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New Review: E-2C Hawkeye 2000 VAW-115 Liberty Bells “sayonara Atsugi”

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Review Author: 
David Horn
Kinetic Model Kits

Aircraft and history:

The Grumman E-2C Hawkeye is an airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft whose mission is similar to the USAF E-3 AWACS but it is much smaller in size and focuses on naval fleet defense. Compact in size, the Hawkeye is a twin engine (powered by the same engines used on the C-130), high wing aircraft that can operate from an aircraft carrier. Operated with a crew of five; pilot, copilot, radar officer, combat info officer, and aircraft control officer, the crew becomes the "eye" of the fleet.

The E-2 was developed in the late 1950's as a replacement for the Grumman E-1 Tracer. A first for the AEW aircraft, the E-2A was developed from the beginning for its role as opposed to an existing aircraft modified for AEW duties. The E-2 made its first flight on 21 October 1960 and introduced to service in January 1964. Early in the service life, the E-2A was plagued with issues mostly to do with overheating of the avionics. To resolve the issues, new computers and other avionics were replaced which created the E-2B for which most "A" models were upgraded to. The E-2B was an interim aircraft as more improvements were made creating the E-2C Hawkeye in 1971 with production aircraft becoming operational in 1973. Continuous improvements over the years upgraded the radar and avionics but the most notable upgrade came in 2004 when the four bladed propellers were replaced with Hamilton Standard eight bladed "scimitar" propellers. This new version created the Hawkeye 2000 and simplified maintenance and reduced vibrations on the airframe. The latest Hawkeye in the inventory is the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye which most of the upgrades are internal with avionics, radar and cockpit upgrades. E-2 Hawkeye is the longest production run of any carrier capable aircraft in the US Navy's history and production still continues on. In addition to use by the US Navy, six foreign counties and the US Coast guard operated the Hawkeye.

Kit:

Packaged in a thick sturdy box, this release packaging is a little larger than previous releases. The box contains 14 sprues: 14 in gray and a clear sprue. Not indicated in the instructions, two sprues include the four bladed propellers which are not needed for this version. There is very minimal flash, if any, on the parts with panel lines fairly deep and wide but not unacceptable. Once paint gets in the panel lines, the deeper grooves really become an advantage. One thing to note, which is very common with most model companies, is the molding on of static wicks on the trailing edges. These survived most of the build but once a few broke off, they were all removed and replaced with wire. The main wheels are made as if there is weight on the wheels (bulged) which is a nice touch. One large sheet of decals is provided which the sheet is almost the same size as the box with zero off-register printing, very nice. The instructions clearly show placement of most items (this will be discussed later) and paint numbers for five manufacturers.

Build:

Starting off with the cockpit, the detail is very nice considering how much will be seen after it is built. The seats are basic and lack seat belts. Aftermarket seats are available as well as photo etch if greater detail is desired. One addition to the cockpit is a door covering the cockpit entrance. This serves two purposes, one is to hide the big void in the fuselage, the other is to hide the additional weights needed. With that being noted, the recommended 50 grams of weight may barely  work, only if built with the wings extended. I put about 70 grams in and it seemed to work until I taped the wings in place to test it and it became a tail sitter. I ended up doubling the nose weight for a total of 100 grams which required weights behind the cockpit door I just covered up. Note for later in the build, you will need to drill holes right behind the cockpit as starter holes indicated for item H8 that will be discussed later in the build. The rest of the items to seal up the fuselage is to add the three aft crew windows and the crew entrance area. Kinetic came up with a genius idea that gives the appearance of an entry area but hiding internal detail. A shallow area with various ducting and items fill the area to give the impression of busy depth. My build was to be with the door closed so I did not paint that area and sealed it with the door.

One area that Kinetics needed a correction is the top fuselage to wing fairing. Dmold makes a nice and simple correction that with a few cuts, is a drop-in fix. The wing section that joins does need to be rounded to match the fairing which a sanding stick makes quick work of. Later in the build, the heat exchanger that covers part of the fairing will need material added to close the gap the Dmold fairing creates. On to assembling the center wing section which is where the part numbers for the wing fold parts are reversed. The flaps are shown in this step as well but no need to install them this early. Join the wing and fuselage and you will have a nice "core" section of your Hawkeye.

