McDonnell F-4C Phantom II by Monogram

1/48 scale
Kit No. 5859
Cost: $20.00
Decals: Two versions, both with the 58th Tactical Fighter Training Wing (“Candy Air Force”)
Comments: Re-issue by Revell under the Monogram label of the latter’s kit initially released in 1979; detailed cockpit; raised panel lines; two pilot figures, one seated and one standing; includes ECM pods and both Sidewinder and Sparrow missiles

History

Once the U.S. Air Force took notice of the Navy’s outstanding new carrier-based fighter, initially designated the F4H-1, (later the F-4B Phantom II), it didn’t take long before the Department of Defense ordered competitive evaluations to be held between Navy Phantoms and the cream of Air Force fighters. In 1961, the Phantom was evaluated against the F-106A Delta Dart in a program called Operation Highspeed. At the time, the F-106A was considered the very best Air Force interceptor; but the evaluation proved that the Phantom had superior speed, range, and altitude. It could also carry a heavier weapons load than the F-106, and had 25 percent better radar range.

After the evaluation, the Air Force initially proposed to adopt the F4H-1 under the designation F-110 Spectre. In March 1962, the Defense Department announced that land-based versions of the Phantom were to be the standard tactical fighter and tactical reconnaissance aircraft for the USAF. The Air Force also wanted the F-110 to have ground attack capability.

The gun pod for the 20mm cannon is visible at the lower left, as is one of the main instrument panels.

Subsequently, on September 18, 1962, the Defense Department ordered that all Air Force, Army, and Navy aircraft be designated under a common, universal system. Under this system, the F4H-1 was to be known by the designation F-4, regardless of what branch of the service flew it. The F-110 designation was dropped, and Air Force and Navy Phantoms were thereafter distinguished from each other only by series letters: The Navy Phantom became the F-4B, and the Air Force Phantom (previously the F-110 Spectre) became the F-4C. With that directive, the naval designation system for aircraft used since 1922 was dead.

Changes to the F-4C were kept to a minimum. The C had General Electric J79-GE-15 engines, differing from the B’s J79-GE-8’s in that they could be used for remote field operations, since they had a cartridge-pneumatic starting system, unlike the compressed air turbine system used by the U.S. Navy. More powerful brakes were installed for the landing gear, and wheel and tire width was increased from 7.7 to 11.5 inches. The Navy in-flight refueling probe was replaced by the Air Force boom receptacle; full dual controls were fitted (the early years of Air Force service saw Phantoms crewed by two rated pilots, only later did the back seater become the Weapons System Officer); a modified APQ-72 radar was installed, called APQ-100 and offering better radar mapping capability; and an ASN-48 Inertial Navigation Computer replaced the Navy unit, enabling better long-range independent navigation.

Two changes were made to the armament: the AJB-7 bombing system was added to the F-4C, with a provision for the AGM-12 Bullpup air-to-ground missile; and finally the C could switch between AIM-9 Sidewinders and the cheaper AIM-4 Falcon missiles on the inboard wing pylons.

The F-4C saw a great deal of action in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War and helped build the Phantom’s awesome reputation in its initial years of service. For a fuller treatment of the history and development of this historic fighter, click here.

The Kit

The first impression one gets of this kit is its size. The Phantom is a relatively large bird in 1/48 scale, over 14 inches long, marked by an abundance of raised panel lines and rivet detail. While Monogram’s F-4C of 1979 was molded in olive drab, the 2010 re-release is molded in gray, and the box bears the words “Made in China,” a sign of the times. The cockpit is full of raised detail on the seats and instrument panels, enough to keep a dedicated modeler drybrushing for some time. The landing gear are highly detailed, and the wheel bays feature molded in pneumatic systems as well as wiring and rivet detail. While the Sparrow missiles offer nothing spectacular, the AIM-9 Sidewinders are the most detailed this modeler has ever seen, in this scale or any other. There is also a highly detailed electronic countermeasures pod, which together with the Sidewinders and the cockpit, underscore the advantage of modeling in 1/48 scale.

The wings appear to have a slightly understated angle to the dihedral, but this could be merely the effect of the scale; they have the characteristic inboard bulge on the section of the wing nearer the fuselage, which was unique to Air Force Phantoms due to the larger wheels and tires they used. The rear stabilators look like they will have to be cemented with quick-drying cement, as there is only a small trianguloid tab or spar to insert into the rear fuselage, and it does not look capable of holding much weight. The intakes are two-sided, which will require a bit of skill puttying and sanding the resulting horizontal seam along the sides of both intakes, near the bottom. The canopy consists of four pieces (windshield, pilot’s and WSO’s canopies, and a separate part for the framing in between) and can be displayed open or closed. Given its dimensions, it should be far easier to mask than most using Tamiya tape.

Two 370-gallon drop tanks are provided for the outboard wing hard points, but there is no 600-gallon belly tank as it has been replaced with the 20mm belly-mounted cannon that was retrofitted to many F-4C’s in the field in Southeast Asia. This piece of hardware was a badly needed stop-gap measure once pilots in the theatre discovered they were at a disadvantage against the invariably gun-equipped MiGs. The gun pod was effective against ground targets, but less so in air-to-air combat, where it was proven to be inaccurate except at close range. Not until the appearance of the F-4E in late 1968 was there a Phantom over Southeast Asia with a reliable, internally mounted gun.

The Phantom’s initial missile-only armament was sometimes inadequate: the radar-guided Sparrow missile had a 90 percent failure rate in Vietnam, and while the heat-seeking Sidewinder was more effective, it could be defeated by violent evasive manuevering, flying into the sun, or sometimes for totally inexplicable reasons.

Decals

Markings are provided for two aircraft of the 58th Tactical Fighter Training Wing, also known as the “Candy Cane Air Force,” so named because of the red-and-white stripes their aircraft sported on their fuselages and wings. The first is Aircraft 63-7584, the mount of Brigadier General Fred Haeffner; the second is for Aircraft 63-7550, flown by the 58th’s Commanding Officer, Lt. Colonel
Barry Howard.

Conclusion

This is a great kit which has not lost a bit of its appeal despite its age and lack of new tooling. Kudos to Revell for bringing this classic Phantom back after a 30-year hiatus. Highly recommended.

References

  • Modern Fighting Aircraft Volume 4: F-4 Phantom II, by Doug Richardson and Mike Spick; Arco Publishing, New York, 1984.
  • The 456th Fighter Interceptor Squadron website — www.456fis.org

 

The Monogram Phantom in its original boxing, circa 1979.

 

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