Sword 1/48 T-38A Talon






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Scott Van Aken


Short run with resin parts


Back in the mid-1950s, the USAF realized that it may need a trainer with a higher performance level than the T-33 Shooting Star. Modern jet aircraft were getting really fast and the T-33 was pretty much late WWII technology. What was needed was something really fast (preferably supersonic), easy to maintain, and a logical step up from T-33 to be an advanced jet trainer.

Northrop came to the rescue with what is to many, a very nice looking jet aircraft. Clean in design and not encumbered by a lot of superfluous stuff, the prototype first flew in 1959 and continued in production until 1972 by which time over 1,100 had been built. So successful was the design that Northrop designed a light fighter around it, the N156F which soon became the F-5A. It was later improved to the F-5E and later to the F-20, which many will claim to be the best point defense fighter ever built. Naturally, politics and the USAF's refusal to buy the initial lot of F-20s doomed the plane to nothing beyond prototypes.

The T-38 is still flying, more than 40 years after its initial flight and will undoubtedly see 50 years of service as many of the surviving airframes are or have undergone a major upgrade program. The T-38 has also served with the air forces of several other nations.



For decades, modelers have been screaming for a decent T-38. Yeah, Hasegawa did one in 1/72 and Fujimi in 1/48, but these were merely warmed over F-5s. In several respects, the T-38 is not precisely the same airframe and there are differences in the area under the wings, among other areas, that are different from the F-5. Now we have a new 1/48 kit.

As you know, I don't do the matching to plans thing that a few crave. I'm also not an expert on the T-38, but from all respects, it seems to look very much like what a T-38 should look like. I'll probably have many e-mails telling me that I must be blind or stupid or both and then go on to point out a long list of glitches, but I've already given my disclaimer so :

What about the kit itself. If you have built ANY Sword kit, then the treatment of the plastic will be very familiar. Nicely etched  detail, a very slightly rough surface, no alignment pins, no flash (OK, some thick mold seamwork), a few sink areas, like gear doors, and ejector pin towers inside all the major pieces. Removing them from the inside of the intakes will take a bit of work with rolled up sandpaper. Injected canopies which are well detailed, of a proper thinness, and a teeny bit cloudy. I find the main gear inserts to be a bit odd, but perhaps that was done to keep the plastic properly thin and prevent large sink areas.

You get a goodly bag of resin bits. I didn't open it as I stopped opening resin bags for preview pictures after I lost a bunch of parts to a kit I wanted to build by doing that. However, here is a rundown of bits. Instrument panels, seats, control sticks, cockpit tubs (yep, two of them, each holding a single seat), nose gear well, speed brake well, exhaust, canopy actuating arms, speed brakes and various smaller struts. Naturally, the seat tracks for the front seat were broken off my forward canopy section. There are no optional parts.

Normally, Sword provides a very thick instruction booklet with their kits. Not so this one. Two folded sheets (8 pages)with construction steps on 31/2 of them and painting /decal guides on two. The front page is a history, the back a big add and the other 1/2 page for paint colors (generic) and parts guide. Decals are very well done by Techmod and there are two subjects. Both are in overall white and from the earlier years. First is the box art aircraft in standard Training Command markings. No unit indication is given other than the red tail stripe. I used to be able to match the stripe with the base, but that info hasn't been used in decades and has gone away. The other is from the 49th TFW at Holloman AFB and was used for some weapons training before the AT-38B was developed that could actually carry a pylon for practice bombs. No 49th TFW markings are provided, just the HO tail code. and the red tail stripe! The markings seem a bit 'thin' to me, but perhaps that is just me.

It is hoped that this kit will encourage some aftermarket decals, but the truth is that rarely do short run kits engender a manufacturer to produce the required 500 sheet minimum needed to support a decal printing. We are going to be pretty much on our own in that regard. Perhaps the kit will sell like hot-cakes and a more 'mainstream' manufacturer will pick up on it and make a full styrene kit. That would be just great!



I I can tell you that I'm one of those modelers screaming for a decent T-38A and as soon as I saw this one on the market, I forked over the bucks to pick this one up. I anticipate it being less easy to build than it looks. This based on the previous Sword kits I've built. However, it is on the top of my 'to build' pile so we'll see how it turns out.

Review kit courtesy of me.

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