F-4EJ Kai "8SQ Panthers"
Hasegawa has re-released their “J” mark (Japanese) F-4EJ Phantom II. And that is a great thing, as this model is a pleasure to assemble. The box has 8 grey sprues, one clear sprue (for a total of 132 pieces), and a very large decal sheet with markings for five 8SQ aircrafts, including stencils for one airframe.
Regarding the stencils – they are the proper color. These airplanes were “hand-me downs” from other squadrons and they arrived in a two-gray interceptor camouflage. When transferred to a maritime strike squadron, their stencils were masked off and the aircraft were painted over, leaving a grey surrounding to the stencils –which are black. Only after the airplanes were sent for overhaul at the maintenance shop did they get re-painted and new stencils (in white) were applied. If you look carefully to the box image, you can see the grey surrounding area in the stencils.
A word of caution on the instructions: they are for a different boxing. You are provided with an extra page for the color and decal placement. Don’t let yourself be fooled by color calls in the main instruction sheet and double-check with the extra instruction page.
Assembly is pretty straightforward, starting with the cockpit. Appropriate raised detail is provided on the side consoles and instrument panel to accept dry-brushing. Overall, the detail in the cockpit is simple, but acceptable under a closed canopy.
Once the cockpit was painted and detailed, I closed the fuselage. Work your way slowly along the top seam and it will pay off, as you can get it to be step-free. The bottom join might have a step, but it does not matter, as the lower wing will cover it. I did end up with a small gap in the cockpit area, but it was easy to fill and sand.
The instructions don’t call for any nose weight. However, I decided to add a lead sinker in front of the cockpit just in case.
When you are working on the air intakes, make sure you don’t glue the parts D28 and D27 until after painting (the instructions will remind of you of that). Fit is excellent, so you can add the shock plates towards the end of the construction. Also, make sure you get the correct intakes (as the kit came with intakes for other marks, too). If you don’t, it will be obvious as you’ll have a large gap between the intake and the fuselage.
Moving towards the tail, I realized the tail planes should not be glued until after painting and decaling. Some decals need to be applied before the tail planes are glued in place.
The wings were a straightforward affair. The only thing to be aware of is that you have to choose either the centerline drop tank or the wing ones and fill the attaching points of the unused one.
I was approaching the painting stage very quickly, with only 4 hrs of total assembly time. Fit is excellent all around and I needed no filler at all, other than the small amount used in the cockpit. I tackled the ejection seats and then I moved on to the canopy. Given the simple cockpit detail, I decided to close the canopy. This boxing provides you only with the multi-piece clear parts. It would have been nice to have a closed 1-piece canopy as an option (like in other boxings of the F-4E). Also, the canopy frames are very delicate and lightly raised. Great for scale effect but challenging when trying to mask.
With the model fully assembled (except for tail surfaces and jet pipes), I moved into the maritime strike camouflage. The instructions call for Intermediate Blue and Flat Sea Blue (from the US Navy WWII era). Those colors are probably not accurate, but they look close enough and certainly are easier to find in the paint rack at your local hobby store.
After letting the paint fully cure and having laid down a shiny coat of Future, I started decaling…which was both fun and lengthy. Fun because the decals behaved well, lengthy because they were so many stencils. But, that is the way modern jets look, with plenty of stencils. Regarding the stencils, Hasegawa has done an interesting job with them. Multiple stencils are grouped into the same decal. That reduces the overall time for applying them, but at the same time makes the decals very large with very large clear areas. Be sure you have a good shiny glossy coat in preparations for decals.
The only downside to the decal sheet is the walkways. They have to the painted, as only trim lines are provided. I wish they would have provided the walkways with the inner color as part of the decal. It was not difficult, but just a bit annoying. (I guess Hasegawa was trying to save money by not adding one extra color to the decal sheet). The way I did the mask was simple: I made a copy of the decal sheet and made a paper template of the walkways. I then used the paper template to create a mask (in masking tape) and located it in place for painting.
Once the model was decaled, I worked with the landing gear. No surprises there, but the main gear struts are a butt joint with the wheel well. I wish there would have been some locator pin to make the joint stronger. Next time I will make one out of wire.
Weathering was kept simple, just an oil panel line wash to highlight surface detail and dirty up the landing gear.
I chose to install only the centerline drop tank (which, based on my research, is painted gray) and then the model was then ready for the final flat coat and to head to the display case.
This model is quite a treat. Fit is excellent and no fiddly or difficult parts were faced during construction. The number of decals (stencils) is very high – tough. I probably spend a third of my work time devoted to decaling.
I would recommend this model to the intermediate experienced modeler, only because of the high number of decals to be applied, not because of any difficulties during assembly or finishing.
I would like to thank Hobbico and IPMS/USA for the review sample.