Reviewed: Jul 2018
The sleek McDonnell-Douglas F-101 Voodoo survived initial questions concerning its operational mission to become one of the finest fighter-interceptor aircraft ever built.
Although conceived as a long range escort fighter, it became readily apparent that the new breed of strategic bombers had little need for escort aircraft.
However, the threat of a strategic nuclear attack on the North American continent created a demand for an all-weather fighter-interceptor, and the versatile F-101B proved to be perfectly suited for this mission.
Though never called upon to repulse bombers, the two-seat Voodoo compiled an impressive service record that spanned more than 25 years. Powered by two afterburner equipped J-57 turbojet engines, it could achieve speeds in excess of 1200 miles per hour.
The crew consisted of a pilot and defensive systems operator whose primary function was to monitor the search radar, locate and identify a potential adversary and if necessary actuate defensive guided missiles. Armament consisted of two externally mounted "Genie" nuclear-tipped missiles and two Hughes "Falcon" rocket-powered air-to-air missiles that were mounted on a rotating launcher positioned under the fuselage.
In spite of the fact that the F-101B never attacked an enemy aggressor, it performed its intended role most admirably. During its operational life, the "One-O-Wonder" served with active-duty US Air Force squadrons and Air National Guard units assigned to the Air Defense Command.
In the late sixties, Martin Marietta was contracted to modify 23 ex-Canadian Armed Forces CF-101B Voodoos as high/low altitude, daylight reconnaissance aircraft under the designation RF-101B. The RF-101B had all armament and fire control systems associated with interceptor role removed. This version carried camera and control equipment in a modified nose. All of the Air Guard RF-101Bs were delivered to the 192nd Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron at Reno, Nevada. Six years after the first aircraft arrived, the squadron converted to the RF-4C Phantom and all RF-101B's were retired from service.
This is the second boxing in Kittyhawks 1/48 F-101 Voodoo family and allows you to build either the two seat interceptor or recce version. Kittyhawk have already shared the boxart for the RF-101C (the single seat recon bird) which is to be the next (and probably last) scheduled release in this series. Not since the release of the old Monogram F-101B kits has their been a new mainstream injection molded kit of the Voodoo in 1:48.
When lining up to have a good look at this kit I went back to my previous box review of the single seat F-101A/C kit and was shocked when I realised that the first kit was released four years ago, in July 2014 !! Many things have changed with Kittyhawk releases in those four years and unfortunately it's also true that some things have not changed. I was therefore curious to see if KH had made more of an effort on this boxing or just taken the easy way out.
A couple of things I was able to quickly check compared to my observations of the initial 2014 F-101A/C release were:
|Observation from the F-101A/C Kit||Comments on the F-101B kit|
|An overall rough finish to the plastic, which will need to be sanded smooth to get a realistic NMF finish.||This has been improved dramatically on the new kit. Not sure what they have done but the surface finish is much smoother to the point of being shiny.|
|Very basic cockpit relying on photo-etch and decals for detailing rather than plastic.||All three kits (A/C, B and RF) are supplied with PE and decals for the cockpit, which is disappointing. Aires has released a resin cockpit for the F-101A/C kit but no-one has as yet done the same for the F-101B or the latest RF-101C kits.|
Kittyhawk have of course re-used several of the sprues found in the first release kit and due to their modular engineering approach only the forward fuselage (including cockpit), engine nozzles and canopy have been updated. It's unfortunate that the cockpit of this new two seater F-101B was not treated to a better update than just PE and decals. We know that KH can do it properly as seen on their newer Su-22 and Su-35 kits which have excellent plastic molded cockpits which are far superior to the older PE+Decals approach.
As I carried out the dry assembly of the kit I made the following general observations:
First up in the assembly is the fixed ramp engine intakes and trunking. These had no moving surfaces and thus limited the F-101's maximum speed to just under Mach 2. Apart from a few ejection pin marks the parts all fit well and look to be accurate, including the engine compressor "bullet" which was curved on both sides to face into the airstream. You can choose to leave the engine compressor faces (C12 & C13) out until after you have glued the intake trunking (E40 & E42) together which will be a benefit as you deal with the seams.
The only other part of the engine which will be visible on the finished model is at the very rear. The afterburner flame holder and fuel spray bars are assembled into a short stub section to be positioned later in the rear fuselage. A couple of the circular parts needed some minor trimming to allow me to get a snug fit here.
