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KIT REVIEW


Revell of Germany # 03956
Saab JAS-39D Gripen -- 1:72 Scale



By the late 1970s, the Cold War was nearing its peak and the Scandinavian countries continued to seek a strong defense against any possible Soviet invasion of western Europe. With their fleets of the venerable Viggen and Draken beginning to age in the late 1970s, Sweden saw the need for a new airplane to counter emerging fourth generation Soviet fighter threats, such as the MiG-29 and Su-27.  By the late 1980s, the Saab JAS-39 Gripen was the response, and following a long development period, it entered service in 1997.  In this 2016 release, Revell of Germany has produced a 1:72 scale kit of the two-seat JAS-39D. Let’s take a look.

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In 1979, Sweden issued a proposal for development studies for an airplane to replace the Saab 35 Draken and Saab 37 Viggen.  The new aircraft would embrace a multirole philosophy from the start, and would have to excel at air combat, ground attack, and reconnaissance. Following evaluation of foreign designs such as the F-16, a design from Saab was selected and developed as the JAS-39.  Named the Gripen (Griffon in English), it was an elegant looking airplane, with its graceful delta wing and canard configuration.  As with many modern fighters, its maneuverability is drawn upon the airplane’s inherent aerodynamic instability and triple-redundant, fly-by-wire flight control system.  With the Volvo RM12 afterburning turbofan, the Gripen has a top speed of around Mach 2.0.  Its complex and prolonged development began with roll-out in 1987, first flight in 1988, and operational status achieved in 1997.  

The JAS-39’s cockpit design is thoroughly modern and gives Gripen drivers excellent control and situational awareness via three multi-function displays, HOTAS configuration, and in 2008, introduction of the Cobra helmet mounted cueing/sensor data fusion system.  The avionics suite stresses sensor fusion, as information from onboard sensors and databases are combined, automatically processed, and only useful data is presented to the pilot via the wide angle HUD.  At the heart of the sensor suite is the PS-05/A pulse Doppler X band multimode radar that can identify targets up to 75 miles distant and simultaneously track multiple airborne contacts at all altitudes as well as sea and ground targets.  The fire control system can simultaneously guide multiple air-to-air missiles at different targets, supports the AIM-120 AMRAAM, AIM-9X Sidewinder, and MBDA Meteor missiles.  Planned upgrades include integration of active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars.  In the air-to-ground and recce arena, the Gripen can employ the Litening targeting pod, the AGM-65 Maverick, anti-ship missiles including the RBS-15, laser-guided bombs such as the GBU-49, and the Saab Modular Reconnaissance Pod System or the Thales Digital Joint Reconnaissance Pod.  The Gripen also sports an advanced electronic warfare suite capable of active and passive jamming modes.

Overall, the Gripen is already widely seen as a successful and effective aircraft and is anticipated to be in service for at least 50 years.  Beyond Sweden, JAS-39s have been exported to various countries in varying numbers such as the Czech Republic, South Africa, Hungary, and Thailand.  The “D” model of the JAS-39 is a two-seat version of the JAS-39C Gripen, which was the first NATO compatible Gripen variant.  It is analogous to the relationship between the F/A-18C and F/A-18D, and the two-seat version of the Gripen is relied on for training and specialized missions.  However, the airframe was lengthened about two feet to accommodate the “guy in back” which also necessitated removal of the Gripen’s cannon and one internal fuel cell.

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Revell of Germany’s 1:72 scale JAS-39D is an injection molded plastic model kit consisting of 129 parts.  A total of 119 plastic parts come on a combination of four light gray sprues. Ten clear parts are provided on one additional sprue.  Also included in the box is a very well-printed color instruction booklet which guides the builder through assembly of the two seat Gripen over 36 steps.  Markings are provided for one jet:

Strengths:  This kit is relatively straightforward to build and looks like it could be a lot of fun. I snipped off and cleaned up the fuselage parts and wings from the sprues for a little test fitting, and it looks like a great fit is achieved between these parts.  Shape, size and proportions appear accurate, and the two-seat D nose, cockpit tub, and additional parts are provided on their own individual sprue.  The builder can position the refueling probe in the extended position.  Speed brakes can be positioned extended or retracted.  Two engine nozzles are provided depicting the closed and open positions.
While the trailing edge flaperons are separate parts, they are designed to slip right into mounting points in the wing that fit them into the neutral position.  If you want to drop the flaperons, removal of the mounting tabs will be necessary, but it’s a lot easier than cutting them out of the wing with a razor saw.  The choice of underwing stores are great, and span pairs of AIM-9L Sidewinder, AIM-120B AMRAAM, and IRIS-T air-to-air missiles, the RBS-15 anti-ship missile, the Saab reconnaissance pod, and drop tanks.  Decals are printed by Zanchetti in Italy.  Colors look good and appear in register.  Carrier film is thin but fairly well restrained.  Markings for the one jet are supplemented by missile stripe decals as well.

 
Weaknesses:  This is an all-around good kit for this scale, but a few observations must be noted.  My primary critique is that overall detail appears to have been simplified.  The cockpit tub and ejection seats are fairly basic with only the minimum of raised detail.  The instrument consoles are basically devoid of detail aside from a raised area to represent each CRT screen; they are really meant to be resented by the kit supplied decals.  Exterior recessed panel line details are spartan, and when compared to published line drawings and detailed photos of the actual jet, it is abundantly clear that many panel lines have been omitted.  Even the box art painting more accurately portrays the panels and rivets.  Further, there are no rivet or fastener details on any kit surfaces where they exist on the real airplane.  The missile fins are really thick and over-scale.  There are also some pretty strong seams going down the center of the windscreen and canopy, and most scale modelers will likely want to sand, buff, and polish those mold lines out. 

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Revell of Germany’s 1:72 scale D-model Gripen can build up into a good replica of the JAS-39, but it clearly has some limitations regarding detail.  For those interested in adding more detail to the kit (probably a good idea!) Eduard and Bilek produce photoetch detail sets, and Aires and Wolfpack offer resin cast engine nozzle sets.  For more markings choices, aftermarket decals are available from TwoBobs, HungAero, and others, and crew figures can be added with PJ Productions and Pilot Replicas sets. 

Sincere thanks to 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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