Price: S$25.00 (est. US$15.00)
The Powered GM variant of the RGM-79C was developed by the Federation as a testbed for an enhanced backpack that provided very powerful thrust and acceleration. To compliment this enhancement, the legs were mounted with improved shocked absorbers. Because of this, the Powered GM looks more heavily armored externally, which wasn’t the case since the bulkiness was mainly due to the mounting of the backpack control systems and further improvements to the structure of the RGM-79C. At least 3 units were tested with this modification in the Torrington base facility in Australia in UC 0083.
The Powered GM is my favorite variant of the Federation grunt MS. It appeared in the OVA 0083: Stardust Memory’s first 2 episodes. There is currently no injection kit of the Powered GM (what’s available are the expensive resin kits). The closest we can get is the RGM-79C GM Kai released by Bandai in the MG line. A lot of conversion work needs to be done to get a Powered GM though. Luckily for this lazy modeler, along came Akohobby and G-Options, who produced an excellent conversion set which was:
The conversion parts came in two very nicely molded trees in a medium gray color. Advanced notice from a good friend of mine Evo (he of the masterfully done Gundam kits in the Guest Gallery) says that the fit is very good with no puttying required. But then again, he almost always NEVER needs puttying in his kits.
Initial impressions so far are positive. There are no visible flash or warped plastic to be found. While the panel lines seem a bit on the thick and deep side, these are negligible problems since the MG kit that is required for this set doesn’t have too many panel lines that will make the discrepancy obvious.
The animated version of the Powered GM didn’t come with any special markings except for a very unique orange and white color scheme (see lineart above). But that won’t stop anyone from making some custom markings for this badass. It certainly won’t stop me .
Akohobby’s website has some images of what the converted GM Kai would look like as a Powered GM. Do check it out.
Preview courtesy of my wallet
Price: S$20.00 (est. US$11.00)
One of the most produced aircraft in the world, the McDonnell Douglas Phantom II is still being operated by some Air Forces (through upgrades) even though the design dates back to the 1950s. The Phantom II is only one of the few aircraft that was operated by three US services (Air Force, Navy and Marines) at the same time. In the end, over 5000 Phantom IIs left the production lines with 1387 produced in the F-4E variant.
The F-4E is the only variant (the F was basically an export version of the E) in the long line that carried a built-in gun. Before its introduction, the view was that the gun was obselete with the advent of heat-seeking and radar-guided missiles. During the Vietnam conflict however, most air-to-air engagements were close ranged, which negated the effectiveness of missiles, and brought back the importance of the gun and the concept of dogfighting. The F-4E served with the USAF from 1967 to the early 1990s, when it was replaced by the F-15 and F-16.
The F-4E can be differentiated from other variants by it’s longer tapered nose with a gun housing that extends underneath the radome.
What can I say? I’ve built one before (an F-4J) and I can safely say that this is THE ultimate 1/72 Phantom kit in the market right now. Hasegawa has a habit of reboxing the same mold with different markings and different boxart so this one’s no different.
What’s ingenious (or sneaky, depending on how you look at it) about this kit is that Hasegawa has split the parts down so that in order to do a different version of the Phantom, they only need to swap one or two part trees, and voila! Instant different Phantom! That being said however, it does make this Phantom a lot harder to put together than the other brands because this does lead to more parts than necessary. More parts = more chances of finicky fit = more assembly time. This kit is much harder to build than say, the 1/72 Fujimi Phantom, which is a pretty good kit in it’s own right.
Overall detail of the kit is very good, with very fine recessed lines. Much like Hasegawa’s other offerings of the same scale, cockpit details are decal only, but since the cockpit is so small and cramped, you can pretty much get away with it. Also much like Hasegawa’s standard practice, the kit doesn’t come with any weapons. However, what was a pleasant surprise is the inclusion of the newer center fuel tank that the F-4E carried from the 1980s onwards. As a bonus, they also included the old fuel tank, so with enough research, one would be able to, except for the blunt gun nose period, model the F-4E at every stage of its service life.
Markings-wise, Hasegawa has given the option for three units.
Decals are typical Hasegawa quality, slightly thick but nothing some Mark Softer couldn’t tackle.
All in all, a very nice kit that will build into a very nice representation of one of the most profilic aircraft of the 20th Century.
