by: Michael Satin [ ]
Originally published on:
The F-102, one of the famous Century Series of USAF fighters of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, was perhaps the first aircraft designed as a complete “weapons system”. Meant to combine airframe, engine, electronics (including radar and communications), and missiles the “Deuce”, as it became known in service, was to be a fully integrated interceptor to deal with the threat of Soviet planes carrying nuclear bombs. With its large delta wing and full complement of missiles and rockets, the plan was for the aircraft to take off and climb quickly (7.8 minutes to 50,000 feet), guided to the bombers by ground-based controllers. Once the pilot spotted the bad guys on his internal radar, he could take over the intercept and fire his 6 IR or radar guided AIM-4 Falcon missiles at the target. The 102 also carried up to twenty four 2.75 inch unguided rockets in 12 tubes in the missile bay doors for close-in work. Capable of speeds up to Mach 1.25, the F-102 had a range of approximately 1350 miles, depending on afterburner use.
Conceived as the ultimate answer to the concern about enemy bombers, the Convair design and associated Hughes fire control systems ran into problems from the outset. The area-rule concept for design of supersonic aircraft was a very new discovery at the time, and had to be incorporated into the airframe at a late stage of development. While this led to some odd bulges around the tail, it did allow the aircraft to exceed the speed of sound for the first time. The electronics required a great deal of design and re-design to work properly, and the end result was a system that didn’t quite live up to the hype. Finally the F-102A, the only fully operational fighter in the 102 series, was designated an “interim” interceptor, awaiting the F-102B (re-designated the F-106 due to the number of design changes) “ultimate” interceptor. Interestingly, the interim design was built in far larger numbers, 889 F-102A’s to 275 F-106A’s. The Deuce served in Air Defense Command, Air National Guard, USAF Europe and Pacific, and the air forces of Turkey and Greece. It also saw limited service in Vietnam. The last F-102 was withdrawn from US service in 1976, though many were converted to target drones and lasted until 1986.
From 1978 through 1990 Monogram released a series of 1/48 scale models of the Century Series of fighters, the F-100, 101, 102, 104, 105, and 106. The F-102 Delta Dagger was the last of the series produced as a kit. When they first started releasing these models with the F-104 they were considered state of the art; but the art evolved while Monogram’s molds did not (or at least not so much). Somewhat chunky detail and raised panel lines are the norm in these kits, though control surfaces are scribed. Decals in the original releases were good, if pretty thick. I built this kit when it was originally released, scribing the panel lines and painting it as an aircraft from the Iceland based 57th FIS. It was to reside at NORAD headquarters here in Colorado Springs. Whether it’s still there is unknown, to me anyway.
In 1986 Monogram and Revell were merged by a parent company and over the years kits have been re-released under both names. Nowadays you are most likely to find kits originally produced by either company appearing with the Revell brand on the box. At least in the case of the 1/48 scale F-102, the name is the only difference, the plastic is the same as it was originally. Indeed, this kit was also released under the short lived Pro-Modeler brand with some ground equipment and slightly modified plastic to depict an earlier “Case X” wing, one that still resides in my stash. The current release does away with the extra parts and reverts to the more common “Case XX” wings of the original kit. The most obvious difference is that the outside aileron edge on the later wing angles out towards the wing tip, while it was straight on the earlier version wing. In the photos on the right, the darker wing is the Pro-Modeler Case X, the lighter is the current Case XX. On the actual aircraft there are other differences as well including different angles to the landing gear and different camber on the leading edges. These changes were not made to the Pro-Modeler release.
Once you open the fairly deep and flimsy lid and tray box, you will find all the parts packed fairly tightly in one bag, though not filling the box by any means. The small clear tree is wrapped in its own small bag within the big one. There are 88 parts in all, 85 in light grey and 3 in clear plastic. Interestingly these are all listed on two pages in the instructions with each part named, a nice touch. The instruction sheet is an 8.5x11 booklet with 8 multi-section stages spread over eight pages. The last four pages are four view drawings of the color schemes, including an aircraft in ADC Gray from the Wisconsin Air National Guard in 1972 and one in the SEA scheme from the NY Air Guard in 1974. The decal sheet looks nice and sharp, much better than the original offerings from 1991, and includes stencils for the airframe and the Falcon missiles. Color call outs are either generic color names or Federal Standard numbers, no specific paint brands are listed.
