Friday, August 24

Dry Fit Review: Gary puts together the KittyHawk 1:48 McDonnell RF-101C & G/H

Recently Gary took part and put together the Kittyhawk single seater F-101B/ RF-101B in 48th scale. Nw the single seat recon nose has been released who better to do a dry fit build review of this next release? See what he thought about the kit and how to get the best out of it in his detailed study...

Dry Fit Review: McDonnell RF-101C & G/H 
From: KittyHawk Models

# KH80116
1:48th scale
Price: USD 45/ AUD 61/ EUR 39/ GBP 34 from Hobbyeasy.

Dry fit & review: Gary pieces together KittyHawk's 1:48 McDonnell F-101B / RF-101B

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.

Using the reinforced airframe of the F-101C, the RF-101C first flew on 12 July 1957, entering service in 1958. Like the RF-101A, the RF-101C had up to six cameras in place of radar and cannons in the reshaped nose and retained the bombing ability of the fighter-bomber versions. 166 RF-101Cs were built, including 96 originally scheduled to be F-101C fighter-bombers. The 1964 Project "Toy Tiger" fitted some RF-101C with a new camera package and a centerline pod for photo-flash cartridges. Some were further upgraded under the Mod 1181 program with automatic control for the cameras.
Twenty-nine (29) F-10As were converted to RF-101Gs and thirty-two (32) F-101C's were converted to RF-101Hs as the fighter versions of the Voodoo were withdrawn from service. These conversions produced aircraft of capable of daylight low-level reconnaissance and the aircraft were assigned directly into ANG units in Kentucky, Arkansas and Nevada. The first delivery of the aircraft to the squadrons was in 1966.
The RF-101C saw service during the Cuban Missile Crisis and soon followed the North American F-100 Super Sabres in October 1961, into combat when RF-101s from the 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing deployed to Vietnam. The RF-101C was deployed operationally during the Vietnam War, sustaining losses with the first F-101 being lost in November 1964 to ground fire. From 1965 through November 1970, its role was gradually taken over by the RF-4C Phantom II. In some 35,000 sorties, 39 aircraft were lost, 33 in combat, including five to SAMs, one to an airfield attack, and one in air combat to a MiG-21 in September 1967.
The RF-101C's speed made it largely immune to MiG interception. Twenty-seven (27) of the combat losses occurred on reconnaissance missions over North Vietnam. In April 1967, ALQ-71 ECM pods were fitted to provide some protection against SAMs. Although the Voodoo was again able to operate at medium altitudes, the added drag and weight decreased the speed enough to make RF-101 vulnerable to the maneuverable (and cannon-equipped) MiGs and thus requiring fighter escort.
INTRODUCTION - KittyHawk 1:48 McDonnell RF-101C & G/H (KH80116)
This is the third (and most likely, final) boxing in Kittyhawks 1/48 F-101 Voodoo family and brings us full circle back to the dedicated single-seat reconnaissance variants. Kitty Hawk has perhaps left the best to last if the anticipation I have seen on the web is anything to go by.
It's not that surprising I suppose because of all the Voodoo variants, the RF-101C certainly saw the most active combat missions in Vietnam. I also find the sleek shape of the RF-101C nose makes it the most visually attractive of all the Voodoo's and affords many options for camouflage or natural metal finishes. I expect another reason this release is so eagerly awaited is that until now you needed to resort to a vacform conversion if you wanted to build an RF-101C in 1:48, not something that many mainstream modellers will sign up for.

As I mentioned in my recent review of the KittyHawk two-seat F-101B, these kits were designed several years ago (the first F-101A/C kit came out in 2014) and KH has sat on them until now. If you are expecting that they went back and incorporated improvements into the design to bring them up-to-par with what KH have been releasing in 2017/18 then you will be disappointed. 
That's not to say there are no improvements in these new releases when compared to the earlier F-101A/C kit because there certainly are. It's just that there seems to have been no effort made by Kitty Hawk to rectify any of the problems identified with the initial release and I think that is a lost opportunity.

