Thursday, November 16

Review: ResKit 48th scale F-35 Lightning II improvement sets Pt. I - Cockpit ,seat & Pilot...

Today Gary reviews the first two of four sets for your 1/48th scale F-35 Lightning II from ResKit. Both the cockpit, plus seated pilot & seat he's sitting on are the subjects today - with the wheels & burner can coming tomorrow. Check in for Pt.1 today... 

RESKIT is a well known & respected Ukrainian aftermarket company, focusing on aircraft detail sets in cast resin and more recently 3D printing. In this review today, I'll take a look at two of the four new sets they have designed specifically to enhance the new tooled Tamiya 1:48th scale F-35A. 

Tomorrow, we will look at the tyres, wheels & 'burner cans, but today we examine:
  • F-35A "LIGHTNING II" Cockpit (Detailed Edition with 3D decals) for Tamiya Kit - RSU48-0219
  • F-35A "LIGHTNING II" Pilot Sitting in Late Modification Ejection Seat (Type 1) - RSU48-0012

ResKit - F-35A "LIGHTNING II" Cockpit (Detailed Edition with 3D decals) for Tamiya Kit 
From ResKit
1/48th scale
Kit No #RSU48-0219
Price: $37.40USD from the ResKit Website
Set 0219 is a combo boxing of several individual sets, all related to the Tamiya F-35A cockpit and canopy area. This set is also a "detailed edition" based on the addition of Kelik 3D Decals.
Inside this combo set you are provided:
- Cockpit tub (3D Printed)
- Main console and shroud (3D Printed)
- Control stick and throttle (3D Printed)
- Console & screen raised details (3D Decal)
- US16E Ejection Seat (3D Printed)
- Canopy frame for Open position (3D Printed)
- Canopy frame for Closed position (3D Printed)

The main tub is printed as a single piece. The part is designed to be a drop fit in the Tamiya F-35A main fuselage. The side consoles are molded flat as this tub is meant to be used only with the included 3D decals by Reskits own Kelik brand. It is likely that other manufacturers 3D decals would also fit if you have a favourite. As I have recently started doing my own 3D printing I am always curious as to how professional designers support their parts when printing. Reskit seem to subscribe to the "many tiny" supports rather than the "few large" supports, and it seems to work very nicely as I was able to peel the tub off the supports pretty easily once I started a cut at one end. Reskit have also smartly placed all the print supports on the underside of the part so that nothing will be visible after cleanup.
The Reskit US16E seat, characterised by its overlapping straps and indentations, presents a significantly more intricate printing task compared to the simple, square-cornered main cockpit tub. As a result, it demands more fragile support structures and necessitates a gentler approach during post-printing cleanup. Everyone is rightfully in awe of the exceptional level of detail achievable through 3D printing these days. However, this enhanced precision comes at the cost of requiring additional supports, subsequently increasing the effort required for proper removal and cleanup without causing any damage. After all, as the old saying goes "You don't get something for nothing"
The F-35 is fitted with the Martin Baker US16E Ejection Seat, providing an unprecedented balanced optimisation between key performance parameters such as safe terrain clearance limits, physiological loading limits, pilot boarding mass and anthropometric accommodation ranges to fully meet the F-35 Escape System requirements. The US16E will be common to all F-35 aircraft variants. The Reskit print really is a work of digital art. The closer you look the more detail that pops out, like the cloth bunching on the headrest and seat cushions.
For the most part the F-35 employs a full "glass" cockpit. This makes the layout very clean and simplified when compared earlier generation designs. When you are putting yourself up against a new tooled Tamiya kit you better bring your A game and Reskit has delivered the goods. 
Even for such a straightforward part as this console the extra sharpness and detail afforded by the 3D printed resin parts is obvious.
The overall effectiveness of detail in most scale cockpits often comes down how well you can reproduce the fine switches, knobs and lettering. Many different techniques can be used, ranging from painting your own, photo-etch brass, water-slide decals and of course more recently 3D decals. Kelik is Reskits own brand used for 3D decals. I have several of there standalone sets and have found them to be on par with others in the market. Under such high magnification, these decals start to look grainy, but to the naked eye they look very convincing.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Sidestick Grip, along with the throttle grip, is the main pilot/aircraft interface for flight, avionics and armament systems. Manufactured from precision cast aluminium, this grip is resistant to environmental and structural conditions per MIL-STD-810. In addition to an adjustable palm rest, the stick grip contains a variety of single and multi-function switch assemblies for pitch/roll trim, display management, aerial refuelling, nosewheel steering, autopilot override, weapon select, air-to-ground weapon release, gun and air-to-air weapon release. Reskit has 3D printed but the grip and throttle which together form the basic HOTAS system. Two sets are provided, I assume to provide a backup in case of accidental loss or breakage.
When it comes to evaluating aftermarket sets, detailing is one thing, but the real test is how well does it fit. In this case I think that Tamiya has made Reskit's work pretty easy with their modular design meaning that the Reskit part is able to form a perfect fit to the Tamiya upper fuselage. As can be seen, the Reskit parts offer a higher level of detailing including cable looms and wiring on the rear bulkhead and floor. How much of these can be seen with the seat installed is debatable.
A side by side comparison of the Reskit tub and seat with those provided in the kit. Tamiya provide waterslide decals for the seat harness, which I have not added, but those would look pretty average up against the excellent 3D printed Reskit seat. I think in this case the pictures say enough about which is superior.
One to the more ambitious parts that Reskit has 3D printed is the canopy frame, including the canopy detonation cord. The F-35 ejection sequence involves shattering the canopy before the seat (and pilot) are pushed up and out. For this to work, a thinner canopy with an explosive cord is required. If you look closely the F-35 canopy is divided up into two, one is the front, thicker to protect from anything striking the canopy (birds mainly), and the thinner rear part to eject through.
Like Tamiya, Reskit provide two canopy frames in the set, one for an Open canopy and the other for Closed. The cleanup of the multitude of supports on the canopy frame and det cord is time consuming and a good set of cutters is needed. One trick I learned from reading 3D printing forums is to submerge the parts in very hot water (not boiling) for a minute to soften the resin. This makes cutting away the supports from delicate parts much less risky and often results in less damage to the parts as well. A comparison to the kit parts once again show the value of the Reskit extra details.
A test of the cleaned up "open" frame shows a very snug fit, with alignment slots matching up exactly as per the kit plastic part. The det cord did not sit perfectly flush with the inside of the canopy but it was close enough to not be distracting.
With all the parts now cleaned up it is time for a final overall fit test. As expected the merger of Tamiya and Reskit was a match made in heaven. The seat and new canopy frame are the real centerpieces of this set, with the Kelik 3D decals a nice added bonus.
The 8 page, color instructions cover off the preparation of the 3D printed parts and the recommended process to apply the Kelik 3D decals. No modification or preparation to the Tamiya kit parts are needed (I can vouch for this) and the whole set is a pleasure to use.

