The box contents look very promising indeed. The mouldings are perfection itself and there is a bit of etch to keep the detail fanatics happy. Let's see if it builds to expectations.
In true Hobby Boss style, the instructions are really well printed and clear, and they are one of those manufacturers that takes the trouble to put the full colour name in the painting call outs! Listen and learn, Revell and Airfix. It really saves hassle looking the things up all the time.
The cockpit tub fits into a separate fuselage nose section which went together with no problems, and this then fits inside the main fuselage and creates the air intakes at the same time. This was a serious engineering risk on the part of the kit designers as if there were any fit problems it would be very tough to get right, but all credit to Hobby Boss, everything clicked perfectly in place! The only problem is the lack of vertical support for the nose wheel bay which I had to press down through the as yet unfitted radome whilst the glue set to avoid some major gaps. If you are building one of these - add something to press down on the bay before fitting the front of the fuselage, you will be glad you did.
I filled the radome with lead shot before fitting it - there is no mention of nose weight required in the instructions but my sixth sense told me I would need this. In the end, I was proven right and it still only just avoided sitting on its tail - you have been warned.
I gave the whole fuselage a good rub down to clear the seam lines, which were not bad but still noticeable, and next we came to the one real problem area with this kit - the wings. They can be built folded, but I never go for that. A minor gripe is that the etched wing fences supplied are a very nice idea and go on well, but they are far too tall. So I cut a significant groove into the wing to bed them down as best I could. But the main problem with the wings is that they do NOT sit on the fuselage properly and I have read similar comments from other reviewers. So my solution was to position them as best I could, which involved trimming down the locating lugs somewhat, then trickling glue into the (significant) seams, then setting it aside carefully strapped in position to dry. The seams (which were up to 2mm in places) were then filled with putty and filler and carefully sanded down. The tail elevators has a similar problem - now I know they are rotational but the size of the gap was just plain wrong so I had to fix and fill them as well.
In the meantime I put the ordnance together. I mixed up a new batch of white for the missiles, this time mixing in a little blue and grey instead of yellow. This differentiates them nicely from the underside of the plane.
The undercarriage is always a bit fiddly on the most basic of models, but this one breaks new ground for complexity. Great for the detail and realism, but a real chore to get installed. You cannot really build it in isolation either, most of it has to be put together in situ. But I got there in the end after a number of false starts and I have to say that the pain is worth it as it is one of the best detailed undercarriages in the scale that I have ever put together. Even the wheel bays are superbly detailed and to my mind could not really be improved. A thin wash of oil brought out all the details nicely, which is important in this paint scheme since everything is the same colour!
There is no doubt this is an excellent kit in terms of detail and engineering and was largely a pleasure to build. But the wing problems really are the elephant in the room, especially considering how well the rest of the plane goes together and I can only hope that this may be addressed in future variants since it spoils what is otherwise a superb product.
Something with propellers next time, please....