1/48 McDonnell Douglas F/A-18B Hornet


F-18B Hornet RAAF A21-109 2 OCU


by Andrew Perren


Background


The RAAF operates 2 seat F/A-18B’s for converting pilots onto the single seat F/A-18A. Most of the 2 Seat B models belong  to No. 2 Operational Conversion Unit ( 2OCU).   To commemorate the unit’s 60th anniversary in 2002 and also 50 years of FCI (Fighter Combat Instructor) courses in 2004 two of the unit’s aircraft received special tiger tail fin tip markings. (A21-26 and A21-109).    The single seater A21-26 also received special anniversary tail markings for each event.    A21-109 is the only aircraft currently to wear the traditional yellow/black chevron design on the tail with the tiger tail fin tips.  There is no decal set to cover these specific markings so I have combined sets.  Please note that the chevrons and the tiger stripe tips are supposed to be a different colour (refer reference).
The aircraft is depicted with a typical training load of two wing tanks and an inert training round ASRAAM missile on the wingtip.

The kit

The kit is the 1/48, Hasegawa F-18B, “NASA” Special edition. The instructions are for F/A-18D, but the kit includes all necessary parts for a “B” model including the correct vertical tails.

Aftermarket Accessories and Extras

  • Resin Ejector Seats – AIRES  (with Photo etch belts)

  • Aussie Decals F-18 Hornets (National Markings and stencils)

  • Hawkeye Decals 2OCU anniversary decal set – (for tiger tail fin markings)

  • Remove Before Flight tags and Canopy jettison lever (Eduard)

  • MV products lenses for landing light on nose gear and tail position light on RH vertical tail.

  • ASRAAM missile from spares box. (see Fig 1)

Figure 1: AMRAAM Missle

Construction and modifications

The cockpit is mainly from the kit.  I Added Resin seats with modified belt set up.   All Sidewall detail was added from plastic card. The canopy frame was also enhanced with plastic card and wire.  Brass wire pins added to canopy hinge assembly for easy removal.  Instrument panels are painted.  The HUD glass is cut from clear acetate sheets to fit into photo etch frame which comes in the kit.  The mould seam must be removed from the main canopy and polished back to clear with micro mesh cloth. Canopy mirrors are included in the kit – I added wire handles as well.  With these enhancements a full aftermarket cockpit would be unnecessary in my opinion.

Fig 2: Canopy frame
Fig 3: HUD, handles and mirrors
Fig 4: Ejection seats

The fuselage was constructed as normal – the kit has known problem areas around the intake lips and the rear fuselage sides which were filled as necessary.  Some additions were made to the fuselage to bring the model up to RAAF Hornet HUG standards:-  IFF Bird slicer aerials on the nose, Swept blade antennae for VHF/UHF and GPS dome antennae on dorsal spine  all scratch built from plastic card.

Fig 5: Antenna
Fig 6: IFF Bird slicer
Fig 7: Ejection seats and FOD cover
Fig 8: Rear fueslage join
Fig 9: Intake joint
Fig 10: IFF bird slicers


FOD guards for intakes and jet pipes were made from epoxy putty and added during final assembly with RBF tags attached with fine wire. The Wing flaps were built in the fully lowered position (kit option), and were pinned with brass wire into the wing to allow for painting decaling etc with them off.  I lined the mounting pins up with the flap hinges so they would be difficult to see from above or below.   The leading edge slats were posed down and rudders both deflected slightly outward (resting under gravity). I have seen these rudders both left, both right and both out but the only way they will be both in, is with the aircraft powered up and in landing or takeoff configuration.

 

Fig 11: Flap connection
Fig 12: Flap connection
Fig 13: Leading edge slats
Fig 14: Main undercarriage
Fig 15: Front undercarriage
  • Landing gear was enhanced with some wire hydraulic and brake lines.  The nose gear has a clear part for the landing light – this was fitted prior to painting and the front ground out to accept a new,  MV lense landing light.   Parts for the US navy landing light system were left off the nose gear and the catapult bar was modified to represent the dummy bar in use on land based hornets.   RBF tags are pinned to the gear lock out points with fine wire.

  • Gear bays are the kit items painted up and weathered with a wash.

  • The kit supplies the Boarding ladder with some etch parts included.  These were modified slightly by drilling the holes through the ladder rail for a more authentic look.  The extension arm was also replaced with a steel pin for strength and for an easy chrome section.

  • A small MV lens also replaced the position light beacon  on the starboard vertical tail.

Fig 16: Engine covers
Fig 17: Intake covers
Fig 18: Pilot ladder

 

Painting and weathering

  • Model airbrushed with Model Master enamels.  Blu-tac used to mask camouflage pattern.  Insides of upper panels were post shaded with a lightened version of the upper colour.

  • Yellow chevrons on tails are masked and painted using and old 2OCU decal as a masking template.  Black chevrons are decal stock cut to suit.  Black discs with tigers head are cut from the spare 2OCU decals I had (see decal notes).

  • The tips of the fins are painted to match the decal strips from Hawkeye.

  • Tamiya enamel clear gloss applied prior to decals and weathering.

  • Panel line/detail wash with thinned acrylic – dark grey.

  • Testors Dullcote to seal in decals and prepare for weathering.

  • Weathering was done with Tamiya weathering masters soot and rust for fluid leaks/grime etc... (see Figure 19)

Decals

The inspiration for this project came from seeing the aircraft in person at the RAAF Amberley air show in 2004.  I had previously built the 1/48 Italeri kit which has an OK set of 2OCU chevrons. I had planned to use these with the rest of the cobbled together requirements but after further research the yellow colour didn’t look right and dimensionally they were too big. What was usable was the black disc with the tigers head so I cut them out. To get the colour of the chevron closer to what I wanted I chose to paint the yellow section and use spare black decal to make the internal chevron and then use the black Italeri discs to complete the marking. This process wasn’t trouble free and in hindsight a better solution would be to source the proper tail chevrons from the standard Hawkeye decals 2OCU set. The result however was acceptable. The Hawkeye tiger tail tips had a lot of trouble conforming to the bulges on the tails and had to be melted on with a hair dryer. The fin tips were painted to match the tiger stripes as it didn’t look right without it done. Aussie decals include markings for A21-106 so I used those with the 6’s cut off and turned upside down. Aussie decals were used for the rest of the national insignia and the stencils. The decals for the formation strip lights were taken from the kit decals. These all went down fine with Micro Sol/Set. The accuracy of the instructions in this particular Aussie decals set is not good – check references always.

Fig 19: Weathering
Fig 20: Decals

Colour notes

  • FS36375 Lt Ghost Grey undersides and outside tail surfaces  (Lightened with white).

  • FS35237 Medium Grey for upper surfaces and inside tail surfaces (Lightened with white).

  • Gear and gear bays Gloss white.

  • Afterburner cans Model master jet exhaust which was lightly buffed with soft cloth.

  • Radome painted Model master radome tan with a chrome cap.

I mix my colours by eye to suit the look of reference photos that I’m working from, also to get the correct look of the contrasts between the decals and base colours.
 

References

  • Hornets Down Under – Andrew McLaughlin

  • Uncovering the F/A-18 Hornet – Daco Publications.

  • www.airliners .net – photo collections (specifically Darren Mottram )

  • Personal photo collection.

  • www.defence.gov.au – Defence dept media gallery.

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