The "keel" on the two seater F-101 was noticeably shallower when compared to the earlier deeper/longer keel of the singe seat F-101's. Kittyhawk has correctly provided new parts for the shallow/shorter keel. This section of the tail was subject to extreme heat from the engines and was therefore made from titanium sheeting. Photos of this area clearly show buckling and heat stress and also rows of large fasteners along the edge of each overlapping section of metal. These are not provided by KH on the lower keel section but could be easily added by the modeller if so desired.
Each of the sub-assemblies fits neatly into positive locating mounts on the lower fuselage half. One of the many benefits of dry fitting in this way is that you can often discover problems and go back a few steps and try different orders of assembly to see which might work best. So it was with the KH suggested mounting of the keel by gluing it to part C4 at this stage. This would result in a lot of pressure being place on the small join footprint between the two parts.
I would recommend that instead of attaching the keel (B41) to the lower fuselage as shown in step 4, that you attach it instead to the upper fuselage (C5) as this seemed to result in a much better overall fit. I have learnt that by slightly changing the order of assembly you can often make your life a lot easier and eliminate gaps or steps that otherwise would appear as parts fight each other for alignment.
One thing I really like with KH's choice of design for the fuselage mid section (top and bottom halves vs traditional side by side) is that the resulting join seam is cleverly concealed under the wing root. As can be seen the fit is pretty spot on with the intake and tail keel slotting into place nicely.
While we are looking at the fuselage center section it's worth noting the KH have gotten lazy and simply mirrored the hot air bleed vents on each fuselage side. As you can tell from the photo the left side vents are pretty good, but the right side vent should be rectangular and not circular. Not that it's any excuse but Monogram also got this wrong on their Voodoo kits.
The more powerful P&W J57-P-55 engines, which were introduced on the two seat F-101B, had considerably longer afterburner tubes than the earlier engines. Rather than try and modify the fuselage to accommodate the longer engine inside, McDonenll engineers simply decided to allow this part of the engine to protrude out the rear of the aircraft. It certainly makes for a very obvious visual difference between the single and dual seat Voodoo's. Kittyhawk have once again turned to photo etch to provide some nice detail for the deflector plates on the very rear end of the exhaust nozzle. I found the fit of the plastic parts here to be good however a couple were short shot. Luckily the PE brass covered the deformed parts so it seems sometimes you catch a break.
The KH PE parts for the exhaust deflector plates are quite well detailed but I found them tricky to fold while maintaining a proper circular shape. In the end I used a small length of wooden dowel against which I pushed the brass to shape it. The small 'arms' that protrude from the PE edge are meant to be the actuating rods for each deflector plate. I was not impressed with these and cut them off. My plan is to replace them with proper circular plastic or brass rod when I get to final engine assembly later on.
A photo of the assembled engine afterburner tubes and deflector plates. Notice the actuating rods on the real engine. These will be added later on from brass rod as I did not like the KH provided PE arms. Once painted up I think that overall these parts will look quite convincing. It will be interesting to see if Aires decides to churn out some resin replacements.
With the main fuselage section complete KH now focus on the wings. These have molded surface detail for the main gear and zap-type flaps on the upper wing. I could not find any locating guides for the inner side wall (C10) so was hesitant to glue the part in place at this point. Instead I gently held together the upper and lower wings and then was able to get a more positive location for part C10. It's often beneficial to think ahead a couple of steps to avoid doing (or gluing) something that will be misaligned later on. It also would not hurt for KH to provide some proper alignment tabs or pins for parts like this.
The main undercarriage strut looks to be generally accurate. One thing that I wish KH would take more time with is showing on the instructions the proper placement of parts in relation to each other. Take for example part E34. From the diagram you have no idea where the top of this part is meant to attach to the main strut (E54). I had to look at several photos of the real thing to get an angle which showed how these two go together. The main wheels are molded in two halves with the inner hub being molded onto the gear strut. It's not the way I would have designed it, but it works I suppose. The large gap around the circumference of the tire seems to be intentional but I certainly intend to fill and remove it (I may then add back some proper scaled tread pattern).
The mounting holes for the main strut into the wheel well are very shallow and in typical KH fashion do not fit snugly, well not snugly enough to give me confidence of a strong bond. Likewise the retraction strut will be a challenge regardless of whether you mount it first of after the wing surfaces. The wheel well sidewalls lack any detail. On a positive note the upper and lower wings fit well with no gaps evident in either the wheel wells or the flap sections.
