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McDD F/A-18D Hornet

Scale: 1/48th
Manufacturer: HobbyBoss
Ref No: 80322
Material: IM
UK Price: £36.99

McDD F/A-18D Hornet
McDD F/A-18D Hornet McDD F/A-18D Hornet McDD F/A-18D Hornet McDD F/A-18D Hornet
Kit Review
I’ve had this kit in my 'stash' from way back in 2008, when I worked for Richard on magazine stuff. He supplied it to me with a whole stack of aftermarket goodies and the plan was to do a full build article, showing off all the etched and resin details. Plans tend to go a bit sideways and since we moved over to Valiant Wings, the poor old Hornet sat in the attic as extra loft insulation. Fast forward to the present day and with the biggest gap I’ve had in my building schedule, it was time to finally get this beauty done and dusted.

The parts in the box come on eight big sprues of neatly done grey plastic and a couple of clear sprues, rounded off with a very nice looking set of decals for the three machines on offer. It all starts with the interior and the cockpit tubs. These are multi-part assemblies, with really nice looking ejection seats and plenty of crisp detail. All of which I scraped off into the bin to be replaced with the superb Eduard pre-painted instrumentation and ejection seat etched-fret sets. Adding this much etched detail was at once both a pleasure and a pain. Not only does it look great, provide more detail and at the correct scale but it’s difficult to work with, it takes much longer and it completely destroys the whole 'flow' of building and painting the model. I had four sets to do, one for the seats, one for the interior, one for exterior and one weapon set, not to mention new resin engine nozzles from Aires. I can tell you right now that I’ve learned a lesson here and I won’t be adding so much to one kit in the future because I ended up not liking this experience one little bit.
Anyway, back to the build and after painting and adding the new bits, the interior is sandwiched into the fuselage halves, split to give an upper and lower section. There is no fit issue here as everything slots into place very well. The plastic is hard and well moulded with some really good detail of it’s own, especially the wheel bays. There some issues around the separate nose however. It just doesn’t fit, being much too narrow in profile, so you end up with large steps on the fuselage sides. If I’d known this before hand and before I fitted a mass of etched stuff to it, I would have used a thin wedge of plastic card, set between the nose halves to make it a little wider. Oh well, out with the filler. There are more fit problems with the intakes and the areas around the main wheel bays, which a re separate inserts. Basically the intake shape and profile is all wrong and the wrap-around sections for the bays just don’t work too well. All of this is made worse by various additions of etched bits trying to be wedged into the right spot and not breaking them off with all the trial fits and trims. Not much fun. The basic shape of the airframe comes together pretty quickly, even with the inaccurate shapes of various parts it looks like a Hornet and the detail is nice enough to carry it off in the end. Talking about such things, I must stress that I’m in no way an expert on the F/A-18, so as long as it has the right sit to everything I’ll be happy enough.
One truly excellent part of the kit is the weapons load out that is possible, as you have a very wide selection of stores to choose from. This includes the AIM-9 and AIM-7, JDAM and GBU-10, Mk 82 iron bombs and AGM-84 and AGM-88 missiles and no less than three types of mission pod; AN/AAS-38 T-FLIR, AAR-50 Thermal imaging and AN/ASQ-173 LST/SCAM, Laser tracker. All of that and not to mention three fuel tanks!
Colour & Markings
The Navy aircraft of this time period had fairly standardised paint schemes, with lots of varying shades of grey of course. This could lead to some bland choices but Hobby Boss have made a first class choice in the three options on offer in this box. Option 1 is from VMFA-225 'Vikings', which has some full colour art on the tail. Option 2 is from VFA-106 'Gladiators' and option 3 is VMFA-533 'Hawks'. I loved option 3 the moment I saw it, with the dramatic hawk emblem and checkerboard rudder. It’s a pity therefore that Hobby Boss didn’t get the details right and the Hawk emblem is nothing like the real thing! Good job I’ve got some decal print paper to make my own. Anyway, the paint job is fairly simple, with a good primer and then two colours, FS 36320 Dark Ghost Grey on the upper surface and FS36375 Light Ghost Grey on the underside. HobbyBoss give you the colours as Gunze-Sangyop references, which makes it easier.
These aircraft in service have quite a tough life on their carrier deployments, being constantly roughed up by the elements and touched up by the ground crew. This means that you can have a bewildering array of actual shades of grey appearing on these aircraft, so if you want to make it look like it’s ready for the scrap-heap, then you go ahead. I stayed fairly clean, with just a few different shades used and with the contrasting walkway panels on the upper surface and the Insignia White interior parts it certainly has a lot of character.
Now, those decals, other than the inaccurate Hawk emblem, they work really well. It’s made even better by the fact that these are quite old and made back in the days when you could scrub the carrier film off with some white spirit and a cotton bud. No idea why HobbyBoss/Trumpeter changed that but I know you can’t do that with the more modern releases.
Weathering is done primarily with Tamiya X-19 Smoke and a little light application of pastel dust, relying mainly on the oil wash to tie it all together and make it look rather more ‘lived in’.
Final Details
Where to start? Looking at the amount of bits left over after the paint you’d swear I’d only built half the kit! Obviously, the most important of these bits are the undercarriage units and while they all have positive location on the model, the slightly complex build of the main units is a bit of a problem. For some reason, they have this little stub axle for the wheel unit to fit to and getting it aligned properly is almost impossible. A very poor bit of engineering. After plenty of cursing it kind of goes together which allows you to get on with the rest of the stuff. There are no less than ten undercarriage doors, as well as the struts to go with them. Plenty of little aerials, not to mention whatever weapons you’ve decided on. I went for a SEAD type mission with an AGM-88 HARM and a couple of Mk 82s, not to mention the ubiquitous Sidewinders for self-defence. Any of the weaponry in the box looks like it’s a half decent representation of the real thing, so with careful painting they’ll look fine. 
Once the left-overs are all in place, the kit gets a good coat of XDFF flat varnish, which ties it all together nicely. Then its on with the final part and a tricky one it is too; the canopy. The clear parts in this kit are good, as always from HobbyBoss and although it’s not quite the right shape, the main canopy will look good once fitted. Obviously this means a lot of preparation, as there are quite a few etched parts to be fitted. I also replaced the support/actuator strut with a cut down hypodermic needle for extra strength, as it’s a very big single-piece canopy.
With that in place I’m calling this Hornet ready for inspection.

This kit is getting on a bit now and it’s been sat there for so long patiently waiting, so it was about time I finished it. The detail is good and it goes together fairly well. It’s a pity about the inaccurate engine intakes but at least it still looks like a proper Hornet. I have learned my lesson with the etched sets though, there was just too much of it thrown at this model and it ended up as a trial of patience, rather than anything enjoyable. Right then, what’s next in the stash…?

Thanks to Dai Willis for supplying the kit.

Paints used
Alclad II
ALC-600 Aqua Gloss
ALC103 dark Aluminium
ALC-113 Jet Exhaust
ALC-121 Burnt Iron

Gunze-Sangyo Aqueous Hobby Color acrylic:
H307 Dark Ghost Grey
H308 Light Ghost Grey
H316 Insignia White
H317 Dark Gull Grey
H318 Radome Tan

Tamiya acrylic:
X-7 Red
X-18 Semi-Gloss Black
X-19 Smoke.

Vallejo acrylic:
62.020 Black
71.062 Aluminium

Xtracolor enamel:
ZDFF Matt Varnish