1/72 Italeri F/A-18D

VFA-106 "Gladiators" 

by Gregory D. Williams 



The subject of this latest build is both a favorite to modelers and to the pilots who flew them.  What more can be said about the veteran F/A-18A-D series fighters?  As we watch in awe the improved capabilities of the Super Hornet as it serves with the US Navy; I thought I would take a step back and highlight a lesser celebrated version of the Hornet.  Having built several “A and C” versions over the years, I hadn’t tackled a “D” yet.  Well, the wait was over and I had some new tricks up my old modeling  sleeve to improve Italeri’s old flawed kit and get her built.  I wanted to build it to an accurate depiction of a bird from VFA-106 “Gladiators” while on a training sortie high over NAS Oceana during 1999.  Of course, like my prior submissions, she’ll be an in-flight model.  During my research I learned that VFA-106 provides training to all newly winged Hornet pilots, WSO’s and transition training to former F-14 crews to the Super Hornet.  During this 9 month course, aircrews can expect award-winning air-to air and air-to-ground training; culminating in day/night carrier qualification and subsequent assignment to fleet Hornet squadrons.  In 2006 VFA-106 transitioned to the Super Hornet.

Like my prior submissions here on ARC, I tend to be attracted to kits that need improvement and/or older kits; such as this one, who’s mold, I suspect, dates back to the 80’s!  I know, I hear it all the time- why not just get the Hasegawa and be done with it?  Right?  Well, I like to challenge my modelling skills and turn trash into treasure.  It also gives me an excellent opportunity to create masters for resin replacements and offer them to other modelers that may have one of these kits in their stash.  This kit is no exception as far as being sorely lacking, and I’ll have to address the following points to get a good looking F/A-18D worthy of the “Gladiators”:  

  • 1. Correct the nose gun detail (there are none molded on the kit) Scratch-build more accurate front and rear MFD consoles with better detail.

  • 2.  Add an accurate aircrew (resin pilot and RIO from my product line *Modern Hobbies LLC.   

  • 3.  Add wing-tip “slime light” fences (above and below wing tip sidewinder rails)

  • 4.  Correct the contour on the horizontal stabilizers.

  • 5.  Replace the seats with accurate resin SJU-17 N/ACES versions, again, from my product line (shameless plug:)

  • 6.  Create decals for the LEX walk area and other minor stencils.

  • 7.  Convert the kit for in-flight and add an accurate loadout for the “Gladiators” depicting a training flight.

First off, I started work on the cockpit.  One of the first things I noticed was the inaccurate WSO (Weapon System Officer) console.  Using the kit part as a visual reference, I scratch-made a new one with styrene rod, strip, and sheet.  After testing the fit, I was satisfied.  I wasn’t happy with the pilot’s front console either.  Using styrene strip and sheet, I replaced the molded-in details, added new MFD display screens, and added other minor details.   I then made a master mold for subsequent resin copies.  I had several Italeri and Revell (re-boxed Italeri) F/A-18 C kits in my stash.  These resin copies would come in handy for later builds.  Next was to address the ejection seats.  The kit seats are a poor attempt at the GRU-5/6.  For a current version of a “D”, my Hornet needs SJU-17 N/ACES ejection seats.  Not one to outsource to the aftermarket, especially when I can make it myself…I made a master, created molds and replaced the kit seats with my more accurate resin copies.  With the cockpit now spruced up, I finished the assembly by painting and detailing with Tamiya acrylics.  Since I just completed the cockpit, I started working on the aircrew.  I cast a set of my *USAF/U.S. Navy Seated Pilots from my future product line.  I mastered the pilot set with separate arms, legs, and a choice of 3 helmet heads .  My Hornet will call for pilots with the HGU-55/P helmets with corresponding MBU-12/P  oxygen masks.  Next, I concentrated on sculpting a new nose and gun detail that was totally void on the original kit part.  I accomplished this by referring to my reference books and photos.  Slowly and carefully, I scribed and carved the new piece with various tools.  I will use this re-worked kit part as a master for subsequent mold-cast replacements.  To facilitate ease in casting this part, I made the cut approx. 14.87mm measuring from the tip of the nose to just beyond the starboard side slime light.  After making a mold and cast a few test pieces, the fit of the new nose was very good and looked accurate.  The next task was to add minor detail to the wing surfaces.  I deepened the panel lines on the wings to accentuate the flaps and ailerons.  Then I added small slime-light fences made from styrene strips, cut to shape, and glued in place.  Later I’ll create decals from my laser printer to complete this detail.

Click on images below to see larger images







With the model coming together very well now, I then prepared it for it’s in-flight display.  I eventually settled on this display type for my models because it instantly creates a diorama; showing off the subject’s nice lines and adding a lot of interest when looking at it on a custom resin base and stand.  I drilled a 7/32 inch. hole in the bottom of the model, inserted a corresponding styrene tube and anchored it with liquid cement.  Early on, prior to construction I decided to pose the model with a slight bank to the left to make it more interesting.  I also posed the pilot looking in the direction of the bank for realism.  When the finished model is complete, it will look very convincing.  I then removed the excess styrene tube and sanded the surface smooth while measuring out a six inch length of brass rod for the stand.  The next order of business was to think about how I wanted to arm my Hornet.  Since I was depicting a VFA-106 training sortie, I decided on a pair of CATM-9L-4 sidewinders painted FS35109 Blue on stations 1 & 9.  A pair of live GBU-12 LGB’s on stations 2  & 8.  And one center-line belly tank on station 5.  My Hornet was going to be on an Air-to-Ground trianing hop with live ordinance-  “Yeah Baby!”  Also, I need the typical AN/AAS-38 (FLIR) and AN/ASQ-173 laser Spot Tracker/Strike Camera pod on stations 4 and 6.


For the loadout, I used a pair of GBU’s from  a Hasegawa’s weapon set, and a kit-supplied drop tank and targeting pods.  For the sidewinders, I cast resin copies originating from a Hasegawa weapon set.  I painted and detailed the model entirely with *Tamiya acrylics and applied all the decals after a gloss coat of Future polish. 

The custom display base was then cast from my standard mold and painted gloss black.  The info placard was created in *Photoshop and printed and attached to the base with *3M Photo Mount spray adhesive.  The brass rod was polished with good ‘ol Brasso metal polish and permanently attached the model on the stand with *Loctite 1 minute epoxy.  With the model now complete, I am very satisfied with the end result.  Who knew the Italeri Hornet could look this good?  The “Gladiators” of VFA-106 would be proud, I’m sure.  

Click on images below to see larger images











1.  Detail & Scale Vol. #69

     F/A-18E & F Super Hornet By Bert Kinzey

     *Squadron Signal Publications/ 1115 Crowley Drive, Carrollton, TX. 75011

2.   Walk Around #18   F/A-18 Hornet

      By Greg Davis and Chris Neill

      *Squadron Signal Publications/ 1115 Crowley Drive, Carrollton, TX. 75011


3.   GlobalSecurty.Org

      Strike Fighter Squadron ONE ZERO SIX [VFA-106] "Gladiators"

      Web Address:  http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/agency/navy/vfa-106.htm


My modeling company, *Modern Hobbies LLC. is just getting off the ground guys!  Two years in the making.  It will be a home-based operation that will cater to 1/72nd scale U.S. Modern Military Aircraft modelers and aircraft collectors.  I will be offering a small line of limited run resin accessories and a full model building service on commission and a resin casting service.  My web site is currently under construction. 


For available products, future releases and general information, you can always drop me an e-mail. 

Thanks for your interest!  


Photos and text © by Gregory D. Williams