Macross +++ 1:72 Stonewell/Belcom VF-4A "Lightning III" of the U.N. Spacy VAT-127 aggressor squadron (WAVE kit) - WiP
The kit and its assembly:
Well, this build has been lingering for almost 25 years in the back of my mind. It just took so long that a suitable IP kit (with a reasonable price tag) would materialize!
The original inspiration struck me with a VF-4 profile in the source book "This is animation special: Macross PLUS" from 1994, which accidently fell into my hands in a local Japanese book store. Among others, a side and top view profile of an aggressor VF-4 in an all-brown, Soviet-style paint scheme was featured. At that time I found the idea and the scheme pretty cool, so much that I even built a modified 1:100 VF-1 as a ground attack aircraft in this paint scheme.
However, the original VF-4 profile from the source book had always been present, but for years there had been no affordable kit. There have been garage/resin kits, but prices would start at EUR 250,-, and these things were and are extraordinarily rare.
Things changed for the better when WAVE announced an 1:72 VF-4 kit in late 2016, and it eventually materialized in late 2017. I immediately pre-ordered one from Japan (in a smart move, this even saved money) and it eventually turned up here in Germany in early 2018. Patience pays out, it seems...
I had preferred a 1:100 kit, though, due to space issues and since almost any other Macross variable fighter model in my collection is in this small scale, but I am happy that a decent VF-4 kit at all appeared after so many years!
Concerning the WAVE kit, there’s light and shadow. First of all, you have to know that you get a VF-4A. This is mentioned nowhere on the box, but might be a vital information for hardcore modelers. The early VF-4A is a rather different aircraft than the later VF-4G, with so fundamental differences that it would warrant a completely new kit! On the other side, with a look at the kit’s parts, I could imagine that a VF-4B two-seater could be easily realized in the future, too.
The kit is a solid construction, a snap-fit kit molded in different colors so that it can be built without painting. This sounds toy-like, but - like many small scale Bandai Valkyrie kits - anything you ask for is actually there. When you use glue and put some effort into the kit and some donor parts, you can make a very good model from it.
The kit's box is pretty oversized, though (any sprue is shrink-wrapped, horrendous garbage pile and wasted space!), and the kit offers just a single decal (water-slide decals, not stickers) option for a Skull Squadron VF-4A – AFAIK it’s Hikaru Ichijoe’s machine that appears in one of the Macross Flash Back 2012 music videos, as it escorts the SDF-02 “Megaroad” colonial ship after launch from Earth towards the center of our Galaxy.
The parts are crisply molded, and I actually like the fact that the kit is not as uber-engineered as the Hasegawa Valkyries. You can actually call the WAVE kit simple - but in a positive sense, because the parts number is reduced to a minimum, material strength is solid and the kit's construction is straightforward. Fit is excellent – I just used some putty along the engine gondolas due to their complex shape, but almost anything else would either fit almost perfectly or just call for some sanding. Impressive!
Surface details etc. are rather basic, but very crisp and emphasized enough that anything remains visible after adding some paint. However, after all, this aircraft is just a fictional animation mecha, and from this perspective the kit is really O.K..
After building the kit I most say that it's nothing that leaves you in awe, and for a retail price of currently roundabout EUR 50-70,- (I was lucky to get it for an early bird deal at EUR 40,-, but still pricey for what I got) the kit is pretty expensive and has some weaknesses:
The model comes with a decent (= simple) cockpit and a very nice and large pilot figure, but with no ordnance except for the semi-recessed long-range missiles (see below). The cockpit lacks any side consoles, floor or side wall details. If you put the pilot into the cockpit as intended, this is not a big issue, since the figure blocks any sight into the cockpit’s lower regions. However, the side sticks are molded into the pilot’s hands, so that you have to scratch a lot if you want to present the cockpit open and with an empty seat.
The landing gear is simple, too, and the wells are very shallow (even though they feature interior details). As a special feature, you can switch with some extra parts between an extended or retracted landing gear, and there are extra parts that allow the air intakes and some vectoring nozzles to be closed/extended for orbital operations. However, detail fetishists might replace the OOB parts with the landing gear from an 1:72 F-18 for an overall better look.
Provisions for underwing hardpoints are actually molded into the lower fuselage part (and could be punched/drilled open - another indication that more VF-4 boxings with extra sprues might follow?), but the kit does not come with any pylons or other ordnance than the dozen fuselage-mounted AAMs. Furthermore, the semi-recessed missiles are just that: you only get the visible halves of the only provided ordnance, which are simply stuck into slits on the model’s surface. As a consequence, you have to mount them at any rate – building a VF-4 for a diorama in which the missiles are about to be loaded would require massive scratch-building efforts and modifications.
Another problem indirectly arises when you put some effort into the kit and want to clean and pre-paint the missiles before assembly: every missile is different and has its allocated place on the VF-4 hull. The missiles are numbered – but only on the sprue! Once you cut them out, you either have to keep them painstakingly in order, or you will spend a long evening figuring out where which missile belongs! This could be easily avoided if the part number would be engraved on the missiles’ back sides – and that’s what I actually did (with a water-proof pen, though) in order to avoid trouble.
The clear canopy is another issue. The two parts are crystal-clear, but, being a snap-fit kit, the canopy parts have to be clipped into the fuselage (rear part) and onto a separate canopy frame (front part). In order to fit, the clear parts have cramps molded into their bases – and due to the excellent transparency and a magnifier effect, you can see them easily from the outside – and on the inside, when you leave the cockpit open. It’s not a pretty solution, despite the perfect fit of the parts.
One option I can think of is to carefully sand the cramps and the attachment points away, but I deem this a hazardous stunt. I eventually hid the cramps behind a thin line of paint, which simulates a yellow-ish canopy seal. The extra windscreen framing is not accurate, but the simplest solution that hides this weak point.
The kit itself was built OOB, because it goes together so well. I also refrained from adding pylons and ordnance – even though you can easily hang anything from Hasegawa’s VF-1 weapon set under the VF-4’s wings and fuselage. A final, small addition was a scratched, ventral adapter for a 3.5 mm steel rod, as a display for the flight scene beauty pic.