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F-4J Kit

Italeri 1/48 F-4J Phantom II Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review December 2005 Manufacturer Italeri
Subject F-4J Phantom II Scale 1/48
Kit Number 2642 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Nice looking kit, HUGE decal sheet Cons  
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $36.00

First Look

F-4J Kit
F-4J Kit
F-4J Kit
F-4J Kit
F-4J Kit
F-4J Kit

Unlike most military aircraft developments, the F4H was a company-funded development that initially did little to interest the US Navy. Nevertheless, the Navy started warming to the idea of a powerful carrier-based all-weather interceptor. First flown in May 1958, the prototype displayed impressive performance with the help of its twin afterburning J79 engines. The Phantom II was born.

Developed as the guided missile interceptor the F4H, later re-designated as the F-4, featured a powerful intercept radar, a two-man crew, and up to eight guided missiles. This aircraft was supposed to make the air-to-air gun obsolete. That didn't happen, but that's another story. Typical loadout for the aircraft was four IR-guided AIM-9 Sidewinders on the inboard stations, four radar-guided AIM-7 Sparrow missiles in semi-recessed bays under the fuselage, and three external fuel tanks, two on the outboard stations and one centerline.

The Navy operated a limited number of F-4As for a brief time while their preferred initial configuration, the F-4B was under production. Combat experience and advancements in avionics and engine technology led to the next USN version - the F-4J. The F-4J featured the new AWG-10 radar, the J79-GE-10 engines, slatted tail surfaces and drooped ailerons.

Like the F-4B, the F-4J saw combat over Vietnam. The F-4J would soldier on for quite a few years. The aircraft received defensive avionics upgrades that were visible as fairings along the top of the intakes but still retained the F-4J designation. Another round of upgrades included a slatted wing and airframe strengthening, but these upgrades would cause these modified F-4Js to be redesignated as F-4S.

UPDATE: Thanks for the emails pointing out that this release is actually the ESCI tooling. I should have guessed with the variety of ESCI armor also being released under the Italeri brand. Given that these molds are around thirty years old, I still see some improvements over the Hasegawa tooling though the kit is still a compromise in versions.

This kit is designed to be an easy build, so the parts layout is designed to be easy to assemble while the molds are set up to render multiple versions. That part is good and bad news as Hasegawa has done the same thing.

The kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on three parts trees, plus a small tree of clear parts for the windscreen and canopies. The detailing is finely scribed and the one gripe I've had with the Hasegawa kit has been the scalloped titanium shield that protects the lower tail section aft of the engine nozzles. Italeri has captured this nicely and will look great with Alclad Titanium weathered with a diluted wash of Lamp Black oils.

The intakes are engineered nearly identical to the Hasegawa Phantoms and it may not take much effort to adapt the seamless intakes from Cutting Edge or one of the other aftermarket companies for this project.

The wings are hard, not slatted, so if we're going to see an F-4E (late) or F-4S, there will be some new tooling required. The shape of the wings are very comparable to the Hasegawa kit.

Another hint that this kit is a Swiss Army knife of Phantom kits is on the top sprue. Next to the radome are two infrared sensors, one for the F-4B and one for the F-4C/D. If you look carefully at the first and fourth sprue trees, you'll also see Navy and Air Force inboard pylons.

Like the Hasegawa kit, the Italeri (ESCI) cockpit is more or less generic and simplistic. Like the Hasegawa kit, this cockpit is based on the Air Force version which has a right side console in the rear cockpit. The Navy Phantoms had the area of the right console walled off. Navy or Air Force, you'll want to grab one of the Black Box cockpit sets as they fix these problems for the Hasegawa kit as well and should fit nicely into this kit.

The late period ECM blisters are molded separately, so you have the option of building this kit without them as the aircraft appeared over Vietnam.

External loadout on this kit is somewhat typical - 370 gallon tanks on the outboard stations, AIM-9s on twin-rail launchers on the inboards, AIM-7s in the wells, and a 600 gallon centerline gas bag. The only odd thing here is that the kit provides AIM-9L/M Sidewinders which I don't believe was used much (if at all) on the F-4J. You'll have to raid some earlier Sidewinders for your project, depending on the era of the Phantom you're modeling - as always, check your references.

This kit comes with a HUGE decal sheet. The markings are for two pre-subdued camouflaged F-4Js (which pretty much rules out those AIM-9Ls here), plus an additional interesting subject. The decals come with an extensive set of maintenance stenciling, walkways, etc. The subjects are:

  • F-4J, 155880, NH/103, VF-213, USS Kitty Hawk, 1974
  • F-4J, 153778, AA/202, VMFA-451, USS Forrestal, 1976
  • F-4J(UK), ZE363, C, 74 Sqn 'Tiger Sqn', RAF, 1984

It will be interesting to see what Italeri does with these molds as they appear to be challenging Hasegawa for top spot on the F-4 hill. With what you see here, they may just have a shot at it. We've seen Italeri tool up new parts for older kits before.

In any case, this Phantom seems to be as nice overall as the Hasegawa offerings and at a similar price. This kit seems to have some promise if you replace the cockpit (a problem in common with the Hasegawa Phantoms). Ignoring the decals, you have plastic in the box to build up and F-4B, F-4C, F-4D, F-4J or F-4N. In the case of the F-4B and F-4J, you have the parts to do the early or late configuration aircraft. With the huge decal sheet, you have three interesting F-4Js to choose from.

Recommended for the Phantom Phan!

My sincere thanks to Testors for this review sample!

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