The F-101A/C from Kittyhawk in 1/48th scale. A kit many modellers would want in their collections – but is this new version worth cashing in your old Monogram kits for or should you rush out an buy this new kit? You never know until someone who knows a little more than you might does a proper review of the kit – so we handed this over to someone who knew a bit more than us – Gary Wickham reviews the Voodoo in today’s news
Kit No: KH80115
Plastic Sprues: 6
Clear Sprues: 1
Photo Etch Brass Fret: 1
Decal Sheet: 2
Today I review the Kittyhawk Models new tooled F-101 Voodoo in 1/48. This intial boxing covers the F-101A/C “fighter” variant of the Voodoo with the RF (Recon) and B two seat variants planned for the future.
The Voodoo's career as a fighter-bomber was relatively brief, but the reconnaissance versions served for some time. Along with the US Air Force's Lockheed U-2 and US Navy's Vought RF-8 Crusaders, the RF-101 reconnaissance variant of the Voodoo was instrumental during the Cuban Missile Crisis and saw extensive service during the Vietnam War.
The F-101A fighter-bomber had been accepted into Tactical Air Command (TAC) service despite a number of problems. Among others, its airframe had proven to be capable of withstanding only 6.33g manoeuvres, rather than the intended 7.33g. A total of 77 F-101As were built
An improved model, the F-101C, was introduced in 1957. It had a 500 lb (227 kg) heavier structure to allow 7.33-g manoeuvres as well as a revised fuel system to increase the maximum flight time in afterburner. Like the F-101A it was also fitted with an underfuselage pylon for carrying atomic weapons, as well as two hardpoints for 450-gallon drop tanks. A total of 47 were produced.
Both the A and C model aircraft were assigned to the 81st TFW, and were used interchangeably within the three squadrons. Operational F-101A/C were upgraded in service with Low Angle Drogued Delivery (LADD) and Low Altitude Bombing System (LABS) equipment for its primary mission of delivering nuclear weapons at extremely low altitudes. Pilots were trained for high speed, low level missions into Soviet or Eastern Bloc territory, with primary targets being airfields. These missions were expected to be one-way, with the pilots having to eject behind Soviet lines.
The F-101C never saw combat and was replaced in 1966 with the F-4C Phantom II. Thirty-two aircraft were later converted for unarmed reconnaissance use under the RF-101H designation. They served with Air National Guard units until 1972.
While the Voodoo was a moderate success, it may have been more important as an evolutionary step towards its replacement in most roles, the F-4 Phantom II, one of the most successful Western fighter designs of the 1960s. (source: wikipedia.org)
The Kittyhawk 1/48th F-101 A/C in brief:
• It’s a modern tooled Voodoo in 1/48 with recessed panel lines and rivet detail.
• It’s the first time we can build a fighter-bomber version of the Voodoo using only injection moulded parts (previous conversion was vacform).
• Colourful range of decal options provided in the box.
• No major shape or accuracy issues.
• An overall rough finish to the plastic, which will need to be sanded smooth to get a realistic NMF finish.
• A very basic cockpit relying on photo-etch and decals for detailing rather than plastic.
• Tape (formation) lights moulded onto the tail, fuselage and wingtips that are not correct for the F-101A/C
• Incorrect buzz number prefix code of FR (should be FB) on the decal sheet.
• Angled engine intake as used on the later F-101B version. The F-101A/C had a noticeably more square intake and splitter plate.
• An inner (short) boundary layer fence present on the upper wing. The inner fence was not fitted to the early F-101 variants.
With the exception of the intake lip angle issue the rest are easy fixes simply requiring careful removal of unneeded parts from the model. If the FB prefix code issue concerns you then dig thru your spare decals box or because they are simple black letters consider making your own on an inkjet printer, it’s easier than you think :-)
Right out of the gate the first thing I noticed about this kit is the larger more sparsely packed box. Unlike previous Kittyhawk kits (with the exception of the larger MiG-25) which have always been very tightly packed, the F-101A/C is much less crowded. Whilst this may be a bad thing for postage charges (having a bigger box) when purchasing the kit it does mean that the likelihood of the kit sprues being damaged is greatly reduced (I speak from experience as at least two of the Kittyhawk kits I have obtained in the past have had squashed clear sprues due to the box being so tightly packed).
The kit is broken down into six grey plastic sprues and one small clear sprue. A photo-etch sheet is provided which contains detailing options for the cockpit instrument panel and side consoles (the other is to just use decals). The PE sheet also contains the engine nozzle petals and seat belts. Two decals sheets are included and allow you to build one of three schemes, all natural metal.
The finish on the plastic is consistent with previous Kittyhawk kits with a noticeable roughness to the surface. In my opinion this will need to be dealt with and normally buffing with micromesh or a light coat of micro filler like Alclad will suffice.
The panel line and rivet detail is quite sharp (again consistent with previous Kittyhawk kits) and should hold a wash quite nicely. The big question that for the moment must go unanswered by me about this kit is the fit of the parts. I’ll eventually get to build this model and will formulate an opinion at that time.
