P-80C Shooting Star

Lockheed P--80 Shooting Star by Monogram
1/48 scale
Kit No. 5428
Cost: $15.00
One version - United States Air Force
Comments: Raised panel lines; first released 1977; detailed cockpit with option for open or closed canopy; detailed gun bay and wheel wells; rear fuselage detaches to reveal jet engine; includes 500 lb. bombs beneath wing pylons, and wing tip tanks

First flown in January 1944, the Lockheed P-80 represented a leap forward in technology that the U.S. Army Air Force tried to rush into production to meet the threat of the German twin turbjojet Messerschmitt Me 262, which began attacking Allied bomber formations over Europe in July 1944.  The P-80 had more than its share of initial teething problems and did not enter service until the fall of 1945, after the Second World War had ended.  Redesignated F-80, it was the U.S. Air Force's front-line jet fighter in the immediate post-war years, and was the first jet fighter on the scene after the outbreak of the Korean War, achieving early air superiority until the balance tipped in favor of North Korea with the appearance of the swept-wing MiG-15.  The F-80 gave way to the North American F-86 in the air superiority role on the Korean peninsula, and became a major workhorse as a fighter-bomber for the remainder of the conflict.  For a more detailed  history of the Lockheed F-80, please see the preview of this kit here.

Construction is mostly worry-free with this kit.  Initially released in 1977, Monogram's F-80 kit lies midway in the evolution of their kits; a significant improvement over the crude cockpit interiors and non-existent wheel wells of their early to mid-1960’s aircraft kits, but not quite as well molded and detailed as the kits released in their final decade of independent manufacturing (1978-87).  The cockpit assembles easily and has a fairly detailed seat with an instrument panel featuring raised detail.  It’s essential to have a nose weight (best inserted at Step 6), as the F-80 is a notorious tail sitter.  A clear plastic support is provided, but a good nose weight will eliminate the need for this.  Lead weights just below and aft of the cockpit helped in this kit, but were too close to the plane’s center of gravity to do the job – I had to drag out the clear support.

The only part of the kit where the fit is bad is the upper surface of the wing roots.  Here the wings do not fit anywhere near flush against the fuselage, as the join seam is too wide and requires putty and sanding.  The beauty of this kit -- and the major drawback, for those who prize accuracy -- is the detachable rear fuselage, exposing the Allison J-33 turbojet powerplant.  Nice detail when looking at the engine, but not so accurate in appearance when the rear fuselage is snapped back into place, as there is a visible step where the forward and rear fuselage meet.  The interior of the rear fuselage contains raised ribbed detail.  Another nice feature of this kit is the gun bay, providing a view of three .50 caliber machine guns and their feed chutes (Monogram repeated this feature in its F-86 and Me 262 kits).  There is a choice of three different versions of wing-tip drop tanks, including the classic WWII teardrop tanks and the Mizawa tanks. 

The F-80 is painted in Alclad Polished Aluminum over Alclad Gloss Black Base as a primer.  It is best to paint the interior sections (cockpit, wheel wells, interior of wheel well doors, gun bay, interior tail section, and interior flap detail areas) as early as possible – the instructions call for each of these to be painted interior green or zinc chromate.  The engine is painted Alclad Flat Aluminum, the jet exhaust nozzle Alclad Dark Aluminum.

Don’t even think about using the kit decals.  Monogram decals traditionally are OK at best, and markings for some of even their later kits, just before the merger with Revell, were not in register, in some cases had poor color, and had white outlines where there should have been none.  In the case of the F-80, although the kit examples were in pristine condition from their 1983 printing, they had an awful lot of carrier film on them that was hard to remove.

The “USAF” decal in particular had a milky, cloudy background that was obvious against the F-80’s natural metal finish, and in my efforts to remove it, it curled up so badly that I trashed it rather than struggle with trying to get it to lay flat on the wing.  I highly recommend Aeromaster’s excellent aftermarket set for the P-80 (Shooting Stars over Korea Part I, 48-627), with one caveat: the red fuel cap stencils are manufactured with a type of ink that will virtually dissolve when exposed to decal solvent, so use caution – and nothing too caustic – in getting those particular markings to conform to the surface of the aircraft.

Lead weights are a must to keep the F-80 from sitting on its tail, but must be placed in the nose.  Here, weights sited beneath and just aft of the cockpit help, but are too close to the plane's center of gravity to do the job.

Relatively easy, trouble-free assembly.  Detachable tail section reveals the turbojet engine, and there is nice gun bay detail.

Overall, Monogram's F-80 is well engineered.  The only real challenge presented is using filler on the wing roots and sanding it down to a smooth finish.

Significant amount of filler required to hide the join seam at the wing roots.  Detachable tail section compromises accuracy of the kit, as it cannot be positioned absolutely flush against the forward section of the fuselage without permanently cementing it on and resorting to puttying and sanding.

After 35 years, Monogram's kit remains the only F-80 in 1/48 scale, is an easy build, and features engine and gun bay detail that is generally only found in aftermarket conversion kits.  That said, it could be still more detailed, particularly in the cockpit.  An aftermarket resin cockpit for this kit exists (made by Black Box or Avionix in 1/48) but is hard to find. 

This photo highlights both the uniqueness and the critical flaw of this kit: the visible stepped appearance of the detachable rear fuselage.

Except for the stepped appearance resulting from the detachable rear fuselage, the Monogram kit is very accurate in appearance with good fit overall.  Just as Sword responded to the old Airfix mold of the F-80 with a newly tooled P-80A, it would be nice to see a newly tooled F-80C in 1/48 scale.  Monogram's kit, while out of production, can still be found new at an affordable price, and is a reasonably detailed kit of America's first operational jet fighter, and the first American jet to see combat.  For historical significance alone, Monogram's Shooting Star is highly recommended.

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