Preview courtesy of my wallet
Price: S$18.90 (est. US$11.00)
The Grumman F-14 Tomcat is the premier fleet defence aircraft of the US Navy and it has been so for the almost 3 decades. Armed with the AIM-54 Phoenix Air-to-air missile, the Tomcat can target and shootdown 6 different targets at the same time. In recent years, the Tomcat has also been converted to become a strike fighter, armed with both conventional and laser guided bombs for precision attack. The Tomcat is also the premier reconaisance platform for the Navy. In the twilight of its career (It is slowly being replaced by the Super Hornet), the Tomcat has become arguably the most versatile asset in the US Navy arsenal.
I have to admit that I haven’t bought many Academy kits because I’ve heard some less-than-stellar comments about the quality of the molds. However, the Tomcat kit came pretty highly recommended (thanx Iwan and Alex) and considering the price compared to the really expensive and hard to find Fujimi and Hasegawa releases, I decided “What the heck” and bought one. I liked what I got.
My first impression when I opened the box was “Wow… full weapons!”. The kit includes 4 AIM-54 Phoenixes, 4 AIM-7 Sparrows and 4 AIM-9 Sidewinders. Accept for the Bombcat variant, you could conceivably load the Tomcat in any configuration you want, even the recce version as the kit includes the TARPS recon pod.
Speaking of the Bombcat, if you wanted to do one, you’d have to modify the kit a bit as in the box, you can only build an early production version of the Tomcat. The gun vents and the beaver tail are the original versions. It does however, include the newer version of the underchin pod. However, it’s not much work to modify the kit to the latest ‘A’ version anyway.
The kit also features very fine recessed lines. Not as fine as the Hasegawa kit but far less deep than the Revell of Germany’s offering. The kit is also able to do the wing sweep as opposed to the new mold Hasegawa where you are fixed to having one position. As for me, I’d probably end up building this one with swept wings, for the sake of saving space.
Markings-wise, the kit allows you to build only one squadron: VF-51 Screaming Eagles’ CAG bird. This unit served on board the USS Carl Vinson in the 1980s so the markings are hi-viz. The decal sheet looks pretty OK, but since I’ve never used Academy decals before, I’ll leave my judgment for later.
All in all, this seems like a pretty nice kit. Building it should be pretty straightforward. I can’t wait to start.
Preview courtesy of my wallet
Price: S$19.90 (est. US$11.50)
The Grumman A-6E Intruder was one of the most versatile combat aircraft in the US Navy’s inventory. Serving faithfully for 30 years, this attack platform was also used as a tanker. Prematurely retired in 1996, there is so far no clear replacement for this aircraft. The Navy currently uses the Boeing F/A-18 Hornet as a replacement but it has neither the range nor the versatility of the Intruder.
I’ve heard quite a few horror stories about Italeri kits. Mediocre is usually the comment about the products from this manufacturer. But what the hey, I needed an Intruder for my collection and this was the only alternative to both the ancient raised-lined Hasegawa and ultra rare Fujimi. Besides, at $20 bucks, I didn’t think I could expect much.
I must say I was pleasantly surprised. The kit featured crisp recessed lines and no flash anywhere. Parts breakdown is logical and they even included weapons! 2 AGM-88 HARMs and 8 Mk 7 Cluster Bombs are included in the kit along with 1 centerline fuel tank. Pretty cool!
Two things that really jumped out at me about the kit. Firstly, the instrument panels had recessed details, unlike most 1/72 kits which only include decals for them. Although with the canopy closed, you probably can’t see much, but still, the details ARE there.
Second of all, they’ve allowed you to pose the wings in the folded position! I don’t think the other manufacturers bother with this detail at all. Again, this is a very cool feature and even though at 1/72 scale the details are quite basic, at least the option to fold the wings IS there.
Decals wise, they have included two squadrons that you can model, VA-36 “Roadrunners” and VMA-332 “Moonlighters”. I haven’t had experience with Italeri decals but the sheet looked OK to me. The decals seem on the thick side but nothing that decal solvent won’t solve I’m pretty sure.
