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F/A 18E Super Hornet

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Meng 1/48 F/A 18 E Super Hornet 


Price: approx £63.00 



The Super Hornet is an evolutionary redesign of the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet. The Super Hornet's unique wing and tail configuration can be traced back to an internal Northrop project P-530, c. 1965; this had started as a substantial rework of the lightweight F-5E with a larger wing, twin tail fins and a distinctive leading edge root extension (LERX). Later flying as the Northrop YF-17 "Cobra", it competed in the United States Air Force's Lightweight Fighter (LWF) program to produce a smaller and simpler fighter to complement the larger McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle; the YF-17 lost the competition to the YF-16.

The Navy directed that the YF-17 be redesigned into the larger F/A-18 Hornet to meet a requirement for a multi-role fighter to complement the larger and more expensive Grumman F-14 Tomcat serving in fleet defense interceptor and air superiority roles. The Hornet proved to be effective but limited in combat radius. The concept of an enlarged Hornet was first proposed in the 1980s, which was marketed by McDonnell Douglas as Hornet 2000. The Hornet 2000 concept was an advanced F/A-18 with a larger wing and a longer fuselage to carry more fuel and more powerful engines.

The end of the Cold War led to a period of military budget cuts and considerable restructuring. At the same time, U.S. Naval Aviation faced a number of problems. The McDonnell Douglas A-12 Avenger II was canceled in 1991 after the program ran into serious problems; it was intended to replace the obsolete Grumman A-6 Intruder and LTV A-7 Corsair II. The Navy considered updating an existing design as a more attractive approach to a clean-sheet program. As an alternative to the A-12, McDonnell Douglas proposed the "Super Hornet" (initially "Hornet II" in the 1980s), an improvement of the successful previous F/A-18 models, which could serve as an alternate replacement for the A-6 Intruder. The next-generation Hornet design proved more attractive than Grumman's Quick Strike upgrade to the F-14 Tomcat, which was regarded as an insufficient technological leap over existing F-14s.

At the time, the Grumman F-14 Tomcat was the Navy's primary air superiority fighter and fleet defense interceptor. Then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney described the F-14 as 1960s technology, and drastically cut back F-14D procurement in 1989 before cancelling production altogether in 1991, in favor of the updated F/A-18E/F. The decision to replace the Tomcat with an all-Hornet Carrier Air Wing was controversial; Vietnam War ace and Congressman Duke Cunningham criticized the Super Hornet as an unproven design that compromised air superiority. In 1992, the Navy canceled the Navy Advanced Tactical Fighter (NATF), which would have been a navalized variant of the Air Force's Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor. As a cheaper alternative to NATF, Grumman proposed substantial improvements to the F-14 beyond Quick Strike, but Congress rejected them as too costly and reaffirmed its commitment to the less expensive F/A-18E/F.

Testing and production

The Super Hornet was first ordered by the U.S. Navy in 1992. The Navy retained the F/A-18 designation to help sell the program to Congress as a low-risk "derivative", though the Super Hornet is largely a new aircraft. The Hornet and Super Hornet share many characteristics, including avionics, ejection seats, radar, armament, mission computer software, and maintenance/operating procedures. The initial F/A-18E/F retained most of the avionics systems from the F/A-18C/D's configuration at the time. The design would be expanded in the Super Hornet with an empty weight slightly greater than the F-15C.

The Super Hornet first flew on 29 November 1995. Initial production on the F/A-18E/F began in 1995. Flight testing started in 1996 with the F/A-18E/F's first carrier landing in 1997. Low-rate production began in March 1997 with full production beginning in September 1997. Testing continued through 1999, finishing with sea trials and aerial refueling demonstrations. Testing involved 3,100 test flights covering 4,600 flight hours. The Super Hornet underwent U.S. Navy operational tests and evaluations in 1999,  and was approved in February 2000.