Having now looked closely at all three Kittyhawk Voodoo kits I thought it may be useful to summarize the noteworthy items. Remember this list is not meant to be exhaustive, rather it's just the issues I've noticed (I'm sure there are more). These are not in any particular order:

DRY BUILD - KittyHawk 1:48 McDonnell RF-101C & G/H (KH80116)
As this new RF-101C/G/H boxing has so many parts in common with the earlier kits I am not going to go over old ground and review these again. As mentioned above, the rear fuselage/tail and wings/undercarriage are all common to the three kits, so if you are interested in more than specifically the new RF-101C/G/H parts in this kit then I'd suggest you first check out my full Kitty Hawk F-101B Review for a complete end to end dry build and assessment. After that come back here to see what the RF-specific parts are like.

The purpose-built RF-101C and the converted RF-101G/H aircraft were all fitted with the Pratt & Whitney J57-P-13 engines. Kittyhawk (KH) provided the exhausts for this engine in the initial F-101A/C kits and it is included in this kit unchanged. To my knowledge, no aftermarket replacements for the nozzles have been manufactured so you have to make the best of the kit offerings. Photo Etch is provided by KH to represent the petals and actuators in the very rear of the nozzle. This takes a bit of careful bending to get it to sit properly so take your time.
Pay close attention to the assembly sequence of the outer parts of each engine as they are not interchangeable. I made that mistake with the first engine (assuming I could apply the outer parts in any order) and so before I cut out the second engine I used a pen to mark each part with its corresponding number.
The fit of the engine parts is pretty good. Once I apply glue I will eliminate any small gaps that result from dry fitting using only tape. A quick test fit to the fuselage ended in a gap-free join which is encouraging.
The general shape and size of the KH nozzles seem to be OK when compared to the real aircraft.
A simple mistake that KH made (on all three Voodoo kits) was the position of the flaps in the open (extended) position. The fix is super simple once you realize what the problem is.
Kittyhawk has assumed that the flaps simply swing down when deployed from a fixed hinge. They would have you attach them to the model in this fashion. Turns out that this is incorrect.
Take a close look at both these photos of Voodoo with flaps extended. You can clearly see a gap between the front edge of the flap and the wing surface. This is because when extended the flap leading edge is hydraulically pushed backwards and this causes the flap to pivot down and out.
To show the flaps in the correct extended position all you need to do is attach them as shown below. This will mean you need to modify parts E1 and E3 to better fit the new (sharper) angle. If you are keen you can also use some plastic rod to reproduce the actuator ram at the front of the flap.
Another useful photo of the deployed flaps in which you can see just how close the forward edge of the flap sits to the support struts when deployed.
Disappointingly, KH has made no effort what so ever to update the cockpit in the RF kit to correctly represent the differences in recon versions. All they really had to do was include a new shroud and instrument panel. Instead, they have just given us the exact same parts from the F-101A/C fighter kit.
Photo-etch parts are provided to give some level of detail to the side consoles (and instrument panel). Decals are then provided to place over the PE parts. As I've said before this is far from good enough in a 2018 kit release. I'm confident that this is as a result of the original design and tooling for this Voodoo family being done back in 2014 (when the first kit was released). I myself will be parking this kit waiting for Aires to release a replacement resin cockpit, much like they did for the F-101A/C kit.
Once you have assembled the cockpit (single piece tub) and the nose wheel well, these fit together and then slot into the front fuselage halves. No fit issues here.
The front fuselage clicks together nicely with no gaps or misalignment problems. The nose landing gear can be safely left off during assembly and attached at the end.
Now is the time to decide which variant you wish to build. First, let's look at the RF-101G/H option, remembering that these versions were converted F-101A's and F-101C's fighters.
Not sure if this was only a glitch on my kit but as you can see both halves of the nose were moulded with holes and no pins. It was an easy fix with some 35thou rod glued into the port half to give me the alignment pins.
All variants of the Voodoo were fitted with a retractable refuelling probe in the nose (the exception to this was the IRST capable F-101B aircraft). Unfortunately, Kittyhawk decided to provide the refuelling probe doors as separate parts. The fit here is pretty bad and Quickboost previously released a single piece resin replacement for the earlier F-101A/C kit. This QB part can be used with the RF-101G/H parts as shown here. It will require you to carefully cut the kit along the panel lines but will end in a much better result than trying to deal with the kit doors. Of course, another way around the poor fit of the kit doors when closed is to show them open with the probe extended.
Being a reconnaissance aircraft you would expect that these Voodoos had multiple camera ports. The upgraded G/H aircraft had a strip of such camera windows installed in the bottom of the nose just forward of the nose wheel well. Kittyhawk provides these as a single piece with the frames moulded in. The fit of the clear part to the nose is actually very good as can be seen here the surface of the clear part sits flush with the fuselage.
