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By Thomas Wheeler

This item has been out for a while, but it's only been recently that I've been able to put the money together for it. However, it was certainly worth the price paid.

One type of vehicle that has always been very popular in the world of G.I.Joe has been the medium-to-large-scale planes. The first ever was the SKYSTRIKER XP-14F Combat Jet, released in 1983. It remains arguably the single most popular craft in the entire G.I.Joe line. The following year, the COBRA RATTLER emerged, notably the most popular Cobra aircraft in the series.

There have been others. The NIGHT RAVEN, the CONQUEST X-30, the SKY RAVEN, the PHANTOM X-19, the GHOSTSTRIKER X-16, the CONQUEST Z-25, probably the strangest of the large aircraft. That's pretty stiff company and competition to try to sign up with.

The new G.I.JOE THUNDERWING JET does a very capable job. Based to a significant degree on the real-life F-22, the Thunderwing is a very cool, very sleek, very modern fighter jet. It's a good size, perhaps not as large as some of its "ancestors", but at over 20" long and with a 14" wingspan, it's not tiny, either.

You want play value? It's loaded with it. This plane is a pretty heavy piece of work, but that's because it's loaded with hardware. Granted, from a "realistic-military" point of view, some of it is a bit implausible. From a "cool play" value, it works. While it is unlikely that real fighter jets load their missiles via a large cannon that is accessed through the top of the plane, or have bomb and missile sightings in their rear jets, let alone pull-down triggers on their undersides, the end result is a very nice plane that also works as a cool toy.

There are two "weapons" modes to set the plane for -- bomb and missile. Set the plane for bomb (by turning the left rear jet), and you can look through the jets and see targets below. Pull the trigger and the planes bombs will drop in two separate loads. Set the plane for missiles, and you can look through the jets and see targets ahead. Pull the trigger now and those little missiles that you loaded through the top of the plane now fire out the front.

The plane has vocal effects, as well, including a motion sensor. It knows when you're moving the plane up or down, left or right, and it speaks accordingly. To what degree this technology is based on the old "Flying Fighters" line, which sent one of its never-released helicopters over to G.I.Joe to be used in the Sonic Fighters line in 1991, I am not certain.

Frankly, it's pretty impressive that all of this could be crammed into a medium-sized toy airplane, and still have the airplane end up looking as cool and decently accurate as it does -- and that doesn't even take into account space for the batteries. It also has retractable landing gear.

The markings on the plane are fairly subtle. The plane itself is a two-color grey camouflage pattern. There are a few labels on it, including identifying markers on the tail fins, and the G.I.Joe logo on the front, but it's pretty minimal. At least the logo is there, unlike on the Jungle Humvee, my one complaint with that vehicle.

The THUNDERWING comes with a pilot figure, a new-style edition of long-established G.I.Joe pilot SLIP-STREAM. Buy the Thunderwing at Toys "R" Us and you get a second figure, a new-style edition of even longer-established G.I.Joe pilot ACE. Unfortunately, he doesn't come with a file card. Slip-Stream does. But at least the plane is a two-seater.

As I said, this plane has been out for a while, although it was first showcased at the G.I.Joe Convention. It got a generally good reaction there, and it deserves it. While I continue to have issues with the new-style G.I.Joe figures, and always will, Hasbro is managing to turn out some truly spectacular vehicles in the current line, that can accommodate any 3-3/4" G.I.Joes, and are truly worthy additions to the best aspects of the world of G.I.JOE.

The THUNDERWING JET certainly fits into that category, and it has my distinct recommendation. Any G.I.Joe fan will like this plane. YO JOE!