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Tamiya's 1/32 F-4J Phantom II

 

By Michael Benolkin

 

History

After the Korean conflict, and with the advent of guided air-to-air missiles like the Sparrow and Sidewinder, military planners foresaw the end of dogfighting. Instead, future air engagements would be accomplished at supersonic speeds and with guided missiles. Guns and dogfighting were going to be things of the past, or at least so they thought!

At a time when the mainstay fighter for the US Navy carriers was becoming the F-8 Crusader, Navy planners were already seeking a replacement. The F-8 could not achieve Mach 2, nor could it employ the Sparrow radar-guided missile. The Navy wanted a stable missile platform that combined speed, endurance, reliability, advanced radar capabilities and still operate off of the deck. LTV proposed a souped-up version of the F-8, dubbed Crusader III, which was capable of Mach 2+ speeds and could employ the Sparrow and Sidewinder missiles. In the end, however, the winner was the McDonnell Douglas F4H-1 Phantom II.

The F4H-1 was quickly replaced by the F4H-2, incorporating a number of engineering changes that were identified while operating the F4H-1. The Air Force recognized the potential of the Phantom, placed an order of their own for the F-110 and requisitioned a number of F4H-2s for training and evaluation. After the 1963 realignment of US military aircraft designations, the F4H-2 became the F-4B, and the F-110 became the F-4C.

The Navy flew the F-4B extensively in Southeast Asia and as technology improved, the Navy ordered the F-4J to replace the F-4B. The F-4J featured an improved radar and higher thrust J79 engines. When Secretary of Defense McNamara's mandated replacement for the Naval F-4 faltered in development (the F-111B), the Navy performed a life extension program on their fleet of Phantoms. The F-4B received avionics updates and the resulting aircraft was designated F-4N, while the F-4J was not only given upgraded avionics, it also retrofitted with a similar flat/slat system as the later model USAF F-4Es. These aircraft were designated as the F-4S. These upgraded Phantoms soldiered on until the F-111B replacement, the F-14A Tomcat, could enter the fleet in sufficient numbers.

The Kit

Tamiya's 1/32 F-4J Phantom II kit represents their continuing trend of providing more bang for the buck. Recall that their first 1/32 offering, the F-14A Tomcat, was a major breakthrough for large-scale modelers. Next came their 1/32 F-15 Eagles (an F-15C and an F-15E). These reflected even better molding and detail. These kits also reflected a heftier price.

At the 1995 IPMS/USA National Convention, there was the continuous sound of jaws dropping as the prototype shot of their 1/32 F-4C/D kit was put on display. This kit demonstrated even greater improvements in molding technology. The fuselage was not molded in the traditional left and right halves with the wing plate covering the bottom. Instead, Tamiya molded the fuselage as one major piece and the bottom wing plate. No seams on top! To make matters more astounding, the Tamiya representative announced that their Phantom series would be offered at lower prices. They definitely kept their promise!

On opening the box, the first thing that catches the eye is the full-length tube of bubble-wrap that protects the fuselage. The next thing that catches the eye is all of the finely molded and detailed parts that make up this kit. The kit is molded in light grey plastic and each sprue tree is protected in its own bag. What is really impressive is the engineering that went into the molds for this kit!

In addition to the awesome fuselage, the kit features complete intake ducts from the splitter plate to the engine face. When you look down the intakes, you see the proper angles and change of shape from the intake to the engine.

The cockpit is definitely Navy. There is the proper wall on the right side of the rear cockpit instead of the console found in the USAF examples. There are no flight controls in the back office either. The ejection seats are made up of four pieces, are nicely detailed and were designed to accommodate the two crew figures included in the kit. If you choose to display the kit without the crew strapped in, you'll want to replace the seats with aftermarket examples that feature the harnesses.

The larger instrument panels are multi-piece affairs that feature decals for instrument faces. This renders the same effect as the acetate instruments used by companies like Eduard.

The landing gear struts are white metal parts that are screwed into the wheel wells for strength. Plastic overlays provide detail to these metal struts. The tires are rubber that are mounted on plastic rims.

Among the other features that Tamiya has provided

Highly detailed wheel wells
Positionable speed brakes
Four AIM-9B Sidewinders mounted on Navy pylons
Four AIM-7E Sparrows
Two 370 gallon outboard tanks One 600 gallon centerline tank
Positionable air refueling probe
Beautifully detailed tailpipes
Movable stabilator

Decals

There are two large decal sheets in the kit that carry the three marking options and all of the stencils. Out of the box, your F-4J can be built as:

VF-96 NG/100 155800 USS Constellation
VF-151 NF/216 155579 USS Midway
VMFA-451 AA/211 155281 USS Forrestal (Bicentennial Markings)

Possibilities

If you suffer from Advanced Modeler's Syndrome (AMS) as I do, you cannot be content with the kit straight from the box. Several manufacturers have produced alternate markings for the kit. TAC Scale Dynamics (now CAM) produced Triple-Ejector Racks (TERs) and Mk.82 500lb bombs that can allow you to re-role the aircraft into the air-to-mud mission. With a little work, you can also represent one of the F-4J(UK) aircraft that were flown by RAF Germany.

If you want the top of the Navy line, however, you'll need to procure the parts from a Revell-Monogram 1/32 F-4E Phantom II kit. The Tamiya kit provides the ECM fairings that were added to later F-4Js and retrofitted to all F-4Ss. All you'll need from the R-M kit are the slats, slat fairings and outer wing panels. You'll also need to add the wing reinforcement patches to the underside to round out the conversion, but in the end, you'll have a 1/32 F-4S!

Conclusions

This kit (and the companion F-4C/D) are easily the most accurate F-4 Phantom II kits available in any scale. Straight from the box, they offer more detail and more features than their competitors. If you are a Phabulous Phantom lover as I am, then this kit is a "must have". I highly recommend this kit to intermediate and advanced modelers alike!

My thanks to Tamiya American for providing this review sample!




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Air Intelligence
1999 Modelers'
Reference Guides

1/32 Scale Guide $18.00
1/48 Scale Guide $25.00
1/72 Scale Guide $25.00
HH-43 Huskie Color
Reference Guide $15.00

Please add $3.20 Postage in the US.

TacAir Publications

PO Box 90933
Albuquerque NM
87199-0933
USA

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