The zap-style flaps are very well detailed and should look good once painted and weathered. Being painted red they will add a nice touch of color to the finished model if displayed open. I also did a test fit of how well the flaps fit if closed and I'm happy to report they sit very cleanly when closed. The ailerons are also a sung fit with the only comment being that you need to struggle with them a bit to get them installed once the wing is together. In fact I ended up cutting off the fwd locating lug on each hinge so I could drop them in from the top.
The main gear cover fits firmly to the strut with two locating pins. A couple of large ejection pin marks were evident on the inner surfaces of the doors but can be easily handled with a swipe of plastic putty.
The mounting points for the external engine bodies to the rear fuselage is not very secure. I would advise you pay attention to the alignment of the engines as the glue dries otherwise you could end up with a very distracting mismatch.
The main empennage is assembled in two halves with a separate rudder. This sub-assembly is then offered up to the previously assembled keel and mid fuselage section.
I have to admit I kind of expected this mating to be problematic. There are several large parts being fitted together here and I find that you need to take such assembly in stages to ensure each part gets a proper chance to align as the glue dries. My first attempt (based on the KH assembly sequence) resulted in a noticeable step between the fuselage and tail. Time for a re-think.
One of the advantages of doing all this work "dry" (ie no glue) is that you can rewind things and try again. It was now that I found, what I believe to be, a better sequence of assembly which allowed each of the main sections the best chance to sit properly and reduce/eliminate any gaps/steps. Essentially I joined the tail and upper fuselage to each other without the keel in place. Once the glue dries on this join the keel can be fitted into place and pressure applied without fear of the other parts moving. Of course you can only test these things so far and it won't be until I start gluing that I will know for sure. Either way I feel far more confident about what will and what won't work than had I just charged ahead from the start. Remember, slow and steady wins the race.
There are many examples (far more than I have seen on earlier KH kits) of malformed or short shot parts. Some are super easy to fix (like this slot which can just be opened up with a blade) but others are not an easy fix. Little niggles like this continue to plague each KH release and I look forward to the day they get their QA sorted like other manufacturers have. On the bright side the surface detail here is excellent.
Speaking of short shot parts that will take some effort to rectify, consider this missing location slot for the horizontal tails. Remember that this tab is the only thing holding the tail on and it will be relied on for the correct (upward) angle as well. I'll probably cut my losses and remove both tabs and replace with brass rod to allow me to swivel the tail just like the real aircraft. Not everyone will want to do that, so missing sections of the model like this is a bad thing.
For the one tail that does have a tab and slot the fit is great and at the correct angle as well. KH gets so many things right but its that lack of attention to the little things that let them down.
The air-brakes on the Voodoo are quite large and look interesting when displayed open. They were hydraulically activated and could be used throughout much of the F-101B's flight envelope. The fit of the kits parts is good when open or when closed.
The interior of the air-brake is nicely detailed but I suspect that anyone really wanting to make them look "spot on" will opt instead for a photo etch replacement from the likes of Eduard or Airwaves. I have a couple of sets designed for the older Monogram kit which I am confident can be re-purposed here when the time comes.
It's not until step 19 that we get to work on the cockpit. Seats first and even though they are not as nice as the Black Box resin seat I included for comparison I think the kit seats are pretty decent. Even the PE belts are close enough to be credible. Those of you with sharp eyes may notice that the headrest area on the two kit seats are different. This is yet another example of short shot parts where the seat on the right had detail simply missing.
We now get to my least favourite part of this kit. I just don't believe that in this day and age we should expect a manufacturer to use PE and decals as the only option for 1/48 cockpit details. To cut them a break, I do accept that KH designed these Voodoo kits over four years ago and that since then their 1/48 kits (eg Su-22 and Su-35) have all had excellent plastic cockpits provided. If we put aside my personal dislike for PE+Decals the accuracy of the PE side consoles leaves a lot to be desired anyway.
A quick side by side comparison with a Black Box cockpit (designed for the Monogram kits) shows how "off" the KH detail is. The KH tub and side consoles are too wide and this has the effect of making the panels on the PE just too large. Side wall detail on the kit is also lacking.
