On 3 August, I posted the following to rms:
=================== This morning, a parcel arrived from Hobbylink Japan, containing the new 1/72 A-7A from Hobby Boss. Seven days to be delivered from Japan to the UK - that's excellent service!
I've been rather excited over this the thought of this kit and I've been pouring over it all day. Sadly, I have to say I'm a little underwhelmed by it all. The word which sums it all up is "meh!"
The kit comes in a box that is very reminiscent of those provided by Academy. In fact the whole product has a very Academyesque feel to it: the instruction sheet, the decals, the painting sheet, even the colour of plastic.
The box top claims there are 186 parts on 8 sprues. There are 186 parts, but there are only 6 sprues. The aircraft itself consists of 90 opaque parts on three sprues, with a further 6 transparent parts on one sprue. However, not all the parts will be used for this version. The remaining 90 parts are used to provide the weapons load on two identical sprues. More on this later.
The plastic, as I stated above, is the same light grey-green colour as used by Academy kits. The surface finish on the parts is excellent with no ejection pin marks on visible surfaces. Panel lines are engraved, but I feel that they are a little too deep. The Academy F-8 had deep panel lines that I felt were acceptable after priming with cellulose car primer and sanding. The Hobby Boss panel lines are even deeper. However, they may well look good under a coat of paint. The surface is given texture by a number of raised panels which look quite nice. The big problem that I can see is that Trumpeter's phantom riveter has been moonlighting at Hobby Boss. There are lots and lots of indented rivets that stand out like sore thumbs. Although I could get to live with the panel lines, I really don't like the looks of these rivets and I would fill them as a matter of priority.
Ten parts make up a nicely detailed cockpit - tub, rudder pedals, control column, ejection seat rails and rear bulkhead all have detail and the cockpit sidewalls are detailed on the inside of the fuselage halves. The instrument panel and side consoles are flat with the detail provided by decals. This seems perfectly acceptable, in this scale, but there is plenty of scope for the aftermarket companies. The panels seem to be a challenge to Eduard to provide some pre-coloured PE components.
There are two seats supplied, which are both slightly different. As there are two sets of rudder pedals supplied as well, I think this is intended to provide for both seats of the forthcoming TA-7C and A-7K, rather than different seats for later variants. Sadly the seats have no detail whatsoever and are best replaced with aftermarket resin items.
The fuselage is moulded with the electronics bays on both sides open for inspection. The detailing here is excellent and with a bit of added wiring and some careful painting will look stunning. Likewise, the undercarriage bays are well detailed and once again are very reminiscent of those in the Academy F-8. There is a complete nose gear bay, which makes a nice change from the Fujimi kit.
The intake trunking is well engineered with a lap effect over the joint which will prevent any cracks appearing. A dry fit shows that the joint line won't be too obtrusive and will probably be easy to clean up. There are two sets of intake lips - with and without cannon troughs, to provide for the later variants.
This brings me to the first problem. The early A,B and C variants had twin20mm Colt Mk12 cannons on either side of the lower forward fuselage. The D variant onwards had a single 20mm Vulcan cannon on the port side. The kit provides for the early cannon troughs but it is quite clear that the mould has an insert that will be changed for the later variants. Sadly the panel that is produced by this mould insert has a very pronounced sink line around it. It can be filled but some of the nice detail in that area will be lost. There are other areas that also have sink marks, notably on the base of the rudder.
The wings are moulded in two parts: complete upper surfaces and outer sections, with lowersurface inner sections. The flaps are moulded integrally with the upper surfaces. This is slightly disappointing as, given the high parts count, I was expecting separate flaps and slats and maybe even outer wings which could be assembled in the raised position. It was not to be.
The outer wing sections are easily as thick as the rudder but this time there is no evidence of sink marks. The wing is ingeniously engineered with the location tabs on the lower half while the upper half laps over and but joints to the fuselage. This is intended to provide the slightly faired look seen in this area. It's a good idea in principle. Sadly, it doesn't work and there is a gap of at least half a millimetre which will need to be filled, with again the prospect of losing detail in this area.
Having assembled the kit using masking tape and blue tack, I can say that apart from the aforementioned wing fit problems, the rest of the main airframe fits together perfectly.
The transparencies are thin and clear, however there is a vary prominent mould line down the centreline of the canopy which will have to be carefully sanded away The rear section of the canopy, which is metal on the real aircraft, is lightly etched. There are two HUDs provided, presumably one for later variants, as well as two transparent panels intended for the FLIR pods included in the stores.
