Revell 1/32 F-4E Phantom II
|PRICE:||$39.99 (currently OOP)|
|DECALS:||Two options (Missouri and New Jersey ANG)|
|NOTES:||Legend cockpit set FL 3204 used|
The E model of the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II provided the US Air Force with a key piece of armament that had been previously been missing in its front line fighter: a big gun. The assumption in the late 1950s and early 1960s had been that guns were obsolete in aerial combat because of the emphasis on air-to-air missiles. Unfortunately, the reliability of the early missiles in the Vietnam conflict was poor enough that Air Force pilots frequently found themselves in a turning battle with a more maneuverable MiG without a close-in weapon to utilize for the kill. A General Electric M61 six-barrel 20mm Vulcan cannon was added to the nose of the aircraft to provide another layer of lethality for the versatile jet. This involved lengthening the nose and incorporating a radar set with a smaller cross section than seen in the earlier F-4C/D versions. Five MiGs were consequently downed using the gun exclusively during dogfights with F-4Es in the later stages of the war. The F-4E became the most-produced variant of the long-lived Phantom series, with 1387 being built. They served for over two decades in Air Force and Air National Guard units until eventually being retired with more modern F-15s and F-16s in the early 1990s.
The Revell F-4E is based on their earlier German F-4F kit. Note that this is a new-tool offering in this scale and not to be confused with the ancient Revell F-4E kit that suffered from serious shape issues. The new molding, in medium gray plastic, features engraved panel lines, adequately detailed wheel wells, and a somewhat lacking cockpit. Ordnance included are two different centerline 600 gallon fuel tanks (the earlier “Royal Jet” tank, and the later F-15 style “High Speed” tank), four AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles, two AIM-7F Sparrow missiles, an ALQ-119 ECM pod, and four AIM-9L/M Sidewinder missiles. The more modern AMRAAMs and Sidewinders are carryovers from the F-4F version and unfortunately cannot be used on most operational F-4Es. I have to qualify myself by writing “most” and not “all” before a Phantom Phanatic comes up with an obscure example of an E model with AMRAAM capability. The kit only provides the longer Midas 4 gun muzzle, which was introduced on Block 48 aircraft and later retrofitted to earlier versions to deal with problems with engine flameouts incurred by the ingestion of gun gas exhaust. The rear stabilators are the slotted kind and the outer wings have leading edge maneuvering slats, so the kit best represents a mid-production non-TISEO E model. Tamiya’s F-4E kit in the same scale depicts a very early “hard wing” variant with the initial gun muzzle, so the Revell kit is preferred when making a model of the more numerous example of the long-nose Phantom. If one desires a TISEO model, some moderate scratchbuilding skills will be required to add the dorsal antenna bump and the wing leading edge seeker.
As stated above, the kit cockpit is a bit of disappointment, the weakest part of the model. The Martin Baker ejection seats are adequate but they lack harnesses. The cockpit has no sidewall detail, and the canopy sills are nonexistent. There is also no detail in the area behind the rear ejection seat. One other problem with the kit cockpit is that the rear seat mounts too low in the tub and should be propped up a bit if you use the kit parts.
The clear parts are thin and transparent. The canopies are molded separately so they may be posed open, but the attachment points are minuscule and weak. Unlike Tamiya’s canopy pieces, the Revell parts are molded integral with their frames, which makes things easier on the modeler in regards to detaching from the sprue and painting. The downside is that there is no internal detail at all, something very apparent on Phantoms when the canopies are open. For this, the modeler has to turn to the aftermarket. Other clear parts include the HUD, the forward navigation lights (but not the ones mounted on the rear part of the wingtips), the hydraulic pressure gauge window on the aft fuselage, the anti-collision beacon, and the two RHAW bumps on the leading edge of each wingtip. I'm not sure why Revell chose to provide the RHAW domes in clear styrene, as they are black and opaque on the real jet.
Two sets of wheels are provided, one set being flattened to depict the aircraft’s weight on the ground. The speed brakes are separate units, which is good as they are always slightly open when a Phantom is on the ground and hydraulic pressure bleeds off. The radome is removable to display a radar dish, and a boarding ladder can be attached to the side of the cockpit.
Decals appear to be printed by Cartograf and include markings for two Air National Guard aircraft, one from New Jersey in the Euro I scheme and a 30th anniversary commemorative aircraft from Missouri in the Hill Gray scheme. Stenciling is minimal, but that is keeping in line with photographs that tend to show that Phantoms lost most of their stencils with successive repaints late in their careers.
