Hasegawa 1/48 “iDOLM@STER” F-22 Raptor
I like to build mecha models and I also like to build real-world models. I also like kits that combine these areas of interest. Building Macross Valkyrie kits lets me do realistic detailing and weathering while at the same time allowing me to be creative and change or modify whatever I want since it’s a fictional piece of hardware.
When I saw this line of iDOLM@STER kits from Hasegawa, I knew I’d have to build one. I waited a while to get one because at full price they’re pretty expensive. Fortunately, perhaps due to their inherently screwy nature, it’s not hard to get them at least 50% off at HLJ.
I selected the F-22 for a few reasons. It’s one of the most consistently and deeply discounted kits in the line. It’s a very new tooling and by all reports a fantastically engineered kit. And finally, as a real-world aircraft model it’s got two “fatal” flaws. The first is that the surface detail is way too pronounced so many hardcore IPMS-type modelers have avoided it (the normal version of the kit is also easy to find at a discount). The second is that I thought the F-22 was kind of ugly and boring (you can make it gray or gray) so I thought it was the perfect choice to build as an iDOLM@STER kit.
The kit itself is molded in bright pink, gray and black (it kind of hurts your eyes to look too long at the pink) and comes two MASSIVE decals sheets as you can see in the photo with the 8 ½ by 11 sheet of paper and the MG Zaku for comparison.
My plan was to build the kit more or less out of box but AMS took over and I started to research just a few details and then I saw what some other people are doing with the kit and started to add more and more details. I’m still enjoying the fact that since it’s going to very obvious from 10 feet away that this isn’t areal F-22, I can add a few details where I want while not feeling the pressure to have to accurately portray every last rivet, wire and hose.
Construction starts (as usual for an airplane kit) with the cockpit. I added some simple strip railing to the edge. The real thing has a bunch of notches in it but this is better than nothing. Next I added some fine wire to the ejection seat, as well as some rolled up lead foil (from the top of a fancy beer bottle) to the sides of the seat as well as a strap around the oxygen bottle. Note that the seat was already painted. I told you, I started to build OOB and then the AMS took over. I also added some wiring to the canopy actuator.
Next I added some wiring to the rest of the cockpit as well as a simulated oxygen hose made from coil spring around a small metal rod. I added a box to the side of the cockpit wall (inner fuselage) and made a wire hose coming out of it. I don’t know what it is, but the Aires resin cockpit has it and it dresses up a dull area so monkey see, monkey do. One of the last details I added was the seatbelts from Tamiya’s F-16 detailing set. The F-16 and F-22 both use the same ejection seat (basically) and the seat just doesn’t look right without the straps dangling from it. My plan is for this to be the only aftermarket detail added to the kit (with the possible exception of a bomb). I want to scratch build everything else.
After detailing, I painted (or in some cases repainted ) the cockpit parts in their major colors via airbrush. The maroon in the cockpit is not realistic, but the real F-22 cockpit is all-black and you can’t see the details inside of it because there’s no contrast. It first I was going to make it gray with black consoles, like a regular F-15 or F-16 cockpit, but then decided this maroon color that was halfway between the original black and the pink exterior would be more interesting.
Next came the detail painting. First, everything was given a gloss clear coat. I applied the decals to the screens on the instrument panel and the ejection seat and then re-glossed them. I hand-painted smaller details with Vallejo acrylic paints. This paint goes on as smoothly as enamels but you can thin it with water and clean it with soap. I had to actually swallow my pride and use a magnifying glass to paint the buttons around the screens (a tiny brush made by Mr. Color helped with that as well). After those details had dried overnight I hit them with another gloss clear coat to protect the acrylic paint from the next steps. While it was all still glossy I gave the cockpit a sludge wash of Testors rubber (the color) enamel thinned with Ronsonol lighter fluid. This fills in cracks and crevices with simulated dirt and shadows and accentuates the details in the plastic. Once that was done I put a flat coat on everything and once it was dry I dry-brushed the cockpit using artist’s oil paints. This deposits a tiny amount of light-colored paint on raised edges and highlights them, further enhancing details.
Once the cockpit was done, the build was put aside for almost 3 months while I took care of some projects around the house.
Then I went back to building, the next things to tackle were the weapons bays and landing gear. They are all more or less white (I’m going with the actual colors on the real aircraft here, more or less) and all require the same kind of detailing (simulated hoses and wiring) so I went through and detailed them all and them painted them all together. This time I knew I was going to add a bunch of detail and didn’t paint anything first since I would likely mess up the paint with the glues I used to attach the hoses.
To start, I spent a romantic candle-lit evening stretching sprues left over from all the Sinanjus I built. I stretched them to different thicknesses by holding the sprue over the candle flame for different amounts of time and by pulling them harder or softer to either make long thin fibers or thicker, shorter rods. I want different thicknesses because there are thick pipes and bundles of wires as well as single wire or thin hydraulic lines in the weapons bays.
In some cases I followed reference photos of the real thing, in other cases I looked at how other modelers did it and in many cases I just followed the little wires molded into the bay by Hasegawa. I’d select a line and select a piece of stretched sprue that looks like the right thickness and start bending it either using my fingers for gentle curves or some round-toothed pliers I have for the more sharp bends. When I had it mostly to shape, I’d start by gluing one end into the bay. Then I’d tack it down as I went, fine tuning the shape and position. I used a toothpick to sneak a tiny bit of glue onto the side of the wire that I was gluing down. The majority of the work was done with medium CA glue, but in a few cases I used either Tamiya Extra Thin or Testors model glue. Each line took me 5-20 minutes and I only gota few done per night after the kids would go to sleep. It’s a little hard to grasp the overall effect since the lines are 4 different colors and you can hardly see the red ones but I’m pretty sure it’s going to look good once I prime it.
Once I finished the main weapons bay, I added the one main line to the side bays and then looked at all the little wires molded in there and thought, “Well, I’ll just paint those.” So I moved onto the landing gear wells. The front well is pretty devoid of detail and I can’t find any good pictures of it. I pretty much left it. The main wells had quite a lot of detail and again lots of molded-in lines. I took a different approach and started using some fairly fine wire I had to do the work and decided for the short spans of wiring in the wells and the sharp precise bends needed that they work better. I also drilled fine holes in places and bent the wire to disappear into it since in a lot of places the molded-in wire just stops in the middle of nowhere.
After doing the main gear bays, and feeling pretty confident with the wires, I looked again at the side weapons bays and realized I HAD to put some wiring in there. The side bays will actually show when the model is sitting there and after putting so much work into the wheel wells the side bays would have looked really bad by comparison.
At this point I’ve got one of them done and have started the other one. It’s some of the hardest work since it’s a small enclosed space and you have to eyeball a good amount of the bends since you can’t get the wiring in far enough to measure it until it’s more-or-less bent to a shape that conforms with the walls of the bay.