Four F/A-18Fs of VFA-41 "Black Aces" in a trail formation. The first and third aircraft have AN/ASQ-228 ATFLIR pods, and the last aircraft has a buddy store tank

With the retirement of the F-14 in 2006, all of the Navy's combat jets have been Hornet variants until the F-35C Lightning II entered service. The F/A-18E single-seat and F/A-18F two-seat aircraft took the place of the F-14 Tomcat, A-6 Intruder, Lockheed S-3 Viking, and KA-6D aircraft. An electronic warfare variant, the EA-18G Growler, replaces the EA-6B Prowler. The Navy calls this reduction in aircraft types a "neck-down". During the Vietnam War era, the Super Hornet's roles were performed by a combination of the A-1/A-4/A-7 (light attack), A-6 (medium attack), F-8/F-4 (fighter), RA-5C (recon), KA-3/KA-6 (tanker), and EA-6 (electronic warfare). It was anticipated that $1 billion in fleetwide annual savings would result from replacing other types with the Super Hornet. The Navy considers the Super Hornet's acquisition a success, meeting cost, schedule, and weight (400 lb, 181 kg below) requirements.

Improvements and changes

The Block II Super Hornet incorporates an improved active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, larger displays, the joint helmet mounted cueing system, and several other avionics replacements. Avionics and weapons systems that were under development for the prospective production version of the Boeing X-32 were used on the Block II Super Hornet.  New-build aircraft received the APG-79 AESA radar beginning in 2005. In January 2008, it was announced that 135 earlier production aircraft were to be retrofitted with AESA radars.

In 2008, Boeing discussed the development of a Super Hornet Block III[25] with the U.S. and Australian military, featuring additional stealth capabilities and extended range. In 2010, Boeing offered prospective Super Hornet customers the "International Roadmap", which included conformal fuel tanks, enhanced engines, an enclosed weapons pod (EWP), a next-generation cockpit, a new missile warning system, and an internal infra-red search and track (IRST) system. The EWP has four internal stations for munitions, a single aircraft can carry a total of three EWPs, housing up to 12 AMRAAMs and 2 Sidewinders. The next-generation cockpit features a 19 x 11-inch touch-sensitive display. In 2011, Boeing received a US Navy contract to develop a new mission computer.

In 2007, Boeing stated that a passive Infrared Search and Track (IRST) sensor would be an available future option. The sensor, mounted in a modified centerline fuel tank, detects long wave IR emissions to spot and track targets such as aircraft; combat using the IRST and AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles is immune to radar jamming. In May 2009, Lockheed Martin announced its selection by Boeing for the IRST's technology development phase, and a contract followed in November 2011. As of September 2013, a basic IRST would be fielded in 2016 and a longer-range version in 2019; sequestration cuts in 2013 could cause two years of delays. An F/A-18F performed a flight equipped with the IRST system in February 2014, and Milestone C approval authorizing low-rate initial production (LRIP) was granted in December 2014.

The Kit, 

When this was announced it was to my mind the 4th 1/48 Super Hornet kit produced with the Revell/Monogram, Hasegawa and Italeri kits being available there has since this one was annouced an anouncement of a Hobby Boss kit also. I have attempted the Revell and Italeri kit in the past and neither ended well and a lot of this is down to the compound curves of the airframe and fit issues assoicated with it I can't comment on the Hasegawa kit but i believe it is also a tricky build. with a certain film being released it is no surprise to see these kits being released at the moment so lets have a look what we have inside the substantial lid opening box: 

  • Separately moulded fuselage halves with integral top wing sections
  • 17 sprues in medium grey plastic
  • 6 clear sprues 
  • 3 Sprues of polythene caps 
  • 2 decal sheets 
  • Photo etched burner ignition rings and cockpit deck 
  • Pre-cut Masks for the canopy and wheels
  • Insert cards with aircraft history 

In this there are the following features:

  • Separate control surfaces 
  • Option of folded wings 
  • A pilot figure with various poses 
  • A full weapons load out including air to air and air to ground.
  • Drop tanks 
  • Decal options for 4 markings including the option from Top Gun 2 and another colourful CAG aircraft

Fuselage halves

On first glance things look very promosing here, one of the big problems with other kits of this aircraft I have built is the fit aroud the leading edge root extentions (LERX) there appears that the fit here will be very positive with very large locating pins. Panel Line detail is heavier than that on the Italeri and Revell Kits but not overly so. On looking at the tooling there looks like there will be an F/G somewhere along the line. There are separate plug in inserts for the the Ram air ducts on the rear fuselage for either a Block 1 or 2 airframe. 



