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1/48 Kitty Hawk F-35B Lightning II

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is a family of single-seat, single-engine, fifth generation multirole fighters under development to perform ground attack, reconnaissance, and air defense missions with stealth capability.The F-35 has three main models; the F-35A is a conventional takeoff and landing variant, the F-35B is a short take off and vertical-landing variant, and the F-35C is a carrier-based variant.

The F-35 is descended from the X-35, the product of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program. JSF development is being principally funded by the United States. The partner nations are either NATO members or close U.S. allies. It is being designed and built by an aerospace industry team led by Lockheed Martin. The F-35 carried out its first flight on 15 December 2006.

The United States plans to buy a total of 2,443 aircraft to provide the bulk of its tactical airpower for the U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy over the coming decades. The United Kingdom, Italy, Netherlands, Australia, Canada, Norway, Denmark, and Turkey are part of the development program; Israel, Singapore and Japan may also equip their air services with the F-35. More F-35-II info here.


1/48 Kitty Hawk F-35B Lightning II

Finally here is the F-35B Lighting II from a new company in town, Kitty Hawk Models. The F-35 is pretty much a new addition to the NATO members and U.S. allies arsenal. So, I was surprised to see this subject chosen by a fairly new model company, instead of one of the old players.

Compared to other aircraft models, the F-35B Lighting II from Kitty Hawk does not have a high parts count. But due to the nature of the subject and the way the kit was engineered, be ready to dedicate a few more hours than you normally would with other models. The model starts as usual, by the cockpit. As with the real F-35, the cockpit is very simple.  But that simple detail is represented very nice and crisp.

The instructions manual on this kit (IMO) are screaming for a revision. You will find mistakes as early as Step 1. On step 2, you will see that the illustration of part D-19 is lacking something, that is part E-27. With thousands of Kitty Hawks F-35 models around the world already, the best way to fix this is by releasing a note with a PDF downloadable document. Of course, this is my humble wishful thinking and suggestion to this situation.

Most of the time building this kit mentioned above, went to double checking before committing the parts to cement. The good thing is that the overall fit of this model is very good. The lower fuselage might seem somehow flimsy, but as soon as you start adding the wheel wells, it will start to get very sturdy.

The ejection seat provided is very simple in terms of detail. Seems like Kitty Hawk was assuming that all model builders would use the ‘so-so’ provided pilot figure.  Be ready to scratch build the seat belt harnesses with scrap photo etch or your method of choice. Should you decide to use the supplied pilot figure, the legs will be blocked by the pedals. I did cut them above the ankles (see picture below).

The other sort of challenging step on this kit, is joining the upper and lower fuselage halves. There is no problem with the fit, but as you can see, the surface area for the cement to work on is in a ‘V‘ shape. Clamping on such shape is not easy but it can be done. I did placed the clamps on one side first and then applied cement on the inside using a touch-n-flow needle. I left the cement do its work before doing the other side. Fortunately, no parts inside will interfere with this process.


Markings and Painting:

The kit provides the following markings:

  • F-35B, 168057, VM/01, VMFAT-501, USMC
  • F-35B, BF-04, USS Wasp Trials
  • F-35B, BF-01, International Flag Scheme

The instructions are very vague with color calling also.  They suggest FS-36118 Gunship Gray. Based on some research, this color is too dark for this scale. A mix of 50/50 Tamiya XF-19 Sky Gray and Tamiya XF-53 Neutral Gray served as the base color and what you see on the pictures below.

These planes are new and are getting the highest maintenance. For that reason and by personal taste, I decided to leave the wheel wells with no washes or weathering at all. By the way, they were painted with Tamiya XF-2 Flat White. The radome is painted with Flat Gull Gray.

Decals are very well printed with a carrier film not too thin, not too thick. It responded very well to Microsol decal solution. However, decal placement and stencils on the instructions are a bit vague as well.

There are no GBU-32‘s or GBU-38‘s provided with the kit which for the retail price of this kit, I strongly believe that they should have been included. External pylons and ordnance have been supplied. I welcome them but in this kit, really? I would have opted for the GBU’s, especially because they are not available in 1/48 (none that I know of). The only kit that I know of including the GBU’s, is the 1/48 Academy F-22 Raptor.

Feel free to set this model aside and come back later with a pair of fresh eyes. I did it and it worked, otherwise you can make this build a frustrating one due to the misidentified parts.

Speaking of parts: The canopy is rightfully thin, but at least my copy did not fit properly on the fuselage as I mentioned on Facebook (see picture below). Was it my copy? I won’t know for now until someone stops by the comment section below and drop a line for us. I shaved it as much as I could, but still it didn’t fit, forcing me to display my model with open canopy.

Looking around some builds, this doesn’t seem to be a problem unless other builders found ways to overcome this and are not mentioning it. What I also noticed and concluded was that there is not a steady output; either from the molds, or the guys at Kitty Hawk’s QA dept. are too distracted during their shifts (see picture 16 of 18 below).

Sorry but I can’t keep this to myself. This is a sponsored build, but not all models shown here are sent for free. I’m a customer like everybody else and addressing this issue privately to any company is not going to help model builders. It could be a batch issue, who knows, but I’ve seen different parts from different modelers on this kit being misshaped or poorly injected in the molds.

That’s no reason to ditch the model, a little bit of putty will fix it. But it is good to let them know that we are aware. If you ask me, I wouldn’t hesitate to build or recommend this model. Even with its shortcomings, the finished model looks GREAT. There are several after market accessories available and if you want to scratch build, this will definitely make the Kitty Hawk F-35B Lighting II a show stopper.

My most sincere thanks goes to TS-Hobbies for kindly offering to sponsor this build. I’m a returning customer and they are my main supplier of my growing collection of AK-Interactive products.

George Collazo
George Collazo

George has been hosting review sites and blogging about toy collectibles, travel, digital photography and Nikon digital imaging since 1998. His first model kit build was a Testors 1/35 DODGE WC-54 in 1984.