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KIT REVIEW


Kitty Hawk F-101B Voodoo -- 1:48 Scale

 

The F-101 Voodoo was one of the most iconic early Cold War aircraft as one of the fastest and potentially most deadly aircraft of its day. The F-101was first developed as a bomber escort but evolved into a nuclear-armed interceptor and reconnaissance platform. Nearly five years ago, Kitty Hawk released a 1:48 scale single-seat F-101A/C kit. While it was the first new tool quarter-scale Voodoo in many years, many builders found that it had some significant fit and accuracy issues. Here, we review Kitty Hawk’s second attempt at a Voodoo involving a varyingly retooled F-101B that came out in mid-2018. While the box top doesn’t say it, it also includes parts for an RF-101B as well. Let’s take a look!   

The genesis of the F-101 goes back to 1946 with a request for proposal for a long-range, high-performance jet fighter to escort a new generation of nuclear-armed jet bombers.  McDonnell Aircraft built two XF-88 Voodoo prototypes that first flew from Muroc Field in October 1948.  As all jet aircraft of that era, its engines were problematic and contributed to poor performance, including its top speed (falling short of the sound barrier, initially).  Still, the XF-88 won the "fly-off" against the Lockheed XF-90 and North American YF-93.  By this time, the early Cold War landscape was changing dramatically, and with the growing threat of nuclear-armed Soviet bombers in the perceived “bomber gap,” the need for an air-defense interceptor was also clear. 

By 1951, the USAF issued a new requirement for a bomber escort and a larger version of the XF-88, the F-101 Voodoo, was selected as a so-called strategic fighter that could accommodate both the escort and nuclear defense/attack missions.  The F-101 was considerably larger than the XF-88, carried more gas, and featured the Pratt & Whitney J57 powerplants that required a new intake design.  The F-101 also drew from knowledge gained by the Douglas D-558-2 Skyrocket flight test program including its "T-tail" configuration.

The first production F-101A flew on 29 September 1954 at Edwards AFB and deliveries began three years later.  During those gap years, flight tests identified more than 2,300 deficiencies that were nearly all resolved –though a penchant for uncommanded pitch-ups at high AoAs was never entirely eliminated.  

The F-101A operated the Hughes MA-7 fire control system (based on the F-86D’s APG-37), and the aircraft could employ the AIM-4A, B, and C Falcon air-to-air missiles that were backed up by four 20mm M39 cannons for close-in engagements.  Its other air-to-air weapon was – quite famously – the AIR-2 Genie nuclear armed air-to-air rocket.  Producing a nominal yield of 1.5 kilotons, the plan was to use the unguided Genies against the anticipated swarms of Soviet bombers coming over the North Pole at the opening of WWIII.  In the air-to-ground role, the F-101 could carry a single Mk. 7, Mk. 28, and Mk. 43 tactical nuclear weapon on a single centerline hardpoint.  

A total of 807 Voodoos were built spanning 12 major production variants, including the single seat F-101A and C and two-seat F-101B.  F-101B was the most prolific of the Voodoo family, with 479 airframes delivered to the USAF’s Air Defense Command before production ended in 1961.  Both single and two-seat Voodoos were also adapted to the recce role (see below) serving as key stopgaps in reconnaissance capability shortfalls.

The F-101B emerged from the late 1950s need for an interim air-defense interceptor that could be pushed into service while the newest generation of aircraft were still on the drawing board (e.g., the F-4 Phantom II).  McDonnell added as second seat to the F-101 and modified the forward fuselage to carry the Hughes MG-13 fire control system.  The more powerful Pratt & Whitney J57-P-55 engines featured a substantially longer afterburner section that extended out of the fuselage by almost eight feet and pushed the -B to a maximum speed of Mach 1.85.  The only operational armament configuration for the F-101B was either two Falcon or two Genie missiles.  Initially, either IR or radar-guided Falcons could be carried.  In 1961-62 timeframe, F-101B carried only the IR-guided GAR-2A (AIM-4C) that permitted optimal use of the fire control system. USAF F-101Bs were upgraded between 1963-65 with the infrared search and track (IRST) sensor in the nose that replaced the in-flight refueling probe.  The IRST upgrades also came with provision to employ the improved GAR-2B IR (better known as the AIM-4D) missile.

Canada operated a total of 132 CF-101Bs.  They flew 56 CF-101Bs and 10 CF-101Fs under Operation QUEENS ROW starting in 1961.  These Voodoos first deployed the Genie in 1965.  Those aircraft were exchanged in 1970-72 under Operation PEACE WINGS.  The PEACE WINGS aircraft had the IRST and upgraded engines, among other changes.  They also retained AIM-4C capability until 1974.

