by: Vance [ ]
Originally published on:
INTRODUCTIONThe USAF aggressor squadrons have long been known for having some of the most colorful aircraft in the modern US military. In mimicking the camouflage patterns of potential adversaries, these dissimilar training units often go a little over the top to make their mounts even more striking. Such is the case with the 18th aggressor squadron, based at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska. The 18th,a subordinate unit of the 354th Fighter Wing, has a proud lineage starting in 1939, and were re-designated the 18th Aggressor Squadron on August 24, 2007. In addition to the standard three-tone blue/gray/blue and tan/brown/green wrap around schemes, the 18th uses their often snow laden location as justification to operate a very striking white/gray/black camouflage as well.
THE KITHasegawa has released their “F-16C Fighting Falcon ‘Alaska’” kit to represent the aircraft of the 18th. The centerpiece of this release is the extensive decal sheet, which allows you to do any of seven aircraft belonging to the 18th Aggressors. Any of the three wrap-around camouflage color schemes (blue/gray/blue, tan/brown/green, and white/gray/black) used by the squadron can be done using the decals provided. Interestingly, two of the aircraft on the decal sheet (AF-86268 and AF-86282) are not listed in the otherwise very detailed painting guide. If you want to do 286, you will also have to take the yellow and red “soviet style” aircraft numbers from the decals for AF-86298, cut them in half, and turn the “9” from the “98” upside down to form the “68” code that is missing from the decals.
Besides a small sheet of self-adhesive metal etch parts for seven small exterior panels that are new (to me anyway, perhaps they have been included for a while?), the kit is otherwise identical to their standard F-16C kit, which includes intakes and engines for both the Pratt & Whitney and General Electric powered variants.
Starting from block 30, all F-16 production block numbers ending in “0” have the GE engine and the wide mouth intake, and all ending in “2” have the P&W engine and normal intake. By comparing the serial numbers of the aircraft represented on the decal sheet to USAF records (searchable online), it can be determined that all the options given in the kit should have the GE engine and wide mouth intake, which is what the kit instructions dictate (the P&W optional parts are still included in the kit). It is nice to see Hasegawa was consistent in this, as apparently the 18th does operate some P&W powered aircraft, and a mix could easily have confused many modelers, leaving them with potentially inaccurate builds. Also, the Hasegawa multi-piece rendition of the GE tailpipe is superior to their attempt at the P&W tailpipe, which is a much older casting and is molded as a single piece.
The canopy provided with the kit is clear, with a seam running down the middle. This seam is (or at least was) an unavoidable molding limitation (molding technology has come a long way) and needs to be cleaned up by light sanding with very fine grit sand paper and polished smooth before use. While Hasegawa has delivered tinted canopies with their F-16 models before, some of the aircraft from the decal sheet have lightly tinted canopies and others do not. It will be up to the modeler to either darken the canopy with clear smoke tint or find one of the tinted canopies in circulation as a replacement for those birds that require a tinted dome. The smaller transparent parts (various beacons and the HUD) are covered with a substantial amount of molding flash. The clear sprue was properly packaged in its own cellophane to protect it from scratches while in the box.
One disadvantage of this kit that Hasegawa has evidently included in other F-16 aggressor/adversary kits is the ACMI pod is not provided. Tamiya was sharp enough to include this in their competing release of 18th Aggressor Squadron aircraft. While one can be fashioned or found elsewhere easily enough, this is serious omission since the ACMI pod is a ubiquitous feature on any modern aggressor aircraft.
Regarding the kit in general, if you are interested in F-16s at all, there is a fair chance you have built this kit, and not a whole lot has changed since it was first produced. While it was a top of the line kit in 1990s, it’s much newer competitors from Tamiya and Kinetic do have an edge on it now. However, this is one of the most successful Hasegawa kits of all time for a reason, and it still results in a solidly reasonably accurate build without undue problems even by today’s high standards. A little flash is starting to show on the older sprues. The cockpit is acceptable and can even look reasonably good with just the addition of an after-market ejection seat (the kit seat is not really up to the task given how visible it is through the canopy dome). By today’s standards, the external stores pylons are a bit naïve. The wheel wells are none to exciting, but provide a good framework for super-detailing. A more than reasonable supply of missiles and fuel tanks come with the kit.
SUMMARYThis kit extends a long line of Hasegawa F-16s and provides a lovely and quite large decal sheet that represents the 18th Aggressor Squadron quite nicely. Despite the few drawbacks (mainly the missing ACMI pod and the fact that the kit is getting on in years), this is a time tested kit that keeps selling and continues to produce fine replicas in the hands of even moderately skilled modelers. I am looking forward to spraying that high contrast white/gray/black camouflage scheme and seeing it in my display cabinet (though my poor gray on gray Texas ANG F-16A might get jealous).
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