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KIT REVIEW


Revell of Germany # 03925
Tornado F.3 ADV -- 1:48 Scale



The Panavia Tornado is one of the most venerable of the Cold War combat aircraft.  This swing-wing combat jet continues to enjoy a distinguished career and widespread dominance in combat, from the 1991 Gulf War, and later in many other conflicts from Bosnia to Afghanistan, Yemen, and Syria.  The ADV variant was optimized as an air defense interceptor, and this Tornado is the subject of a new 1:48 scale kit by Revell of Germany.  Let’s take a look.  

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In the late 1960s, the United Kingdom had cancelled TSR-2 and F-111K aircraft but still needed a replacement for the Avro Vulcan and Blackburn Buccaneer strike aircraft.  Simultaneously, West Germany and Italy, among others, needed a replacement for their F-104 Starfighter air defense platforms.  Britain and France initiated the AFVG (Anglo French Variable Geometry) program, and despite the French withdrawal work continued.  The British fused the AFVG with West Germany and Italy’s Multi Role Aircraft (MRA) program to become the Panavia consortium.  The resultant final design was a two-seat, twin engine, variable-geometry fighter-bomber.  In the 1960s, variable sweep wings were the solution to create a highly maneuverable fighter at low airspeeds and an optimized low-drag configuration at higher airspeeds.  The first Tornado flew in August 1974 and achieved operational status in late 1979.  Nearly 1,000 Tornados were built for the RAF, German Air Force and Navy, the Italian Air Force, and the Royal Saudi Air Force.

There were three primary Tornado variants: the Tornado IDS (optimized for the interdiction/strike role), the Tornado ECR (optimized for electronic warfare and reconnaissance roles) and the Tornado ADV (the definitive air defense variant).  The ADV was designed to intercept nuclear-armed Soviet bombers over the North Sea before they could reach the British Isles.  The ADV was equipped with a powerful radar and beyond-visual-range missiles such as the Skyflash (a derrivitave of the AIM-7 Sparrow), and later, the AMRAAM.  The Tornado ADV first flew in 1985 and received several avionics and hardware upgrades over its lifetime.  It also featured the Turbo-Union RB.199-34R Mk 104 powerplant, automatic wing sweep control, and new pylons to carry more AIM-9s.  A total of 171 F.3s were built for the RAF, Italy, and Saudi Arabia.

While the ADV was superior to its predecessors such as the English Electric Lighting and the Phantom, various problems plagued the weapon systems.  Deployed to the Middle East to participate in Operation DESERT STORM, British F.3s lacked a modern IFF system and secure communications gear that relegated it to maintaining the secondary line of air defense in southern Iraq and northern Saudi Arabia.  The AI.24 Foxhunter radar also had various development and performance glitches, and the AMRAAM missile was never full integrated with the radar – though better luck was enjoyed with the addition of the ALARM anti-radiation missile in the early 2000s that added SAM-killing to the ADV’s range of capabilities.  The rise of the Eurofighter Typhoon in the early 21st century began to eclipse the Tornado, and the last of the Tornado F.3 ADVs were retired in 2012.

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Revell of Germany’s 1:48 scale Tornado ADV kit is based on their 2015 new-tool Tornado IDS kit.  The kit contains 274 light gray injection molded parts on 15 sprues and 23 clear parts on one clear sprue.  You will use most of these parts, except for all but one solitary part on Sprue P.  The full-color illustrated instructions guide the build over 89 steps.  A single decal sheet comes with markings for two RAF F.3 ADVs:

Strengths:  There have been quite a few kits of the Tornado in 1:48 scale (I fondly remember the Airfix 1:48 scale Tornado F.3 in my hobby shop on Long Island in the late 1980s), but none of them have been entirely accurate or otherwise were missing features.  This kit of the F.3 ADV, however looks like the best one I’ve ever seen.

