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KIT REVIEW


Kitty Hawk # KH80138 Super Étendard -- 1:48 Scale

 

During the Cold War, France joined the United States and Great Britain as a NATO operator of aircraft carriers, projecting power far from their borders.  The French Navy has operated many well-known aircraft over the years such as the F-8 Crusader, E-2C Hawkeye, and Dassault Rafael-M.  Yet, the foundations of French naval aviation during the jet age can be said to rest on the shoulders of the Dassault Étendard.  This design culminated in its ultimate incarnation as the Super Étendard.  Kitty Hawk released a Super Étendard in 1:48 scale a little while back, and here, we’ll take a look at this kit.

In the early 1950s, the French navy was building its carrier capability in the wake of the Second World War.  The engineers at Dassault designed two corresponding versions of a single-seat, swept-wing jet (which in some ways took a few cues from the aerodynamics of the F-100 Super Sabre) that would be a light fighter and attack aircraft aboard its new carriers.  What came to be the Étendard prototype flew on 25 July 1956.  It was a nimble jet and also performed well at low airspeeds thanks to the double-slotted flaps and spoilers, powered ailerons, and leading edge drooped flaps.  A SNECMA Atar-8 engine powered the Étendard into the high subsonic range.  Two primary versions were produced: the Étendard IVM was a light attack jet while the Étendard IVP was a reconnaissance platform.

The Super Étendard was a follow-on design that was based on the Étendard IVM, outfitted with a more powerful engine, a new wing, and improved avionics.  The French Navy accepted Dassault’s Super Étendard proposal in 1973.  The first prototype flew
on 28 October 1974.  The main new weapon of the Super Étendard was the French anti-shipping missile, the Aérospatiale AM 39 Exocet paired with a Thomson-CSF Agave radar. Its UAT-40 central computer was advanced for the era as it integrated navigational, radar, and weapons functions.  In the 1990s, French jets underwent significant upgrades including an updated UAT-90 computer, a new Thomson-CSF Anemone radar, and an extensively redesigned cockpit.  These airframes were designated as the Super Étendard Modernisé. During the 2000s, further upgrades included the addition of the Damocles laser designator pod, new ECM gear, night vision goggle integration, and a GPS integrated navigation system.

Seventy-one Super Étendards were procured by France with the last one delivered in 1978. Argentina ordered 14 aircraft and Iraq received five loaned Super Étendards before the production line closed in 1983.  The Super Étendard saw combat with all its operators. French Super Étendards saw their first action over Lebanon in 1983, Serbia in 1999, and in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM in 2001.  French Super Étendards returned to Afghanistan from 2004 to 2011 working in concert with Dassault Rafaels to laser designate ground targets.  Iraq used their Exocet-armed airplanes against Iranian shipping during the Iran-Iraq War and in the Persian Gulf “Tanker War” of the late 1980s.  Argentina’s Super Étendards gained notoriety from their use of Exocets against the British fleet in the Falklands conflict.  France retired its last Super Étendard in 2016 and Argentina remains as the final operator with a fleet of nearly two dozen jets that are planned to be upgraded yet further in the coming years.

Kitty Hawk’s Super Étendard IVP/IVM kit consists of 470 injection molded parts across eight sprues (252 parts for the airplane and 218 parts for weapons and pylons), 29 clear parts on one sprue, 14 photoetched metal parts on one fret, and two decal sheets accompanied by a small correction insert.  The instruction booklet is standard Kitty Hawk, with their no-frills black-and-white line drawings and color fold-out marking guides.  The decals provide options for eight Super Étendards:

Strengths:   To begin with, I would be first inclined to draw comparisons with this kit to the Airfix/Heller Super Étendard and the more recent Kinetic offering. It's been so long since I’ve had the former and I’ve never examined the latter.  So, this review is strictly limited to looking at this kit based on its own merits.  To begin with, the fidelity of detail (particularly the cockpit and wheel wells) and building options are diverse and interesting.  There’s a lot one can do with this kit, particularly with the markings options and the diversity of underwing stores provided.  To me, that’s appealing.  The kit features very nicely executed recessed detail and some raised detail (i.e., the bolts along the wing roots).  In many cases, I have been critical of Kitty Hawk kits for soft or oversized cockpit details, but here, there’s a definite improvement from their earlier efforts.  The photoetched metal ejection seat restraints are also a nice touch.

