Written by 4:00 pm On the Bench

WIP : Academy 1/48 F-16A ‘TOPGUN 51’ Pt.1 – Construction

Seeing as how badly I’d done my 414th CTS F-16C and how it has fallen apart, I’ve decided to have another go at an F-16 for this year’s annual Aggressor build. Based on some research, I thought the Academy would be a simplified version of the Hasegawa kit and therefore would be a quick build. As we shall see, I was so very wrong.

Down the rabbit hole I go with the help of this very detailed WIP of an F-16A on Britmodeller and Reid Air Publications’ The EARLY Viper Guide: The F-16A/B Exposed.

I’ll be building the kit as TOPGUN 51, an F-16 Block 15 OCU deployed by the US Navy’s NSAWC (Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center), the successor to TOPGUN (Naval Fighter Weapons School). The photo below is the real TOPGUN 51. TOPGUN 51’s color scheme has since changed  but the TwoBobs Decals I have for it are of this original livery.

As is usual for me nowadays, work begins with cutting most of the parts out of the trees and a lot of initial dry-fitting. The nose fits via a butt joint to the fuselage so I added 1mm square rods as guides.

Overall detail is simplified even though this kit was released in 1990. For example, the area behind the ejection seat is bare.

Using sprue, plastic bits and maskiing tape, I made the canopy actuator. I also added grills to the rectangular opening (it’s an AC vent) at the back using stretched sprue. The other parts are simply plastic plates cut to shape.

I’ll be modeling the kit with the canopy down so I was glad that the canopy fit very well. I think the added details should look fine under a coat of paint.

Whenever I can, I try to replace the stock seat with a resin one. I have ACES II resin seats from Avionix and Legend Productions in my stash. The kit seat is very simplified even when compared to Tamiya’s. Note also how they all differ somewhat in sizes. Details-wise though, the Avionix is a much better looking seat than the Legend one. I’ve used the Legend seat for my Hasegawa F-16 and seeing as how this Academy kit is so similar to that one, it should be a drop-in fit.

The Legend seat is a shorter than the kit’s and doesn’t come with the guide rail so I’ll be using the kit rail for the resin seat.

I marked out the parts of the seat and rail that I’ll need to remove for the 2 parts to fit properly.

Some spacers are required for the seat to fit properly onto the rails. To raise the height of the seat, I added a 5mm plastic spacer to the bottom.

My copy of the ACES II is missing 1 of the popup pitots on the head rest so I had to scratchbuild a pair from plastic plate. In real life, these pitots are retracted in newer F-16s. TOPGUN 51 had this older extended version.

The kit seat sits too high inside the canopy. In real life, the ejection seat doesn’t look to sit as high.

I think I’ve managed to get the resin seat to sit at a more correct height.

Since I was adding details already, I figured I might as well add some details to the inside of the canopy sidewalls.

I based the design of the sidewall details on the Tamiya kit using 0.25mm plastic plates.

The gun port is blanked off and it doesn’t look right.

I drilled out the opening and added some details inside with plastic rod and a plate.

I added some epoxy putty to fill the visible gap between the ‘gun muzzle’ and the housing. Once smoothened out I think it’ll look OK.

The intake is made up of 3 parts that didn’t fit particularly well. The parts also all fit via butt joints only which is more evidence that this is a simplified version of the Hasegawa kit. Besides some spars, there are no details at all in the wheel wells.

I think they look too bare for 1/48 scale so let’s see if I can add some simple details to make them pop a bit.

What originally started as a quick build seems to be heading towards a lot of cutting, trimming and dryfitting.

Build Log
Part 1 – Construction | Part 2 – Construction | Part 3 – Construction

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