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F-4B/N Kit

Academy 1/48 F-4B/N Phantom II 'VMFA-531 Gray Ghosts' Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review May 2017 Manufacturer Academy
Subject F-4B/N Phantom II 'VMFA-531 Gray Ghosts' Scale 1/48
Kit Number 12315 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Nice kit/options Cons See text
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $62.00

First Look

F-4B/N Kit
F-4B/N Kit
F-4B/N Kit
F-4B/N Kit
F-4B/N Kit
F-4B/N Kit

The Navy flew the F-4B extensively in Southeast Asia and as technology improved, the Navy ordered the F-4J to replace the F-4B. While the F-4J was entering service with the Navy, the F-4B was exhibiting fatigue after a decade of flight ops and 228 of these aircraft were refurbished and updated under the Bee Line program. While the F-4N retained the F-4B radar and engines, the J79-GE-8 engines were updated with 'smokeless' kits. The aircraft was refitted with slotted stabilators, fixed inboard wing flaps, drooping ailerons, and other aerodynamic improvements developed for the F-4J. The F-4N would serve as a gap-filler until the F-14 Tomcat and F/A-18 Hornet came online in sufficient numbers.

One notable user of the F-4N was VF-154. Equipped with the F-4J aboard USS Ranger, VF-154 conducted combat operations in Vietnam through four WestPac cruises before transitioning to the F-4S (the updated F-4J) in 1979. When VF-154 was assigned to the USS Coral Sea, the ship was not rated for F-4S operations forcing the squadron to transition to the F-4N. The Coral Sea spent most of that cruise in the Persian Gulf after Iranians seized the US Embassy and its personnel. By the time VF-154 returned home, the squadron received some of the first TARPS-capable Tomcats off the production line.

Academy has reissued their 1/48 scale F-4B Phantom II which was first released in late 2012. We built the F-4B as well as doing a comparative quick-build of the Academy and Hasegawa kits. You'll recall that Hasegawa's first Phantom kit was also the F-4B which was tooled back when they still used raised panel lines and surface detailing. Subsequent Phantom kits were all tooled with scribed detailing except for the F-4N which was based upon the F-4B tooling. For whatever reason, Hasegawa never circled back to bring their F-4B/N tooling up to the rest of their Phantom kit standards.

In addition to their first issue of their F-4B, Academy also provided bag shots of this kit for Eduard's 'Good Morning Da Nang!' limited edition. This time around, Academy is making use of more the parts in the box to render your choice of F-4B or F-4N. One other noteworthy difference between this release and the original F-4B issue - no multi-colored parts (MCP). This kit is molded in gray styrene and presented on 13 parts trees plus fuselage, and one tree of clear parts.

Among the kit's features and options:

  • Fuselage is molded in one part, just like the Tamiya 1/32 kits
  • Cockpit is nicely detailed
  • Rear cockpit has correct starboard sidewall
  • Nice Martin Baker ejection seats
  • Optional seated crew figures
  • Optional boarding ladder
  • Positionable canopies
  • Nicely detailed main gear wells
  • Main wheels and tires molded separately for ease of painting
  • Positionable rudder
  • Positionable speed brakes
  • Choice of slotted or unslotted stabilators
  • Choice F-4B or F-4N fin cap and chin sensor
  • Additional antennas provided for F-4N version
  • Outer wing panels molded separately and can be folded (wing hinges not included)
  • Intakes have ducts to the compressor faces
  • Nice afterburner chambers with turbine faces
  • Positionable air refueling probe

External stores included for this version:

  • 4 x AIM-9B Sidewinder
  • 4 x AIM-9D Sidewinder (included but not acknowledged in the instructions)
  • 4 x AIM-7D/E Sparrow
  • 12 x Mk.82 Slicks
  • 2 x 370 gallon wing tanks
  • 1 x 600 gallon centerline tank
  • 2 x triple ejector racks (TER)
  • 2 x multiple ejector rack (MER)

There are other weapons and pod options in the box that aren't used with this release.

This kit provides markings for three examples:

  • F-4N, 152323, VMFA-531, VK/200, USS Coral Sea, 1980, CAG aircraft
  • F-4B, 153006, VMFA-314, VW/3, Chu Lai AB, 1968
  • F-4B, 152274, VMFA-314, VW/5, Da Nang AB, 1966

As with the previous releases, this decal sheet includes a nice array of airframe and weapons stencils plus airframe walkways.

Pay attention to the instructions to the OPT flag. This signals you to choose parts based upon your marking options with Option 1 being the F-4N and Options 2 and 3 being the F-4B. Also note towards the end that there are four option flags indicated and these correspond to different loadouts which are all valid for any of the three decals subjects.

This is another nice release from Academy and you'll be glad to know that there is a growing list of aftermarket options for these Academy Phantoms on the market.

My sincere thanks to Model Rectifier Corporation for this review sample!