Sprue A 

On here are the forward fuselage halves and rear fuselage sections, and it looks like the fit here will be positive, some of this is down to the nature of the shape of the aircraft good precision CAD design should pay dividends here. until i put things together I wont comment on how it fits but looking at it it looks good. also on here are intake fences, nosecone, various cockpit parts including a separate coaming. of note is the instrument panel which looks incredibly good. with the control coloumn i'm not sure about it but I need to do some more digging to establish its accuracy. 




Sprue B 

Flying surfaces and are on here and as I mentioned beforethe moulding looks very nice here, if it all fits well this will be good stuff, the rudders are moulded separate to the fins and the flaps and slats are also separate allowing for plenty of interest. 


Sprue C

Intakes, undercarriage bays, and undercarriage legs are on here, firstly the intake trunking; two part trunking here with an intake face on the rear end and split vertically moving across to diagonally so that the seams goin in the corners of the squared of intakes, a nice touch meaning things can be easier to blend in, the trunkig sits back from the openinf which will also help with the seams. the trunks then sit on top of the main undercarriage bays these bays are 3 part assemblies with some lovely moulding in here, with these being white inside the detail wit good weathering and shading will pay dividends here. the nose wheel bay is the same and has separate trunking and pipework meaning this will be easier to paint.  Undercarriage legs look very well done and show the sturdy construction of naval aircraft undercarriage. wheels look very well done here as do the undercarriage doors. 



Sprue D x 2 

On this sprue there is drop Tanks, Wheels, Burner cans, tail planes, seat and a minature Tom Cruise although even in 1/48 he looks a little tall. the seat is a multi part affair and if you are putting a figure in the kit will be fine, if not you will either need to buy a set of seat belts or even a resin seat not that there is anything wrong with the seat but GWH with there flankers have proved that seatbelts on modern jets can be done. Burner cans look good enough for this aircraft as there isn't lots of bare metal around the engine and the burner cans are nicely compact, good painting will bring enough out to make these acceptable. added to this Photo etched  afterburner rings  and all will be pretty good. Drop tanks and pylons look very nicely detailed with cut outs in them for metal pins. these pins allow for pluggable weapons so you can swap from one to the other, a very nice touch but my worry with all of these things is what will repeated handling do to the rest of the model, id be tempted to put one set on and leave it with more stores for the spares box. the Engine faces are on these sprues and will be fine for how buried they are in the intake bay, but I'm sure there will be some nice resin replacements on their way. The figure is nicely moulded with different helmets and different arms for various poses, this will also work with a future F18 F/G when it comes. Tailplanes are held on with poly caps, a nice touch particularly for painting. 



Sprue E 

Single seater specific parts for the cockpit are on this sprue with the cockpit tub canopy frame and rear spine for the fuselage. The  cockpit tub is nicely moulded with nice detail, I have heard and read there is something missing but for the life of me I'm not enough of an F18 expert to be able to tell. behind the cockpit sits a PE grill which will add hugely to the detail behind there. all in all looking good 



Sprue F 

Heres where the Meng kit really scores for the first time over the other kits out there, the wings two sturdy brackets for setting the wings either folded or unfolded, the lower wing sections are pre drilled so you won't forget Like I did on my Flanker. Also on sprue F is an AN/ASQ -228 LD pod which sits on one of the fuselage hardpoints. Again detail is very nice here some people have bemoaned lack of rivet detail in places but to be honest it would be fine for me. 


