Brand and Kit Number: Italeri #1235
Media: Injection Plastic
Markings: Cutting Edge Modelworks CED72048 EF-111A Sparkvark Nose Art
The EF-111A Raven was an electronic warfare aircraft designed to replace the USAF’s B-66 Destroyer. Grumman was contracted in 1974 to convert 42 existing General Dynamics F-111A Aardvarks into the EF-111A.
Built around the An/ALQ-99E jamming system, the primary electronics were installed in the internal weapons bay. The transmitters for the system were fitted in an underbelly â€˜canoe’ radome and the receivers were fitted in a fin-tip â€˜football’ pod similar to the EA-6B Prowler. The EF-111A Raven was unarmed, and depended on its speed and acceleration for self-defence.
The EF-111A entered service in 1983 and served until 1998, when the last was retired from USAF service. The USAF would begin depending on Navy and Marine Corps EA-6Bs for electronic warfare support thereafter. While it’s officially named â€˜Raven’, its crews often called it the â€˜Sparkvark’ instead.
This build depicts EF-111A 66-6033 nicknamed â€˜No Fear No Gear’ during Operation: Southern Watch in 1995. Originally named ‘No Fear’, ‘No Gear’ was added after a landing mishap where the landing gear were damaged. The artwork was done by Senior Airman Vanessa Snedeker. The artwork was fairly short-lived: it was removed after returning from deployment.
Info from Wikipedia
Info of ‘No Fear No Gear’ from decal sheet
This is a rebox of the Esci kit that was released in 1988. It features decently done recessed panel lines and parts breakdown is very simple and straightforward. It’s almost as if Esci wasn’t planning on releasing a plethora of variants. How quaint. The cockpit details are decals but the side console decals are not included. The wings are designed to swing in and out but there are no options to lower the flaps, slats and the prominent wing gloves which Hasegawa would offer in 1993 with their own release. There is also no gear-up option.
The canopy is molded in 3 pieces but there’s no option to have it open. The only stores offered are 2 external fuel tanks with the mounting points on the wings already pre-opened. Decal options are for 2 all-gray plain EF-111s from the 27th and 388th TFW. All in all, a kit of its age: just detailed enough to be interesting but can’t compare to modern kits with wiz-bang molding technology.
This was definitely not a shake and bake even though the parts breakdown is simple. Various issues cropped up:
- The tail boom angles down when fitted which required shimming with plastic card, a rod to pin the new extension and epoxy putty to reshape the bottom of the tail boom.
- The intakes don’t fit well at all and these also require shimming and sanding back to shape.
- The joint between the front and rear fuselage doesn’t lie on a natural panel line so I had to fix this. Superglue + baby powder ended up being the best for rescribing.
- I also used epoxy putty to reshape the plate on the bottom where the front and rear sections meet. The plate itself was too small at the corners.
- The canopy didn’t fit well with the instrument coaming in place and I had to somewhat brute force it in place with cement, which ended up pinging the HUD off.
- I detailed the cockpit side consoles with plastic sheet to â€˜busy’ it up. It’s neither accurate or to scale but looks OK from 2 feet away.
- I made a mistake with the small underbelly winglets. I positioned them behind the landing gear instead of above them. Luckily the landing gear (barely) clears them.
- I added the prominent GPS dome that was fitted onto the EF-111 in the 1990s with a punched plastic sheet. I think it looks over-scaled but it’ll do.
- The exhaust nozzles don’t fit properly without trimming one of the protrusions. The instructions were also unclear about the correct alignment of the exhausts so I had to refer to photos.
- Ravens usually did not carry external fuel tanks operationally so I filled the holes for the pylons up by melting some sprue into them.
So, by no means was this an easy kit. Still, I had fun building this one which isn’t something I’d often say since I have a distinct distaste for endless seamline fixing and sanding.
Colors & Markings
Well, like most modern combat aircraft, the EF-111 is various shades of gray. I checked out photos on the internet and also like most modern combat aircraft, the grays pretty much look different picture to picture. The Cutting Edge sheet I was using the markings from indicated the main colors being FS36320 and FS36492 with the leading edge of the tailfin and nose being a mix of both. I went with FS 36495 which was the closest one I had to FS36492. I mixed the 2 grays for the rest of the gray parts like the nose and the tailfin’s leading edge.
Inspired by Gary Wickham’s RAF Mosquito build on Scalespot, I decided to try out his method of adding color variation to the paintjob. I simplified the method but it was effective: there is now some color variation on the paintwork even before weathering. However, I wasn’t sure I was over or under-doing it. Anyway, it’s all about learning new stuff for future builds.
The process proved to be quite time consuming as I’m slowly building up the colors with a low pressure and very thinned paint. The results however, makes the kit look more visually interesting with a patchy look that’s quite different from the usual pre-shading method.