Here is a photo of an RF-101H (converted F-101C) which shows the camera ports. Note the two blade antenna's installed just aft of the camera ports. These are not provided by Kittyhawk in the kit and so will need to scratch-build.
Offering up the nose to the forward fuselage requires a little bit of trimming and squeezing to get the parts to fit snugly, but once in place, there does not seem to be any major steps or gaps to deal with. So far so good.
Whether it was laziness or lack of research, Kittyhawk has included the fighter style (F-101A/C) instrument panel. Unfortunately, this is incorrect for the recon versions.
As these photos show, the recon Voodoos had the scope fitted in the very centre of the main instrument panel and the forward shroud was reshaped (with a circular bulge in the middle) to accommodate the scope internally. This differs considerably to the fighter versions which had the scope on the right side and it sat on top of the shroud. I suspect the best option to correct this will be to wait for an aftermarket replacement from the likes of Aires.
A closeup of the nose refuelling probe doors in the closed position reveals some visible gaps, which for the most part can be put down to the use of tape to hold things in place. I'm confident that once I use glue and some pressure many of these will disappear. I have also attached the nose cone which resulted in some steps which will need to be dealt with. I experimented with some spacers to spread the fuselage to match the size and shape of the nose cone, which worked, but in doing so made the probe door gaps much larger, so it was not the best option.
This angle shows the nose cone step a little better. It does not look like much, but to deal with it you will need to either spread the fuselage (and deal with the resulting gaps in the refuelling probe doors) or sand the nose cone down to match the size and shape of the fuselage. Either option does not appeal to me very much.
The fit of the windscreen and canopy is quite good but I am not convinced about the shape. To my eye (and comparing it to photos) the windscreen (and canopy alike) appears not round enough (the top looks flat as if it's been squashed).
Digging a little further into the shape of the canopy, consider this comparison of the kit and real aircraft. It thinks it's pretty obvious that Kittyhawk has missed the mark.
A visible reminder that the G/H versions were converted from existing F-101A/C (fighter) airframes are things like the cover plates which were used to fair over the gun ports on the nose. Kittyhawk does not include little details like these but luckily they will be easy to scribe into the kit parts before fitting.
A final overall look at the G/H nose once fully assembled. My final impression is that there are some fit issues that will need to be dealt with but overall it's not too bad.
Turning next to the RF-101C option and I suspect this will be the main variant that most modellers will be interested in. At first glance, this looks to be an easier build as there are fewer parts than in the G/H nose.
All the parts specific to the RF-101C are contained in a single small sprue (A). My kit seemed to have some warping in the sprue but I expect that will be an isolated instance.
As suspected when I tried to join the two main nose halves together I had some major gaps issues due to warping of the parts. Happy to report that this was nothing a little brute force could not fix.
To ensure I achieved a strong (and properly aligned) bond on the nose I inserted a couple of internal plastic braces. These made the warped parts stayed aligned while the glue dried.
With the aid of some tape and those internal braces, the nose was glued with only minor seams left to tend to.
The two main windows for the lower cameras are designed to be inserted from the inside as a single piece. Unfortunately, KH has not made the clear parts thick enough to extend far enough and sit flush with the skin of the aircraft. What results is an odd looking recessed window.
Some useful reference photos of the camera port configuration of the RF-101C nose. KH looks to have designed this area fairly accurately.
Another pic showing that problem with the clear parts. Two options spring to mind on how to deal with this issue. 1) Use a Dremel to thin down the fuselage plastic (from the inside) around the window so that the clear part will sit flush correctly or 2) Trim the edges of the clear parts so they fit completely into the hole and then push them through so they sit flush.
Like the G/H nose cone, the C model part results in a noticeable step that will need to be sanded down flush. Care will be needed when doing this to avoid altering the faceted shape on the sides of the nose.
A good photo of a museum RF-101C nose showing the faceted angles for the oblique camera ports. I think KH has done a pretty good job of capturing the shape of the nose in the kit.
I had a few challenges getting the nose section to mate squarely and securely to the forward fuselage. After some pushing and shoving (and some shaving around the seam) I was able to get a firm join with little or no steps or gaps.
A close up of the nose join showing the end result. The windscreen fits well and you can see that KH has not provided an option to open the refuelling probe door on the nose forward of the windscreen. In fact looking closer at where the door should reveal no evidence of it at all. I'll probably just scribe some panel lines (not try and reproduce the piano hinges) in the right spot once I sand the seam.
Here are a couple of reference photos of what the refuelling probe and its door should look like. The extended probe actually looks kinda cool, pity that KH did not consider that option for the RF-101C as well.