In the early 1970s, 22 QUEENS ROW CF-101Bs came back over the northern border and were returned to the USAF for conversion into RF-101Bs.  The radar and weapons bay were swapped out for three KS-87B cameras and two AXQ-2 TV cameras.  An in-flight refueling probe receptacle was also fitted.  Costly and difficult to maintain, the RF-101B only served with the 192nd TRS of the Nevada ANG through 1975.  The F-101B was progressively withdrawn from front-line service from beginning in 1969, but many went to the Air National Guard to replace the F-102.  The last Voodoo in US service was retired in September 1982, while Canada said goodbye to its last “One-oh-Wonder” in 1987. 

Kitty Hawk’s 1:48 scale F-101B kit comes on six light gray sprues holding a total of 203 parts by my count.  Eleven clear parts are found on two clear sprues.  Some 37 photoetched metal detail parts are included on one fret.  The instructions guide the build over 37 steps.  The markings come on a two decal sheets for the following airplanes:   

Strengths:  Kitty Hawk’s F-101B has a number of strengths with much to recommend to it.  The most recent injection-molded 1:48 scale F-101B was the Monogram kit based on 1985-era tooling.  In no small way was the F-101B due for a modern treatment, but I think this kit is something of a mixed bag.  The kit is mostly based on the 2014 F-101A/C tooling, with new Sprues A and B holding all the specific F-101B/RF-101B parts.  Sprue GP (clear parts) has the big canopy and the photoetched metal parts are also new for this version of the kit.

First – the strengths of this kit. Kitty Hawk’s overall configuration, shape, and size are generally accurate to my eyes (though see below for multiple observations).  As with all Kitty Hawk kits, the panel lines, rivets, and fasteners are all recessed, and the quality of these and other surface details, including the gear wells and are just outstanding.  The molding quality is really great here.  Likewise, the photoetched metal parts are very nicely made, and include ejection seat harnesses, rear-view mirrors, and cockpit instrument panels and side consoles.  The clear parts pass muster as blemish-free and possessing of high optical quality and injection-molded detail.  The yellow windscreen and canopy seals are provided as decals.

Construction options abound.  The forward left and right avionics bays can be built and displayed as open (but only for the F-101B; see below).  The avionics boxes are nicely represented for injection-molded parts, but you’ll have to provide all the wiring (as it should be).  The piano hinges on the access doors are quite well done.  The radar dish is also provided, but you’ll have to figure out the hinging mechanism for the radome on your own since that is not included in the kit.

Control surfaces are separate parts and can be positioned as the builder wishes (though see below).  The speed brakes can be positioned open.  The kit provides intake channels that lead to the engine faces.  The detail on the landing gear are again really well done for plastic parts – lots of great detail there.  The overall look of the -101B’s big, extended afterburner cans also look good, with nicely done flame holders and exterior details.  The larger main gear tires are well done, as is the correctly bulged main gear doors.  One point of controversy in the earlier F-101A/C kit was the inclusion of the wrong intakes.  That kit had the larger F-101B intakes (conspicuously wrong for the single-seater).  Here, the sprues appear to have not been retooled and now should feature the correct intakes for this Voodoo variant (whew!).    
 
The kit comes with a nice selection of external stores.  You get two drop tanks, what to me are quite reasonable representations of the AIM-4C (x2), AIM-4D (x2), and AIR-2 Genie (x2).  I compared these to my reference photos, including those of a few Genies that I shot at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force this past weekend, and the external stores look good.  For the IRST-equipped airplanes depicted on the decal sheet, you should ONLY use the AIM-4Ds.

The decals come on two sheets.  The overall printing quality, detail, carrier film placement, and register appear to be well done (though see below for notes on some bizarre decal oddities and outright printing errors).  If photoetched metal detail parts aren’t your thing for instrument panels and side consoles, alternative instrument panel decals are provided.
Of course, while there is an inexplicable failure to note this on the box top, there are also parts to build an RF-101B in here!  The centerpiece is the complete nose fairing along with markings for one RF-101B scheme provided on the decal sheet (Nevada ANG wearing SEA camouflage colors).

A few construction notes: if you choose to go with the RF-101B, follow the instructions: do not display the avionics bay doors in the open position.  In the recce configuration, every single one of those boxes were removed (along with the radar as well and IRST system) and replaced with camera racks and camera gear.

