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Building the F-16 in Scale


This article will look at the kits and options for building the F-16 in 1/48 and 1/32 scales. If you're modeling the F-16 in 1/72 scale, this isn't the article for you at this time. We may update this study in the future to cover the smaller Viper kits. This feature is a work in progress which will be periodically updated as new information or resources become available.

The Viper in 1/32 Scale

Hasegawa first released their F-16A in 1/32 scale back in 1978 which was really the YF-16, but could be built into the Block 1/5/10 Viper. The tooling was updated around 1983/4 to incorporate the larger horizontal stabilizers of the Block 15, but the kit was loaded with weapons that the early Vipers didn't not carry except for factory 'what-if' marketing photos. The tooling was updated again in the late 1980s with the addition of a new vertical stabilizer for the F-16C and a tinted canopy, so with this release, you could model the Block 15, Block 25 or Block 32 Vipers in their early careers. With the exception of a few limited-edition releases, Hasegawa did not carry forward the changes of the full-scale F-16s in their 1/32 tooling as they did with their 1/48 scale series. For a look at one the latest releases of this kit, look here.

Academy stepped into the void left by Hasegawa with their F-16CG/CJ kit and this kit provides the right combination of details to render the Block 40/42/50/52 Vipers as they appeared before CCIP. You can see more about this kit here.

The ultimate F-16 kit in this scale comes from Tamiya with their 1/32 F-16CJ Block 50 kit (look here) which captures the details of the aircraft in its early service as well as after CCIP. This kit was first released in 2004 and Tamiya has not offered any further variants with this excellent tooling since then.

There are options for the large-scale modeler to render a variety of Viper options. Assuming you elect to use the Tamiya kit as the foundation of your project, you can acquire a variety of aftermarket items or even Hasegawa or Academy kits from kit swaps to obtain the parts you need for your desired variant. We'll be examining the kit/aftermarket approach to modeling the Viper in our 1/48 scale section that follows.

The Viper in 1/48 Scale

There are a variety of F-16 kits that have been produced in this scale. Each has its advantages and woes, but here's a look at four of them:


From left to right, you have the upper fuselage halves for the Tamiya, Hasegawa, Kinetic, and Revell/Italeri kits. If you look closer (click on the image), you can see the level of sharpness of the surface details.

In 1976, Tamiya released their first F-16 kit in 1/48 scale (kit 61022) which was really the YF-16 prototype, but could be tweaked to render a Block 5 or Block 10 F-16A. Going much beyond that requires aftermarket updates (which of course were not available back then) and it really wasn't worth the effort to build today with other 1/48 F-16A Vipers available on the market. Fast forward to 2007, and Tamiya released their first new-tooled F-16C in 1/48 scale and this went to the latest version of the Viper, the F-16CJ Block 50. This kit was recognized as the best F-16 kit in 1/48 scale and this tooling remains at the top today.

Tamiya's F-16CJ is kit 61098 and can be built as the initial F-16CJ or as the updated F-16CM which incorporates the Common Configuration Implementation Program (CCIP) which updated the avionics of the F-16CG and F-16CJ (Blocks 40/42/50/52). Despite CCIP, the Block 40/42 and Block 50/52 are still different when you look at the heads-up display (HUD) as the Block 40/42 retains its distinctive holographic HUD. This distinctive feature keeps you from backdating the Tamiya F-16CJ to the F-16CG.

Tamiya followed up with kit 61101 which added or replaced parts to render the F-16C Block 25 or 32. While many of the parts trees are common with the F-16CJ kit, this release replaces the wide mouth inlet and GE F110 afterburner nozzle with the NSI (narrow mouth) inlet and P&W F100 afterburner nozzle, as well as the main landing gear struts/wheels to the lighter versions, thinner main wheels, and flat main gear doors. This kit can be portrayed as initial production or upgraded which includes the AIFF, AAQ-28 Litening targeting pod, and four GBU-12 500lb laser-guided bombs (LGB).

Next from Tamiya is kit 61102, the F-16C Thunderbird in Block 32 or 52. This kit mixes up the parts from the two kits above to render the Pratt-powered F-16C either with the lighter landing gear (Block 32) or heavy-duty landing gear (Block 52).

The last Viper from Tamiya (to date) is kit 61106 in the F-16C/N Aggressor/Adversary boxing. This kit provides some new parts including an ACMI pod, ALQ-188 pod used by the aggressor Vipers, and the first holographic HUD frame for the Block 40/42. The kit has the light and heavy main landing gear, narrow and wide-mouth inlets, GE and Pratt Nozzles, and more. With this kit, you can almost build almost any F-16C USAF aggressor and USN adversary across a wide span of time as well as the F-16N straight out of the box. You can also build these pre-and post-update/CCIP with the distinctive AIFF antennas. In addition, this kit also is the 'Swiss Army Knife' of Tamiya 1.48 Viper kits as you can render any F-16C airframe from Block 25 through Block 50/52 though you'll be lacking the mission/version-specific pods and weapons.