With a MSRP of $29.99, this kit is a bargain, especially compared with the much more expensive Tamiya offerings, which at the time of this writing don't cover the later F-4E variants. Unfortunately, the kit is out of production but can be usually found at model contests and swap meets and will undoubtedly be re-released sometime in the coming years. Of course there is no such thing as a free lunch, so there are a number of issues that need attention from the discriminating modeler:
I compare the Revell and Tamiya kits often because it is a frequent and logical question that should be asked by a modeler considering building an F-4E in this large scale. Is the $30 Revell kit as good as the $160 Tamiya F-4E? No, of course not. The Tamiya kit has a much better cockpit, a slightly better selection of ordnance, separate flaperons and auxiliary air intakes, and an accurate outline. But is the Tamiya kit $130 better than the Revell kit? No way! If you purchase the Legend resin cockpit for $36, use some modeling skills to reposition the flaperons and auxiliary air intake doors, and grind away awhile on the pointy nose, you can get a very fine looking model for 1/3 the price of the Tamiya offering. Plus you get the slatted wing and Midas 4 gun muzzle that defines the overwhelming majority of F-4Es in USAF service during the 1970s and 80s.
I started the big project by working on some of the kit’s issues first. I cut the flaperons out with an X-Acto knife and used sheet styrene to close in the resultant openings in the wing and one the sides of each flaperon. I did the same for the auxiliary air intakes, but didn't bother to box the openings in – no one ever picks up the model anyway, so why put a bunch of detail that no one will ever see?
I painted the Legend resin cockpit tub FS36231 Dark Gull Gray overall with black consoles and light gray switches, I glued it into the nose with a fair amount of fiddling. The fit was okay, but not without the need to remove the central decking behind the pilot’s seat. The Legend ejection seats are nicely done, although the harnesses are identical on both the front and rear seats indicating that the pattern maker only bothered to make one master. The sidewall detail is very good and fits with some amount of persuasion. A weakness with the kit is the lack of cockpit sills. I made some from thin strips of sheet styrene. It’s not quite as detailed as the sills on the real jet, but it matches the look in regards to width.
One real bone to pick with the Legend set is the quality of the photo-etch pieces provided for the interior of both canopies. The stuff just doesn’t fit at all. The rear canopy gets a piece that contains three rear-view mirrors. My study of photos of F-4Es show that most of the time, the guy in back used an externally mounted mirror in a wedge shaped housing. Unfortunately one isn't provided in the Revell kit, so I went ahead and made one from scrap plastic. Another problem with the Legend photo-etch pieces is that they don’t provide canopy retraction hooks for the front canopy. They give you hooks for the rear canopy, but how could they forget the ones for the front? I put about a dozen hours of work putting the stupid photo-etch inner canopy detail on, tearing it off a couple of times, making new hooks for the front canopy with fine wire, and making a robust hinge for each canopy using cut lengths of paper clip. This was the most frustrating part of the entire project and one that I end up wondering if I should have even bothered with considering the amount of time and frustration involved. If I were to do it over again, I might just dispense with the detail and just add the rearview mirrors.
I sanded the radome to induce a more ogive shape to it. It took a bit of elbow grease, but the results were worth it, I think. The pitot tube was fashioned from stainless steel tubing and a straight pin. I've learned over the years that breaking a plastic nose mounted pitot tube on a jet model is inevitable, so I might as well go ahead and replace it with something more resistant to breakage. I still managed to break the darn thing three times during construction, so even the best laid plans sometimes come up short. I also replaced the stabilator pressure feed head on the front of the tail with a piece of hypodermic tubing for the same reason.
The fuselage halves came together with little fuss. The nose section is designed to attach to the fuselage in such a manner as to not cross over the forward AIM-7 Sparrow wells, a feature I appreciate. The air intakes were glued on and some minor seams filled and sanded smooth. The air splitters and variable intake ramps are hollow on their backside, so I cut appropriately shaped pieces from sheet styrene and plugged them in.
As mentioned above, the outer wing tip panels are molded at too great of a dihedral angle. I glued the panels on a the appropriate 12.5 degrees and filled the resultant gap, followed with a rescribe of the wing fold line. I faired in pieces of clear red and green styrene for the navigation lights, and added a similar red piece for the anti-collision beacon in the front of the tail fin.
