USA   F-111 Aardvark OZ

Kit Reviews / Information


Canopy Cutting. When cutting the canopy choose a thin flexi fine tooth cutting tool.  I say flexi because the plastic the canopy is moulded in is very hard and brittle. I've snapped a couple in the past until I found out this method.  The flexiness of the cutting tool gives way to excessive force so as to prevent the breakage of the cockpit canopy.  - Jordan Kennedy

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Phil Brandt has supplied his published review of the Monogram 1/48 F-111A.  

Monogram's 1/48 F-111A
(edited to 1997--originally published in the IPMS USA Update, 1981)

In 1981, with eight years in the A-model Aardvark's right seat, I had been particularly eager--the only quarter-inch Vark then available was the Aurora kit-- for Monogram's F-111 release. My anticipation was heightened by the fact that Monogram planners were going to use photos I sent of the 429 TFS (Nellis, 1977) bird assigned to Capt. Nick Muralt (now a retired Colonel) and me as a basis for the decal sheet.

Despair is perhaps the most accurate word to describe my feelings when I opened the box, because it was immediately obvious that major kitbashing would be necessary to bring the kit up to contest standards. An "out-of-the-box" effort would have resulted in what the radio control fraternity calls "stand-off scale".

When I questioned the Monogram folks, it became apparent that economics were dictating this un-Monogram-like effort; the "bean counters" had ousted the modellers and had opted for doing this release "on the (relative) cheap": Monogram had purchased Aurora's tooling with the intention of suitably modifying the moulds to bring the kit up to their standards, but the steel moulds had been hardened to an unbelievable degree, making change extremely difficult. Although a valiant upgrade effort was made by Monogram's master model makers, the Aurora kit is still a pig's ear, suitable--then and now--for collecting only!

The most obvious area is the incorrect fuselage shape. Although Monogram redid the downward "swoop" of the radome, the top planview reveals that the taper from the capsule to the pitot is still too rapid, ala Aurora. The fuselage hump aft of the canopy was changed somewhat (more filleting), but still doesn't flow gently toward the strake that comes forward from the vertical fin. And, that strake is much too thick and doesn't taper to a sharp edge along the top.

The canopy has been recast in Monogram's outstanding thin, clear style. Unfortunately, it, too, is simply a copy of the Aurora version--and it's inaccurate! The real F-111 canopy lower line is not horizontal in relation to the fuselage center line, but has a definite downward slant toward the radome. And, the top view of the actual canopy reveals a windshield profile that does not curve in toward the nose nearly as much as that of the Monogram/Aurora version. To produce an accurate canopy for this model, the builder will either have to reshape the windshield panels from clear sheet, or vacuform a whole new canopy.

Another glaring discrepancy is the turned-in engine inlet lips; they're simply not correct! And, the engine lower housing should sweep up much more dramatically, starting at a point even with the aft main landing gear door. The inlet spike air bleed holes and splitter plates remain unchanged from Aurora, and feature the artistry of what must be the Matchbox "Trench Digger's" brother. Monogram redid the seats, but retained the totally inaccurate Aurura instrument panel--yuk!

The landing gear strut and trunnion assemblies have been done from scratch and are a great improvement. The Aurora wheels will need to be widened. The speedbrake is improperly contoured; it should be wider and the sides should curve up to meet the fuselage curve (after the engine contour is moved upward).

The strakes that jut out of the lower empennage have been retained from Aurora, and are still incorrect. They should stick out at approximately 60 degrees from the horizontal, and they should be moved upward about 1/4".

The afterburner assemblies are too long and too small in diameter, and the hydraulically- actuated "fingers" (there should be six, not four) that actuate the nozzle leaves do not taper correctly.

The "speed bumps" which extend aft beside the nozzles have been correctly chopped off by Monogram, but should have a circular, not oval, cross section. And, the tail bumper/tail hook housing is much more prominent in the real bird than the small ridge that has been added by Monogram.

As for ordnance release assemblies, Monogram chose to use TERs (can you say "eff- four?"), which have NEVER been used by the F-111 fleet! The modeller will have to construct the correct BRUs.

Monogram added raised panel detail over the entire airframe, but went too far when they added "blow-in doors" aft of the intakes; the A model doesn't have 'em! The serial number on the decal sheet applies to a 1977 aircraft of the 429 TFS "Black Falcons" (today it's the 429 ECS (EF-111As--last of the USAF Varks) at Cannon AFB). If the builder uses the green markings of the 442 TFTS, another serial number will be necessary for accuracy, because tailnumber 054 was an operational bird not a TF-coded (training) one. 429 TFS aircraft used a yellow horizontal stripe on the vertical fin and black rectangles with crew names stencilled in white on either side of the canopy (the green ones (442 TFTS) on the kit decal sheet with Nick Muralt's and my name are totally bogus!). The naturally black nosegear doors featured a stylized yellow falcon head with the inscription "429 TFS". BTW, I recommend SuperScale (ex-Microscale) decal sheets 48-229 and 48-393.