There’s a lot going on here, and it’s all good. Panel lines and rivets/fasteners are all recessed and overall look great.  Molding quality of all the parts, from the nose gear to the main wheel brakes and afterburner nozzles is universally quite high.  Out of the box, I think this is the first ever ADV kit to get the ADV-specific rear cockpit correct.  That’s a big deal.  Instrument panels and side consoles feature good raised details, but can also be represented by some nicely printed decals if the builder wishes.  The ejection seats are also pretty impressive for a plastic kit (but see below).  The airframe configuration also appears correct, with the extended front fuselage and aft sections the ADV possessed to accommodate the Skyflash missile wells.  There’s also full intake trunking, but the fact that they are divided into upper and lower halves means that there will be some seams to take care of.

Something that really appeals to me is that ALL the flight control surfaces are separate parts, and you can position the flaps and slats down, the rudder deflected, the speedbrakes extended or retracted, and even the spoilers are separate from top of the wings and can be deployed.  While the Tornado is indeed an attractive airplane with its wings cleanly swept back, the “dirty” configuration appeals to me far more in a build.  Other options include building the detailed thrust reverser assemblies retracted or deployed.  Also, if the wings are built clean with retracted flaps and slats, the wings can swing forward and aft.
   
The kit includes four AIM-9L and four Skyflash missiles.  The rather impressive 600-gallon drop tanks, nicknamed “Hindenburgers” or “Big Jugs” by aircrews, round out the external stores.  The choice in markings are great and feature two very attractive, high-visibility schemes, but the 23rd Squadron 75th Anniversary scheme is my favorite to be sure.  The decals were printed by Zanchetti in Italy.  Colors look good and appear in register.  Carrier film is thin, matte, and fairly well restrained.  Markings for two Tornados are supplemented by full airframe stenciling for both versions, common walkway and other markings, and missile stenciling.

Weaknesses:  There’s not a lot to critique here but a few observations come to mind.  The Sidewinders in the kit are dismally inaccurate.  According to the instructions, they are supposed to be AIM-9Ls, but the shape of the nose and nose fins are thoroughly incorrect for a Lima.  They are probably closest to the AIM-9H, but the nose itself is still far too long and really only is an approximation of what a Sidewinder looks like.  Also, the rollerons on the tail fins, which steer a Sidewinder in flight, are absent.  Also, while I complemented the details on the ejection seat frames, the shoulder harnesses and lap belts are integrally molded to the backpads and seat cushions.  The details are soft and really quite inaccurate.  It is probably the worst way to represent these elements of an ejection seat in plastic.  There’s a little flash here and there on most of the sprues.  It’s not a big deal at all, and cleanup should be elementary.

If you don’t arm-up your Tornado ADV with the Skyflash missiles, make sure to blank-off the slots for the fins in the underside missile wells.  A little plastic card on the inside of the piece will do the trick, but if you don’t do this, you’ll see into model’s interior. Also, I LOVE the positionable spoilers.  However, I wonder if the detail in the spoiler well is simplified.  I don’t have any good reference photos or first-hand observations of this part of the Tornado.  The swing-wing jet that I do know with a similar configuration (the F-14) gives me pause: when the Tomcat’s spoilers go up, there are actuating rods, linkages, and wiring revealed for all to see.  So, check your references.  Many scale modelers might desire to add more detail here if needed.  

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Revell of Germany’s Tornado F.3 ADV in 1:48 scale is a great kit and it clearly ranks as the best of its kind in this or any other scale.  Also, at an MSRP of $34.00, you cannot beat the overall value of this kit.  It has a few flaws, but these can be overcome using aftermarket AIM-9s (such as those made by Eduard) and Eduard is also scheduled to release photoetched metal detail parts (ejection seat harnesses and belts included) in early 2018.  It will be interesting to see how this kit builds up, but from what I hear, it’s another example of great kit design by Revell of Germany.  I look forward to working on this kit as soon as I can make room on my bench! 
 
Sincere thanks are owed to everyone at Revell of Germany for the review sample.  You can find them on the web at http://www.revell.com/germany.

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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