F-5E Tiger II

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Company: Revell, Inc. - Website: Visit Site
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This kit is another of the classic Revell/Monogram releases that has been around for almost thirty years and has been released and re-released in numerous guises. Many have regarded it as “the best 1/48th scale F-5 around” for almost as long. Until recently, its only competition has been the Esci/AMT version. It does accurately capture the shape of the Tiger II, and this release, like so many earlier ones, provides loads of extra parts and options, including a large CL drop tank, two Sidewinders, two 2000lb LGBs, two Vulcan gun pods, a boarding ladder, numerous additional antenna used on many NATO aircraft, and an RF-5 nose in addition to the standard pointed fighter nose (no flat “shark” nose, however). The kit also includes a very familiar walking pilot figure. Gone is the small PE sheet from the earlier “Hi-tech” version. Too bad.

On the other hand, this kit very quickly starts to show its age. Overall detail is soft. A quick glance at the parts reveals ejector pin marks on many, many parts, some in not so obvious places, but quite often in highly visible or hard to get to areas. There’s also quite a lot of flash, and it’s everywhere, again much of it in difficult to get to places. I also noticed several areas where the plastic was marred by a surface “rash” which will have to be sanded smooth. And as I eventually found out, the fit of nearly all the parts is poor. Typical of Revell/Monogram kits of this era, nearly all the surface detail is raised, which presents its own perils when trying to remove the numerous surface flaws (unless one chooses to rescribe the whole model). All in all, it’s nothing a quantity of patience can’t deal with, but it certainly does slow the building process.

The cockpit is the first major area of construction, and here is the biggest disappointment of the kit. This cockpit lacks much of the kind of detail found in contemporary Revell/Monogram kits like the Century series and Navy jets. The three-piece cockpit is quite simple (four pieces, if you include the very simplified canopy raising mechanism behind the seat) with the seat, floor, and side consoles all molded as a single unit, making the simple replacement of the ejector seat a difficult endeavor. The reasonably well detailed instrument panel and the control stick (or at least the top half of it, the bottom part being molded as part of the floor) constitute the remaining cockpit parts. This arrangement also makes replacement of the control stick with something like the new Quickboost part more problematic. The canopy frame is molded so that the canopy will be raised. If you want to close it, you’ll have to cut and rearrange some parts. With the canopy raised, you might want to consider replacing the cockpit with the Black Box version (if you can find one) or the newer AMS Resin version. I have the Black Box cockpit, but it’s a small kit all by itself, and mine isn’t one of the better moldings. Instead of using it, I decided to do some scratch building to attempt to dress up the front office just a bit. I built up the cockpit walls and side panels with plastic card, borrowed a few parts from the AMT kit, a few more from the spares box, plus a few bits of scrap plastic and snippets of guitar wire, added the Quickboost control column, and manufactured belts and buckles from tape. With the canopy closed, that’ll do.

With all the stores options that come with the kit, there are five hard points where they can be attached (plus the wingtip Sidewinder mounts) – four under-wing points and a centerline point. Each of these underside pylons fits into a rectangular groove cut into the attaching part and, if you wish to show the aircraft “clean,” these will have to be filled. The kit exhaust nozzles have little interior depth, but not having any properly sized plastic tubing on hand to extend them, I capped the interior ends with makeshift “engine-looking” parts and let it go at that. The small bulge on the upper fuselage just forward of the canopy was something I didn’t see on pictures of the aircraft I planned to model, so I scraped it off the kit fuselage.

From this point I thought assembly of the fuselage and wings would be pretty straightforward, but I was wrong. The match up of all the mated surfaces – fuselage halves, wings, intakes, nose cone, and vertical stabilizer was poor at each point, requiring considerable sanding and filling, and in some places carving on a scale to rival Thanksgiving, followed by more filling and sanding. I understand now why so many builders before me have chosen to rescribe the surface of this kit since it’s almost impossible not to erase the detail along mated surfaces.

It was now simply a matter of attaching and masking the two-piece canopy before painting – or so I thought. The canopy rails/aft canopy bulkhead is molded as a separate piece to which the clear canopy is attached. As mentioned earlier, this piece is molded so that it’s assembled in the open position. Now I saw why. The rails are too short to fit properly when closed, and the two pieces of the canopy don’t meet up when closed – there’s a 1mm gap between the windscreen and the canopy. I thought of cannibalizing the AMT canopy, but its shape was too different. So, a canopy frame “plug” was fabricated from a part out of the spares box, glued to the canopy, and sanded to match the contour. This new assembly was dipped in Future, masked, and attached to the canopy rails. Close enough.

The kit decals call for either an NMF Air Force bird or an all black Navy one, neither of which appealed to me. I picked up additional decals for VFC-13 and VFC-111, and eventually opted for a two-toned blue “zebra striped” VFC-13 aircraft. Of course, this turned into a masking nightmare (think of the Saab Viggen splinter pattern), but why should painting be any easier than the rest of the build? I closed up all the open panels and doors, using Blu-Tak (the white version - go figure.) to hold them all in place to paint an uninterrupted wrap-around camo pattern on all the surfaces. Painting was completed with a black radome, metal aft fuselage and engine exhausts, and the aircraft warning and formation lights. The model was then given a Future coat, decaled, re-Futured, and finally given a light spray of Testors Dullcoat to tone down the shine.

Final assembly consisted of attaching all the remaining “protruding” parts – antenna, landing gear, access doors, pitot tube, etc. The Sidewinder was slightly modified from the kit part, and the ACM instrument was made from the other Sidewinder. I’ll just skip the part about the aftermarket decals fragmenting upon immersion, having to coat them all with Superfilm, and the subsequent verbal persuasion required to get them all to lay down smoothly (and still, some silvered!). Or the canopy that fogged (even after a Future bath) and had to be removed, cleaned, re-glued, and repainted.

Looking back, I can only describe this build as something of a slog. Or perhaps just an outstanding opportunity to refine those “basic modeling skills” that years of building Tamiya and Wingnuts kits have allowed to atrophy. Yes, it looks quite a lot like an F-5E when finished, but there’s no way to get it to look like that without hours of patience and good, old fashioned elbow grease.

My thanks go to Revell, Inc. for providing IPMS/USA with this review kit.


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