On to the stores. There are two identical sprues which each have two MERs, one tank, one Sidewinder, one FLIR pod and no less than nine 500lb MK82 iron bombs. The bombs are each in three parts - two halves and optional fuzes. Sadly, the two halves don't fit well and so there will be an awful lot of very tedious filling and cleaning up involved. Given the fact that there are some hideous trenches masquerading as joint lines (where there really shouldn't be any) I have to wonder whether it's worth all the effort. The MERs are built from three components, the main assembly with the two lower Ejector Release Units as separate components. The main bar of the MER looks to be far too flimsy to carry the weight of a full bomb load. Even worse is that there are only three of the ERU components on each sprue, when there really should be four. I wonder if the original intention was to have one MER and one TER on each sprue.
The fuel tanks look dreadful. They are far too slim and there are some bands around them that stand at least half a millimetre proud of the surface. The Sidewinders are each in five components. They are acceptable (if a little skinny) as an AIM-9L, but they are certainly not the 9B variant as described in the instructions. Again there are some raised bands on the missile body that really should be sanded off. There's also a spurious and deeply etched panel line around the seeker head that should be filled. in The FLIR pod is of a design that I've never seen so I couldn't comment as to whether it is accurate.
The decals provide for two aircraft: 153228 NG/312 of VA-147 operating from USS Ranger (CVA-61) in 1968 and 153214 NJ/201 of VA(F)-122 "Corsair College". The sheet provides all the main markings, but very little in the way of stencilling. In addition, the red is far too bright and is out of register on the national insignia. On the positive side, the decals appear to be very thin and are again very Academyesque. Whether they will have the same adhesion problems as Academy decals remains to be seen.
So. that's an overview of the kit. Rather nice it looks too on first inspection (if you can ignore the hideous rivets and the abysmal stores). So let's deal with the major problem with this kit. There are some quite dreadful shape errors.
I have compared the parts against photographs and plans in "US Navy A-7 Corsair II Units of the Vietnam War" by Norman Birzer and Peter Mersky. I also compared the shape against the old Fujimi kits, which may or may not be a reasonable comparison.
The length seems to be just about spot on, but the wingspan is a scale foot too short. The wing shape is actually very good but the tips provide the problem. When seen in plan view, the rear fuselage has the slightly bulbous look reproduces quite well - slightly better than Fujimi's effort. The big problems are at the nose. The forward fuselage is wide - at least 15% too wide. It then tapers rapidly until it is too narrow ahead of the cockpit, again about 15% too narrow. This gives the forward fuselage an almost pointed planform. The radome is subsequently far too small and skinny. In fact it looks more like the radome of an F-8 than an A-7. The shape problems (with the exception of the radome) are masked somewhat in the side view due to the effect of the intake. In plan view, they are very noticeable.
The problem will be highlighted on the finished model by the canopy, especially if it is left open. The canopy is so wide that it almost looks as though it could fit on an F-111. In fact, the canopy from a Fujimi kit actually fits inside the Hobby Boss canopy! As it is a transparency, there is nothing that can be done about this. Even if the modeller replaces it (and the pointy windscreen) with a vacformed part, it will look odd because a correctly shaped canopy will not fit the fuselage.
The dry assembled model looks somewhat like a caricature of an A-7. You can see what it is meant to be, but it just looks odd. If you were going to build a collection of A-7s, then it would be worthwhile sticking with Hobby Boss ones, because you certainly cannot display this next to a Fujimi one. I did and had to say "Ewwwwwwwww!"
Overall this is a nicely engineered and presented kit which is badly let down by the shape problems. The detail is excellent, would I would still prefer the older Fujimi kits, even with ther lack of detail in the undercarriage bays. In fact, I've had an outrageous thought. It may well be possible to graft the gear bays from a spare Esci A-7 on to the Hobby Boss fuselage, so saving the nicely detailed HB bays for use in a Fujimi kit. How naughty is that?!?
So.. good try, Hobby Boss, but I'm afraid you've missed the mark by quite a wide margin. I will be building this kit, but I won't be displaying it with any Fujimi models and I won't be buying any more - apart maybe from the forthcoming two-seater.
If Hobby Boss had a school report card for this kit, it would read "Must try harder".
In fact, since writing that review I have reconsidered. I now *won't* be building this kit as a proper model. On further reflection I believe that the nose and forward fuselage shapes are too inaccurate and simply cannot be rectfied. Therefore I am going to use the undercarriage and equipment bays on a Fujimi kit and assemble the Hobby Boss airframe as a "what if?" model - maybe a YA-7F.