Boeing EA-18G Growler
Hasegawa 1/48 scale 

Reviewed by: Nikola Dimitrijević

Available in Russian language here     На русском языке здесь

Boeing EA-18G Growler
Hasegawa
PT52
1/48 scale
Reviewed by: Nikola Dimitrijević

US NAVY Electronic Fist

Everything started in January 2000, when US NAVY decided to launch the Joint Airborne Electronic Attack Analysis of Alternatives study for the replacement of EA-6B Prowler. Decision was made based on the experience acquired during the NATO bombardment of then Yugoslavia in 1999.

The main focus of this study was to design an electronic warfare airplane to be used in the period 2010 to 2030. The primary purpose of this airplane was to achieve collective air superiority by neutralizing enemy air defense systems. Based on this study, a five-year development program was launched already in 2002, for the new AEA&SEAD aircraft. This new aircraft would be based on US Navy’s successful F/A-18F Super Hornet design.

The new aircraft was designated as EA-18G and retained a 99% compatibility with the F/A-18F Super Hornet, which represented a very significant cost saving on crew training. Both versions were so close to each other that a G-Growler could easily be converted to an F-Super Hornet, including the installation of Super Hornet’s canon. A conversion from an F-Super Hornet to a G-Growler could be achieved equally easy and fast.

The main differences between the G and F versions were the following:

–   ALQ-128 pods on the wing tips with redesigned  housings for the Growler,
–   Super Hornet’s cannon replaced with electronic boxes with LR-700
–   SATCOM antennas  interfaced with ALQ-99
–   CCS and LBI antennas

The maiden flight of Growler was on August 15, 2006 by the aircraft BuNo 166641 which was a heavily modified F/A-18F. On September 2006, the aircraft was handed over to the US NAVY for further evaluation. The first Growler for the fleet use was officially accepted by VAQ-129 “Vikings” squadron at NAS Whidbey Island, on the 3rd of June 2008. The Navy initially planned to buy approximately 85 aircraft to equip 11 squadrons as of 2008. The EA-18G Growler completed its operational evaluation in late July 2009.

Let’s see how this exciting aircraft came to live in Hasgawa’s model.

Hasegawa’s Plastic World

Hasegawa made the right decision by releasing the model of the latest aircraft in the US NAVY inventory – the EA-18G Growler. This kit became very quickly the favorites of many modelers and was manufactured in 1/48 scale in line with expectations.

From the moment Hobby Link Japan shipped the latest Hasegawa kit to me, till the moment I finally received it, the time was filled with anticipation and impatience.  When the EA-18G safely landed on my desk, I was more than eager to put my hands on the contents of the box.

But before I give you an insight in the content let’s take a look at the box itself. The box is 42.3 x 27.2 x 8.6 cm and made from a not-so-sturdy but still strong enough cardboard to protect the content during regular shipping and handling.  The cover is designed in the standard Hasegawa manner with a beautiful artwork, showing the VAQ-141 CAG bird in flight over the seashore. Information on the box cover indicates that this kit has 300 pieces.

All content is packed in three plastic bags – two bigger with plastic parts and one small with clear parts, an eight page, B&W instruction manual and a big decal sheet. In my case, some of the parts were detached from the sprues, including the canopy, so be careful and check for loose parts prior to opening the plastic bags. Nobody likes to search for small plastic parts on a big carpet or under a heavy cabinet.

 

 

 

The parts are molded in grey plastic with great precision and quality. Very fine and crisp panel lines are recessed in the smooth surface. The same is valid for rivets as well. Raised details are molded sharp and precise. Not a single trace of sloppy work here… almost perfect. I didn’t expect anything less from Hasegawa anyway.

So let’s see now how well Hasegawa managed to replicate this aircraft in 1/48.

The cockpit is made rudimentary and will need some additional detailing to maintain a high level of authenticity, though an OOB build is still fine for less critic modelers. .While the front cockpit is reasonably accurate, same cannot be said for the rear ACS cockpit. The most visible inaccuracy is in the rear main panel layout. Hasegawa missed a few details here, like the lack of left and right indicator panels. There are size and level differences in the main instrument panel which I highlighted in pink and green on the  image on the left.  The main central display is undersized. In addition, panels indicated by pink borders are incorrectly recessed to be at the same level as other instrument panels indicated by green borders. These must be elevated. In order to achieve an authentic layout, some plastic surgery will be needed.

The fuselage is basically an F/A-18F Block 26+, which Hasagawa most likely intends to reuse for their future F/A-18F release. A conversion to an EA-18G fuselage requires some parts of the fuselage be reengineered by filling in or engraving a few lines and rivets or shaving off few parts. Although these alterations might cause issues with beginners, they save Hasegawa from retooling their new A/F-18F kit.

 

Special attention must be paid to the lower front part of the fuselage, just ahead of the front landing gear.  The screened vents for removing exhausted gasses from the gun compartment are not present on EA-18G…  as well as the cannon, so you should fill them. These details are clearly visible on the image left. Pink outlines shows the area that should be treated.

Hasegawa supplied this kit with all the necessary parts specific for the G version, to ensure that the model has all the unique features of the Growler. Some of these parts require polishing to achieve a completely accurate shape. So let’s take a look what we have to do.

The most prominent feature of Growler is the ECS exhaust pipes or bard stacks. In fact, this feature is not unique to the EA-18G, but to all F/A-18F block 26+ as well. Basic shape and size of the pipes seems good, but there is a lot of room for improvement, so additional photos will help.