RESKIT - F-35A "LIGHTNING II" Pilot Sitting in Late Modification Ejection Seat, Type 1 
From ResKit
1/48th scale
Kit No #RSU48-0012
Price: $15.80USD From the ResKit Website
As an alternative to an empty seat, Reskit has also designed two seated pilots (RSU48-0012 and RSU48-0013) for use with any 1:48 F-35A kit. The only visible difference I can see between the two sets is the choice of optional left hands, one with the classic Goose "flipping the bird" middle finger (I hate it when it does that) and the other signalling "hang ten".
The pilot is molded integral to the US16E seat with harnesses and oxygen hoses attached. The F-35 Helmet incorporates a fully internally mounted display (HMD) with a next generation interface providing pilots with intuitive access to vast quantities of flight, tactical, and sensor information for advanced situational awareness, precision and safety, all without the need for an external traditional HUD. One right arm and a choice of two left arms (one on the throttle the other "flipping the bird") are provided.
One of my favourite photos, covering both the pilot, his helmet and many of the visible cockpit details. The main cockpit interior is mostly FS36231 Dark Gull Grey and note the bright green oxygen bottle just visible on the back of the seat. The seat itself has several shades of black and dark grey and the helmet has a visible carbon fibre pattern.
Much like the cockpit set, Reskit has utilised lots of very small supports to achieve a reliable print. Using the previously mentioned "hot water" trick I was able to separate the seat from the supports with minimal effort and drama (less drama is good, no-one likes drama).
How much better is this Reskit set than what you get in the Tamiya box? Well, you can judge for yourself, but to my eye it's well worth the money if you want to display your canopy open. With canopy closed (and it is tinted) I'd probably be happy enough with the kit supplied seat and figure.
One final comparison when you mate the tub with seat/pilot into the fuselage. Again Reskit is the clear winner for me but Tamiya is one of the best kit seats and pilots I have seen in recent times (as you would expect).
The simple instruction sheet for this kit...

Thoughts so far?
It is a sure thing to say that I am impressed so far. Tomorrow, TMN will publish the second part of this review, where we look at the complimentary sets for this aircraft:
- F-35 (A, C) "LIGHTNING II" Exhaust Nozzle for Tamiya Kit - RSU48-0261
- F-35 (A,B) Wheels Set - RSU48-0185

I will give my final thoughts on the four of them then. See you tomorrow!

Gary Wickham

You can see more of this kit and purchase these if you like them directly from the Res-Kit Website...
You can see more of Gary's model making on his website