A side profile of the fully assembled RF-101C nose parts. I think this captures quite well the graceful shape of the recon nose.
In this angled shot of the nose, you can once again see the squashed shape of the canopy and windscreen. It's doubtful that anyone will manufacture a vacform replacement so most of us will have to live with it I suspect.
One of the roadblocks to building an accurate single seater Voodoo from the Kittyhawk kit is the intake shape. As can be seen from these comparison photos the single seaters had a squarer shape to the intake lips and a smaller, less angled splitter plate. Kittyhawk provides the same intake parts across all three kits and they have only reproduced the F-10B two-seater intakes. This means if you want your intakes to look correct for a single seater some work is needed.
When viewed from above you can clearly see the more squared off shape to the RF-101C intake compared to the angled shape of the F-101B intake.
I was curious if it would be practical to modify the kit parts to better represent the earlier squared intake and smaller splitter plate. Here is the starting point which shows the kit provided "angled" intake and large splitter plate (suitable for the F-101B only)
Step 1 is to mark the line where I want to cut the kit intake to form the new squarer shape. For this, I applied some vinyl tape (Pactra) around the intake to give me a reference line. I like vinyl tape for this purpose as it bends to complex shapes easily and provides a good edge for scribing or cutting. It did occur to me that another option to change the shape of the intake would be to build up the kit lips rather than cut them. This would end up being a lot more work and not be particularly practical for most modellers.
Seen from above and below this was the angle I settled for. I intentionally set the line to not be perfectly perpendicular (90 degrees) to the fuselage. Reference photos showed that there was some rake to the intake, just not as much as the later intakes.
Step 2 is to use a PE razor saw to cut along the tape line. I used a scriber first to start the cut and ensure I had a proper guideline along which to use the saw. So far so good.
Step 3 is reshaping the new lip along the cut line. I used a sanding stick and sharp blade to taper the forward edge as shown.
A quick side by side comparison between the modified and unmodified kit intakes to check my work.
Another comparison from the top and bottom to show how much has been removed to square up the shape. These photos also highlight that there will need to be some panel line adjustments on the new intakes.
With the intake lips dealt with, the next step is to adjust the splitter plate to fit the new intake position and shape. The red lines indicate how much needs to be removed to bring the splitter plate back to meet up with the intake.
Step 4 is to cut the splitter plate part (B28) in-line with the new edge of the intake lips. For this, I used a new #11 blade in my knife and laid it against the intake and pressed down on the splitter plate to mark the cut line. I then used the saw to complete the cut.
Step 5 is to cut the front of the splitter plate just behind the engraved hinge line. I once again used some vinyl tape as a guide for my cut to be 100% sure it was parallel to the hinge line and about 2mm offset.
Step 6 is to now glue the shortened splitter plate back together. You can see that it's now too long but can easily be trimmed and re-shaped to match photos. The only remaining task is to blend in the curves of the intake interior to account for the cuts we made.
Here are a bunch of side by side comparison pics next to an unaltered kit intake to show the end result from different angles. I don't think it's perfect but looks to be a better option than just leaving the kit intakes unmodified for your single seaters. I also think it achievable by most experienced modellers as you really are only cutting and shaping. There is no major fabrication work needed to get these results.
A final comparison photo to see how close I got. I feel the shape is pretty good but am a bit concerned that the length of the intake is now shorter by about 7mm. Not sure this is accurate but it's a compromise I am happy to accept.
Another small issue I wanted to highlight was the missing "Boom Refueling Receptacle Door" on the fuselage spine. As can be seen from the below drawing and photo, the recon Voodoo's were capable of both boom and probe style aerial refuelling (somewhat unique I expect). Kittyhawk has failed to include the boom receptacle door.
The boom receptacle door can be added by scribing or cutting some thin (10 thou) plastic card to shape and gluing to the top of the spine.
The last small issue worth mentioning is the hot air bleed vents on each fuselage side. As you can see from the photo the left side vents are pretty good, but the right side vent should be rectangular and not circular. Not that it's any excuse but Monogram also got this wrong on their Voodoo kits.
COLOURS & MARKINGS - KittyHawk 1:48 McDonnell RF-101C & G/H (KH80116)
Kittyhawk provides a total of five marking options in the kit. Based on previous experience with KH's accuracy when it comes to research I have tried this time to better validate each of the schemes authenticity. One thing I have observed is that KH does not put much effort into altering the drawings they provide to suit each scheme. They obviously just copy and paste the drawings and change the colours and markings as needed. In reality, however, there are often more differences between each aircraft than just colour and decals. An example of this would be the formation strip lights shown incorrectly on several of the schemes. Kittyhawk needs to do better in this regard.