Monogram's 1981 effort to do a 1/48 F-111 was barely o.k. for the times. As soon as Academy/Minicraft released its 1/48 F-111 series (A, C, E, F, EF, FB), the Monogram kit instantly became painfully obsolete, relegated to the kit collector's market. Although there are still some discrepancies in the Academy kits (external tanks on A models, for instance), aftermarket cockpit detailing with the now hard-to-find Verlinden set (also includes Pave Tack), together with the Paragon flaps/slats/gloves set and maybe the Eduard etched set, will easily produce contest quality!

Phil Brandt
Austin, TX
IPMS 14091

Joe Swierupski has sent his review of the 1/48 scale Minicraft FB-111.

Kit Review-Minicraft FB111 in 1/48 scale

First released in 1988,the Minicraft F111 series is comprised of the following variants: F111 A/C,D,E/F/FB and EF. In actuality, Minicraft moulded two fuselages-one for the distinctive EF and the other for all other variants. Minicraft also moulded two different wing lengths-the long winged FB and C models,and short winged A,E,F, and FB models. What this all means is that Minicrafts A,D,E, and F models are the exact same,as are the EF and C models. Only the EF is a unique moulding. Minicraft made subtle changes to differentiate the models, such as adding ordinance to the E model, but little else. Do not expect any accurate detailing differences between any versions such as a correct variants instrument panel or provision of a Pave Tack pod on the F model . Generic modelling at its best! All versions Minicraft produced are based entirely on the F111A model.

That being said, onto the review of the FB111(and F111C for that matter!!!). To start, the kit is moulded in a light grey plastic,and features nicely done recessed lines. The kit is broken down into the following substructures: wing and pylon assemblies,cockpit/ forward nose,aft fuselage and intakes,empennage, and landing gear. The cockpit assembly is composed of a two piece vertically seamed structure into which the finished cockpit tub is inserted. The kits cockpit is VERY basic and lacks details. As stated, the front instrument panel is that of the F111A but is a fairly close replica of the EF version. It lacks relief and is a challenge to paint. The lower portion of the instrument panels T is missing and needs to be scratchbuilt. No rudder pedals are provided. There is no sidewall detail,no aft bulkhead detail,and no overhead console or gunsight. The seats are way too thin and lack any detail. The sticks are incorrectly shaped and there are no throttle assemblies.Unless ;you insist on scratch building everything (and there is alot in there!) I recommend you find and buy the Verlinden cockpit set which provides you a resin tub,correct seats,an overhead console, sticks, and lots of other parts more specifically for the F111F model. Take what you need for the FB and save the rest for the spares box. The set is a tremendous time saver and worth the price. The rest of the Minicraft kit though can carry its own weight without the need for aftermarket items.

The next assembly to build was the triple plow 2 intakes. These are nicely represented but Minicraft provided only a very short intake tunnel and this tunnel opens into the aft fuselage. To remedy this, I took some plastic card,painted it flat black and glued it vertically to the aft tunnel edges. This gave an illusion of depth and prevented seeing into the fuselage. Fit of the intakes was good but make sure you dry fit first to understand how they align and are glued.

Next to be tackled were the pivoting wings. Minicraft designed a neat system to allow the wings to articulate together with the pylons. This allows the pylons to move parallel to the a/c centerline axis. Minicraft incorrectly allowed the builder to have pylons 5 and 6 (outermost) also perform this trick.
General Dynamics unfortunately had other ideas and on the real a/c these pylons were fixed and unmovable,and in fact were only aligned when the wing was swept at a 26 degree angle. I chose to only attach pylons 1-4. The wing sweep mechanism is a fairly complex system of pivot points and plastic rods into which the keyed pylons are inserted. This linkage is functional but very fragile. When the wings are fully swept,the innermost trailing edges are tucked into an incorrectly shaped slot in the aft fuselage. I chose not to allow my FB's wings to articulate because of the fragile nature of the assembly and that awful slot. So I assembled the wing in the full forward swept position. This method resulted in alot less work and the wing pivot points are strong enough to support the long wing without drooping. To solve that now open slot problem I scratchbuilt the wing/fuselage fabric retraction covers using another piece of plastic card shaped to fit the slot. I made the fabric effect by covering the shaped plastic card with surgical tape. The result as very good and lots better than an open hole.
(* webmaster's note: station order is actually 1 to 8 starting on the outer edge of left wing, to the outer of the right wing. Stations 1 and 8 were not operationally used. Stations 2 and 7 do not pivot and are set to 26 deg - the max wingsweep to still allow slat and flaps to extend. Stations 3,4,5 and 6 pivot. Order of weapon/tank release is outboard to inboard.)