Plates that carry ESC pipes were made too thick on the kit and need some correction to almost level with the rest of the fuselage. The oval hole circled in pink should in fact be a full circle and reside at the same level with the fuselage, as on the small picture in the top-right corner. This piece is additionally missing a mesh which covers its opening.

The SATCOM antenna on the dorsal spine requires some sanding and smoothing of its joints with the fuselage to get the appropriate shape. The rest of G’ specific antennas look good though the only work required is to make a slightly convex elongated hexagon base for the  CCS antenna.

The upper wing fold is molded with perforations, which is OK for the F version, but on the Growler these perforations don’t exist. The good news is that this isn’t difficult to correct with some putty.

Intake ducts are accurately replicated both in shape and size. Engine fans are also all the way back where they are supposed to be. Engine fan faces are provided and are visible at the end of the ducts.

The only issue here is the triangular recesses on the fuselage for the AIM-7/AIM-120 fins, located immediately above the weapon station under the intakes, are deeper than the original. These have to be shallower and should be reworked to their proper shape

The provision was left for flaps and for Leading Edge Flaps to be positioned in up or down position and what’s more, stabilators are freely movable. New inboard Leading Edge Flaps were provided with extension on the outer end, to ensure the angular transition as is on EA-18G, instead of hard dogtooth as on the Super Hornet.

The front and main landing gears are accurately built and can be used straight OOB. Their shape is correct and most of the important details are provided. Hasegawa includes both retraction arms for the main landing gear legs, Main wheels are designed as usual two-part assembly without the weight effect. Of course, the look of gears assembly can be additionally improved by adding a few details.

Very clear two-peace canopy parts were provided with the option to be placed in open or closed position. The canopy actuator is provided as well. Main canopy is molded with a raised line that must be sanded off and polished.
A nice looking cockpit ladder assembly is supplied with the kit and two pilot figures with the choice of old and new style helmet for each figure.

External stores supplied with this kit consist of the following:

–   2×480 gallon Fuel Tanks,
–   2xALQ-99 High Band pod,
–   1xALQ-99 Low Band pod,
–   2xAIM-120 AMRAAM,
–   2xAGM-88E AARGM,
–   2xALQ-218(V)2.
–   1x ASQ-228 ATFLIR

These accurately resemble the shape of the original and according to my measurement, dimensions are accurate.  Although, the EA-18G have space available for the ATFLIR, it isn’t operational on Growlers.

I have done a dry fit of the main parts and considering that these are all from the old E/A-18F,  you will not have serious issues here – only a few already known minor but easy to solve fitting problems.

The decal sheet is big, 255x185mm, and is printed in perfect register and very precisely.  Hasegawa made a very obvious mistake and provided decals for the screened vents for removing exhausted gun gasses, although these do not exist on EA-18G. The same is with decals for the upper wing fold. And what’s more, the paint and decaling instruction also refer that this decals should be applied. Therefore, pay attention not to apply decals numbered 74, 75, 76 and 77 on your Growler model!

The yellow color used for this sheet is too bright and lemon yellow, while the original is of a bit of reddish shade.

The color of formation strip lights is a very good match to the original, but then we have a problem with their size. All six were provided in the size of the fuselage strip lights, while the strip light on the tail should be smaller and the strip light on the nose one should be slightly smaller than the one on the tail. But it is always an option to cut decals to achieve the correct length.

The VAQ-129 Inscriptions should be a bit larger and less slanted, but this is hardly noticeable when applied on the model. Remaining decals are of correct color shape and size. Even the red color which was usually printed too dark on Hasegawa kit decals, is now very well matched.

If you are still bothered by some of the above mentioned minor errors, you can always reach for one of the Afterburner Decals sheet that we have reviewed here.

Should You Build This Kit… Or Not?

Hasegawa didn’t lie to us with this kit. In their announcement it was clearly stated that this will be the combination of old, newly tooled and retooled parts. Actually, Hasegawa provided us with all additional parts that are required for modeling the faithful replica of the EA-18G Growler.  Yes, they have made the only reasonable business move, by using the existing F/A-18F fuselage, rather than developing the completely new tools. This is the reason that we have, in a way, strange assembly manual with instructions where and how we should reengineer some parts in order to achieve a faithful replica of the Growler. But it is obvious that Hasegawa designers didn’t research all the way to the end. That’s why we receive wrong instruction as in the case with screened vents for exhausted gun gasses. To be perfectly honest, it should be hard to notice all this small thing I have mentioned, if I didn’t have the The Modern Super Hornet Guide book with me.

The fact is that Hasegawa Super Hornet is the best Super Bug on the market and Hasegawa made sure that you will not miss any of the additional details that are needed for a complete EA-18G Growler assembly. Granted, the model has minor issues, but who needs the perfect kit anyway? I just need a good base and leave the rest to my modeling skills where I can eventually build the perfect model.  What’s more, even beginners, with a little help and research, will be able to make this model authentic.

So, can I recommend this kit? The answer is a big YES, without any doubts!

I am sure you will enjoy building it. I know that I will!

I would like to thank Hobby Link Japan for sending me the sample and making this review possible. The kit is available at Hobby Link Japan.

Special thanks to Mr. Jake Melampy for allowing me to use his images for this review.

References:The Modern Super Hornet Guide book by Jake Melampy