After a few rounds of painting it was time for the decals. The EF-111 is quite bare markings-wise which is a good thing as I really don’t like doing stencils, especially in 72 scale. I decided to go with ‘No Fear No Gear’ for the noseart as this marking is rarely done by modelers and it has an interesting backstory. The decals went on easily and reacted well with Mark Softer and I was done in no time.
One common theme about the EF-111 is that they are usually quite well maintained so I went easy on the weathering. It was pretty much just a simple oil wash and some panel filtering with Raw Umber. Another reason for going easy was that I didn’t want to end up covering all the painting variation I had done. AK Matt was last on to tie everything down. With some matt coat left in the cup, I did an overall heavy coat over the kit which resulted in them drying in a patchy pattern under a certain angle. Not a bad look I think.
Next I did the wingtip lights with a silver base and transparent red and blue color and Future brushed on. The lines for the lights weren’t on the kit but I just added based on photo references. Last off were the canopy masking which is always heart-stopping. Turns out the Future hadn’t cured properly and lifted with the masking tape. I went over them with handbrushed Future. Overall, the canopy didn’t quite sit right with gaps between the 3 panels being quite wide. I really should have test fitted everything before I have gotten too far.
So, another modern jet subject for my display case is done. The build didn’t go smoothly and it’s also not perfect with some obvious mistakes and poor workmanship. However, I did have a lot of fun seeing this build to completion and now I’m itching to do more cockpit detailing and experimenting more with painting.
Number 4 of 2017
Decaling begins with a gloss coat. I’ve had very good results with AK Interactive Intermediate Gauzy Agent. With a 1:1 thinning with water, it gives a very shiny and smooth gloss without as many problems as other gloss coats I’ve used.
The markings comes from Cutting Edge Modelworks’ EF-111 Sparkvark sheet (CED72048). The sheet provides for 3 options with noseart and usually, modelers have gone for the squadron leader’s EF-111 which has a skunk riding a bolt of lightning. The other option is Tasmanian Devil from the Warner Bros cartoons while the last is a black crow (?) with ‘No Fear No Gear’ text in red over it. I decided to go with the last option. It’s the least colorful option but it has an interesting backstory to how this particular EF-111 got its name.
The decals were very easy to use: they slid off the backing very fast, reacted very well to Mark Softer and I was done in no time at all. On a sidenote: it’s a pity Cutting Edge is no more. These are seriously good decals. I decided to add the stars and bars on the bottom of the right wing although the instructions don’t indicate that it exists. After the decals have dried a bit, I went ahead and cut any parts that go over panel lines with a sharp X-Acto knife and flooded the area with more Mark Softer to get them to conform into the panel lines.
The wingtip slimelights pretty much refused to curve around the wingtips so I ended up cutting each in half, stuck the decal on each side and then painted the resultant gap in the middle with a (estimated) mix of yellow and white paint.
After a day to cure, I wiped the kit down with a wet towel and sprayed the decals over with more gloss coat to seal them in. After this new layer has cured, it was time for weathering. Looking at pictures online, a majority of them shows mildly weathered EF-111s and this includes the operational ones. So weathering on this kit will be kept to a minimal.
The wash is done with Raw Umber oil paint. As you can see, I’m not particularly neat about it. More important is that I get every panel line.
After giving it about 10 minutes to dry, I then carefully wiped the paint away with a damp tissue paper, leaving behind the wash that’s still in the panel lines.
I varied the amount I wipe away to add some filtering on random panels but nothing too drastic.
I hid some paint chipping by adding my own chipping using the oil paint neat and blending with a damp brush. I also made sure to wipe based on the direction of airflow across the aircraft. With that done it was again another day of curing for the kit.
Final assembly is now next. First up I attached the main landing gear. This proved a bit of a challenge and I had to add some shims to the joint area to get the angle correct. Everything was attached with superglue gel which gave me a bit of time to adjust each part.
The nose gear would be an easier fit. I also strengthened the nose gear by adding a pin to the attachment point. The landing gear were all then given a wash of very thinned PVA glue at their connections to (hopefully) reinforce the joints.
After the pitot tube was attached, I then sprayed a flat coat with AK Interactive Matt Varnish. This was also thinned about 1:1 with water with the resulting finish being more satin than flat. Then it was finally time to add the engine exhausts which I wanted to remain glossy. Unfortunately I wasn’t careful with trimming them: one still has a bit of sprue connector while the other I ended up trimming too much.
The photo below also clearly shows the tailfin not aligning straight on the tail. Oh there’s a seamline in the protrusion on the tail too. Chalk it up to carelessness.
After this is removing the canopy masking. I usually will have to do some cleanup on this and brush on more Future to bring back the shine on the canopy. The absolute last would be adding the formation lights on the wingtips and the wing gloves and I can call this one done.
I’ve been a big fan of Gary Wickham of ScaleSpot and is constantly amazed at his detailed work. In his 1/32 Mosquito build, he showed a method of breaking up the monotony of a single color scheme so I thought I’d try it here but in a simpler form. The first step is to spray random straight lines with white over the black primer base.
