My Review and Build of Fujimi's 1/72 scale Kit #72224,
U.S Marine F-35B Joint Strike Fighter, Lightning II

Alterations, Major Assembly, decals, and completing the model - March 4, 2013 <-- Click to go directly there

Introduction and What's in the Box - February 25, 2013

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is an ambitious U.S. Armed Forces jet fighter acquisition program that has been dreamed of for many decades. That is, to design and build a common aircraft that can be designed to fit the specific needs of the U.S. Air Force (F-35A), US Marines (F-35B) and U.S. Navy (F-35C), to work in their specific envoironments. The real test for this desire is to have a very common air frame that can perform Conventional Take off and Landings (CTOL) from air bases for the U.S. Air Force, Catapault Take-offs but Barrier Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR) operations from nuclear carriers for the U.S. Navy, and Short (or vertical) Take-off and Vertical Landings (STOVL) for the the U.S. Marines from U.S. Navy LHA or LHD Amphibious assault vessels or from unimproved landing areas near the front lines...and to do all of this with suersonic capability and high manueverability. No aircraft has ever been designed whose common airframe could do all three...that is, until the Joint Strike Fighter that is being developed by Lockheed Martin Corporation in conjunction with all three US Armed Services and partner nations.

This aircraft is meant to be a fifth generation stealth fighter bomber for the U.S. Air Force along the lines of the F-16, a 5th generation, stealth U.S. Navy fighter/bomber along the lines of the initial F/A-18 aircraft operating off of U.S. Navy nuclear aircraft carriers, and a 5th generation U.S. Marine ground support fighter/attack aircraft along the lines of the AV-8B Harrier II+ that can be located aboard U.S. Navy LHA and LHD amphibious assault vessels, aboard U.S. Navy nuclear powered aircraft carriers, or operating off of un-improved airfield near the front lines of combat for the U.S. Marines, employing its STOVL, or VTOL capabilities to do so.

Since this aircraft is meant to replace so many different aircraft types over a several decade period, and since it is employing new structural, avionics, stealth, and communications technologies, it will be the most expensive weapons system ever designed by the U.S. Military, and therefore also the most expensive weapons system ever designed in the world. Numerous allied nations have partnered with the U.S. at various levels in the development and funding of this aircraft. Several other countries have expressed interest as customers of one or the other of the varieties of the aircraft once the it is in production.

As of this writing in February 2013, the intial production aircraft for the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Marines are already being produced in intial, low production batches and being made operational for various logistical and training wings. The initial low production aircraft have been made available to the U.S. Navy but are still undergoing pre-acceptance testing and none have been made operational to date. Full scale production of all three models is slated to begin in 2016 and 2017 once all tests and performance criteria are met.

To date over 60 aircraft have been produced in low production capability and are being flown by all three services. This includes the first two international deliveries to the United Kingdom.

U.S. Marine F-35B Joint Strike Fighter:
The need for a new STOVL/VTOL aircraft to replace the aging AV-8B Harrier II+ fleet is pressing on the U.S. Marine Corps. No other aircraft is available or on the horizon which can meet the U.S. Marine Corps needs. To date, the F-35B JSF, Lightning II has performed well in its flight characteristics with initial qualification flight testing already having occurred off of the USS Wasp, LHD-1. The initial wing of aircraft is already being formed up to work as a tactical fighter wing training pilots for future full combat roles and duties.

The ability to have a 5th generation, very stealthy, very network centric, STOVL or VTOL, supersonic aircraft available to the U.S. Marines for ground support and air cover is critical. The new USS America Class LHA vessels have been designed to maximize the capabilities of the F-35B. These vessels contain no well deck and have much larger and enhanced aircraft handling capabilities to allow them to perform air assault en masse against enemy beachheads or positions, and to be supported by the Joint Strike Fighters aboard. In addition, these vessels have been designed from the outset to also function as Sea Control Carriers, embarking several wings of F-35Bs, up to 20-24 aircraft, to act as a full fledged aircraft carrier in either U.S. Marine support roles, or in Sea Control roles including war at sea with the U.S. Navy. This will free up nuclear powered "fleet" carriers from these duties. Therefore the F-35B takes on even more importance.

Equally, with US allies who utilize STOBAR carriers without catapualts, like the United Kingdom's new 65,000 tons Queen Elizabeth Carriers (or the Italian, Spanish, Australian, and eventual Japanese and Korean LHDs and LHA type vessels) these aircraft will be operated by those countries for their own naval air operations.

The Kit:
The first, and to date, only 1/72 scale pre-production/production Joint Strike Fighter in an injected molded kit is this kit by Fujimi of the F-35B, STOVL version of the aircraft. Italeri is also abpout to produce an F-35 model on the F-35A in 1/72 scale.

