backgroundDeveloped from the T-33 Shooting Star trainer, the Lockheed F-94 Starfire was the United States Air Force's first operational jet-powered all-weather interceptor aircraft. A lengthened nose area with guns, radar and automatic fire control system was added, and the added weight of the electronic equipment soon dictated that a more powerful engine be fitted. The afterburning Allison J33-A-33 centrifugal-type turbojet replacing the standard J-33 fitted to the T-33A, making the F-94 the first US production jet with an afterburner.
The F-94C Starfire was significantly modified from the early F-94 variants. To improve performance, a totally new wing was fitted, much thinner than the previous one and a swept tail surface. The J33 engine was replaced by a more powerful Pratt & Whitney J48, a license-built version of the afterburning Rolls-Royce Tay which dramatically increased power, giving a dry thrust of 6,350 pounds-force (28.2 kN) and with afterburning approximately 8,750 pounds-force (38.9 kN) of thrust. The fire control system was upgraded to the new Hughes E-5 with AN/APG-40 radar in a much larger nose. The guns were removed, replaced with an all-rocket armament mounted in a ring around the nose radome. The rockets were loaded into flip-up panels on the sides of the nose, and fired by opening four panels just behind the radome. According to test pilot Tony LeVier, the F-94C was capable of supersonic flight.
The first production F-94C aircraft were delivered in July 1951, 387 examples being delivered before May 1954. The largest problem discovered in service was that of the nose-mounted rockets which blinded the crew with their smoke and fire. The most severe problem of firing the nose-mounted rocket was that the exhaust could cause a flameout of the jet engine and could lead to the loss of the aircraft. Mid-wing fuel and rocket pods were added, each holding 12 rockets. Most of the time, the nose rockets were not installed, and the mid-wing pod rockets were the sole armament. This version of the aircraft was extensively used within the Semi Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) air defense system.
The F-94C was retired from USAF service in 1959, as newer and more capable interceptors entered service. Air National Guard units retired their F-94s a year later.
There's always an extra element of anticipation at the arrival of a new manufacturer's debut kit, and Kitty Hawk's new F-84C doesn't disappoint - incorporating some novel design features in a thoroughly sound kit.
Before reviewing the kit itself, I'll start with a word of praise for the decent top-opening box it's packed in. The reason? Well, the sample kit must have had the journey from hell. For some reason it came to the UK via India, and perhaps an elephant sat on it during its stop-over, because I've never seen a package so damaged! Both the outer shipping case and the kit's box had been partly crushed. A thinner box just wouldn't have survived at all - and I doubt that end-opening box would have offered any protection to the sprues. As it was, the kit arrived showing only minor damage - quite incredible, really, considering the rough treatment it had clearly undergone!
Anyway, back to the kit, which comprises:
126 x dark grey styrene parts
10 x clear styrene parts
42 x etched brass items
3 x ball bearings
Decals for 2 x colour schemes
Overall moulding is very good indeed, with just a wisp of flash here and there, and no sink marks that I can see. The surface finish is a very fine "satin" texture, with really delicate engraved panel lines and fasteners. Seeing as the final finish will be natural metal, purists may want to polish the exterior a little, but a gloss undercoat may be perfectly adequate.
Most of the ejector pin marks are tucked out of sight, but there are still a number that'll be visible on the finished model, so be prepared for a little quick filling.
Really impressive is how thin Kitty Hawk have managed to mould some areas of the main components, such as the sections over the wheel wells to allow a deep insert. Despite the fact that the plastic is strikingly translucent, there's no sign of any distortion.
Despite the sprues being somewhat squashed in transit, my kit still fits together remarkably well! The fuselage halves are a neat fit and the wing joints at the roots, jet intakes and under the fuselage are excellent. The stabilizers fit precisely and, overall, the basic airframe looks set to be a very straightforward build, with little if any filler required - just the job for a n/m finish.