Weapons sprues

Now this is nice, weapons in the kit and in the kit there are the following weapons:

  • 2X GBU 24 laser guided bombs with clear lenses for the nose of the bomb and separate fins, fitted into this are poly caps that allow for the intechanging of these for Other LGB's or Drop tanks
  • 2X GBU 16 with features as above 
  • Separate drop tanks with featues as above
  • AIM 9M X2 (be careful these don't appear to be used with Block 2 or 3 airframes)
  • AIM 9X X2 
  • AIM 120C AMRAAMS X3 

The 9X and 120's are single piece mouldings and nicely done at that with the Heatseekers including clear lenses on the noses. 


Clear parts 

Very clear with 2 separate lenses for the HUD and a lens for the AN/ASQ pod. the canopy parts are nice and clear but they will need tinting slightly. There is a seam down the canopy meaning the correct Omega profile of the canopy is maintained. 


Also in the box there is the photo etch parts for burner rings and cockpit decking, I can't help but wonder why they didn't include seatbelts or rear view mirrors in the photo etch, a set of pre cut tape masks for the canopy and wheels. 



2 sheets printed by Cartograf with one sheet for weapons and another for the marking schemes. If you don't like stencils you may want to look away now as there are lots of them in accordance with the trent of printing the maintenece manual on the airframe rather than in a book. To be honest here I have now grown to not mind doing this i stick some music on pour a glass of my favourite whiskey and do the stencils first then markings afterwards. on to the marking schemes ( I have a feeling a lot of people will go AM on this anyway) the choices are 

  • CAPT James McCall CAG VFA 31 "Tomcatters" USS George H.W. Bush 2017 
  • LCDR Carlisle Lustenberger VFA 31 "Tomcatters" USS Gerorge H.W. Bush 2009 
  • LCDR R.J. Prescott VFA 87 "Golden warriors" USS George H.W. Bush 2017
  • The Topgun 2 aircraft although not called this for copyright reasons. this scheme raises eybrows because of the very styleised stars and bars used. 



30 Pages of very clean instructions that are easy to follow and very clear. Colour call outs are from the AK range and the Acrysion range of Paints (not a brand of Paint I'm familiar with) I am disappointed that Federal standard colours arent referenced so a bit of research will be needed, no real biggie but it is an issue that will make things a bit more awkward. 



this kit is always going to be compared to the Hasegawa kit, well without building the kit I have to say that in my mind the much praised Hasegawa kit has a real challenger to its crown, and if it builds nicely i would say probably superior. the plus points for me are: 

  • Weapons included in the kit, 
  • Beautiful surface detail 
  • Great quality Decals, 
  • Wing folds without needing to cut the wings off

To me this makes this far better value over the other kits out there (perhaps with the exception of the Revell kit, although this is a different ball park to that kit) the Hasegawa kit is the same price (roughly) but needs weapons and most will buy aftermarket decals for the kit meaning that the kit is better value added to that you can now build a Block 2 which the older kits will not allow you to do due to the age of the kits, add into this that the other kits are a tricky build and if this builds well you have a great kit, great but not perfect (no kit is). drawbacks are there but they are small and insignificant, mainly for whats not included, I would expect at this price point a seatbelts of some sort, I would also expect some of the canopy detail on the inside, at least mirrors. but these are small beer and I'm sure someone will produce some, I will probably invest in a resin seat and I have various decal sheets already due to my failed attempts at building other kits, but to be honest I quite fancy one of the low-vis schemes. 

Highly recommended, Buy one, Buy an F or G when they come out as well 

Review sample courtesy of MY wallet and thanks to Duncan at BlackMike models for supplying me with this kit.

If you would like a review of your product carried out fairly then please get in touch with us at allscalemodeller.com either on the facebook page or E-mail allscalemodeller@gmail.com

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  • 8 months later...
9 hours ago, benobi said:

This kit is excellent, I had almost no issues while building F version. You just need some minor fillings here and there. I'm thinking about buying E and G versions, too.

I had the same with this one its a true work of art I have a G on pre order 

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