Upon examining the parts you fairly quickly find that, being 26 years old, the molds are starting to show their age with somewhat softer details than the original and Pro-Modeler releases, and some flash here and there. Nothing you shouldn’t be able to handle quickly with a sharp knife. Not a lot of really fine parts, but a fair amount of detail molded in, especially in the weapons bay, wheel wells, and cockpit (though the instrument panel has blank gauges and no decal). Interestingly, the ejection seat has a molded on seat harness. I’d say this is ahead of its time, but frankly most manufacturers still don’t do this. There’s some nice detail molded in these areas and careful painting and weathering will pay off here. The landing gear is really quite nice!
Construction, interestingly, starts with the burner can, which is fairly deep and detailed. Not included in this kit is the optional F-100 style afterburner nozzle which was sometimes fitted in service and was included in the Pro-Modeler release. There is a little side wall detail molded into the fuselage sides, as well as some pretty massive mold ejector marks in the intakes which you should probably get rid of as they’ll show if you look inside. There are no intake trunk parts, though there is an engine front. Once the four part can is assembled, it is installed in the fuselage as are the insides of the aft part of the area-rule bulges, and then the fuselage halves are assembled. Decide now if you want the IR seeker head that was retro-fitted to the aircraft later in its career. The flashed over hole is ahead of the cockpit and the instructions don’t point it out. The vertical tail is molded attached to the fuselage with the full height on the port side and a shorter section on the starboard. While this helps create sharper edges, it also ensures a nasty seam on the starboard side which, as I recall from lo those many years ago, needs a lot of filler.
Only after the fuselage is together do you assemble the cockpit/nose gear combination. The cockpit has four parts: tub (which has the nose gear well roof molded to the bottom), stick, throttle and instrument panel. Again, not a lot of parts but decent detail molded in place. There’s a three part seat which can be installed later if that’s your thing (as can the control stick if so desired). The one piece nose gear wall part is added to the bottom and the whole thing is then installed in the fuselage.
Next up is the big delta wing. You first add the engine front and bulkhead piece to the front of the top wing, then flip it over and attach the fore and aft main gear walls. Again, a fair amount of gear well detail here which unfortunately does cause some sink marks on the top surface of the wing. Then the lower wing is added and the whole assembly glued to the fuselage. Don’t forget to open the holes in the lower wing if you want to add the included drop tanks. After the wing, you’re directed to add the intakes and then the landing gear, gear doors, and speed brake (which can be shown open or closed). I think I’d wait on these dangly bits until after painting, etc.
Then comes the weapons bay. The kit does come with a set of separate molded-closed doors if that’s your thing, but where’s the fun in that? As it was painted zinc chromate green with red and white missiles, it adds a lot of color to the model. This is a really nicely detailed area but, as I recall, fiddly. Six AIM-4 Falcons are included, three infra-red and three radar guided. The unguided rockets are molded into the fronts of the open bay doors. If you really like detail painting and weathering to bring out molded in detail, this is your place. If you like scratch building wiring, plumbing, etc., you can really go to town! Again, you may want to wait on all this until the main airframe is painted and, perhaps, decaled.
Finally, the clear parts are added, including the IR seeker, windscreen, and canopy. The canopy is made up of three parts including an inner framework (very nice) and can be built open or closed. Glue on the pitot probe and one piece radome (weight will be needed though not called for in the instructions), and you’re off to the paint shop.
This is the Monogram 1/48 F-102A as originally released, albeit with new and quite good decals. As mentioned above, fit on this kit is not world class. Work with filler and sanding sticks (or whatever your favorite tool is) will be necessary, as will rescribing if you don’t like raised panel lines. This was a nice model for its time and is still the best 1/48 scale F-102 out there. If more and better defined detail is what you’re after, the usual suspects (Aires, Eduard, Quickboost, Wolfpack, etc.) have released detail sets that are still available. Aftermarket decals seem to be mostly gone by now, though you might still be able to find some old SuperScale sheets out there. But out of the box the kit provides a fairly impressive replica of the USAF’s Interim Interceptor, especially for a 26 year old model.
Monogram’s 1/48 Century Series Fighters were a revelation when they were first released, allowing you to build big, detailed models of these famous second-generation jets. If you like delta wing aircraft, the F-102 is a natural. Ditto if you are a collector of early jet fighters and/or Century Series aircraft. At this point the F-100, 101, 104, 105, and 106 have all been updated with more modern toolings by various companies, including more detail and recessed panel lines. But, as with the original Monogram line, the poor 102 is still waiting. It’s hard to say whether this one will ever get a new kit, so if you’re a Deuce fan you’ll want to grab this release. With a $30 list price, it’s a cinch any new release will be a whole lot more expensive; and anyway, a little hard work never hurt anyone!