Let’s kick off our detailed tour of the kit with sprue C, containing the main fuselage body and tail, the ailerons, airbrakes and assorted engine parts.
Here you can see what I was earlier referring to with the panel lines and rivets. They are mostly sharp and sufficiently deep to cater to those modellers, who like me, wish to accentuate them with panel washes.
One point to note is that the use of formation lights (or tape lights) is incorrect for the F-101A/C fighter versions. From my reading the formation lights were not fitted to Voodoos till the Vietnam War with the RF-101’s having them retro fitted whilst the later interceptor F-101B coming factory fitted.
Early variants of the F-101 (right up to the two-seat F-101B interceptor) had cooling slots on each engine fairing, which were replaced by external scoops later on. KH have provided the cooling slots as modular parts (B32, 33) which are designed to fit into the provided rectangular recesses.
The main fuselage center section is generally well moulded. Like the tail, the tape light will need to be removed from each side of the fuselage to build an accurate F-101A/C.
The airbrakes are cast in a single piece and suffer very badly from sink holes as shown in this photo. This really won’t take much to repair with some filler and sanding and is quite common in the injection moulding process when parts are thick and have undercuts or hole on one side.
The reason we have sink marks on the outside of the brakes is because of the lightening holes on the inside.
Sprue B is made up of two sub sprues. The first sub sprue contains parts for the forward fuselage, cockpit tub, the exhaust blast fillet and main gear doors.
The forward fuselage has been modularized to allow for alternate panels on the lower nose to permit the two single seat variants (fighter and recon) to be released with a minimum of fuss. This does of course mean more gluing and seams to deal with but if it means we get more options down the line for Voodoo kits I’m happy to accept it.
The cockpit tub is very basic with all the console detail being provided by photo etch parts or if you prefer straight decals (or even a combination). I personally am quite disappointed at the direction that Kittyhawk are taking with their cockpits. I feel that decals just don’t cut it in 1/48 scale and whilst photo etch is better it does not provide a realistic scale depth to the cockpit panels and instruments.
As I have a couple of the Monogram F-101B kits, out of curiosity I quickly compared the KH cockpit with the Monogram F-101B front tub and they are significantly different in size. The KH tub, somewhat surprisingly is wider and longer. This may not be a fair comparison as I’m not really sure if they should be the same size at all. If they indeed should be the same size (or close to it) then either KH is ovescale or Monogram underscale.
The “keel” that separates the engines on the single seat Voodoo is quite nicely done with the joins between the overlapping metal sheets along its length being accurately represented.
The second sub sprue B contains parts for the engine nozzles, intake splitter plates, main wheels and cockpit instrument panel & shroud.
Sprue D1 contains the lower wings, flaps, the nose wheel well side walls, the nose refuelling probe doors and the ejection seat.
Notice the softness of the panel lines and to a lesser extent the rivet detail on this part. I have found this to be frequent occurrence on KH kits where the quality of the moulding process across the various sprues is not consistent. All model manufacturers suffer from this to some extent, but with KH you can pretty much count on it. Its not only the sharpness of the moulds either, you often find panel lines that mysteriously stop part way or don’t continue across joins.
Sprue D contains the wing upper surfaces, the “all flying” horizontal tailplanes and the rudder.
The “all flying tail” horizontal stabilizers are covered in fine rivet detail, which should respond well to a wash.
The panel lines and rivets on this sprue are noticeably crisper than the lower wing D1 sprue in my box. You can also see fairly clearly the rough finish of the wing surface, which will need to smoothed out if you plan to tackle a natural metal finish aircraft. The sprue attachment points in some cases are not that well thought out. An example of this is the attachment point on the far right in this picture, which will require careful removal and subsequent clean-up to avoid damaging the wing upper surface.
The KH upper wing has two raised fences. From my reading the inner (shorter) fence was not fitted to early model Voodoos at all and it may in fact not even be a boundary layer fence but rather a strengthening plate. I certainly plan to remove it for my F-101A/C build. The longer outer boundary layer fence on the top of the wing looks to me to be a bit over scale (too thick). If you are keen, these could be removed and replaced with smaller plastic strip or metal sheet. These are obvious candidates for the photo-etch aftermarket manufacturers.
The wing tips have some nice detail for the formation or tape lights. It’s a shame because from my limited research I believe this will have to be removed for an F-101A/C as they were not fitted to these early variants. I’d expect (much like KH have done in the past) that the tape lights (on the wing tips, tail and fuselage) have been added so the same sprues can be used for the forthcoming RF-101 and B variants which were fitted with the formation lights.
The lower surface of the upper wing contains the wheel well roof and flap interior detail. The landing gear mounting holes look quite substantial. Thankfully there do not appear to be any ejection pin marks in the visible areas on these parts.
The tape lights on the Voodoo wing tips wrap around from the top to the bottom. As mentioned above I believe these will need to be removed completely for the F-101A/C. The standard wing tip navigation lights are kind of provided as small bumps but would benefit from being replaced with clear plastic and painted accordingly.