The kit provides a positionable canopy, refueling probe, auxiliary intake doors, speedbrakes, tailhook, and early and late version vertical stabilizer configurations.  Further, the leading edge slats, flaps, ailerons, horizontal stabilizes, and rudder are all separate parts.  The locating tabs will need to be removed to position them extended, dropped, or deflected, respectively.  I also really like the use of the photoetched parts for the ailerons and in the speedbrake assembly – the right kind of material for the job.

For an injection molded kit, the complete Atar 8 powerplant is rather well detailed, and for most builders, I suspect it will be a good starting point for extra detailing if one decides to open up model at the maintenance break between the middle and aft fuselage sections of the kit.  Of course, that would also involve scratchbuilding a maintenance stand for the tail, since one is not included in the kit.  There are parts for a boarding ladder, too.      

The four weapons sprues are impressive.  Sprues E and F are the same as those included in Kitty Hawk’s Jaguar kit, and feature two Magic 2 air-to-air missiles, two AS-30 air-to-ground missiles, two 250kg bombs, two BL755 bombs, one Barracuda ECM pod, a targeting pod, one Phimat chaff dispenser pod, two 68mm unguided rocket pods, two drop tanks, and a buddy refueling pod.  Sprues ME and MF are from their Mirage III kit, and have the Exocet missiles among the varied munitions found there.

The eight schemes the builder can choose from are all excellent and really attractive choices, especially the overall white Tiger Meet and lower-vis RIAT schemes, the 2002 anniversary scheme, and the Iraqi and Argentine markings options.  The decals appear beautifully printed and are crisp, high-resolution markings in perfect register.  Though do note that the tiger stripes on the Tiger Meet and RIAT schemes are not provided as decals – they have to be painted.

Weaknesses: A number of people have argued that the Kitty Hawk Étendard kits are over engineered in terms of parts breakdown, especially the eight-piece fuselage.  I can understand the nose as a separate element to allow building different Étendard variants out of the box, but I wonder from a tooling point-of-view why the forward and mid-fuselage sections were separate assemblies.  Regardless, just take your time in building and joining the fuselage subassemblies, and I would also recommend maybe fabricating a few of your own mounting tabs to assure a proper circumferential fit particularly between the mid- and aft fuselage sections. 

Just a note of caution – some of the clear and gray plastic parts are extremely fine, so use care when handling.  Paradoxically, the ejection seat’s face-curtain’s handles struck me as grossly over-scaled and are best replaced by an aftermarket or scratchbuilt part.

I’m often critical of the errors in Kitty Hawk’s markings guides where there are frequently goof-ups or errors when it comes to distinguishing airframe versions.  Their artists sometimes use just a single template that represents one variant of an aircraft.  Here, there are parts for the early and late Super Étendard tail.  But which version of the airplane has them?  The scale modeler will have to do their research to find out since the markings guide does not differentiate between the building options and the individual airframe configurations. 

Overall, this is a promising 1:48 scale kit of the Super Étendard.  While it has a few issues, the positive qualities outweigh the negatives, to be sure.  For those looking for more, there’s a number of Eduard sets out there, aftermarket decals by Berna, Model Alliance, Syhart, and others.  Some additional underwing stores can be found in aftermarket resin sets from L'Arsenal Aero, resin antennas, air scoops, and the refueling probe are provided by Quickboost, and white metal landing gear produced by Scale Aircraft Conversions.   

Sincere thanks to Glen Coleman and Kitty Hawk Models for the review sample.  You can find out more and see their current and future releases at www.kittyhawkmodel.com

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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