Fujimi is known for making very good injected molded kits with little or no flash and little or no warping. This model is no exception. One of the things you cannot help but notice when opening the kit is the fact that the kit comes molded in four different colors. A dark gray for all of the major structural and flight surfaces, a gunmetal color for the engine which is very detailed and available to be built in two canted down for VTOL take-off and landing, and the other straight back for level flight, white sprues for the landing gear bays, weapons bays, and cockpit, and finally a clear sprue with two cockpit glass completelyclear and one tinted. Both of those are extremely well done...except that there is no canopy brace structure across the middle of the glass, seperating the front of the cockpit from the part over the pilot. This will require etching and paitning to show the actual detail. I have to say that the gray and gun metal sprues are very nicely...even excellently done. The white sprue parts, on the other hand, not so much, though the interior detail of the weapons bay and landing gear bays are good. However, the cockpit is very vanilla and the ejection seat has absolutely not detail and is disappointing. The weapons themselves (a couple of JDAM munitions and AMRAAM missiles), are also light on the details and a bit thick on the control fins.

Oh well, no big deal, the availability of more modern and realistic ejection seats and 1/72 scale weaponry from the after market (or my spare parts...LOL!) will clear up these minor issues nicely.

One issue not so easily cleared up. The Kit is clearly designed to show the various compartments, louvers, fans, etc. in the open condition for VTOL landing or take-off. For the most part this is very well done. The detail in these compartments (including the landing gear and weapons bays) are very good (even if the weapons themselves are somewhat lacking), but they absolutely forgot the section directly behind the lift fan. That section just aft of that fan should open up in vertical flight, and this has not been allowed for in the kit. The recessed lines for the panels are there, but they not only cannot be shown open, there is no underlying detail underneath them even if they could. Scratch building the underlying structure would not be too difficult, but cutting the doors out of the model structure properly might prove troublesome.

Finally, there is definitely an issue with how the model can be depicted while landing or taking off, which is clearly a big issue because of the really nice engine detail and all of the hatches that can be shown open...the horizontal stabilizors should be showon angled up, and the rear ailerons should be shown the down position. But with the Fujimi kit, there is no provision to do this. The parts do not allow for it. So, I intend to accomplish it in the kit by cutting the horizontal stabilizors off accordingly to allow them to be correctly positioned, and by cutting out the rear ailerons on the wing at the provided etched seam on the wing and then positioning them in the correct position.

Just the same, all in all, I have to say that the model still looks very good and the kit should build up into a very nice we shall see.

The decals are for the 1st pre-production F-35B aircraft, BF-01, with all of the various partner nation markings, the Lockheed Martin commercial markings, and the stylized vertical stabilizer markings. I intend to use the U.S. military markings and normal warning decals, but will discard the international, commercial, and stlyzed vertical markings so I can depict this aircraft as an intial production U.S. Marine aircraft for the 1st operational squadron, VMFA-121, at the U.S. Marine Corps base in Yuma, AZ.

Here's what you get in the box, which itself is a nice pictorial representation of the aircraft:

The instructions are very well done with very detailed build up pictures and schematice which are intuitive. The painting scheme is also well done, but not in glossy color...but it will work just fine.

I am using a U.S. Marine paint scheme similar to my Hasegawa F/A-18D U.S. Marine fighter. Using neutral gray for the upper surfaces, and light gull gray (which is just a few shades lighter) for the lower surfaces, then white for all of the enterior bays, very dark gray for the cockpit, and Engine gray for the engine. Current paint schemes show the JSF in all the same shade of gray for the body, dark gray for the cockpit, white for the bays and an engine gray or gunmetaal color for the engine, and that is fine, I just like that F/A-18D color sheme a lot. LOL!

The Build - Initial Painting - February 27, 2013

So, I first cut the attachment points and sprue attachments off of the various upper surfaces and painted them in the Model Master Neutral Gray color:

Then it was time to do the same and paint the lower aircraft surfaces in the slightly lighter shade of gray, Model Master Light Gull Gray (though I may go back and paint over this with Dark Gull Gray depending on how clear the distinction is. I want it to be very subtle).

So, next I'll be painting all of the bay surfaces flat white, the cockpit (dark gray), the tires (flat black), and the various pneumatic/shocks in steel or aluminum depending on the part. I hope to also be able to get the after market JDAMS and AIM-120s and paint them up appropriately for the weapons bay. That will be the next session which will includ some partial assembly, after which we will begin major assembly.

