The Dassault-Breguet Super Etendard is, of course, engrained indelibly into the British psyche on account of the Argentine Navy's devastating attacks using the aircraft armed with Exocet missiles during the Falklands Conflict – before which it had hardly figured large in the public's imagination.
Entering service in 1978, the Super Etendard has enjoyed a long and successful career, with French aircraft serving operationally in Kossovo, Afganistan and Libya, while Iraqi operated machines fought in the Iran-Iraq War.
Kitty Hawk's release of a new-tool kit coincides with the veteran Super Etendard finally leaving French operational service to be replaced by the Rafale.
Kitty Hawk's Super Etendard arrives in a large top-opening box that's packed to the brim with sprues. The weapons sprues are folded over themselves - something I find a bit irritating, because there is the chance of damaging parts when you open them out. If they look familiar, that's because they are, having previously appeared in the Mirage F1 and Jaguar kits. The new sprues are moulded conventionally, so hopefully this is the way Kitty Hawk are planning for the future.
The kit comprises:
429 x dark grey styrene parts
25 x clear styrene parts
14 x etched brass parts
Decals for 8 x colour schemes
The moulding is pretty good on the sample kit, although I was surprised to find a little whispy flash here and there. True, it's nothing that will take more than a few moments to clean up, but this is a new mould on its first outing. There are also a few stress marks, so I guess time will tell how well things hold up. The layout of the parts on the sprues isn't always ideal - 2 small items are ridiculously exposed on the edge of Sprue C. They show on the parts layout chart, but were long gone in the sample kit and I haven't figured out what they even were yet.
On the plus side, Kitty Hawk do look to have made a real effort to change how they use ejector pins. There still are quite a few to clean off the reverse of parts and some gluing surfaces, but they seem to have avoided the more obtrusive ones on visible faces that have plagued some of their earlier kits. So, full marks for trying on that.
I've only spotted one sink mark so far. That's on the instrument combing, which is a bit unfortunate as it's a fairly prominent position. Still, it shoudn't be hard to fill.
The surface finish has a satin sheen, with quite neatly engraved panel lines and embossed rivets. These are possibly a little overstated, but they'll respond well to weathering and add a muscular look to the finished model. Ironically, the extreme rear fuselage on the full-sized aircraft features raised rivets, but has been left smooth in the kit. Overall, the kit seems quite nicely detailed, although the moulding is a little softer than you'd find in, say, a Tamiya model.
Test Fit... or not...
I usually like to do a dry assembly of the main parts of a kit like this for a review - at least taping together the fuselage and wings. But I have to admit I lost patience with the Super Etendard. To get the surface detailing around the contours, the basic fuselage is built up from over 10 parts, and taping things together started creating a "sticking plaster monster" that risked looking like there were problems where there may be none. From what I could judge, the fit is pretty good, but I'll leave it to a full-build before making a final judgement.
The wings seem to be a solid fit and, all in all, it looks pretty encouraging - but I think it's fair to say this won't really be a suitable kit for beginners
A Few Details
Construction begins with the cockpit which is built up from 17 parts. A further 9 parts are devoted to the ejector seat plus a simple etched harness. The instrument panel is quite good and decals are provided for this and the side consoles, although they are not shown in the instructions.
The nose gear is constructed from 7 parts in a neatly detailed well. The instructions would have you add it early, but it may be possible to leave it until later when it's less likely to be damaged. The cockpit tub and nosewheel well slot into a separate nose section, and there's no mention of any weight needed to avoid the kit being a tail sitter, so I would keep the option open to add some in need be. The nose is completed with a bay for the refueling probe, which is shown extended. There'll be a bit of work to do if you want to model it closed.
A basic engine is provided to prevent a see-through look. There's an etched afterburner ring deep inside the tail pipe and some external detail on the body of the engine. None of the latter will be visible, though, so I wouldn't spend much time superdetailing or painting it - unless you just like to know it's all there. Despite the engine detail, there's no internal ducting ahead of it, so you won't want to peer too closely into the intakes.