Tamiya uses the sprue tree notation system used by most model companies to identify which sprue combinations will render what variant. The sprue trees produced for the 1/48 F-16 kits to date include:

A Cockpit, front nose panels (blank or AIFF)
B Upper forward fuselage
C External (370) Wing Tanks, AIM-9L/M, AIM-9X, AIM-120C
D Seated pilot with choice of  lightweight helmet or JHMCS helmet
E HTS pod/pylon, AGM-88 HARM
F Vertical Stab (US/non parabrake version)
G Upper wing half
H Wide-mount Inlet/GE Nozzle
J ALQ-184 pod, 300 gal centerline tank
K Heavy landing gear/bulged gear doors
L Clear lenses
N Canopy (two provided - clear and tinted)
P Updated radome w/lightning arrestors
Q NSI intlet and Pratt F100 nozzle
R Lighter landing gear/flat gear doors
T Seated pilot with lightweight helmet (Thunderbird)
W Holographic HUD frame (Block 40/42)
X ACMI pod/ALQ-188 pod
Y 2 x GBU-12, 1 TER
Z AAQ-28 Litening

The Tamiya kits produced with these parts include:

61098 61101 61102 61106

While none of the Tamiya kits have all of the options in one box, the Aggressor release (61106) is the only one that has the F100 and F110 engine parts, NSI and MCID intakes, and the Block 40/42 holographic HUD frame. If you're looking for the best kit as the foundation for your next project, you might wish to consider the Aggressor (61106) release.

Going back to 1983, Hasegawa released their first F-16 kit as the F-16A (kit 06101) which represented the Viper in its Block 1/5/10 configuration (small stabilators). Since this was the first serious kit of the production F-16, it was a welcome addition to modelers' shelves. In contrast with the Tamiya kit however, the surface detailing is soft and the air refueling receiver shape scribed on the dorsal spine is off. This is why you'll see F-16 decals from several producers include air refueling marks for Tamiya or Kinetic Vipers, and a different one for the Hasegawa kits.

The kit was later revised as the F-16A Plus which was the nickname for the F-16A Block 15 with the Operational Capability Upgrade (OCU) which added AGM-65, AGM-119, AIM-120, along with other updates. The Block 15 itself was distinguishable by the larger horizontal stabilators which became the standard for all subsequent Viper variants. Most Block 1/5/10/15 aircraft were updated to F-16A Block 15 OCU configuration which made the revised kit 06101 quite useful for early Viper modelers.

Hasegawa released kit 06103 as the first F-16C kit in 1987. With the exception of the base of the vertical stabilizer and the canopy, the early F-16Cs were very similar in appearance to the Block 15 OCU. Kit 06103 introduced the tinted canopy for the F-16C series as well as the revised base of the vertical stabilizer. Out of the box, this kit was good for the Block 25 and Block 32 Vipers. When the Air Force adopted the F110 engine as an alternative powerplant after problems with the Pratt and Whitney F100, the F-16C Block 30 was the first to be produced with the GE engine. Hasegawa released kit 06104 which added the F110 compressor face and afterburner nozzle to the Hasegawa F-16 tooling. Unfortunately, operational experience determined that the GE engine needed more air mass down the intake than the F-16's original NSI (narrow-mouth) inlet could handle and the wide-mouth inlet was added to the Block 30 production line and would be retained with Blocks 40, 50, and 60.

Hasegawa didn't produce wide-mouth inlet tooling to render the later GE-powered variants, which led to several aftermarket companies jumping into the mix and providing direct replacements for the NSI intake/nosewheel assembly. Hasegawa eventually tooled the wide-mouth inlet which is included in their F-16CJ kit (06110), but they also pioneered another concept – limited edition releases. When you saw the box art or photograph of one of these limited-edition subjects, you needed to look inside the box as Hasegawa usually provided their stock F-16 tooling along with special decals for a given subject, but not the additional parts needed to depict that subject as shown in the box art/photo. With the wide variety of limited edition releases, Hasegawa did provide some details as resin additions before eventually committing to injection-molded tooling of those parts.

Here is a similar breakdown of the sprue trees from the Hasegawa kits though this is still a work in progress:

A Upper/lower fuselage, F100 nozzle, updated radome
B Vertical stab, TERs, AIM-9L/M
C Wings and horizontal stabs
D Cockpit, flat gear doors, NSI inlet
E Canopy, HUD and lenses
F External tanks, baggage pod
G Gun vents (F-16A/B)
H GE compressor face/nozzle base
J Gun vents (F-16C/D)
K Afterburner chamber
L GE nozzle
M Upper fuselage (F-16B/D)
N Rear Cockpit (F-16B/D)
P Rear ejection seat
S Vertical stab w/parabrake housing
T Widemouth MCID inlet, bulged gear doors
U AIM-120C, lightweight helmet/head, heavy wheels
V HTS pod, AGM-88

Another name worth mentioning in this F-16 discussion is Kinetic Models. In 2008, Kinetic began releasing a variety of Viper variants including the F-16AM, F-16DG/DJ, and F-16I Sufa. On the plus side, the kit is accurate in shape and provides a wealth of external stores options. On the down side, the surface detailing is a bit soft like Hasegawa's kits. Obtaining one Kinetic kit will be the equivalent of acquiring numerous aftermarket sets as you find quite a few stores that even the Hasegawa weapons sets haven't addressed and will cost you less than going the resin weapons route.

As we continue, we'll expand on other kit brands and aftermarket accessories.

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