Kit No. 682
Decals: Two versions by Scalemaster that include instrument panel markings – U.S. Air Force RF-4C of 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, Bergstrom AFB, Texas; Nevada Air National Guard RF-4C of 152nd Tactical Reconnaissance Group, Reno, Nevada
Comments: raised and engraved panel lines; Cockpit features detailed seats, control yokes, raised detail on instrument panels, and multi-part canopy; External stores consist of belly and wing tanks only; optional position landing gear; optional open or closed canopies; option for RF-4C or RF-4E engine exhaust nozzles
The reconnaissance series of Phantoms were developed from the McDonnell F-4 Phantom II, a tandem two-seat, twin-engine, all-weather, long-range supersonic jet interceptor and fighter-bomber originally developed for the United States Navy. 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 1958, it set 15 world records for in-flight performance, including an absolute speed record, and an absolute altitude record.
In the early 1960’s, the United States Air Force recognized the need for improved tactical reconnaissance aircraft to reinforce its RF-101 Voodoo’s then in service. This was partly motivated by the fact that the Navy’s RF-8 Crusader had completely outclassed the RF-101 during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, particularly in the low-level reconnaissance role. Determined to end this unacceptable state of affairs, the Air Force chose a modification of the F-4C fighter as its new reconnaissance platform. The RF-4C development program began in 1962, and the first production aircraft made its initial flight on May 18, 1964.
A total of 505 RF-4Cs were ordered by the Air Force. The RF-4C carried a variety of cameras in three different stations in its nose section. It took photos at both high and low altitude, day or night. The RF-4C carried no offensive armament, although during the latter years of its service some were fitted with four AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles for defense. The first unit to fly the RF-4C operationally was the 16th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron. In October 1965 the 16th TRS deployed to Southeast Asia to provide photographic reconnaissance of the growing conflict in South Vietnam. Subsequently, RF-4Cs were involved in reconnaissance missions all over the world, including Cuba, Iran, and the Desert Shield/Storm operation in Iraq in 1990-1991. The U.S. Air Force retired all of its RF-4Cs by 1995.
You get an immediate surprise when you open the box because although the box art and paint guide in the instructions call for a low-visibility paint scheme of Gunship Grey and Neutral Grey, the kit is molded in dark green plastic. The kit consists of 63 dark green and clear parts, raised panel lines except for the wings, where they are engraved, and seats that are fairly detailed and similar to those in the Esci F-4E. There are separate parts for the ejection pull handles and a small amount of raised detail inside the fuselage for the cockpit sidewalls.
The intakes bear raised panels lines but do not look like they’ll present any fit problems. The landing gear (but not the wheels) have good detail, likewise for the interior of the main landing gear doors. There is a separately molded arrestor hook, and a choice of tailpipes for either the RF-4E or RF-4C. This is interesting because both the paint guide and decals reference the RF-4C only. There are two 370-gallon drop tanks for the wing pylons and a larger belly tank. There are no pilot figures, and being a reconnaissance plane, this Phantom has no weapons of any kind.
The heart of this recon version of the Phantom is an extra section in the nose with four clear plastic pieces on the bottom and on either side for the cameras. It may be necessary to add a sheet plastic partition inside this section, or airbrush the camera windows with clear green or clear smoke, before cementing the camera secton to the fuselage to prevent being able to see from one side of the nose to the other and add a bit of realism.
As noted above, the decals are Scalemaster and should not disappoint. There are two versions, one for a USAF RF-4C of the 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing based at Bergstrom AFB, Texas; the second for a Nevada Air National Guard RF-4C of the 152nd Tactical Reconnaissance Group based at Reno. The Nevada ANG version includes a “High Rollers” decal for the tail, a reminder of the proximity of the gambling tables.
This is a great kit for the modeler looking for variety in his collection. With the RF-4C, Italeri came through with a quality version of an often overlooked member of the Phantom family. Highly recommended.