So far, I am quite impressed with the kit. Hopefully, the usual Italeri reputation of ill-fitting parts will not surface here. 🙂
Preview courtesy of my wallet
Media: Injection Plastic
The Grumman EA-6B Prowler is a four-seat electronic warfare aircraft designed to jam and deceive enemy radar and communications facilities. The Prowler requires 4 crewmembers: 1 pilot and 3 Electronic Weapons Officers (EWOs). In 1980, the latest modification called the ICAP II was done on the existing airframes.
ICAP II upgrades included more evenly distributed tasks and duties for the EWOs, additional chaff dispensers, an upgrade in the the primary search radar, improved cockpit displays, the ability for two or more Prowlers to work together on an electronic suppression mission and most importantly, the ability for the Prowler to not just jam radars, but to shoot them down too. To accomplish that, the Prowler was rewired to carry the AGM-88 HARM (High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile).
The EA-6B is currently operated by 14 active VAQ squadrons, one Fleet Readiness Squadron, and the Electronic Attack Weapons School totaling over 70 aircraft and 3,000 personnel. 14 squadrons are based out of NAS Whidbey Island while 1 is permanently based out of Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan. With the retirement of the US Air Force’s EF-111 Raven, The EA-6B is now the only dedicated tactical airborne electronic warfare asset in the US armed forces.
This is my first completed 1/72 aircraft kit done with an airbrush. Before this one, it was always with spray paint and hand brushes. Some scratchbuilding was involved to mod the Prowler up to ICAP II configuration as per the instructions in the box.
Hasegawa has a tendency to rebox old molds and pass it off as modern versions of the aircraft. This one is no different, which was why an insert was included. The Prowler also was unique in that individual birds could conceviably be modded in different ways. Research I poured into modeling the correct aircraft for the correct markings I wanted to do burned me out so much I stopped modeling for a while six months after that. Heh.
My kit came as an early production block Prowler (this is the only version of the Prowler that’s offered IIRC) so with the extra info provided by Hasegawa, I proceeded to add and cut the antennae to make the ICAP II mods. The hump on the bottom fuselage was also cut and filled with epoxy putty (the hump was hollow). I also did some research on the â€˜Net to see how accurate the Hasegawa information was. I gave up after seeing about a dozen photos of actual Prowlers, with different antennae configurations. In the end, I just followed the Hasegawa sheet verbatim.
As per my usual practice, I put together as much of the plane as possible before attempting to fill the seamlines and painting. Because of that, I tend to deviate somewhat from the instructions. In fact, for the Prowler, I did the seats last (for reasons I shall explain later).
Overall, the kit fit OK with the following nitpicks:
The kit allowed you to leave the boarding ladders down, so the intakes come with openings for the ladders to fit into if you wanted to model the ladders in the up position. Normally not much of a problem except, when you look inside the intakes, you’ll see flat plastic plates covering the interior. AMSers need not apply here.
Because of the way the fuselage is shaped, I guess Hasegawa was forced to mold the fuselage into 3 pieces: left, right and bottom. This creates â€˜opportunity’ for unnecessary gaps to popup. Nothing that some putty wouldn’t fix though.
ALQ-99 fan blades
The unique jamming pods have propellers attached to the front but the way Hasegawa molded them, it’s hard NOT to break a blade when you try to cut the propellor off the tree. I managed to wreck 2 of them but lucky for me, I was only planning to mount 3 ALQ pods anyway.
The front canopy came as two separate pieces (left and right) which is weird because there is no reason for it to be that way since he old Hasegawa boxing’s front canopy came as 1 piece. Hasegawa also decided to remove the brown tint of the old canopy for this new reboxing which is another weird move because the actual Prowler’s canopies ARE tinted. If you looked at photos of the real aircraft, there appears to be a coppery tint at certain angles.
Oh man… where should I begin? The whole kit was ruined by the seats Hasegawa provided. It was as if they were put in as an afterthought. They look so generic they aren’t even funny.
To fix the canopies, I decided to do an experiment. I mixed a half bottle of vanilla essence with Future and then dipped the canopies into the concoction. I did it three times with 24 hours in between for the Future to dry completely. The end result was a very very subtle shade of coppery brown tint. A bit too subtle for my liking, if I ever do it again, I’d find another way to achieve the effect.
As for the seats, I settled with adding some simple ejection handles on the headrests. I wasn’t about to try to find the OOP True Details seats through the â€˜Net. Too much hassle. The handles were done by some simple bending of brass rod and painting.