Hasegawa 1/72 F-4S Phantom II “USS Midway Low Visibility”
KIT #: 00834
PRICE: $Approximately $30-35.00
DECALS: four options
REVIEWER: Fernando Rolandelli
NOTES: Highly Recommended

HISTORY

F-4S was the designation applied to 265 (some sources say 248) F-4Js which were upgraded in the mid-1970s with the goal of  prolonging their life so that they could remain in service until replaced by the F/A-18 Hornet in Marine Corps service and by the F-14 Tomcat in Navy service.

Major changes included airframe and undercarriage strengthening. The electrical system was completely rewired, and the hydraulic system was replumbed using stainless steel tubing. In order to improve the maneuverability, two-position wing leading-edge maneuvering slats were fitted to the F-4S, which gave a 50 percent improvement in combat turning capability in comparison with an unslatted F-4J.

The F-4S was fitted with the digital AWG-10B weapons control system with new  AN/ARC-159 dual UHF radios and an ARN-118 TACAN (but not to all F-4Ss). The ALQ-126 or 126A deceptive electronic countermeasures set of the F-4J was retained, with the same short intake antennae fairings. It was also fitted with smokeless J79-GE-10B engines with low smoke combustors and low-energy ignition. Low-voltage formation lights were fitted to the sides of the nose, mid-fuselage, and tailfin, and staggered cooling ports were fitted near the nosewheel well.

The first F-4S modification (F-4J BuNo 158360) took off on its maiden flight on July 22, 1977. The first F-4S delivered with leading edge slats from the start was 155899, which first appeared in November of 1979.

First to get the F-4S was VMFA-451, which began to receive unslatted planes in June of 1978., while the first Navy squadron to receive the F-4S was VF-21, based at NAS Miramar in California, which began to receive its planes in December 1979.

All throughout the remainder of the 1970s and into the early 1980s, the Navy progressively replaced its F-4Ss with later equipment in most deployable carrier-based squadrons. The exceptions were six squadrons which were assigned to the older and smaller USS Midway (CVA-41), Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA-42), and Coral Sea (CVA-43), which were reequipped with F-4Ns and F-4Ss and soldiered on with these planes for a few more years. However, by 1986, all of the Phantoms serving with the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets were gone, the last carrier launch of an F-4S having taken place on March 24, 1986 when F-4Ss from VF-151 and VF-161 were launched from the USS Midway for the last time. After stateside service, in January of 1992, VMFA-112 retired the last F-4S from the US Sea Service inventory.  

THE KIT

Hasegawa’s kits are the weapons of choice when building Phantoms in 1/72 (and I guess in 1/48). This particular boxing, no. 00834 “USS Midway Low Visibility” is a very interesting kit with lots of extra parts and four excellent choices in the decal sheet, catering for both late F-4Js and Ss. As all their brethren, cockpit is completely bare, with decals for instrument panel and consoles, so the Eduard SS209 was used for the cockpit and the Airwaves AC48-14 for the canopies. They are also stripped of armament, only fuel tanks and missile rails are included, so some weaponry from the Hasegawa Weapons Set no. VI was added.

CONSTRUCTION

 The cockpit was very straight forward, the PE parts fitting like a glove, but some scratch built detail added to floor and consoles, and a maze of cables made from wire to dress the space between the crew stations. The rear overhead panel was scratch built with some decals from the kit’s sheet. I chose to use the kit’s seats with the PE harness and fittings, and the result is quite good. Assembly of fuselage is a bit tricky because of the parts layout; I am not a good assembler and had to rely on lots of putty on the intakes and under nose pan. Outer wing panels’ dihedral can also be a chore and require careful fitting and gluing. Wheel wells were detailed with pieces of styrene and wire. The exhaust cans were detailed on the inside with strips of Tamiya tape, an easy trick that looks quite good, but I did not attempt to do anything inside the intakes’ trunking (FOD guards are the way to go, I think). I chose to arm my Phantom with what seems to have been the standard short range Fleet CAP load, two Sparrows on the rear bays and four AIM-9L Sidewinders (most late Phantoms should carry just training loads, but this one was an operational fighter, so I painted the missiles as live rounds), plus the ventral tank.

COLORS & MARKINGS

 Painting

 The Tactical Paint Scheme of FS 35237, 36320 and 36375 is most subtle but challenging in order to get the dirty and “vague” look most often seen in pictures. I used WEMMs paint for the lighter colours and Xtracolor for the darkest, with hard tape masking. The subdued, almost single color look was sought by a heavy preshading in a dark ochre, both freehand and masked, and by mixing a little of the lighter color on the next darker coat, painting this very lightly and leaving it a bit “undone” at the edges on purpose, to mix the colours. Very little postshading was necessary, though after the decals were applied a very light and thinned dark mix was randomly sprayed. Some oils completed the job. All clear coats were made using Xtracylics varnishes, which make the paintwork immune to washes and filters with enamels or oils.

Metal parts were painted a combination of Alclad Aluminium and Exhaust, and Testors Magnesium and Gun Metal.

I chose to paint the missiles in their later livery of FS36375, though in the mid ‘80s they might well have been White overall.

FINAL CONSTRUCTION

 Decals

 The kit brings four very interesting decal options, one F-4J and two Ss belonging to VF-161 in the intermediate low viz scheme of FS 34440 overall, and my choice, a TPS F-4S from VF-151 circa 1986, which may well have taken part in the last sea cruise by a Phantom equipped unit in the US Navy. They went nice on the glossy surface, even the fearful looking tail design, helped by the use of the “hot flannel” technique. This particular decal was completed with MM Panzer Grey, which proved to be an almost exact match (though I guess FS36118 should be the true color). The formation lights in the kit’s sheet are in an awful bright yellow color and they were replaced by Pro-Modeler special decals (sheet 800200), carefully placed over them. Missile decals, from the Hasegawa box, are exacting but very rewarding.

CONCLUSIONS

 Hasegawa Phantoms are sure fire kits. Once you start building them they are enjoyable and predictable, with no pitfalls, though care should be exercised when assembling them. This boxing is particularly attractive for the wealth of spare parts left, even including outer wing panels to convert F/RF-4Es from unslatted to slatted and back. Are Hase’s decals improving noticeably? Certainly I have been using the ones in their later boxings with some success.

REFERENCES

-         JBaugher website (historical notes)

-         “The McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, A Comprehensive Guide, Part 2: US Navy and Marine Corps Variants”, Andy Evans, SAM Limited

-         Modelling the F-4 Phantom II”, Geoff Coughlin and Neil Ashby, Osprey Modelling series, Osprey Publishing.

Fernando Rolandelli

October 2008

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