There are no "gimmicks" - the elevators and ailerons are moulded in situ
, and while the rudder and landing flaps are separate, it doesn't look as the the latter are intended to be posed extended.
A few details
The cockpit is very nicely detailed, comprising 50 or so parts and with a few surprises in how it tackles things.
The ejector seats look a bit basic on the sprues, but each is built up from 5 parts plus an etched harness, so the result should actually be quite neat. While I've no doubt superdetailed aftermarket versions will appear, Kitty Hawk's should satisfy most modellers. There's an 8-part radar operator's console, complete with a tilting scope, and a choice of etched or decal main instrument panels. The detail on the etched panel is excellent, and looks a good match for the layout of the real thing. Strangely, though, the bezels aren't opened up, so you can't do the obvious thing and position the decal dials behind them to get the best of both worlds.
The styrene sidewalls are really quite unusual in being basically bare, simply serving as foundations for etched fascias. Again the detail on the metal parts is very good, and onto these there are more styrene details to attach. I don't think I've ever seen this approach in a mainstream kit before and the results should be pretty impressive. (A neat "bonus" of this novel design of the cockpit is that it's also an open invitation for a wealth of aftermarket extras without the need for surgery to fit them.)
Looking beyond the office, the jet pipe is made up of 6 parts and features a delicate etched afterburner ring.
The kit is a natural tail-sitter, so Kitty Hawk have provided ball bearings as nose-weights. I don't know if these were a last minute addition, but they aren't shown in the instructions. A quick check indicates that one will fit into the nose cone, with the other two in the missile section behind it, so they should work well for balance.
The landing gear features weighted wheels, which is something I'd like to see more kits include. However - and it might just be an optical illusion - the tyres here look a little elongated somehow as moulded, but a quick swipe with a sander should take care of things anyway.
The wheel and airbrake wells are all separate inserts and seem a neat fit on the basis of a dry run. The wells themselves are perhaps a little plain, but the doors are nicely detailed on their inner faces and some also feature etched panels to add, which should give a good effect.
The rocket pods mounted on the wings' leading edges have optional fairings, so you can display the noses of the rockets inside if you wish. Kitty Hawk have missed a similar trick with the nose battery though, as the clamshell doors are moulded firmly closed - but I wouldn't be surprised to see an aftermarket nose soon with them open as an option.
The canopy is crystal clear and impressively thin. It's designed to be posed open and includes an actuating piston. The rear section attaches to a separate frame, so beginners should take extra care in attaching this (the instructions don't mention it, but it's wisest to use white glue, or similar, to avoid damaging the clear parts). Completing the canopy, the etched fret provides a rear-view mirror and windscreen wiper.
Instructions and decals
The instructions are printed as a 12 page booklet, with construction broken down into 19 stages. The diagrams are very clear, with few chances for confusion - although I spotted just a couple of instances where an additional "info view" wouldn't go amiss. Colour callouts are for Gunze Sangyo paints throughout.
High quality full colour painting guides are included for a pair of really attractive USAF aircraft:
A. F-94C s/n 15623
B. F-94C s/n 01054
Surprisingly, no details are given of either aircraft, but a quick search on the Internet soon turned up photos of the former 354th Fighter Interceptor Squadron machine preserved at the Pima Air & Space Museum, and the latter displayed at the USAF Museum, Dayton, in the colours of the 60th Fighter Interceptor Squadron.
Having never tried Kitty Hawk's decals, I can't comment on how well they behave, but they look very nicely printed, with thin glossy items in excellent register.
While I don't have the type of references needed to make any hard calls on overall accuracy, Kitty Hawk's F-94C looks great and set to be a really enjoyable build. With its classic combination of '50s style and muscle, it's jumped instantly to the head of my "to do" list! The basic construction appears straightforward enough to be suitable for modellers of pretty much all abilities, but the inclusion of etched parts means beginners should be a little wary.
Kitty Hawk's Starfire marks a very impressive debut and I'm really looking forward to seeing their next offerings.
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