Next up are the engine/main landing gear assemblies. Please note the part numbers and test fit each since they look nearly identical, but they may be slightly different. The lower cowl flap is shown but there is no item number listed (item is H13). On the landing gear, I installed H33 into the housing and installed the remaining parts after the model was built and painted saving a lot of masking around extended gear. One area I jumped ahead and messed up on is installing the nacelle covers (two choices, reinforced and not reinforced) shown in step 4. I installed the doors before the front nacelle (H11) and I was left with recessed doors where the forward nacelle fits. If built per instructions, you may need to shim a little behind the doors. One more note on step 4 is item H40, I did not see it in any reference photos so I left that item off.

Before installing the nacelles, I added the belly portion, item B4, and finished filing seams to avoid working around the nacelles. Use your best judgment on the rest of the build order. Another area where items numbers are incorrect is with the outboard rudders so test fit the parts carefully. On step 9, I did not see item G5 in reference photos on the actual aircraft this build represents. Check your references here to see if that part is needed. If it is not needed, fill the locating hole for G5.

When installing the wing, Kinetic adds a nice splice to reinforce the wing if building your Hawkeye with wings extended. If you build yours with the wings folded, wait until later to attach the wings. Adding the antennas and rotodome, the upper antenna support is shown on step 19 but not listed in step 17 or 19. Also on these steps, item H8 (antenna or hand hold) is not shown or called out and should be installed where item G22 goes. Locate item G22 forward of G10 where a locating hole exists. Hopefully you drill out the locating holes as indicated earlier in this review. Item G15 is not shown in reference photo of my aircraft but is it seen on a few aircraft photos so check your references. Item H5, (tie down ring) is actually H6 on step 6 and step 17.

Building the propellers are fairly simple but you will need to drill out the back so the prop shar can be used. This is best done after the prop is glued together and using the hole on the spinner hub as a guide. The build is good but as with most kits, test fit first, study the instructions and check your references.

Painting and Decals:

The exterior is a simple paint scheme where most of the airframe is gloss gray saving a lot of masking. Since I left the cockpit side and upper windows off until this point, I dipped these parts in Future floor wax which acts as a clear primer, and tinted these from the inside with clear yellow. The biggest paint challenge is getting the correct green color for the tail. I tried to match the decal as close as possible and I could not find a correct color even though the instructions call out FS14187. Looking at my FS color deck, it looked closer to FS14193 but that was still off. I ended up using a mix of MSP Viper green (09228) with a touch of Vallejo Gold Yellow to lighten it up. All the areas in green on the tail were painted using that mix of green including the lower outboard rudder that is green. The upper part of the upper outboard rudder was painted gloss white. Deicing boots were painted black and overall gray for the remaining model. On the instructions, it does not indicate the option to cut away the lower green part with number 5812 and install just the number 5812. I went down the part of installing the outer rudder decal and realized it was a little small requiring touch up paint. That is when I noticed the extra numbers. I removed the lower section and added the numbers 5812. The size issue was a problem on the upper portion as well so I used Tamiya red and green to make up for the smaller decal. 

Only two colors are listed for painting however there are numerous other areas that need different colors but are not indicated. The metal heat shield behind the right hand heat exchanger is shown shaded but no color indicated. Other areas missing color is the engine exhaust lip, inlet cowl and heat shield on the inboard flaps to protect from the exhaust heat. The deicing boots are also not indicated on color (black). Check your references on the upper and side heat exchanger inlet color. Some are the same as the fuselage and some are black. The tail hook color is not listed and should be white with a metallic hook portion. 

Another item on the decal sheet that is not listed on the instructions is the tail hook stripes, which is decal number 72. The walkways are nice but the colors may be off compared to your references. I have seen photos of walkways that are hardly visible since they match the main color to almost black walkways. Reference photos of the aircraft depicted have shown different shades of gray. After installing the decals and letting them dry for a day, I masked around the decal perimeter and painted a very light "dusting" of the fuselage base color to blend in the color and tone down the contrast in color. Again, check your references in this area. Another item missing with the walkways are where the "walkway" decals go. You can see a few of them shown but not indicated on the instructions. I did not see where the "no step" decals called out or where they should be located.

The print resolution of the painting & decal portion of the instructions is fairly low making reading the decal numbers difficult. It would be nice if this portion could be printed in color on glossy paper and higher print resolution. Another option would be an online PDF or photo that the modeler can download.

Conclusion:

Overall this a very nice kit to build but as with most models, test fitting and studying references help. The assembly and fit was excellent with minimal areas that need gaps filled. The engine nacelles are where the majority of gap filling and fit issues were experienced. The biggest challenges to the modeler will be with the instructions due to numerous mislabeling and omissions. The Kinetic E-2C Hawkeye is the best Hawkeye in any scale and was a joy to build.

 Many thanks to Kinetic Model kits for providing this kit to IPMS for review.

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