by: Frederick Boucher [ ]
1/48 MQ-9 Reaper Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
Decal printed by Cartograf S.r.l., Italy
Weapons: AGM-114 Hellfire missiles GBU-12 Paveway II Laser Guided Bombs
General Atomics MQ-9 ReaperThe Reaper is a key player in the Global War on Terror. A larger development of the MQ-1 Predator with a more powerful engine it can carry a greater payload at faster cruising speeds. While most notable for its military application, the UAV is also used for peaceful domestic purposes, such as border patrol and forest fire fighting. It is currently in use by USAF, US Customs and Border Protection, NASA, United States Department of Homeland Security, Australia, United Kingdom, and Italy.
In the BoxSkunkmodels Workshop packs their model in plastic bags to protect parts and keep those that escape the sprues together. The bags are in a lightweight box that opens at the ends. A photograph of an MQ-9 is on the front, and marking illustrations are on the back.
Four sprues of light gray parts, a sprue of clear parts, and two decal sheets make up the model. There are 82 parts.
The molding is crisp and without flash, visible mold marks, and minimal seam lines. However, the sprue attachment points are pretty big--use care removing small pieces.
Surface detail is predominately engraved. Nice and fine. Thin pieces. The surface has a slight texture to it. The thin high aspect ratio wings are molded with finesse. Note the photograph of the wings on their sprue, the wings are warped. Fret not, when assembled the wings are straight.
DetailsThe main gear have separate tires and hubs. Yet the nose gear is molded as a single piece.
The wing nav lights are clear lenses. Each of the four weapons pylons are separate halves with a pair of shackles. Seven parts build each GBU-12.
Disappointingly, the Hellfires have solid noses instead of clear lenses. A bit of cutting and epoxy can make a clear seeker head.
Getting TogetherEasy enough, the small instruction brochure is cleanly and smartly illustrated. However, there are some misprints and the painting and decaling guide can use improvement.
The fuselage is assembled with top and bottom halves. The nose gear well is molded as part of the bottom half. The main gear wells are separate and glued to the inside. The fuselage in this area is thin so use caution against too much glue, and line up the parts carefully as there alignment tabs are slight.
A fairly simple model, the basic airframe is only 13 parts - 16 with the propeller assembly. Sensors, pitots, landing gear and navigation lights add another 21 pieces! If you build an UCAV -- Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle -- there are 38 other parts to build the Paveway II Laser Guided Bombs and Hellfires! Wow!
Overall the fit is good. I will first describe the assembly of the airframe:
Though the fuselage halves lined up nicely I had to clamp the halves together in the back while the glue set.
The wings were held by clothespins and mini-clamps. Not many were needed. When assembled the warping went away.
The engine nacelle halves went to together with a slight lip on one side -- I did not think it would be so noticeable. Happily, the nacelle mated precisely to the fuselage.
Both ruddervators and the dorsal stabilizer attach clean and tight.
When the fuselage halves sandwich the wings, there are gaps at the wingroots. These were easy to fill with the putty and acetone method.
Two parts can be challenging, the plate behind the nacelle and the nose plate that holds the very delicate pitot. I did not mount the nose part during fuselage assembly as I knew I would break off the pitot. So I added it after the airframe was assembled. Bad idea. Skunkmodels Workshop molded the part with beveled edges designed to fit in the upper fuselage half from the inside! I can testify that you can add it later but I broke the pitot trying to do so. It was painstakingly reattached with CA as the last part to be added.
Landing gear assembly can challenge you. I had to scrap some seams off of the main gear legs. Due to the small space of the wells it was chore to insert the legs into their mounting holes. The legs have a tiny indention for a gear actuator lever -- use care to add these parts. Happily, the nose gear is easy to pop in and secure. The main wheels are three-part assemblies, tire halves which sandwich nicely detailed hubs. Use care here, too, as the parts are small and if you use liquid cement, it can run out and distort the parts.
The propeller and spinner assembly is straight forward. However, the indention in the spinner for the blades are not uniform and leave gaps.
The chin-mounted sensor pod is a three-piece assembly -- the two halves and the clear lens.
I used Ambroid non-toxic liquid glue to assemble the model. Except for the wingroots which required putty, all gaps between parts were easily and thoroughly closed by the capillary action of the glue along the seams, which also melded the seams closed.
Finally, attaching the several antennas and sensors. They fit pretty well to the fuselage. Three delicate "L" shaped sensors fit into holes under the wings. Handle with care! These are small and thin, and Skunkmodels Workshop did not leave enough root to really set them into the wing mounting holes. Last, the wingtip navigation lights were attached (after painting).
Weapons and pylons:
Pay attention to this process and test-fit all parts. Skunkmodels Workshop molded each pylon as a halve into which shackles and anti-sways are inserted. The pylons are different even though this is not shown clearly in the instructions.
Also, use care opening the pre-molded holes in the wings for the pylons. Two for mounting a GBU-12 pylon do not seem to be straight.
The GBUs go together well. It was easy to affix the bomb fins, too. I left the seeker heads off until the end of assembly.
These bombs and Hellfires attach to the pylons and rails via small square indentations that fit over small tabs.
Who's Your Daddy?Decals for two birds:
* 04-4011, 432D Air Expeditionary Wing, USAF, Creech AFB, Nevada
* 07-0108, United States Customs and Border Protection
Plenty of decals for the weapons -- an entire sheet! These are thin and well registered, and look opaque. Would you expect anything else from Cartograf? They went on like a dream and when dry looked like they were painted on.
Painting is simple, only five colors. Skunkmodels Workshop thoughtfully includes the FS numbers , and references Humbrol, Model Master, and Gunze. However, SMW's painting and decaling guide is vague.
Closing ThoughtsSkunkmodels Workshop is positioning themselves as your UAV source. Last year they released a 1/72 MQ-9 with 2 models in the box. They also offer the bigger, badder, jet powered RQ-4 Global Hawk in 1/72 and 1/48!
The model is first-class. Sharp molding and fine detail. Great decals. I am disappointed that the nose gear is a single part, and that they did not provide clear lenses for the Hellfires.
Assembly was straight forward with no real problems. Only the wingroots needed more than liquid cement to seam the seams.
This is a fine model which I can heartily recommend.
Please remember to tell vendors and sellers that you saw this model here--at Aeroscale!