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Meng F-35A Lightning II

FineScale Modeler reviews the 1/48 scale plastic model aircraft kit
RELATED TOPICS: AIRCRAFT
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There is a plethora of F-35s available to modelers in various scales. I’ve built two so far, the wonderful Academy 1/72 scale kit and now the equally beautiful 1/48 scale Meng kit of the A variant.

Upon opening the box you are treated to several blue-gray sprues, an instruction booklet, a beautiful decal sheet by Cartograf for two aircraft, a separate color guide, and a small fret of photo-etch (PE). Weapon pylons for the wings are provided, but no weapons for them. Only test aircraft had these, which rendered the aircraft’s RCS (radar cross section) more visible. I’ve read complaints that the tape to seal the panel gaps is too thick, but less depth would make masking difficult. Since it took me 16 hours to mask and paint this kit, I’m glad the tape is a bit thick.

The cockpit is the first order of business. There isn’t much there — just like the real one. Seat belts are PE, and the 20 x 8-inch PCD (Panoramic Cockpit Display) is a fully lighted decal. Separate throttle, side stick, rudder pedals, and multipart ejection seat are detailed and fit well.

Wheel wells and landing gear are simple and well represented. Instructions say to attach the landing gear and wheels (which are not bulged) before joining the fuselage top and bottom, but I deviated from that. The wells fit great in the lower fuselage.

Intake tunnels to the compressor blades are designed so well that when you glue the halves together there is no visible seam. Hats off to Meng, since this can be a chore on other models. A large stiffener is provided to keep the intakes aligned for a seamless fit into the lower fuselage.

After gluing the cockpit into the upper fuselage, I cemented top and bottom. Open and closed refueling doors are provided.

Next is assembly of the wings and the vertical and horizontal stabilizers. The only option here is the horizontal stabilizer, which can be posed at 0 degrees or 10 degrees down. One complaint with the kit is that the vertical stabilizers have a 50% insert that gets glued in. This incorporated some of the details, and I had to remove the RCS tape to remove the seam. I looked at photos to see where the RCS tape would be and painted it back on.

The only other complaint involved the two PE parts that are supposed to re-create what’s inside the exhaust nozzle. The exhaust tube is a single-piece affair, with great-looking turbine blades and nothing else. The PE fits just aft of the exhaust tube and looks to cover any detail inside. I understand this: Not many people know what the exhaust really looks like. Meng was trying to do its best. But I would have left it out, just because it looks better.

The weapon bays are well detailed, with separate parts that enhance the overall detail, and beautifully reproduced options of either GBU-35s or AIM-120Cs. But since I like a “clean” look, and the fit of the doors was so good, I decided to close them. Separate closed doors also are available for the nose gear, but not for the main gear.
 
I cemented all the external bits, such as pitot tubes and other sensitive items, before painting. Painting is straightforward but tedious — 16 hours — because of masking. Color callouts seem accurate, but they are for AK Interactive and GSI Creos Acrysion paints. I used Testors Model Master gunship gray and dark gull gray.

I wanted an F-35 in 1/48 scale, and this is it. The model has wonderful fits and great details. It’s the first Meng kit I’ve built, and I would gladly build another. It looks great in a collection.


Note: A version of this review appeared in the March 2018 issue.

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