If you do happen to have a Black Box (#48011) set lying around (for that Monogram kit you never got around to building) then some good news. With a little bit of work it fits the KH fuselage pretty well. Alternately I am sure that Aires will pop out a new cockpit for this kit just like they did for the single seat F-101A/C kit.
If you like open panels then both front avionics bays are provided in the kit by KH. These look to be quite well done and would only require the addition of some wiring harnesses to liven them up a bit.
The nose landing gear goes together well. Take your time to check reference photos and be mindful that the two landing lights are offset from each other. Each wheel is molded whole and only need some minor cleanup . As you can see here the nose gear assembly can be left out of the gear bay and fitted later (something I appreciate).
The nose wheel bay is nicely detailed and once the ejection pin marks are removed and the troublesome tab on the front end is cut off, it assembles easily and squarely.
The rotary missile launcher is fully workable and KH provides you with a full load-out of Genie and Falcon missiles. Check your references as many of the early (natural metal) F-101B's were not Genie capable, carrying instead only AIM-4 Falcons. Also note that when converted to an RF-101B the rotary pallet was removed and a simple blanking plate installed to house processing equipment related to the reconnaissance role. KH do not provide such a blanking plate so you will need to convert one side of the provided pallet.
Once the forward fuselage is joined you can add the external cockpit detailing such as the front cockpit shroud and instrument panel and the rear cockpit instrument and scope. The fit of these parts is good and I only needed to do some trimming and cleanup to get everything to align well as you see here.
One of the biggest "clangers" I found with this kit was having the clear plexiglass shield that sits between the two cockpits molded in solid plastic. Looking more closely at part A23 we can see that all of the detail is correct with all the right framing etc but instead of making this part in clear plastic it somehow got added to the grey plastic sprue instead. If you have a steady hand it should be possible to cut along the frames (quite prominent on the rear of part A23) and remove the solid plastic and replace with clear acetate. It will be a bit of mucking around but you can't really leave it as is. It does leave me wondering how these things get past the test-shot stage as surely someone does a test build ?
Several of the doors on the Voodoo used a continuous "piano" type hinge. These look great if done properly but can be a nightmare if the edges along the hinge don't match up properly. I paid particular attention to the fit of each door on the kit and as you can see here the fit of the nose wheel well doors is spot on.
Of course just because a panel or door fits well when its open does not mean it will fit when its closed. KH have done well in this area with each hinge working as expected and the teeth interlocking quite precisely.
As mentioned previously its always handy to be able to fit the landing gear at the very end of your build. From my testing you can confidently ignore the KH suggested assembly sequence and leave both the nose and main gear assemblies out until after painting.
If you choose to build the RF-101B option now is the time to select the correct side doors for the avionics bay and the appropriate fitting for the upper nose slot. For the RF-101B the doors must be shown in the closed position because the internal detailing provided by KH is only appropriate for the interceptor fit-out. KH does not provide any suitable internal detail (cameras etc) that would be fitted for an RF-101B.
The camera pod fairing is designed to fit flush around the lower radome and forward fuselage. These are an excellent fit. Kittyhawk have failed to include the two antennas on the camera housing which formed part of the APR-36 RHAW (Radar Homing And Warning) system. The fit of the doors, radome and camera fairings is all pretty good.
The recce nose comes as a single piece which slots into the forward fuselage and extends to the base of the radome. Clear parts (not fitted here) are provided for each of the camera windows. Small gaps were evident but these will most likely disappear once glue is used (rather than tape) to hold everything in place.
If you opt for the interceptor nose then you can choose to display the avionics bay doors open. For late model interceptors you will want to install the IRST (Infra Red Search and Track) sensor fairing on the nose. The fit of this part (A4) was pretty bad on my kit. It should sit flush with the fuselage but instead sat proud by a few mm's. I did a bit of trimming but more will be needed once I start to build this properly.
The interior ribbing on the avionics access doors is well done, but is marred by those pesky ejection pin marks. I wonder if we will ever convince a kit manufacturer to put the ejection pins on the outside of the part where marks like these can be repaired far more easily.
Unexpectedly the fit of the main canopy was poor. The hinge tabs would not sit down cleanly into the matching fuselage slots and I did not want to apply pressure for fear of cracking the canopy. About the only way I can see to rectify this would be to enlarge the slots or trim the clear part hinge tabs. Of all the things I have seen previously on KH kits this one is new to me.
The ill fitting rear canopy as seen from a side angle. Those ears will not sit down into the slots on the fuselage plastic, even with pressure. Careful trimming and testing will be required I suspect.
