Kit No. 9027
Decals: Four versions -U.S. Air Force, Israel, West Germany and Australia
Comments: Engraved panel lines; nose cone consists of two halves; full load of air-to-air missiles; decals are high quality Cartograf brand made in Italy
The McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II was a tandem two-seat, twin-engine, all-weather, long-range supersonic jet interceptor/fighter-bomber originally developed for the United States Navy by McDonnell Aircraft. One of the best known and most recognizable post-World War II jet fighters in the world, it first entered service in 1961 with the U.S. Navy. Proving highly adaptable, it was also adopted by the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Air Force (a rare development at the time, given the traditional inter-service rivalry, and an indicator of the superb nature of the aircraft) — by the mid-1960s it had become a major part of their respective air wings. Beginning in 1959, it set 15 world records for in-flight performance, including an absolute speed record, and an absolute altitude record.
The Phantom was a large fighter with a top speed of over Mach 2.2. It could carry more than 18,000 pounds (8,400 kg) of weapons on nine external hardpoints, including air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground missiles, and various bombs. The F-4, like other interceptors of its time, was initially designed without an internal cannon. Later models, beginning with the F-4E, which appeared in 1968, incorporated an M61 Vulcan rotary cannon. During the Vietnam War, the F-4 was used extensively; it served as the principal air superiority fighter for both the Navy and Air Force, and became important in the ground-attack and aerial reconnaissance roles late in the war.
The F-4E was a direct, if late, response to the experience that the non-gun-equipped F-4B’s, C’s and D’s experienced over Vietnam when tangling with smaller, older, more agile and gun-equipped MiG-17’s and -19’s — encounters that could quickly become dangerous for the F-4 pilots when they closed with MiG’s in dogfight conditions at distances that were inside the minimum range that Sidewinder and Sparrow missiles needed to arm themselves. At those distances, guns were both deadly and essential to survival. 20 mm gun pods, slung on the F-4’s center line in place of a belly tank, were employed as a stop-gap, but this ad hoc field modification was woefully inaccurate unless firing at a target head-on at close range. According to one pilot’s description, the gun pod “scattered rounds all over the sky.” The F-4E, which was years in development, represented a return to more traditional approach by integrating a gun into the basic airframe design.
Esci’s F-4E Phantom II is molded in tan plastic (85 pieces) and has finely engraved panel lines, the type that will highlight detail in subtle fashion, but can easily be obliterated by sanding. The kit features a full complement of 4 AIM-7 Sparrow and 4 AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, in addition to a pair of 370 gallon drop tanks mounted on wing pylons. It also has separately molded slats for the outboard leading edges of the wings.
The cockpit detail is minimal as the instrument panels consist entirely of decals. Each seat consists of three pieces, one of which are the pull handles above the pilot’s headrest. These particular parts are crude, but at least there is an attempt to represent them; some manufacturers do not bother. Still, I recommend aftermarket Phantom seats.
The Esci jet intakes are of good quality, with engraved detail on the ramps. Like the much older 1/72 Revell F-4E, the Esci version features intakes that curve around to meet the ramps on top and on the bottom, covering a full 180 degrees on a vertical line. This is a big plus, since some other manufacturers (namely Monogram) feature intakes that do not cover a full 180 degrees, meeting the bottom edge of the fuselage, and require a lot of putty, sanding and patience to hide an ugly seam that never appeared on the actual Phantom. With the Esci Phantom this is not a problem.
Exhaust Nozzles & Nose Cone
The jet exhaust nozzles have good external detail, and good molding representing the turbofan at the end of the shaft. The nose cone is in two halves and will require above average skill at seam-hiding with putty, sanding, and camouflaging evidence of both.
The decals are high quality Cartograf examples made in Italy, and there are four versions:
1) F-4E of 3rd Tactical Fighter Squadron, 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing, USAF;
2) F-4E of Heil Ha’ Avir, Israeli Air Force;
3) F-4F of Jabo G 36, Luftwaffe (West Germany); and
4) F-4E of 1st Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force.
There is good detail in this kit overall, particularly the wheels, exhaust vents on the shaft for the 20mm Vulcan cannon, and engraved panel lines on the fuselage, wing pylons and belly. Aside from the somewhat lacking cockpit, this kit should build into a fine example of an F-4E Phantom II. Definitely recommended.