference photos, the RAM color varies depending on when the picture was taken (color of material used) and angle of the sun. I wanted to have a little contrast with some of the upper RAM panels, so I meticulously masked them along with the control surfaces and painted a lighter shade of gray. Obviously painting, masking, and especially the decaling were the efforts that took the most time. But the masking results are worth it. If a 3rd party vendor generates a RAM masking set, I would advise getting it since it will be a time saver.
The ordnance is well molded with lots of crisp recessed detail. But do note there are a lot of decals for application. Eight (8) for each Sidewinder and eighteen (18) for each the GBU-12s.
The rest of the airplane was painted with Tamiya acrylics. I used XF-77 IJN Gray for the main dark gray color, XF-54 Dark Sea Gray for the lighter gray on the control surfaces and XF-83 Medium Sea Gray for the nose radome.
Once dry, a clear gloss coat was applied in preparation for decal application. Next, a clear satin acrylic coat was applied to protect the decals. Lastly, a light clear flat acrylic coat to tone down the satin.
For the final steps I installed the landing gear, bay doors, ordnance, and canopy and considered it done. I estimate I spent about 30 hours on this kit with most of it on masking, painting, and decaling. If you choose to not do the RAM contrast masking, then the effort will take less time.
I have built the 1/72nd scale kits of the Academy F-35A and Hasegawa F-35B. This Tamiya kit is head and shoulders above them. The kit overflows with quality. The engineering is catered to the plastic model hobbyist – it’s that good. This F-35A Lightning II was easy to build, logical in assembly and a pure joy to complete. Another high-quality kit from Tamiya. I have provided side-by-side pictures of the Academy kit along with a WWII P-38J Lightning for comparison and legacy.
I want to thank Tamiya for providing this wonderful kit. Also, I want to thank IPMS-USA Reviewers Corp for allowing me the opportunity to review and build the 1/72nd F-35A Lightning II.
Highly Recommend to EVERYONE!