The General Atomics MQ-1B (L) Predator is an unmanned aerial vehicle or UAV that is used mostly by the United States Air Force, but units have also been purchased by the Central Intelligence Agency, the Italian Air Force, and the Royal Air Force. Conceived in the early 1990’s as part of the General Atomics GNAT project, the first MQ-1 flew in 1994, and the aircraft have been in service since 1995. The Predators have been deployed to several locations (mostly classified) in the middle-east as well as Bosnia, Serbia, and some African nations. The aircraft has also been used by civilian organizations for border patrols and scientific studies.
The B variant of the MQ-1 is the later rendition of the A, which is equipped with two underwing pylons, and is typically loaded with two AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, but can also carry four AIM-92 Stinger missiles instead. The current production B’s include updated avionics, data links, and countermeasures, and also have modified tail planes (to avoid potential damage from weapons deployment) along with a six foot increase in wingspan. These aircraft also have deicing equipment based upon some early Predator losses that were attributed to the build-up of ice.
The MQ-1B (L) is twenty-seven feet long, has a wingspan of fifty-five feet, three inches, and is six feet, nine inches tall. Powered by a 115 hp Rotax 914F four-cylinder engine, the Predator is advertised as having a maximum speed of 135 mph, a cruise speed between 81 and 103 mph and a range of greater than 675 miles at 25,000 feet with an endurance of 24 hours.
This is actually the third Predator that I have built, the previous two were Platz models released through Accurate Miniatures of the unarmed, and armed versions of the aircraft. Only one sprue was changed compared to the earlier kits that I built, and the decal sheet was revamped to include more color items than my previous builds, but these are not mentioned for use in the markings portion of the directions.
Upon opening the box for this kit, the builder will find three plastic sprues inside a plastic bag; the C and D sprues are formed together. The plastic used by Platz is soft, gray, and resembles the texture seen on Dragon kit plastic. There is a single piece of paper for the directions, which is accomplished in four steps, and painting and decaling instructions, along with a nice sheet of decals. There are a mere 30 parts for this kit, and there will only be a left over antenna when the model is completed. The construction is straight forward, and I appreciate that the folks at Platz mention adding weight to the nose of the fuselage, as my first Predator is a tail-sitter since I did not know this, or think of checking before cementing the upper and lower fuselage halves together. I used a small fishing weight to keep my front landing gear in use, and this seems to be an adequate mass to accomplish this feat.
As with my previous builds of this aircraft, the construction is clean overall, and the one fit issue that I experienced was with the propeller and nose cone, as mine fit loosely on this kit (I had not previously experienced this issue). I had one spot where a sprue attachment point left a divot in the fuselage when I cut it, and this required some Mr. Surfacer 500 to resolve. My sample also had a couple of small blemishes where the surface texture was a little rough in one spot on the wing and one spot on the fuselage, but this was easily cleaned up with some wet sanding using a piece of 600 grit sandpaper. I did elect to open the intakes for the engine using my Dremel tool along with some small diameter drill bits. To install the two small intakes on top of the engine, I actually left the intakes on the drill bit until they were in place as a pair of tweezers would likely launch the parts rather than hold them.
In order to skip the step of applying a gloss coat, I painted my Predator with Model Master Acryl Gloss Gull Gray (FS 16440) then applied my decals. I used sludge washes for the panel lines which consisted of a dark gray for the wings and a light gray for the fuselage. I painted the Hellfire missiles and landing gear Model Master Acryl Semi-Gloss Black (this can have decals applied directly to it as well), the gear bays are Acryl Aircraft Interior Black, and the tires are Vallejo Dark Rubber. Before installing the landing gear, I sprayed the Predator with a coat of Micro Flat to obtain the desired finish. I dotted the navigation lights with Humbrol Enamel Chrome, then added Tamiya Clear Red and Clear Green for the covers. The sensor covers in the nose piece were all painted gloss black for this scale.
For my hits I would have to mention the addition of several color decals not available on the Accurate Miniatures releases as well as the newer style of antenna for the top and bottom of the fuselage. The small intakes for the top of the engine are nicely done as are the moldings in general for these kits. The panel lines are reasonably light overall, especially around the forward fuselage. The Hellfire missiles are also nicely molded, and the decals included for them are well done for such small lettering, as are the decals for the forward sensor on the fuselage chin.
The first miss that I will mention include that the wingspan is a scale six feet, three inches short of the fifty-five feet, three inches mentioned in a USAF diagram I found during my research. The wingspan is appropriate for the earlier versions of the Predator, both the RQ-1 and MQ-1A. The second miss is that markings are included for a white NASA predator used for research, but the aircraft used by NASA has a lower profile Fuselage up front, and the only upper fuselage piece in the kit is for the standard RQ-1/MQ-1 (this is shown correctly in the markings directions, but again, there is no part included to make this aircraft). There appear to be two different tails used for the Predator, and I have not found a definitive reference on this, but I believe that the MQ-1B should have a cutout on the upper portion of the tails (starting at the fuselage, and continuing about 1/3 of the way down).
Overall, I would still highly recommend this kit to any modeler wanting to add a really nice Predator in 1/72 scale to their collection. There do appear to be some issues with this kit properly representing the MQ-1B as advertised; based upon my research anyway, but the level of detail is very good overall. I would like to thank the folks at MRC - Model Rectifier Corp. 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.