Academy 1/72 F-4J Phantom II Build Review
By Richard 'RJ' Tucker
|Date of Review||June 2020||Manufacturer||Academy|
|Subject||F-4J Phantom II||Scale||1/72|
|Kit Number||12529||Primary Media||Styrene, Photo-Etch|
|Pros||Accurate shape; Ease of assembly||Cons||See text|
|Skill Level||Intermediate||MSRP (USD)||$42.00|
In June of 1979, Midshipman Tucker reported to the USS Independence just before it deployed to Mediterranean for his summer training cruise. Me and about 100 other midshipmen rotated through the various ship departments and embarked squadrons learning by doing junior officer tasks, drills, ship evolutions and standing watches. I spent a few days with VF-102, one of the two air wing fighter squadrons. I sat in on an intelligence and a mission brief, did some maintenance checks with a squadron junior officer, drank their coffee, watched a movie or two, and ate enough for five people(*) in the 'dirty shirt' wardroom. This brief insight into naval air culture and routine served me well through my Navy career.
(*) Hey! I was a growin' boy then!
I ordered and received the “Phantom shades of gray” decal sheet from CtA decals for another model project. When I saw the VF-102 scheme the memories of that summer cruise came flooding back! So, the Academy Phantom moved to the top of my “do” pile.
According to the kit instructions, “This product can be assembled without having to glue but usage of proper glue is recommended for detailed parts.” I was skeptical of this claim, but I found the kit went together quite well. I used a plastic-weld solvent to lock the parts in place. Much to Academy’s credit that, really, wasn’t necessary. Here are a few deviations I made from the kit instructions:
The cockpit is well detailed with raised and engraved gauges, dials, switches and consoles, but no console or gauge decals. You have to paint all the details or source them from other kits. In previous F-4 builds, I used the Eduard Zoom photo-etch parts in place of the cockpit decals and resins seats to replace the kit parts. So, I've got quite a few cockpit decals and the left over Eduard photo-etch Zoom parts. I used Mike Grant cockpit decals, old kit decals, painting and dry brushing to add and highlight the details. I detailed the seats with left over photo-etch and painted masking tape.
The fit of the parts was tight, but the seam was deep compared to the panel lines. So, I filled them with a little Tamiya white putty and removed the excess with a paper towel lightly moisten with lacquer thinner. To be clear, there were no gaps requiring filler, I just didn’t wanted all the seams to contrast with the fine engraved panel lines. When fully seated, the canopy had a noticeable gap where the bottom meets the fuselage sills. I filled them in with white glue.
The press fit approach on the Academy kit limits the underwing stores options. My model not use the outer wing tanks or the forward missile wells. So, I filled those mounting holes with plastic rod and sanded them smooth. The Sidewinder missiles in the kit are of the AIM-9D/G/H variety, and this model needed the AIM-9L. The kit missile rails were unsuitable for the Italeri Sidewinders due to the parts breakdown required for press-fit assembly of the inboard wing pylons, missiles rails, missiles, bombs triple-ejector racks included in the kit. To me the inboard pylons and weapons just don’t look right unless you fully assemble all the kit missiles and bombs. So, I substituted pylons and missile rails from a Fujimi kit.
Painting, decaling and final assembly proceeded with no drama. The model was painted with Testors Model Master Gloss Light Gull Gray, Flat Black and Gloss White. Alclad Dural Aluminum and Jet Exhaust was used for the bare metal areas of the fuselage and tail planes. I was a little worried about the “Cut then Add” decals; they looked a bit thick on the paper. But once applied and dry, they look great! I’ll be buying more. The Wolfpak weapons decals really enhance the missiles’ appearance and presented no problems. Various shades of gray and black chalk pastels finished out the weathering.
Overall, this was an enjoyable build of a subject that brought back some distant and pleasant memories.