The Build - Completed painting and initial assembly - March 1, 2013

Once the major portions of the model had been painted their respective hues of gray, it was time to attack some of the detailed portions of the model and complete the vast majority of the overall painting. This included the weapons bay, landing gear bays, and the landing gear, wheels, and the cockpit area. Here's how they are looking:

Then it was on to some minor sub assembly of the lift fan area as well as the main engine, which I intend to depict in the vertical lift position. The engine is nicely detailed and getting the fan blades appropriately painted and positioned was straight forward. Some initial minor assmbly now began occurring allowing these to come together, along with the detail painting. Here's how that is all looking:

In doing all of this, some minor cleaning up of the pieces was required to remove partial spurs and rough places left over from detaching the pieces from their sprues. As always, the xacto knife comes in handy here, along with various sand paper and files if necessary, and finally, if it is really serious, the dremel tool and its attachments. In this case however, a few shavings by the xacto knife more than sufficed.

Over the next couple of days now, serious assembly of the aircraft can begin, as well as finding and applying the necessary detail parts into the weapons bay area and the cockpit to replace or supplement the parts supplied by Fujimi.

The Build - Alterations, Major Assembly, decals, and completing the model - March 4, 2013

Ok, with the initial sassemblies in place, it was time to make a couple of the alterations I discussed when talking about the kit.

Namely to cut out the horizontal stabilizors and rear ailerons and position them correctly for vertaical take-off and landings. I used and xacto knife to score the appropriate areas as there were convienent seams already present. By careully scribing the model parts along those seams, and then doing it several times over, pressing a littly harder each time in the deepening cut I was making, I was able to reach a point where I simply bent the part and they broke cleanly along those lines.

In the case of the ailerons I also have to scribe a couple of lines perpindicular to the main line so I could "cut out" the whole thing and in those cases I went ahead and used the knife to cut all the way through.

In addition, at this point I decided to employ some of the after market kits and peces I have in my stash to address the weapons for the weapons bay. In both cases, the AIM-120 missiles and the GBU-31 JDAM munitions that came with the kit were not only very lacking in detail, thay also had larger fins than and were actually too short in both cases. I used the Hasegawa 1/72 US munitions kit for JDAM and guided munitions, and the kit for air-to-air munitions for the JDAMs and the AIM-210 (AMRAAM) missiles respectively.

Also, on the kit, for the principal intake fan and opening right behind the cockpit, the actuators on either side (small hydrauliclly operated actuators, were not present. I simply used some old 1/700 18" main gun barrells I had left over from a Yamoto build, cut them to length, and then painted them silver and they sufficed just fine. Here's how all of that looked.

Now it was time to put the decals on and finish this aircraft.

I opted to make the aircraft look as much like the first actual fighter/attack wing being stood up right now for the U.S. Marines, VMFA-121, at the U.S. Marine Corps base in Yuma, AZ.

This required removing all of the Lockheed Martin decals and promotional markings, and replacing them with the actual U.S. Marine markings. I had some left over low-visibility markings from an old Hasegawa A-6E Marine aircraft to help. What I ended up lacking was the "K" for the VK marking on the tail, the actual serial number marking for the aircraft located behind the MARINE marking on either side, and the actual "VMFA-121" markings for either side of the aircraft But other than that, she is looking very good.

I sprayed the aircraft with a good layer of high gloss coat, and then spent about 10 hours putting all of those decals on the aircraft over a couple of day period. Then after dryng, I did some touch up paint work and then painted the cockpit supprt brace on the forward part of the cockpit (which is completely left out in this model), I then sprayed the entire model with a couple of coats of dull coat, and finally, very last, glued the cockpit window onto the aircraft and took pictures of the now completed U.S. Marine F-35B of attack Squadron VMFA-121.

Now that is a decent looking F-35B Lightning II VSTOL aircraft if I do so so myself!

SCHEDULE for Future Activities - March 4, 2013

  1. By Apr 15, 2013: Complete entire PLAN Carrier Group.
  2. By Jun 01, 2013: Complete entire US Carrier Group (Just the CSG).
  3. By Jul 15, 2013: Start the UK Carrier Group Centered on Airfix's HMS Illustrious.
  4. By Sep 01, 2013: Start the JMSDF Carrier Group Centered on Fujimi's JMSDF Hyuga.
  5. By Oct 15, 2013: Start the French Carrier group centered on Heller's Charles de Gaulle.
  6. By Dedc 01, 2013, Start the US ARG centered on the USS Iwo Jima and USS Sommerset.
The completion of the PLAN Carrier group, centered on the already completed Trumpeter's 1/350 scale PLA Navy's Aircraft Carrier CV-16, Liaoning, (in addition to the other escorts already completed) will incluide Mini Hobby's's PLAN Guangzhou, DDG-168; the PLAN Ningbo, DDG-139; and the PLAN ChangZhang5, SSN-405 by Hobby Boss(All of which I already own). If a 1/350 scale model of the PLAN Type 071 LPD, Yuzhao Class, is ever released, I will add one of those, propbably LPD-999, Jinggangshan and build a PLAN ARG.