The nose/cockpit assembly and aft fuselage were then joined together.This joint was the single worst fit of the entire kit. The nose plugs into the aft fuselage and then gets glued together. I had a distinct step at the top joint ,and had to liberally use crazy glue (CYA) to solve the problem. Even then I spent a few hours sanding the joints created by the poor fit. Expect to have to rescribe large areas of the fuselage as a result of so much sanding and reworking.

The nose landing gear wheel well was quickly finished but looks nothing like the real thing. The very obvious ejection module rocket motor is missing on the model and in its place is the attachment assembly for the nose wheel retraction strut arm. My advice is to paint the whole thing white and forget it. Detail it if you want but....The main landing gear wheel well also lacks detail,but so much is hidden by the main gear structure that it probably is a moot point. The main gear assembly is a two piece affair, horizontally seamed which accurately portrays the real item. Take time though, to remove the pronounced seam as the real 111's had no seam in this assembly. While you are there, paint the inside of the speedbrake insignia red and reposition the door to hang behind the main gear at about a 70 degree angle to the rear fuselage. Take note that Minicrafts instructions for the speed brake positioning are incorrect.

The empennage and pair of ventral fins are quick assemblies with excellent fits all around. Other assemblies prior to completion are the incorrectly shaped exhaust nozzles and afterburners,fuel dump,nose pitot tube,and four fuel tanks. The canopy can only be positioned in the closed position-a major flaw for this kit. After all that work in the cockpit,to cover it up with a closed canopy is simply unacceptable.The clear plastic is very brittle and I cracked my canopy trying to saw open the gull wing doors. I have seen another intrepid builder razor saw the canopy successfully, and it really made a tremendous difference. Maybe vacuforming a new canopy is the solution. Minicraft provided minimal decals whose national insignia was too dark to my eye, so I replaced them with Superscale decals and liberally used Verlinden rub ons for placarding details. I should mention that SAC Varks had two color schemes, and I chose the so called "dark vark" scheme of dark green/grey topside and two medium grays underneath. The wrap around scheme, while difficult to paint, resulted in a very sinister,threatening appearance. The finished model looks great and remains one of my all time favourite kits.

In review,the overall kit was well done but is lacking in detail. Out of the box and undetailed the result will be pleasing but basic. However, if built for competition or superdetailed, lots of work will be needed to achieve a good result. I strongly recommend use of the aforementioned Verlinden detail set as it is a cost effective time saver.

On the kits negative side many details were left off the model in a cost saving effort by Minicraft. While some missing details are subtle such as instrument panels,others are more profound to the modeller such as the lack of a Pave Tack pod on the F111F or the inability of any of the kits to have opened bomb bays. The lack of open positioned canopies is a major negative point, not to mention only cursory detailing of the cockpit. Minor sink marks are found throughout the kit,as are die punch marks which must be filled or camouflaged. The lack of intake tunnelling also bears comment. So this model is not without flaws. But if the builder is willing to patiently build this kit and invest the time needed, his/her efforts will be met with a satisfactory result.

Carlo Kopp has provided a review of the 1/48 Academy Minicraft F-111C kit.

Review of Academy Minicraft F-111C 1/48 kit / Aussie Decals AD48012 / F-111G

The kit builds either an FB-111A or F-111C and inlets are included for both models. The engine exhausts are identical for both models and the "straight" FB-111A exhaust is not included as an option. The general geometrical layout looks good, it appears to really look like an F-111 unlike the Monogram kit.

The cockpit is fairly basic, the instrument panel is basic analogue with the round ARS and no hood. As reported the sweep mechanism is quite complicated and includes incorrectly swivel for the outer pylons, however the mechanism is actually moulded such that the outer pylons can be disconnected. The pivot holes in the wings are flashed over so that the serious modeller can simply not drill out the outboard stations and not use them at all. The pylon shape is identical for both versions and a purist may wish to reshape the pylon leading edge to reflect the F-111G if required. The kit instructions suggest the installation of the M-61A1 gun in the weapon bay, however the gun "blister" is quite wrong in shape and should be discarded, as it is not used in the days of Pave Tack. The Triple Plow inlet vortex generators are missing and a competition grade modeller would want to add these in. The ECM pods should be discarded as they are shaped like a Vietnam era QRC series pod.

The 600 USG "Jugs" look geometrically OK, four are provided. If you want a serious stores package, a third party stores kit is desirable. NB most third party stores kits provide Paveway I only which has a different tailkit geometry to the Paveway II GBU-10/12 in RAAF use. Also you will need a good BRU if you want to model Mk.82 Snakes or Slicks.