Each paint scheme is provided in a full-colour glossy spread across two A4 pages (so nice and big). Colour callouts are all using Gunze Mr Color paints. I would advise caution when using the colours indicated and do a healthy amount of testing to match sure the match is optimal based on actual reference photos.

RF-101C-40-MC s/n 56-0166
USAF 363rd TRW
27Nov1957: Aircraft #4 in operation "Sun Run" (establishing three new transcontinental speed records)
1967: USAF 45th TRS (460th TRW)
1977: Mississippi ANG 153rd TRS
Currently on display at the WPAFB Museum, Dayton, OH
For more details on Operation Sun Run check out this page
Remove the strip formation lights from the kit nose, fuselage and tail.

RF-101C-60-MC s/n 56-0053
1970: USAF 29th TRS (363rd TRW)
1976: Kentucky ANG 165th TRS
3/1976: Put into storage at the AMARC bone yard
7/1978: Salvaged
Remove the strip formation lights from the kit nose, fuselage and tail.

RF-101G s/n 54-1459
USAF 81st TFW (F-101A-30-MC)
Converted to RF-101G
Kentucky ANG 165th TRS
4/22/1969: Damaged beyond repair in an accident at Itazuke AB, Japan
5/1/1969: Struck off charge
Like all RF-101G's, this aircraft started life as an F-101A-30-MC s/n 54-1459 and was later converted to a recon airframe.
Remove the strip formation lights from the kit nose, fuselage and tail.

RF-101A-25-MC s/n 54-1500
10/7/1959: Transferred to the Taiwanese AF as “5650”
From my research, this aircraft (54-1500 or 5650 in ROCAF service) was, in fact, an RF-101A not a C. From what I could find it seems that at some point RF-101C's did operate in Taiwan but were not on permanent loan like the earlier RF-101A's.
Remove the strip formation lights from the kit nose, fuselage and tail.

RF-101C-40-MC s/n 56-0168
1969: USAF 45th TRS (460th TRW)
Mississippi ANG 153rd TRS
10/1974: Struck off charge.
Remove the strip formation lights from the kit nose, fuselage and tail.
Much like previous KH releases, the kit decals seem to be well printed with no obvious registration issues. Though not as thin as you would expect from a set printed by say - Cartograph or Microscale, I can confirm from previous KH builds, that the kit decals work well and respond as expected to setting & softening solutions. Some of the more colourful schemes have a lot of large and complex multi-layer decals to be applied so bear that in mind when deciding on which option to go with. As you can see the decal sheet itself is very crowded so be mindful of this when cutting each decal out.

FINAL THOUGHTS - KittyHawk 1:48 McDonnell RF-101C & G/H (KH80116)
It's good that Kittyhawk has now bought all their Voodoo family to market. It took them four years and for all their faults we at least now have injection moulded kits of all the single-seat fighter and recon version of the "One Oh Wonder". No need to resort to vacform or resin conversions any longer.

I'm also glad that the moulding technology used by KH has improved in the intervening years since the first release (2014) to allow these last two 2018 releases to show significant benefits to the surface finish of the plastic.

As I've said since day one, the biggest let down for me in all these three kits is the cockpits. PE + Decals just don't cut it in 2018 (just look at KH's most recently tooled kits like the Su-35 and Su-22 family) and to have left the F-10B and RF-101C sitting on the shelf for so long just amplifies this when you review them today.

As part of my dry building this latest RF-101 kit, I have highlighted a few fit issues. None of these are major in my mind nor any worse than other contemporary kit manufacturers. Bear in mind this is a review and it's my job to bring these things to your attention (so you can decide for yourself).

I'm looking forward to completing the kit as an RF-101C (natural metal I think) once we get a decent replacement cockpit and perhaps some aftermarket decal options. 

Gary Wickham

Thanks to Kittyhawk for supplying the review kit