|1/144 E-3 Sentry AWACS NATO 50th Anniversary|
|Kit Number: 14611|
|Reviewed by Mike Hinderliter, IPMS# 45124|
To replace the old EC-121's(based on the Lockheed Constellation), the US Air Force needed a new Airborne Early Warning Control System (AWACS). The new platform would be based on the Boeing 707.and would take advantage of the improvements in radar technology that would allow radars to "look down", detecting low flying aircraft, even over land. Previously, ground clutter would have made detecting low flying aircraft over land almost impossible. The modifications that were added to the 707 were the addition of a rotating radar dome, single-point ground, and air refueling points and a bail-out chute. Later the bail-out chute was deleted as a way to cut costs. Currently this platform is used by the United States, United Kingdom, France, Saudi Arabia, and NATO air defense forces.
The kit is molded in a light gray styrene and the parts are all packed in plastic bags, with the sprues separated by subassembly; wings, engines, radome, and landing gear all separated, making this 707 mold very versatile to make other 707 based aircraft, such as the JSTARS or 707-320. It says on the box that this is new tooling, but I believe that the only thing new in this kit is the radar sprue which also includes the APY-7 (JSTARS) array.
There is no interior included with this kit, which really doesn't matter because you need to add 23 grams of weight to the nose. The fit is okay but there is a hump between the glass and the top of the hull. Since the kit also had the decals for the windows I decided to just fill, sand, and paint over the cockpit to fix this. There is a problem with the shape of the front of the cockpit, which shows up when the anti-glare panel decal is applied. At the same time you will notice that the top of the fuselage looks a little flat. This is easily fixed but is quite time consuming. It needs a lot of putty and sanding. I repeated this process more than once to get the desired shape.
The wings look like they are the same ones that come in all of their 707 kits, and this is actually a good thing. They have a "through the fuselage" wing mount which is solid, forms the proper dihedral and didn't require any putty on the leading or trailing edges. This seems to be very well engineered. Next come the engines. The engine halves don't mate quite right and will need some putty. Also you will find that the engine pylons don't match the top of the engine or the bottom of the wing for that matter. One saving grace is that the pylon does cover the top seam on the engine. The under-fuselage radar mount fits very well, is cleanly molded, and the whole model is flash-free. I would rather have no flash and clean parts to start with because I think it makes up for the sanding and extra puttying that is needed to shape this aircraft. Wheels are cleanly molded, landing gear has only a small mold line, easily cleaned up. The gear is strong, and easy to get all the wheels on the ground. That's saying something for any kit with more than 3 wheels.
One big discrepancy in the instructions is the placement of part 15 in Step 5. This part needs to be put in place in Step 1, when the fuselage halves are joined, because it won't go in after the fuselage is assembled. The other problem with Step 5 is that it shows the main gear inner doors, parts 17 & 18, open while the gear is down. This doesn't match pictures of the NATO AWACS I found on airliners.net. These gear doors shut after the wheels are down, much like the inner doors on a P-51.
Painting and Decals
Painting this kit is harder than most other AWACS models because it represents the 50th Anniversary paint job. To do this I had to make masks by blowing up the instructions decal placement picture. The color call out is for the Testors brand paints. I used Blue: Testors Model Master® 1111 on the top and upper sides and Voodoo Gray: Testors Model Master 2039 for the bottom, lower sides and middle of the upper wing. The rest of the upper wing is painted aluminum forward and white aft.
The decals are made by Cartograf and are up to their normal quality. They are thin and go on well with the Micro set and Micro Sol system. The only markings that are offered are for the 50th Anniversary scheme which is very colorful and worth the time it takes to paint it.
While this kit is not a new mold, the basic 707 builds into a decent, and good looking model, but one which requires some patience and putty . Well worth the time to make one of the best looking AWACS that you will ever see. I highly recommend this kit.