Weaknesses:  There some issues to consider before tackling this kit.  There are some important accuracy considerations.  For instance, the nose gear taxi lights are set symmetrical to each other, but were indeed offset significantly.  The RF-101B also had the weapons bay removed, but there is no replacement part for the weapons bay panel on the underside of the forward fuselage.  This is a fairly significant oversight.  There are no parts for the cameras, either, so I would suggest painting the camera bay windows gloss black on their inside surfaces to hide this lack of interior detail.  Also, watch out for ejection pin markings. There are some whoppers in lousy places that will take time to remove and clean up on the inside of the afterburners, speed brakes, and elsewhere.

A common critique of Kitty Hawk kits is that they are overengineered, and that can be mentioned here, too, such as why the mid and aft fuselage are separate parts.  It does make more work and a wider margin for error for the scale modeler.  MY advice is to test fit, test fit, test fit, and take your time.  Smaller assemblies, too, are multiple parts, such as the tailhook’s hook being a separate part.  Also, after going over a 1:1 scale F-101B just a few days ago, the I would say that the low-voltage formation light (or slime light) frames are out of scale and too elevated above the skin of the airplane.  Additionally, use caution when separating small parts from the sprues as their sprue gates are large and the parts do tend to be fragile.  Sometimes, the placement of the part attachment is poorly thought out, such as the head of the round IR sensor attached directly to sprue gate, front-first.  

There are multiple errors in the instructions.  This goes beyond proofreading, such as how the headers on the markings options foldouts have tail numbers that do not match those on the decal sheet and the actual aircraft.  There are significant errors in the color call outs.  For example, the F-101Bs are described as being in overall FS 16640 (Gloss Gull Gray), but that’s a Navy color! USAF Voodoos were painted overall Aircraft Gray (FS 14673).   Also, the instructions appear to indicate arming options for the RF-101B, but those jets carried no weapons and flew their missions “alone, unarmed, and unafraid.”   

The CF-101B markings in this kit contain multiple serious flaws.  The black shadow on the fuselage title letting seems to be absent.  The aircraft serial numbers and lettering bear resemblance to any RCAF lettering style.  The most significant error, however, involves the Red Ensign.  The colors of the Union Jack are wrong.  The Cross of St. George should be red, not blue.  Also, the flag is handed, with the Union Jack facing the leading edge of the tail on both sides.  To me, these markings are unusable.  It would seem that aftermarket decals are going to be necessary for the builder if they want to do a CF-101B.  A good place to start is Canuck Model Products, who do three CF-101 sheets covering QUEENS ROW, PEACE WINGS, and retirement scheme aircraft (with the latter two appropriate for this kit).  They produce canopy seal decals, too.  You can find Canuck Models HERE: http://www.canuckmodels.com    

The instructions also incorrectly state to paint your CF-101s also in FS 16440, but they probably mean Canadian Voodoo Gray that was a McAir color formulated in their St. Louis paint shop.  The closest match is FS 16492.  This was the last of three different finishes on RCAF Voodoos, and an excellent reference on the evolution of CF-101B paint schemes can by found from our friends from IPMS/Canada HERE.

Also, RCAF Voodoos never were fitted with low-voltage formation slime lights.  Sand them off for a Canadian CF-101B.

Some of the airframe stencils on the decal sheets are legible and accurate.  Others, such as the stencils for the drop tanks, clearly read as “SSSHOG-CANCER R ER/PANCR.STELL/HOG-CANCER CANCER ER/PR.STELL.”  Under magnification, the stencils on the leading edge of the AIM-4 fins appears to read “half the speaker hell to who knows.”  I can’t make this stuff up, folks.  It’s as if random word generator was assigned stencil printing duty and it went momentarily mad.  Beyond inaccurate, these are pure gibberish – disappointing quality control for a kit with this price point.

Also note that the bottom left corner of the box top was taped over.  You can still read through the semi-translucent brown packing tape “Research Material Provided by Detail & Scale.”  This was included on the box top incorrectly as we did not provide research material for the development of this kit.

Kitty Hawk’s 1:48 scale F-101B has a lot going for it, and with some work and time, you can build a very respectable F-101B or RF-101B.  A little research will go a long way to make this kit more accurate.  Take your time with the fits.  You’ll also need to work out a fix for the RF-101B weapons pallet.  I’m sure we can also look forward aftermarket detail sets in the near future (on my Christmas wish list would be an Eduard Brassin or CMK Quickboost RF- weapons bay correction).  The decal issues represent pretty serious errors, especially for the CF-101B.  This kit is not for beginners, but especially in experienced hands, there is great potential in Kitty Hawk’s Voodoo that you’ll do.  

Sincere thanks to Glen Coleman and Kitty Hawk Models for the review sample.  You can find out more about them and future releases at www.kittyhawkmodel.com and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Kitty-hawk-736521713066784/.  Also, earnest thanks to Ronald Easley and David Sherman on their input and observations that greatly improved this review. 

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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