Overall, the fit of the kit was uniformly good, even better than my experience with the Tamiya F-4C/D kit from few years ago. I still had seams to fill, but nothing that could be considered unusual or overtly difficult to deal with. Those panel lines obliterated by the sanding process were rescribed, and the entire model washed in the sink to remove all the sanding dust and finger prints picked up during construction before the model was taken out to the paint shed.
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
I wanted to paint my model in the Euro I camouflage scheme because (1) I think it looks cool and (2) you rarely see Phantom models ever painted that way. I don't know why this is, as Air Force F-4s wore the scheme for nearly a decade before switching over to the Hill Gray scheme. I consulted a listing of the T.O. 1-1-4 instructions in Dana Bell’s USAF Colors & Markings in the 1990s. I lightened Testors Acryl Medium Green FS34102 with about 10% white and sprayed that on the model. That was followed up with Polly Scale FS36081 Grimy Black, which was also lightened considerably with about 20% white. The reason I lighten these two colors is that they tend to look much too dark on a model right out of the bottle. Polly Scale TAC Dark Green FS34079 was used for the third color. While painting, I ran into a problem: I couldn't reconcile the colors in the T.O. 1-1-4 as they were seen in the various profile views. What was called out for in the underside view didn't wrap around to the side profile views or what I could see in numerous color photos. I had about half the model painted when I finally figured it out: the T.O. 1-1-4 listing is wrong! It looks like Revell used the same reference when they made their painting instructions as well, because it too is wrong for the Euro I scheme. What I discovered is that the Medium Green and Dark Green colors call-outs are switched in the left, right, and top profiles. The bottom profile is fine. So, when T.O. 1-1-4 says to paint an area Medium Green, It should really be Dark Green. I suspect the Air Force sorted this out, or the guys in the paint barn figured it out on their own.
I resumed camouflage painting using my usual method of drawing the pattern in pencil on the model and freehand spraying the appropriate color to fill in the areas between the lines. I faded the overall paint scheme by lightening the paint with 25% flat white and overspraying each color irregularly with a higher concentration of the lightened paint being applied in the center of each panel. ANG Phantoms generally have an anti-skid walkway on the fuselage spine and along the top of each air intake. Sometimes this was left in the dark gray anti-skid paint, and other times it was oversprayed with the camouflage paint. In the latter case, the wear from ground crew walking on the aircraft wore some of the paint off, exposing the anti-skid underneath. This was the case on my Phantom, so I masked off the walkways and sprayed the area using the base colors after darkening each with a few drops of flat black. A little bit of black pastel was rubbed into the walkway area to simulate even more wear.
The metallic area in the rear part of the aircraft was painted with a base of Floquil Platinum Mist enamel, followed by accenting individual panels with Testor Metalizer and Alclad II Lacquer in various shades. Tamiya Smoke was used for the prominent exhaust staining seen underneath the stabilators, followed up some dark gray and black chalk pastels.
The two Sparrow missiles and the ECM pod were painted flat white and glossed with Future. The interior of the wheel and speed brake wells were also painted flat white. The inside of the inner surfaces of the speed brakes and the auxiliary air intake doors were painted Insignia Red, as were the edges around the flaperons.
I painted the radome with Polly Scale Steam Power Black. I mixed yellow and white to match the color of the fuselage slime lights on the kit decal sheet in order to paint the wingtip lights, which unfortunately are not provided as a decal. Many coats of Future floor polish were applied to the non-metallic areas to provide a base for the decals.
I have two very clear color photographs of F-4E serial number 69-0267 of the Missouri Air National guard and elected to model that particular aircraft. From the Revell decal sheet, I used the stencils, the shark mouth, the squadron insignia, the slime lights, and the national insignia. Typical of my experience with Cartograf printed decals, nearly every single one of the markings silvered. Undeterred, I began a process of applying full-strength Solvaset many times to the markings to get them to melt down into the paint. This worked on most of them. For the more stubborn silvered areas, I masked off the marking and airbrushed in the appropriate underlying color. Tedious to be sure, but it was necessary to get a true “painted on” look.
The serial number and the big SL tail code were made on my computer and printed out on clear decal paper with a laser printer. I used black decal stripes to outline the wingtip slime lights and the wing walkways. The circular IFF antenna behind the rear canopy was punched out of a sheet of solid stainless steel colored decal. I applied another coat of Future over the decals, then a wash of Paynes’ Gray artist’s oil mixed with Turpenoid was applied to all the panel lines and in the wheel wells. I sprayed the model with a light coat of Polly Scale Dust to tone down the starkness of the camouflage.