In contrast to the main canopy, the windshield seemed to fit very well. The clear plastic parts provided in the kit are all blemish and distortion free. This photo also affords us another view of the lack luster effort on the cockpit side walls and consoles made by KH.
With all the major fuselage sections now complete the remaining step is to bring the fwd and rear sections together. Not surprisingly, the fit was not perfect and some time will be needed to trim and coax the two sub-assemblies together properly.
The characteristic Voodoo external fuel tanks are provided by KH. The tanks fit well and slot into suitable holes on the fuselage undersides. Check your photos of Voodoo's to ensure you get the correct angle (ie they do just hang straight down) on the tank when fitted.
Once the wings are attached (which form a solid, gap free, join to the fuselage) my dry build analysis is complete. I was somewhat surprised at this point just how large a model this ends up being in 1/48.
Kittyhawk continue their trend of providing a generous number of marking options in the kit (five in total). Based on previous experience with KH's accuracy when it comes to researching I have tried this time to better validate each of the schemes authenticity. One thing I have learnt is that KH does not put much effort into altering the drawings they provide to suit each scheme. They obviously just copy and paste the drawings and change the colors and markings as needed. In reality however there are often more differences between each aircraft than just color and decals. An example of this would be the inclusion of missiles fitted to the RF-101 scheme. This is just lazy and unnecessarily misleading to anyone making the model.
Each paint scheme is provided in a full color glossy spread across two A4 pages (so nice and big). Color callouts are all using Gunze Mr Color paints. I would advise caution when using the colors indicated and do a healthy amount of testing to match sure the match is optimal based on reference photos.
F-101B-115-MC s/n 59-0434
F-101B-115-MC s/n 59-0395
I was not able to find any additional information about this aircraft. My research showed that 57-0307 was an F-101F-86-MC assigned to the USAF 445th FIS and then in 1972 to the North Dakota ANG 178th FIS.
The markings do match those of early 136th FIS (New York ANG) F-101's as shown in the accompanying photo. I'd find it hard to trust KH on this one. If anyone has more details please let me know so I can update this entry.
[source: Forgotten Jets]
F-101B-100-MC s/n 57-0434
Much like previous KH releases, the kit decals seem to be well printed with no obvious registration issues. Though not as thin as you would expect from a set printed by say Cartograph or Microscale, I can confirm from previous KH builds, that the kit decals work well and respond as expected to setting & softening solutions. Some of the more colorful schemes have a lot of large and complex multi layer decals to be applied so bear that in mind when deciding on which option to go with. As you can see the decal sheet itself is very crowded so be mindful of this when cutting each decal out.
I'm glad to see that KH have committed to finally continue with the Voodoo family and I welcome the release of this F-101B and the future RF-101C/G/H.
No doubt in my mind that they have improved upon the first boxing of their 1/48 Voodoo, mainly by working to remove the surface roughness found on the F-101A/C kit and replacing it with a polished, almost shiny, finish that has greatly improved the attractiveness of this kit, at least in my eyes.
The biggest let down for me is the cockpit. I think it's most noticeable because in the intervening four years since they released their first Voodoo, KH have really stepped up their game and delivered us some excellent cockpits in their Su-22 and Su-35 kits. I was hoping (in vain) that when they released subsequent boxing's of the Voodoo's that they would throw out the PE+Decals and give us a proper cockpit. Alas, it was not to be so. Most likely the plans for the F-101B and the as yet unreleased RF-101C were all locked-in back in 2014.
Putting aside the cockpit, the rest of the kit is actually very nice. When I casually compared it to the older Monogram kit I had lurking around, it was superior in almost every aspect. The engineering of the kit is intentionally modular, which some modellers won't like as it means more work and more seams to deal with. On the plus side this approach means that we will now have access to three new tooled releases of all the major Voodoo variants rather than perhaps one variant. Kittyhawk is not the first (or only) manufacturer to take this road (think of the Hasegawa 1/48 AV-8B series) but they seem to take a lot of flack for it.
I hope the review and photos speak for themselves and help you decide if this kit will make it onto your shopping list. I personally will be building mine as an early NMF F-101B (using some Eagle Strike decals I have at hand) and I might even grab a second one to build the RF-101B as well.
Thanks to Kittyhawk and The Modelling News for supplying the review kit