The completion of the US Carrier Strike group, centered on the completed Tamyia's 1/350 scale USS Enterprise, CVN-65, (in addition ot the other escorts already completed) will include Trumpeter's, USS Freedom, LCS-1, Dragon's USS Preble, DDG-88 and Hobby Boss's USS Texas, SSN-775. (All of which I already own). When a 1/350 scale USS Enterprise, CVN-80 (or any Gerald R. Ford Class) is released from Trumpeter, Tamiya, Dragon, or whomever else, I will add it to this group along with another AEGIS Cruiser. Whatever Ford Class coms out, I will build her as the USS Enterprise, CVN-80.

The UK Group will indlude the Airfix 1/350 scale HMS Illustrious (which I already own), two Airfix 1/350 scale Daring Class DDGs (which I also already have), two Trumpeter 1/350 scale Type 23 HMS Duke class Frigates (which I already own), and the Hobby Boss 1/350 scale HMS Astute SSN and Airfix 1/350 scale HMS Tragalgar SSN, both of which which I already own. One day, when a 1/350 scale HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier and a 1/350 HMS Ocean LPD come out, I will add both.

The French CSG will be centered on Heller's 1/400 scale Charles De Gualle (which I already own). I have purchased 1/400 scale Heller French De Grasse, D612 DDG, which is an ASW DDG, the French Duquesne, D603 DDG which is an anti-air multi-purpose DDG, and the French Aconit F713 FFG and Gueprattet F714 FFGs, both of which are Lafayette class frigates. These five vessels will round out my French CSG. As soon as a French Robin class nuclear sub, like the French Perale S606 SSN is released in 1/350 or 1/400 scale, , I will add that to the group. Also as soon as the Forbin D620, Horizon class anti-air DDG is released in 1/350 or 1/400 scale, I will purchase it and add it to the group as well.

The Japanese JMSDF group will be centered on Fujimi's very finely detailed, 1/350 scale Hyuga, DDH-181, which I own. It will be escorted by Trumpeter's 1/350 scale DDG-177, Atago, an AEGIS class DDG (which I have purchased), Trumpeters's 1/350 scale DDG-114 Susunami (A Tachanami Class DDG which I own), and by the 1/350 scale SS-503 Hakuryu (which I own), one of Japans new, very modern and capable AIP Diesel Electric submarines. As soo as a DDG-115 Akizuki in 1/350 scale is released, I will add it to this group.

The completion of the US ARG will include Tamiya's 1/350 scale, USS Iowa, BB-62 (which I have already completed), Trumpeter's 1/350 scale USS Iwo Jima LHD-7, Gallery's 1/350 scale USS Sommerset, LPD-25's 1/350 Scale USS New York, LPD-21, Cyber Hobbies USS Independence, LCS-2, Acadamy's 1/350 scale USS Rueben James, FFG-57, and andother Flight IIA US AEGIS class detroyer based on Trumpeter's 1/350 scale USS LAssen, DDG-82...all of these models which I already own.

Then, finally it will be a complete Russian CSG (centered on Trumpeter's Kuznetsov which is available but I have not purchased yet) the Russian Slava Class cruiser, Varyag by Trumperter (which I own), two Trumpeter 1/350 scale Udalaoy DDGs (which I own), Hobby Boss's Akula II class SSN (which I own), and the Russian Alfa Class SSN, which I have already completed.

Recently I purchased Heller's 1/400 scale Foch, the Clemceau Class carrier that was sold to the Brazilians in 2000 and in 2002 was refitted and became the Brazilian CV, Sao Paulo, using steam catapaults. I will build the model as the Sao Paulo and thus start a Brazilian group, though the Type 22 DDGs and the FFGs the Brazilians use are not available at present. I have however purchased 1/400 scale A-4 Skyhoawk and S-3 Trackers to build a suitable airwing for the Sao Paulo.

Then, again, once the models are available, I'd like to build an Italian Group centered on the Cavour and their Horizon DDGs, a Spanish Group centered on the Juan Carlos and their F-100 AEGIS FFGs, and ultimatly an Australian Group centered on the new Canberra Class LPD and the Hobart class AEGIS DDGs. If they ever build the models, an Indian group centered on either the Vikramaditya or their new ADS Carrier the Vikrant and their Kolkata class DDGs and Shivlak class FFGs would also be nice.

Years worth of work!

You can see all of these actual carriers, read their histories and specifictions at my site:


...and most of their surface escorts at:


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