Sprue A contains all the parts specific to the single seat “fighter” version of the Voodoo. The nose panels containing the 20mm M39 cannon blisters and the forward nose and radome (not shown in the sprue photo as it had come loose in the box). The retractable refuelling probe doors on the top of the nose, the probe bay and the probe itself are also on this sprue.
A close in picture of the forward nose section, which reveals two features I find worrisome with this kit. The first is once again the rough surface finish, which is very obvious in this photo and from my understanding often indicates a lack of proper preparation of the metal moulds.
Second is the small circular white stress mark caused when the injection moulding machine ejection pin has pushed so hard it has stressed (damaged) the plastic. This is not the only place this has happened, but it is one of the most noticeable to the eye/camera. These two things give us an insight into the KH tooling and manufacturing process.
The single seat fighter cannon fairings look nicely done, note the sink mark on the lower right blister. I have read on the forums from modellers who have started this build that the fit of the front section of each blister is not good. Likewise notice the saw tooth hinge (at the very bottom edge), which is for the retractable refuelling probe door. This also has been reported as being a very bad fit.
When compared to photos, I think the nose cone would need to be built up and sanded to a sharper point and until I see it glued to the fuselage I won’t comment further on the overall shape or fit.
Rounding out the final plastic sprue we have Sprue E. This sprue contains common parts for most Voodoo variants that KH may decide to release. We have the drop tanks, air intake trunking, exhaust interior, main and nose undercarriage parts and assorted actuator rods etc.
Also present on Sprue E are four AIM-4 Falcon AA missiles and two MB-1/AIR-2 Genie nuclear rockets. These of course are completely useless for a F-101A/C (or indeed an RF-101) model as they were never operationally fitted and may hint at a future release of a two seat F-101B version of this kit.
The intake trunking on the real F-101 was quite short and it’s a good bet that the engine will be quite visible on the finished model. Its looks like it will be relatively easy to sand the intake trunk seams and subsequently paint them.
The drop tanks on the F-101 were not fitted to pylons, but instead directly to the lower fuselage. The KH tanks look nicely detailed and generally accurate in shape.
As with most 1/48 scale models the undercarriage can always benefit from extra detailing but what I see here looks like a solid starting point.
The clear sprue GP, contains the canopy, windshield and what appears to be the camera bay windows for a future RF-101G/H (spoiler alert)!
As you can see the clear parts are very sharply moulded. No visible blemishes and the framing detail is sharp and should be easy to mask.
These days it almost seems obligatory for manufacturers to include a photo-etch sheet, whether it adds to the model or not. I have already said that I am not a fan of the use of photo-etch for instrument panel and side console details. I really hope this trend of using PE for the cockpit by Chinese manufacturers comes to an end and we see them put the effort into the cockpit it needs.
The PE sheet includes the seat harness, rear view mirrors and engine exhaust interior detailing.
Paint Schemes and Decals
Kittyhawk are fairly generous when it comes to the number of marking options provided in their kits. This particular kit provides us with 4 options, each for natural metal finish schemes and all part of the 81st TFW at RAF Bentwaters.
The four choices are..
The 81st Fighter-Interceptor Wing became the new host unit at Bentwaters in September 1951. The 81st, in various designations, remained at RAF Bentwaters for over 40 years during the Cold War era.
On 8 July 1958 Bentwaters was operated as "twin base" with RAF Woodbridge and as a single unit under the newly designated 81st Tactical Fighter Wing.
Beginning in the fall of 1958, the 81st TFW was reequipped with the F-101A/C "Voodoo". The F-101 was configured as a fighter bomber, intended to carry a single nuclear weapon for use against battlefield targets such as airfields. The Voodoos were equipped with Low Angle Drogued Delivery (LADD) and Low Altitude Bombing System (LABS) equipment for its primary mission of delivering nuclear weapons at extremely low altitudes. Pilots were trained for one-way missions into Soviet territory to increase effective range at some cost in negating pilot recovery. (source: Wikipedia)
Having used the KH supplied kits decals on the MiG-25 build I am comfortable saying that they perform well. The F-101 decal sheet appears to be well printed with no registration problems.
In terms of accuracy the only thing I noticed (when comparing these decals to the older Almark sheets for early Voodoos) is the buzz number prefix code on the Almark sheet is FB whilst KH has used FR for all the aircraft. A quick check on Wikipedia (thank god for Wikipedia) confirmed my suspicion that KH have made a mistake (the FR prefix code incidentally was used on the Bell XF-83), which to be honest I find odd because they have made quite a point out of their collaboration with “Detail and Scale” on the research for this kit.
Kittyhawk continues to release new kits at a steady pace. Many of their latest releases have come under fire for general accuracy and persistent fit issues. It seems that in their desire to pump out lots of new kits they have sometimes cut corners on research and QA. This unfortunately has earned them a bit of a reputation as being overpriced and under quality. It seems that Kittyhawk are aware of this and have announced that they plan to change (for the better) many of the things that have gotten them to this point. We’ll be watching with interest.
Thanks very much to Kittyhawk for the review kit.