By Alfred Wong - images & text © 2002
My ImpressionsFirst off, I know squat about the Battletech universe outside of the Mechwarrior PC games (Editors Note: The design was inspired by the Shologar strike fighter found in an earlier Battletech Tech Manual, if you too are unfamiliar with the genre), so I view this model with absolutely no pre-conceived bias. I bought the model because; A--It looked cool. B--It's in the right scale, and C-I wanted to support Starship Modeler.
Image: Port side
Image: Underneath, port side
The craft looks like someone put an A-7 Corsair II, and A-10 Thunderbolt II and a Frisbee into a blender and gave it a good stir. From a purely aesthetic and design standpoint; the top half of the ship is very cool, with sleek lines and a coherent design from nose to tail. The bottom half, to my eyes, don't really look like it belongs to the ship. It is blocky and awkward-looking, ending abruptly at the rear and almost spoiling the whole design. In the description provided it says that the Shrike is highly maneuverable; well it doesn't look like it with that big box underneath. It looks more like a bruiser of a ground-attack aircraft that is rugged, packs a wallop, but ungainly. But that's just me. Actually, I would love to build another version WITHOUT the whole bottom fuselage. Hmmm…I wonder if I would get a discount for ordering half a kit…hmmm…
The kit is dominated by 2 large and solid resin castings: The sleek upper fuselage, which is very nicely carved; and the boxy lower fuselage which was adapted from a Monogram F-18, complete with the wheel bays. The weapons bays have been integrated with the lower fuselage. The Monogram F-18 also contributed many other detail masters, including the undercarriage, small fins, weapons pylons and other assorted details. The molding quality is excellent on all the major components. I found no bubbles and just a minor mold seam line. My only complaint is that the scribing is too light and tentative. It was difficult to run a wash into them when weathering. The fit of all the major components were very good.
The one major component I really did not like is the massive chin intake, which apparently, also holds a pair of short-ranged missile launchers! (The FS-21's designers just failed aircraft design 101! Can you say; massive engine surge and total flame-out?) The part is clunky with a way too-thick lip and doesn't even come close to matching the bottom fuselage contours. The detailing inside is too soft and indistinct for such a large part. This is a problem since it's such a prominent feature of the ship. In hindsight I wish I worked on it some more to improve its shape before I attached it, but I did add a bit more detailing inside.
UndercarraigeAs mentioned before, the undercarriage are F-18 units cast in white metal. A nice touch is the inclusion of clear plastic rhinestones for the lights. The model is meant to have lowered landing gear, and the instructions tells the modeler to fill the wheel bays in with putty for flight mode. This is really not a good way to do things. Using putty in this way is a fairly advance scratch-building technique and the modeler shouldn't be expected to be put out that much. In my experience, in direct opposite to aircraft modeling where 99% of models have lowered gears, sci-fi models tend to have raised gears.
I know that with the Monogram F-18 kit it's a bitch to close the doors, but a close set of doors would have been a good thing to be provided. With some hassle I managed to arrange the kit's door pieces into closed position.
The stand out in this kit is the very nice cockpit, with Mr. Monogram-generic-jet-jock filling out the human element. All of the details can be seen through the nice, clear and massive vac-formed canopy. The bomb cradle pieces for the weapons bays were attached to a fairly heavy piece of resin backing, and would have been difficult to remove, so I simply ignored them, since I planned to have only one bay opened and the bomb load not extended. The thin parts such as the bay doors and dividing wall were badly warped in my kit, and the bay doors probably would have been better to have been provided as Evergreen styrene stock.
The FS-21 is described as having 2 gun bays in the starboard wing, standard fit being a 3-barrelled plasma cannon and a rail-gun. The kit provides the tip of a 6-barrelled gattling-gun, (from the Monogram F-15, I believe,) which doesn't match the described weapons. I decided to put protruding aluminum barrels into both apertures. There are 2 stubby bombs from the old fictional Testors Mig-37 "Russian Stealth" kit, and a pair of very long missiles for the 2 underwing pylons. *Cough*--The less said about these long missiles, the better.
Decals and Painting
The decals have some very cool-looking dragon insignia, I presume representing some kind of clan emblem. They went on without problems. This model offers some real opportunities to flex the creative muscles in terms of painting and finishing.
I decided to follow my mind's eye and make the FS-21 as a dedicated heavy-attack craft. It really doesn't look like it can actually dogfight anything! I added an extra set of pylons under the wingtips, and loaded her up for bear with an assortment of heavy bombs and ordnance. I didn't mind using slightly modified current bombs and missiles, since it just seemed logical that aerial free-fall bombs would not change all that much, and it just looked right. I used a pair of more substantial-looking pylons for the inner pair. I ended up using none of the kit's weapons.
I decided to add an array of sensor upgrades to the nose, with very hefty-looking protrusions and housings. This also had the added benefit of drawing attention away from that horrid intake! Finally, I replaced the various molded solid lights (wingtips and fintips) with clear parts, since they were pretty prominent.
SummaryThis is a nice kit of an interesting subject, to be sure. There are a few minor problems, but nothing major. It certainly is a cool addition to my 1/48 sci-fi collection. I can't wait to see what SSM's has in store next.
This page copyright © 2002 Starship Modeler. Last updated on 15 July 2002.