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F-117 Nighthawk

by Kaan Gok


F-117 Nighthawk


 Academy's 1/48 scale F-117 is available online from Squadron.com
(but you should probably get
Tamiya's much better Nighthawk kit from Squadron instead!)



This is Academy's 1/48 scale F-117 Nighthawk kit. Many people say that it is an ugly plane, but I think the opposite. I think that it looks very "cool".

I guess that most of HyperScale's visitors know the plane, so I'll get right to the kit review part.




Altough the kit is cheaper than the Tamiya offering, it's not very good, and I can't describe it as a "state of the art" kit. There are some areas which are wrong, and some areas which are not well detailed.

I used the Eduard photoetched detail set to add some more detail.



In the end, I ended up with a kit which has some obvious errors, but looks detailed to somebody who is not a Nighthawk expert.


Kit Errors

It is worth talking about the kit errors first.

The side handles of the ejection seats are wrong, I replaced them with Academy's F-15E kit seat handles. The F-15 kit is very useful you see, you can use its ordnance for your Revell/Monogram F-15E kit, too. There should be no ejection handle on the front of the seat, ignore this. The front control panel is entirely Eduard, kit panels are incorrect, I fear. There is no option to open the canopy, you must scratchbuild the hydraulic actuators.



There are two faceted bumps at the underside of the real thing (where the wings meet the fuselage), but these bumps are missing on the kit. There is no option to drop the control surfaces, I cut and repositioned them manually. Be aware of some fit problems if decide to do that, especially at the inboard side.
There should be a diagonal facet line on the flaps, going from front/inside to back/outside on the entire flap surface, this is missing in the kit, and it's not easy to add that, so I left it as-is.

The cylindirical hydraulic box on the front landing gear is missing, I scratchbuilt it using sprue and plastic strip.



Speaking of the landing gears, the back landing gears have some accuracy errors, if you use the Eduard set, most of these errors are corrected. Check your references for the corrections. The front doors of the main landing gear are usually closed on the ground like the F-15 doors, but Academy's doors can't be glued that way. I have found at least one picture showing them open, so this is not an error I guess.

The GBU-27 laser guided bombs look very cool, but I couldn't check the inside details of the weapons bay, because I didn't find any pictures of it on the internet and I didn't have a Walkaround book at hand.


And another annoying aspect was that the canopy on my kit had a mold anomaly at the left side, a line which goes all the way down. It couldn't be polished away, because it is not on the surface ! I tried the cut the glass parts of the canopy and scratchbuild them from acetate sheets attached to the canopy frame, but I was too lazy, and ended up with a cracked canopy. So I bought another kit just for its canopy. Guess what - the second kit has this line too! I decided not to try my luck again, so I left it as is.


Kit Modifications

Additional kit modifications are as follows:

The clear parts are molded in orange-clear plastic. Altough this is quite acceptable for the canopy, it has a side effect. You will have orange landing lights and orange FLIR/DLIR screens. I drilled out the landing lights, painted inside with Testors chrome silver and I gradually added a drop of Humbrol gloss cote onto it. Humbrol glossclote shrinks when it dries, but after 3-4 applications and drying times, you will have a very nice looking landing light. The result seems quite convincing to me, and I will do this for my next models, too. Don't try to do it with Humbrol clearfix, it will have air bubbles when it dries. (I learned that the hard way, but I had replacement lights in hand, more on this later...). I didn't try it with an acrylic gloss, but I think that it will do. Humbrol's glosscote is very very good for this job, because it dries crystal clear, and it has a very high surface tension, so you can have a nice concave surface.

The FLIR/DLIR (Forward looking infrared radar/Downwards looking infrared radar) screens are a very fine metallic mesh with RAM (Radar Absorbent Material) coated on them, they are nearly transparent for optical and infrared wavelengths, and they absorb radar waves. They have some orange tint in them, too, but Academy's clear parts are way too thick to simulate this effect. I sanded them about 1/4 of their original thickness, then polished them.


I added the rubber seal on the canopy and the brake/electrical lines on the landing gears using monofilament fishing lines. You can find them in various thickness. My advice is to buy one of every thickness! They are very cheap and very useful.



Painting and Markings


The painting and weathering of the kit was a challenge for me.

I first painted the entire model black first using Testors' visions acrylic black. I then airbrushed dark gray mixed with black (in other words a very very dark gray) and thinned approx 1:5 paint:thinner ratio onto facet lines and edges. The paint is very diluted, this enables you to gradually build up the colors on various areas. After that, I mixed some gloss clear to the mixture and sprayed some areas, which look gloss on the pictures I have. The final part was spraying medium grey thinned with 1:10 ratio on all the model to give a scale color effect. This decreased the shine on the gloss sprayed areas, but it looked better anyway.


Some of the pictures show antennas, some do not show them. The navigation lights are visible sometimes, too. All antennas on the F-117 are retractable, and the lights rotate and go to the inside of the surface, when the plane goes to combat. I left them off, this saved me some time :). If you want to build the plane in combat configuration, leave the radar reflectors off ( Two small parts on the sides of the fuselage), but you should fill their holes on the surface if you decide to do it.

Two decal options are offered. I decided to build Col. Al Whitley's plane "Toxic Avenger". It doesn't make much difference though, because both planes are overall black. The decals went on well, but the unit markings, which look like very light gray/white on the pictures are printed like medium-dark gull gray color. I choose not to spend more money for this kit and used the kit decals.




The kit looks good when finished, especially if you don't know much about the Nighthawk. It's not as accurate as the Tamiya kit, and it was more expensive than the Tamiya kit for me unfortunately. If I decide to build another F-117, I will try the Tamiya kit (which needs to be fixed, too, because it has visible panel lines which are coated with RAM material on the real plane.).



If you are not concerned about the accuracy, this is the kit to build, because you can find it about the half or 1/3 price of the Tamiya kit.



Additional Images


Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

Images Copyright 2001 by Kaan Gok
Page Created 23 October, 2001
Last Updated 04 June, 2007

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