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Flying Dorito in 1/48 scale
A-12 Avenger II

by "Bondo" Phil Brandt


A-12 Avenger II

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The distinctively shaped A-12 "Avenger II", popularly known as the "Dorito," was the Navy's mid-Nineties stealth answer to the Air Force's F-117. Planned to replace the entire A-6 fleet, the joint General Dynamics/McDonnell Douglas venture instead suffered the ignominy in 1991 of being the largest DOD contract ever cancelled.

At a cost of approximately $100 million per airplane, this was a Very Big Deal...620 to the Navy, 283 to the Marines, and even the Air Force considered a buy of 400! The financial repercussions have lasted over a decade, as the builders sued the DOD for axing the program for "convenience of the government", not because of cost overruns and non-performance, as DOD had claimed. The courts ruled in favor of GD/McD in 1998, allowing the contractors to recover almost $ 3.9 billion in engineering/construction cost incurred. The DOD, naturally, appealed, and the appeal is still under consideration.


Fortunately the full scale Avenger II mockup was never destroyed by General Dynamics and has been fully restored by volunteers at Fort Worth, Texas. Additionally, there is a wealth of reference material, including detailed structural isometric drawings, on the Internet.



Collect-Aire's 1/48 scale Avenger II


Down and Dirty

With the rollout of the Collect-Aire Avenger II, weary employees of the Weirdness Works Division of Bondo Industries feel as they've been in a barroom fight. But, all's well that end's...


The "Patient" Presents...

The kit's overall molding is very good, with exceptionally smooth surfaces and petite, crisp engraving that rivals any of the Big Dogs. But, then there's the problem of fit, which is always troubling when there are large sections of resin that solidify at different rates, and the Dorito has such large resin components in spades!



When I read an earlier construction article on the A-12 which stressed the poor fit of the outer wings to the main wing/fuselage, I decided to fold the wings, which not only minimizes a group of modeling sins, but also breaks up the large, monochromatic surface of a flying wing design. Admittedly, folded wings are offered as a kit option, but the way-out-of-scale sheetmetal thicknesses, relative lack of detail and clunky cast metal hinge mechanisms ruled out the use of stock kit components unless one could stand a distinctly toylike appearance, and " 'Homey' don't play dat" here at Bondo Industries.



The stock OOB skin thickness scaled out to about four inches! Industrial strength Dremmeling shaved the wingskin surrounding the wingfold bulkheads to cardstock thickness. Now that the skin was scale, none of the thick, stock resin bulkheads fit.

Four new bulkheads were scratchbuilt from plastic sheet and detailed to include hinge locking mechanisms. The cast metal hinges themselves were modified to fit behind the new bulkheads.


Click on the thumbnails below to view larger images:

Weapons Bay

It was decided to pose one weapon bay open on each side of the airframe.The kit's large bays were painfully plain, so I substituted the old High Flight aftermarket F-117 LGB bay. The nicely detailed bay came with cast metal trapeze arms, a detailed resin pylon and distinctive GBU-27 "bunker buster." The AAMRAM bay suffered the same lack of detail, so I adapted the multi-piece missile erection trapeze from the Monogram F-102 kit.


Click on the thumbnails below to view larger images:


Next to the wingfolds, the large, one-piece canopy was the biggest headache. Instead of simply creating the canopy and surrounding sheetmetal as one vacuformed piece, the master modeler unfortunately chose to do a large resin canopy perimeter, a separately vacuformed canopy and cast metal canopy arches. Fitting the complex contours of the trimmed canopy to the resin perimeter was excruciating and required delicate masking and filling of the mating surface with Blue Acryl. The interior canopy arches were separated from their clunky joining members and individually trimmed and fitted to the canopy rails. A scratchbuilt transverse strengthening beam was also fitted. The funky, hollowed out inside area of the resin canopy perimeter was filled with A&B epoxy putty, adding much strength to the whole assembly.


Click on the thumbnails below to view larger images:

Posing the large canopy open, as in the case of the wingfolds, clears up fit problems and allows for detailing of the large cockpit. F-4 resin side panels were adapted to add to the "busy-ness factor." Also added were resin aftermarket seats.


Finish and Markings

As per custom at Bondo Industries, multiple iterations of automotive lacquer primer, applications of Blue Acryl and wetsanding through 8000 grit preceded multiple color coats of Model Master Acryl Light Ghost Grey. Next, three coats of Model Master gloss clear paved the way for decalling.



The first nasty surprise here was when the properly stored Collect-Aire decals (European "MPD" brand) disintegrated in water. Collect-Aire's Lou Maglio kindly sent two extra sheets, but these also tended to break up. Applying MicroFilm to the decal sheet saved the day. Low viz F-18 stencils were added to break up the airframe's significant top area. Flat Testors Acryl was "dusted" on which blended in the decals nicely.




Although only the full scale mockup of this innovative-but-expensive aircraft remains, the program was truly a going deal, not pie-in-the-sky machinations of aeronautical engineers. This largest of all DOD cancellations has been fully documented in the book, "The $5 Billion Misunderstanding; the Collapse of the Navy's A-12 Stealth Bomber Program" by James P. Stevenson.



Additional Images


Click on the thumbnails below to view larger images:

Model, Images and Text Copyright 2004 by Phil Brandt
Page Created 13 June, 2004
Last Updated 14 April, 2005

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