Going with a very thinned Mig AMMO Light Gray (2 parts paint 4 parts thinner) and a low pressure I then slowly painted the bottom. Each pass is very light and it takes 3 to 4 passes before I see the color appearing.
It took a while but when I was done I go a nice patchy look with a lot of variations in color. I ended up going 2 rounds with painting the bottom with a day to cure in between. Frankly I’ve never had to spend so much time painting 1 color but I like what I’m seeing.
The demarcation line between the 2 grays are solid so it was a simple matter of masking the bottom to prevent overspray.
I went with Vallejo Model Air US Grey for the darker gray shade in the same thinning ratio. Also like the previous gray, I ended up going through 2 sessions of painting with a day of curing in between.
In the beginning the two shades didn’t look much different. But given some time to cure, they became more distinct.
I like how the subtle variation shows through.
The leading edge of the tailfin is a different gray compared to the tailfin and photos I’ve found shows that no two Ravens have the same shade of gray for this. I decided to go with Game Color Stonewall Grey for mine.
I used the same color for the LERX (?). Last to be painted was the nose. Like the leading edge of the tailfin, the gray is different on various Ravens I’ve seen so I mixed a little AMMO Gunship Gray into Game Color Stonewall Grey for this one.
Painting is now done, which went smoother than expected. Because I was spraying very thinned acrylic paint, the airbrush tip didn’t dry as often as usual and clean up was also easier.
At this point, I’m not sure if the painting is over or under done. Guess I’ll only know when weathering begins.
Work continues as there’s more to fix than expected. First up is the joint between the 2 halves of the fuselage, which isn’t as smooth as I hoped. I should have added a spreader on the rear half so the transition between the halves is smoother.
I tried various methods including Perfect Plastic Putty, correction fluid and Future with baby powder but in the end, sthis last combination worked best. The baby powder dried the superglue instantly and added some volume. I then went to work using various grits of sanding sticks and sponges. The sponges were soft so they conformed easily around the curve of the fuselage which doesn’t change the gentle curve of the upper fuselage.
Quite a few rounds of sanding (and using paint to check my work) later, I scribed back all the panel lines that I had sanded away. With a combination of a sewing needle in a pin vise and the new TMP chisel I think I managed to do a decent job.
Another major area that needs work are the intakes. On both the intake and the fuselage are 2 halves of a small rectangular plate which needs to line up. I ended up shimming with 0.5mm plastic card and epoxy putty before I got them close enough to alignment.
I then trimmed both halves of the rectangle plate to get them to match them perfectly. Then it was more sanding and buffing to smoothen the shape of the intakes before I rescribed the panel line.
I then attached the tailfin which fit quite well and the horizontal stabilizers. The right side stab needed trimming on the connector to even slot in while the left one fit with no issues at all.
It was at this point that I realized that I had attached the bottom winglets in the wrong position! They are supposed to be further forward. Unfortunately there’s nothing I can do about them now. Fortunately though, they didn’t interfere with the main landing gear.
Detailing work is next with the GPS dome that is found on the EF-111s circa 1990s. I simply punched a 5mm circle out of a 0.5mm plastic card and cemented it in place. In hindsight, it’s probably too thick scale-wise. That’s OK though, I can live with it.
Before sealing up the canopy for painting I needed to attach the HUD for the pilot. I promptly pinged the clear kit piece off into the jungle that is my floor and had to replace with a scratchbuilt part. I ended up cutting a tiny piece out of a blister pack to get the HUD. This was attached with Gator Glue. Did I mention it’s really small?
The canopy curiously comes in 3 parts which has no option to open up. They were cleaned up, given a dip of Future, and given at least 24 hours to dry. Note in the photo below that there’s a yellow tint on the canopies. They are however colorless in real life.
A nice surprise is how well the clear canopy parts fit onto the kit.
With the canopy buttoned up, it is time to start painting. As per usual nowadays I started with black primer.
The main colors are next.
For my next build, I decided to tackle a modern aircraft. This time it’ll be the Italeri 1/72 EF-111A Raven or ‘Sparkvark’. The kit is a rebox of a release in the mid 1980s by Esci. Details are good for its age and features recessed panels.
The cockpit features decals for the restraints and the front console but the side consoles are bare so I decided to add some details with randomly cut plastic plates. These were painted Black Grey and drybrushed.
The details aren’t accurate and look oversized but I just wanted to make the consoles look busy. And they should look fine under the canopy.
Fitting overall is OK except for a few areas. First is the tail boom which angles down when attached. It should be straight. So I added some spacers at the bottom to get it to the right position.
The tail boom is originally attached via a butt joint. To strengthen it, I added a rod inside and used superglue. I then layered epoxy putty and shaped it as best as I can to conform to the curves of the structure.
There is a noticeable step under the stabilizers on both sides. Since I went to the trouble of fixing the tail, I thought I should fix these too.
Instead of using epoxy putty to fill and shape the gap I decided to just sand down the notch. Much easier.
More fixing of seamlines to come.