The mainwheels feature prominent separate hub inserts, hydraulic lines and oleo scissors, and their wells are quite nicely detailed, built up from four parts to form a box.
An unusual touch is that the plates at the roots of the stabilisers are supplied as etched pieces, which could work well, so long as you're careful to match the contours of the fin.
Unlike, some of their recent kits, Kitty Hawk have left the locating holes for the underwing pylons flashed over, which saves filling them if you don't want to hang a load of stores on your model.
And speaking of stores, as you'll have gathered above, by raiding the sprues of previous kits, Kitty Hawk provide a pretty phenomenal selection of munitions. Not all of this is appropriate to the Super Etendard, so what the instructions show on the load-out diagram is as follows :
- Barracuda ECM pod
- ATLIS targeting pod
- Matra Magic 2 air-to-air missiles
- PHIMAT chaff-dispenser
- 68mm Rocket Pods
- GBU-12 Paveway II bombs
- AS.30 air-to-surface missile
- AM-39 Exocet anti-shipping missile
- CMR 280 reconnaissance pack
- Drop tanks and an in-flight refueling buddy-pack
Instructions & Decals
The instructions are produced as a neat little 32-page booklet, with fold-out sheets for most of the colour schemes. In fact, the way the pages are bound partly obscures one of the schemes, which is a bit annoying. You need to un-staple the centre spread to reveal it fully.
The construction sequence is broken down into 30 basic steps - the final one further divided to cover the construction of the multitude of weapon options.
The drawings are good and clear, but I'll depart from the suggested sequence to complete the basic airframe before adding smaller details that are only otherwise asking to get damaged.
FS and Mr Color paint matches are provided throughout.
Kitty Hawk include decals for no less than 8 aircraft, with a really good variety of eye-catching schemes:
Super Etendard Modernis, Flotille 11F, 80 years anniversary, September 2002
Super Etendard, Iraqi Air Force
Super Etendard, Flotille 11F, RIAT, July 1997
Super Etendard Modernis, Flotille 14F, ISAF, 2007
Super Etendard, 0753, 3-A-203, 2 Escuadrilla de Casa y Ataque, Argentine Navy
Super Etendard Modernisé, Flotile 11F, Orland Tiger Meet, September 2007
Super Etendard, Flotile 11F, Cambrai Tiger Meet, 1986
Super Etendard, Flotile 17F, No 49
The company has a rather chequered reputation with its decals and, sadly, there are some problems visible instantly here. The Iraqi and Argentine aircraft are both bizarrely depicted with French roundels on their wings. Furthermore, the blazing Argentine sun with a face icon on the tail is supplied as a plain yellow spot. Only one pair of Iraqi insignia is included, and the green looks quite dark compared with other interpretations I've seen.
The decals themselves are supplied on three sheets, with the smallest containing a couple of extra anchors and numerals (presumably to correct the Argentine scheme, although no addendum is included). The finish is odd in that it's patchy - some parts of the decals are high gloss, while others are dead flat. It'll be interesting to see how they behave in use. The printing looks quite sharp at normal viewing range, but closer examination reveals many of the items are dithered to save on the number of ink colours used. You'd expect the more elaborate individual artwork such as the tiger motifs to be dot-printed to replicate the shading, but even the pale blue and dark green for the Argentine and Iraqi insignia are done that way. Luckily, the dots are very fine and not obtrusive, but I imagine many modellers will still seek alternative decals.
This is the first kit I've seen of the Super Etendard “in the plastic”, so to speak, and the real surprise is just how much more complicated Kitty Hawk appear to have made its construction compared with shots online of, say, the Kinetic
model. Ironically, the extra complexity makes me determined to build it – call me a glutton for punishment, maybe, but I'm just intrigued to see how it all goes together, so watch out for a Blog soon. As usual, Kitty Hawk don't exactly inspire confidence with their decals and research into the colour schemes – that really is an aspect of their kits that they could (and should) nail down.
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE