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The Last Starfighters

The Last Starfighters First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review November 2006 Title The Last Starfighters
Publisher Aerophoto Publishing Product Number RT004
Published 2006 Format DVD Region 0
MSRP (Euro) €15.90    
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First Look

The Last Starfighters
The Last Starfighters
The Last Starfighters
The Last Starfighters
The Last Starfighters

Here is a new resource (to me) that I will definitely be keeping an eye on in the future. It is Aerophoto Publishing from Italy and they are now publishing a series of the "Real Thing" videos covering a variety of military subjects. The principal behind this effort is aviation photographer Luigino Caliaro who has taken some excellent photography from a variety of cockpits from around the world. You can see some of his photo work and his biography on his website (listed below).

In this DVD entitled 'The Last Starfighters' the camera takes you into to the home of the Italian Air Force's 5th Stormo, the last operational unit in the world with the F-104 Starfighter. There are several great videos on this disc. The first takes you through a typical mission from the briefing room, life support, pre-fight, engine start, pre-taxi checks, into the arming pit, take-off, some nice in-flight sequences, recovery, back into the arming pit, and back onto the line.

Another video takes you through the maintenance of the aircraft with several Starfighters undergoing maintenance and a good look around the airframe, and even a J79 being reassembled and run up in a test cell through afterburner. The next sequence covers night operations and some great footage. In the extra bonus section, you see a special ten-ship mission (nine in formation, the tenth is the camera ship); a flight with one of the special commemorative painted Starfighters, and more. There is even a section with some nice still photos.

The images to the right were captured from the movie and illustrate that this is up-close footage that has everything except the smell of burnt JP-8 fuel. Ignore the note in the video frame saying 'Promo - Not For Sale' as this is an artifact of the review sample we received and shouldn't be on your copy.

All of the aircraft on the DVD were either F-104S-AMA-M or TF-104Gs. The F-104S was the last production Starfighter that was produced to Italian specifications and was the only Starfighter to carry a radar-guided missile (the AIM-7 Sparrow). You see a few sequences in the video with AIM-7s being loaded onto an aircraft. The F-104S-AMA was a mid-life update to upgrade some avionics and add the capability to employ the all-aspect AIM-9L Sidewinder. These were F-104S-AMA-M, which took the updated airframes and added a few more updates, including GPS, to extend its life further while its replacement, the Eurofighter, continued to be delayed. It is a bit ironic that an aircraft that was conceived before Sputnik would be around long enough to employ GPS satellite navigation!

The video is formatted in fullscreen 4x3 and is programmed for Region 0 (playable everywhere). All of the menus and subtitles are in English. Total run time for this video is 54 minutes.

I must say that this video was very well done. The photography was great, the editing was also very well done. You'd think after watching this that they had cameras set all over the base at any one time. I found myself pondering that Hasegawa 1/48 F-104S kit that I just purchased.

While F-104 Starfighter books are handy references for modelers and historians, there is nothing like a video such as this one to put those photos into context, to experience the sight and sounds of the aircraft in real life, and to inspire you into that next Starfighter project! You can obtain a copy directly from Aerophoto Publishing and at €15.90 (approximately $20.50 USD), this is a great reference to have in your collection.

My sincere thanks to Aerophoto Publishing (www.aerophoto.it) for this review sample.

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