Weathering was kept to a minimum, as ANG aircraft generally are kept fairly clean. In addition to the engine exhaust and faded paint mentioned above, I used a silver pencil to simulate chipping and scratches in the paint around the cockpit sills and the edges of the air intakes.
The landing gear and wheels were glued on. I spent a lot of time trying to get the alignment correct, but discovered that the fork on the plastic main landing gear struts are simply not strong enough to hold the wheels straight when the weight of the large model is applied. To remedy this I added a tiny square of .040 sheet styrene and wedged it between the top of the tire and the bottom of the landing strut. This gives two points of contact for the wheel and reduces the load on the fork itself. This illustrates how Tamiya’s metal struts are a superior solution, but at a correspondingly higher price. Unless you know what you are looking for (or are a contest judge with a penlight), it’s really hard to see my little cheat.
The landing gear doors and speed brakes were added next. Revell has some tiny retraction struts on the smaller main gear doors that are next to impossible to attach, so I left them off. Similarly, the nose gear has some struts that attach to the landing light assembly that don't come close to resembling reality. Those were left off as well. On most Phantoms that I have inspected personally, the speed brakes are not fully extended when the aircraft is parked, just cracked open a few inches. I attached the model’s speed brakes accordingly.
I glued on the auxiliary air intake doors, and used small cut lengths of paper clip to make pins to strengthen the joint of the flaperons. I used this same method to attach the inner pylons to the underside of the wing, as well as to glue on the always-fragile stabilators. You really can't call yourself a Phantom modeler unless you have knocked a stabilator off a model at least a dozen times in your life.
I glued the two AIM-7F Sparrows in the rear wells, and the ALQ-119 ECM pod in the left front Sparrow well. Because I didn’t elect to purchase aftermarket AIM-9J/P Sidewinders which are the appropriate missile for the timeframe I was modeling, I only mounted the cut-down launch rails on the inner pylons. The two outer 370-gallon fuel tanks were added and the model flipped over for the final part of the assembly, attaching the canopies. This is the part I always hate about jet models. I used five-minute epoxy to glue the canopies on, utilizing the beefed-up hinge assemblies I had made earlier. Epoxy makes a much stronger joint than CA glue because I have painfully learned over the years that open canopies will take a lot of abuse during the lifetime of a model and break almost as much as those darn stabilators.
The RHAW domes on the tail and the leading edge of the wingtips
are much too tall. I sanded them down to about a quarter of their original
height before attaching them to the model.
A final coat of Polly Scale Clear flat gave a uniformly flat finish to the camouflage scheme. With that final bit of effort, I was done. It took me six months and nearly 120 hours of work to complete the model, which is what I expect when I work on a big jet in this scale.
This is good kit. The price is certainly right, even allowing for some extra expenditure to fix the lacking cockpit detail. It fits together well and presents the modeler with no insurmountable challenges. If you are willing to address the model’s weaknesses as listed above, you can create a very impressive model that compares quite favorably with the very much more expensive Tamiya kits. For that fact alone, I consider this kit a “Best Buy” in the modeling world. I am somewhat ambivalent about the Legend cockpit set, however. I like the seats and the additional detail of the cockpit tub. I hate the photo-etched parts for the canopies, however. They don't fit, are incomplete, and aren't all that detailed. If I was to do it over again, I would probably invest in the Eduard photo-etch interior set just to avoid messing with Legend’s poorly engineered pieces.
I'm pleased to have a big long-nosed Phantom in my collection in the sinister-looking Euro I paint scheme. Other than the inordinate amount of time spent on the canopies, I thoroughly enjoyed building this kit and recommend it to anyone interested in building a large scale version of this amazing airplane. The world can't have enough Phantom models.
My sincere thanks go to Ben Brown for his invaluable assistance with this project.
Lake, Jon: McDonnell F-4 Phantom: Spirit in the Skies
Kinzey, Bert, and Ray Leader: Colors and Markings of the F-4E Phantom II, Colors and Markings Volume 13
Kinzey, Bert, F-4 Phantom II, Part 2, Detail & Scale Volume 7
Bell, Dana: USAF Colors & Markings in the 1990s
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