McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II by Hasegawa

1/72 scale
Kit No. CT2:900
Cost: $12.00
Decals: Two versions – both U.S. Air Force
Comments: Sparrow missiles only; mix of engraved and raised panel lines; TISEO target acquisition camera; choice of standard or low-visibility decals with shark’s mouth option.

History

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.

The Kit

If you are a fan of the gun-nosed Phantom, then Hasegawa’s F-4E is for you. 67 pieces of grey injection molded plastic and a decal sheet for two versions of the F-4E make up the kit. Unlike some Hasegawa kits of this scale, there are a pair instrument panels with raised detail. In addition, there is a small amount of raised detail on the side instrument panels that are molded as part of the cockpit tub. The arrestor hook is separately molded.

There is a 1992 date on the box, but this kit’s lineage with Hasegawa dates back to their first release of an F-4E in 1/72 scale, way back in 1973.  This is the first kit of a fighting Phantom — as opposed to a reconnaissance version — that I’ve seen without a full load of 8 air-to-air missiles (4 Sparrows and 4 Sidewinders). This kit lacks the Sidewinder missiles, perhaps to induce the modeler to purchase one of Hasegawa’s outstanding Aircraft Weapons Sets. At one point the assembly instructions provide for the option of AIM-4D Falcon missiles, which are not provided in the kit (and which were ineffective and quickly replaced by the AIM-9 Sidewinder).

The instructions also provide a detailed paint guide and a schematic showing the proper angle for the rear stabilizers. There are a pair of 370-gallon underwing tanks and a belly tank. Hasegawa’s F-4E also includes a TISEO (Target Interception System, Electro-optical) telescopic TV camera on the left wing. The TISEO was linked to the radar antenna’s look angle and assisted with visual confirmation of a target, which the Rules of Engagement in Vietnam required before firing. TISEO could also visually lock onto a target, and control the radar.

The detail of the seats is relatively crude, and no provision is made for the ejection pull handles. The fuselage has raised panel lines, while the wings have nicely engraved panel lines, even if they are a bit heavy. Although a pilot and radar intercept officer are provided, they lack sharp detail and are the best indicator as to the actual age of the kit, as their quality harks back to the early Airfix days.

Decals

There are two versions: The first is for the commander’s aircraft, 380th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 52nd Tactical Fighter Wing, Spangdahlem Air Base, West Germany. This version bears low-visibility national insignia that are no more than black outlines, and calls for a camouflage scheme of green, brown and gray. It includes shark’s mouth markings and matching eyes seen on Phantom’s in the late Vietnam period. The second version is the commander’s aircraft of the 335th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing at Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina.

Overall, this kit is a fine representation of the F-4E and should build into a very good model of the Phantom. While it lacks detail in places, Hasegawa took pains to correctly represent the elongated, slightly drooped snout of the gun-nosed version of the Phantom, and the TISEO optical equipment makes for an unusual version of a legendary fighter.

Conclusion

This is a good, if relatively old, kit of the Phantom that is basically accurate.  But beware, its cockpit dimensions are too tight for the Eduard detail set for the F-4E, or for the addition of Verlinden aftermarket ejection seats.  As far as the cockpit goes, it should be assembled as is or with old-fashioned scratch-built modifications.  The one-piece canopy can be inconvenient if you want any kind of cockpit display, and the kit might be slightly more appealing if it had the “standard” Phantom armament of four Sparrows and four Sparrows — but that’s why Hasegawa makes aftermarket weapons sets.

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