F-4S Phantom II by Hasegawa
Kit No. Ka2:1600
Cost: $30.00 – $40.00 aftermarket
Decals: Three versions — two U.S. Navy, one U.S. Marine Corps
Comments: Engraved panel lines; multi-part fuselage; multi-part canopy; external stores consist of center line and under wing drop tanks only
The McDonnell (after 1967, McDonnell-Douglas) F-4 Phantom II was perhaps the most famous, certainly the most recognized, jet fighter in the world in the latter half of the 20th Century. It took its maiden flight on May 27, 1958, and from the outset, the F-4 was a thoroughbred. Early flight tests exceeded expectations as it reached Mach 1.01; acceleration and climb-rate figures also surpassed their goals. With its two General Electric J-79 turbojets, the F-4’s amazing performance set world records for altitude (98,537 ft. on December 6, 1958) and speed (1,606.03 mph, or Mach 2.6, on November 22, 1961). Between September 1960 and April 1962, the Phantom broke an additional 13 world records.
The Phantom II was the result of a years-long development project begun after McDonnell lost out on a contract for a Navy carrier fighter to Chance Vought in 1953. The sting of losing to what later became the F-8 Crusader drove McDonnell to begin a series of design studies tailored to meet future needs. It began with a survey of the U.S. Navy hierarchy — the Chief of Naval Operations, the Bureau of Aeronautics, an office called Head of the Fighter Branch, the Overhaul and Repair units, and any Navy personnel willing to listen and fill out a questionnaire. The end result was the Navy’s December 17, 1958 announcement that the F4H-1, as the initial prototype was designated, had been selected as its first all-weather fighter. Poetic justice was dispensed in that the Phantom II beat out several contenders, including an advanced version of the Crusader, the F8U-3. The Phantom II was the first aircraft to make extensive use of titanium (in its keel, aft fuselage skin, engine shrouds, and part of the internal fuselage structure). It was also the first aircraft able to independently detect, intercept and destroy any target that came within radar range – other fighters of the day still needed help from surface radar units.
The Navy, in conjunction with McDonnell, embarked on a rigorous flight test program over the next three years. The first operational Phantoms, designated F-4B, entered service with the Navy and Marine Corps on March 25, 1961 – even before the completion of the test program that November. The Air Force could not overlook the outstanding new fighter and adopted the type in 1963. Over the next 25 years, a total of 17 different variants among 5,200 aircraft followed, including the F-4J (a modification of the Navy’s F-4B), and the gun-equipped F-4E and the Wild Weasel series for the U.S. Air Force.
The F-4S entered service in July 1977 and was among the very last of the new sub-types to enter front line service (while other versions were subsequently planned and designed, they either did not enter service or, once built, were primarily used as remotely piloted vehicles, such as the QF-4B). The F-4S was essentially an upgrade of the Navy’s F-4J, meant to extend the J’s service life, and overwhelmingly had the same performance and specifications as the J, with three key differences: the F-4S was fitted with leading edge slats; an upgraded fire control radar, the AWG-10A, compared to the J’s AWG-10; and finally, the S featured new radar warning equipment, an APR-43 set, compared to the J’s APR-32. Phantoms flew for 11 nations: Australia, Greece, Iran, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Spain, West Germany, Great Britain, Turkey, and the United States.
Hasegawa’s F-4S Phantom II is injection molded in grey plastic and consists of 170 parts, including 17 clear plastic parts for the canopy, sights, and other optical instruments. The F-4S features engraved panel lines and a cockpit with a modicum of detail, including fairly accurate Martin-Baker ejection seats consisting of five parts each, with separate parts for the overhead pull handles for the ejection shroud (an often overlooked detail in Phantom kits). While the parts for the main and side instrument panel are smooth and devoid of detail, decals for these parts are provided. In addition, there is part for a single starboard interior sidewall panel at the weapons signal officer’s back seat position.
Hasegaws’s F-4S has an unusual fuselage assembly that is broken into five main fuselage components. The assembled cockpit is cemented to a part forming the bottom of the nose assembly, which in turn is cemented to right and left forward fuselage halves forming the nose. The rear fuselage halves are cemented together and once both assemblies are complete, the nose assembly is cemented to the rear fuselage. Skillful putty application, sanding and especially seam-hiding will be required.
The kit features three-sided intakes which are cemented to two-part air intake ramps, which are then attached to the fuselage — more seam hiding will be in order here. Construction is fairly straightforward and conventional from this point on, with the exception of separate parts for the wingtips. The Phantom’s wingtips had an upward cant which, along with the downward cant of its rear stabilators, gave this aircraft its distinctive appearance — so care will have to be taken in eyeballing the angle at which the wingtips are cemented on. Center line and underwing drop tanks are also provided.
The landing gear are well detailed, with interior well detail for the landing gear (rivet and hydraulic line detail are evident at a glance in the case of the main gear wheels, for example). The kit features a multi-part canopy with an option to depict it open or closed. Finally, while there are pylons for air-to-air Sidewinder missiles, and the underside of the fuselage faithfully depicts the recessed channels where Sparrow missiles would be nestled, no missiles of any kind are included with the kit. Modelers will have to resort to the spares box or Hasegawa’s separately sold air-to-air weapons set.
One important note here is that the decal sheet is unusually large, so if you are not building the kit right away, some means of protecting it from oxidation will have to be found. Normally I slip my decal sheets into a Zip Loc sandwich bag and make sure it’s sealed tight — in this case, only a gallon-size Zip Loc bag will be large enough.
Decals are provided for two U.S. Navy versions of the F-4S, or one Marine Corps version — VF-161 “Chargers” and VF-151 “Vigilantes,” both aboard the U.S.S. Midway, and VMFA-235 “Death Angels.” The station for the Marine squadron is not specified. Each of them call for a paint scheme of overall light gull grey, although the decals for the VF-161 aircraft include a black anti-glare panel on the nose — this is the aircraft depicted on the box art.
This is a very refined kit of one of the later Navy Phantoms in the series, that should build up into a detailed model. Hasegawa’s decision to release this kit without armament of any kind appears strange, as the Navy Phantoms had no guns, but nonetheless this kit is highly recommended.
- Modern Fighting Aircraft Volume 4: F-4 Phantom II, by Doug Richardson and Mike Spick; Arco Publishing, New York, 1984.
- National Museum of the U.S. Air Force – www.nationalmuseum.af.mil
- The Aviation History Online Museum – www.aviation-history.com