The decals are fairly basic "classic" camouflage and have incorrectly coloured serials. A serious collector should use a third party decal set. The Aussie Decals set is also now obsolete, the vertical tail "lightning" employs a squadron number rather than the currently used unit emblems of 1 and 6 SQN. However, sufficient serial numbers are included in this kit to allow you to assemble a serial number either for an F-111G or F/RF-111C in USAF Battle Grey camouflage. You will need to somehow produce a new emblem for the tail eg cut out the existing SQN number and stencil the Kingfisher or Boomerang in. Also you will need to somehow stencil or Letraset the black stripes for the walkways on the upper surfaces.

If you wish to build a display model for the office or study, the kit can be built up as is with third party decals and a good paint job, and will make a very nice C or G model aircraft as is. If you are after a competition quality end product, the kit is sound in terms of basic geometry, but will need a lot of work to make up for detail items which are either missing, wrong or not quite shaped right. My only criticisms of this kit are little details which could have been done better, and the moulded over weapon bay which is a lost opportunity by the maker of the kit to put extra detail in.

I would rate the kit as vastly superior to the Monogram kit in every respect and the only serious 1/48 Pig worth spending money on.

The Academy Minicraft F-111C 1/48 kit costs just over AUD 50.00 and is stocked by Hobby Place in
Melbourne. The Verlinden extras kit is no longer available in Oz.

Jonathan S. Cooper has provided this review of the 1/48 Academy Minicraft F-111F Kit .

Review of Academy Minicraft F-111F 1/48 kit

After searching for well over a year of a 1:48 F-111 Model kit, I found one in August of 1996. The Academy Minicraft F-111F kit was the subject in this case. Overall, it lacks details, but those can be overcome.

The cockpit of the kit, is relatively simple, and provides little detail. The rear cockpit wall has VERY few details, and is quite simplistic. Another flaw, was the fact that the canopy cannot be left open. I found this to be a major problem, and if it is sawed, chances are you will likely brake it. Next we look at the nose wheel well, actually, there is little to look at. No detail what-so-ever! You may want to try an obtain some photos and add detail, but unless your going to hang it, don't even bother.

The wings are quite difficult to build, and get to function properly. It works, I did it. However, you should notice that the two outer pylons are rarely used, and are only in line, when the wing is swept to 26 degrees. My solution, leave off the outermost pylons, and only use two. This is more common, and there is less work to get the wing system to function properly. The wing glove covers leave much to be desired, they are only a piece of plastic that bends into the fuselage and don't normally function properly. These covers, usually made of a heavy canvas on the real birds should be replaced by some sort of fabric, giving it a much more realistic appearance. While your working with the wings, you may notice that there is absolutely no way to extend the flaps and slats, unless you would like to do some cutting with an X-ACTO knife. This is very time consuming, and I only have attempted it on the Monogram F-14 kit.

The basic fuselage is quite accurate, but has a few flaws. The most major flaw being the joint between the forward, and rear sections, which were assembled earlier. I spent days, just fitting, and thinking of a way to make the joint as clean as possible. I didn't find a way, there is still a large gap, and it will have to be filled in with contour putty, later on, before finishing is applied. On the underside of the fuselage, you will find a bomb-bay. This was not on the F-111F. Did you guess it yet? That's VERY correct, generic modelling. In place of the bomb bay, there should be a Pave-Tack pod. This pod was used for targeting, and contained a laser designator. I know of no accessories for Pave-Tack pod. I don't think it is possible to scratch build one either. (Webmaster's note - see the Verlinden Super detail set above for the Pave Tack pod)

The engine intakes are just a piece of sheet plastic with raised turbines. It offers no depth, and you can see both turbines from one side of the intake. This would not have been possible. I suggest that you use some sheet styrene to divide up the intake area, and add the illusion of depth. The afterburner cans are not properly formed, but not many will notice this flaw. The fuel dump is quite inaccurate, and you can easily carve a new one which resembles the real thing a little more closely.

The markings are quite dull, and have little detail. The solution, are after-market decals. I prefer to find a set of decals for a "mean, and bad" looking Vark. The choice is up to you. Once you have finished the markings, you will notice that it looks quite good.

My overall opinion of the kit is quite good. Academy took a huge chance when producing the only 1:48 Vark kit out there. There are many accessories that can be used to make the aircraft look better, one being the Verlinden resin cockpit accessory. Another suggestion would be to add a few weapons, and build a diorama with the kit. This looks quite impressive, and people don't examine the details as much.

I hope you have enjoyed my review, and don't let my comments discourage you from building this kit.

Jonathan Cooper
Granite Falls, WA LOGO


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