Hasegawa 1/48 F-4S Phantom II Kit First Look
By Michael Benolkin
|Date of Review||March 2007||Manufacturer||Hasegawa|
|Subject||F-4S Phantom II 'VF-161 Rock Rivers'||Scale||1/48|
|Kit Number||07077||Primary Media||Styrene, Photo Etch|
|Pros||Easy build, great external details||Cons||Sparse cockpit detail|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||Out of Production (Due for reissue)|
From World War Two into the 1970s, the US Navy had not retained a fighter in operational service more than a decade before replacing it with a better machine hot off the drawing board. As the Vietnam air war was spinning up, the mainline fighter of the day was the F-8 Crusader, though the F-4 was starting to enter the fleets. Soon the mainstream fighter was the F-4B, but quantities were still not sufficient to support all of the Carrier Air Wings AND the Marine Air Wings. The Navy started to upgrade existing aircraft to support longer term requirements, and the F-8 was rebuilt and improved several times until the Phantoms were finally numerous enough to replace them.
The F-4J was next Navy Phantom off the production line which exploited improvements in engine and radar technologies. But even as the F-4J was entering service, the Navy was already seeking a replacement for the Phantom. They became engulfed in political and budgetary battles and their new fighter was directed by the Pentagon to be the F-111B!
Fortunately, out of the ashes of the failed F-111B concept came the F-14 Tomcat. Unfortunately, the delays in getting the Tomcat into the fleet dictated that the existing Phantoms had to be modified to keep them combat capable. The F-4Bs were given an avionics rework and redesignated as the F-4N. The F-4Js were younger, so in addition to their new avionics, the F-4J was refitted with leading edge slats similar to the late model USAF F-4E. While the slats reduced their top speed, the slatted Phantoms had better low-speed handling and better air combat maneuvering than the 'hard-wing' Phantoms. These modified F-4Js were redesignated as the F-4S.
Even after the F-14 entered fleet service, the F-4S would have to soldier on as there were engineering issues that prevented the F-14 from operating aboard the USS Midway and Midway was needed to homeport at Yokosuka, Japan (it was a non-nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in keeping with the will of the Japanese government banning nuclear-powered vessels in their ports). It would be the F/A-18A Hornet that would finally replace the F-4S in March 1986 aboard the USS Midway.
Hasegawa has had a love affair with the Phantom II family. Their 1/48 Phantom II kit line-up just about covers all of the F-4s ever produced, and is the most extensive of any model manufacturer. You can choose from:
- Phantom FG.1 (F-4K)
- Phantom FGR.2 (F-4M)
In addition, Hasegawa released a number of Phantoms in their 'Hi Grade' series including the beautiful F-4J 'Vandy 1', the Blue Angels F-4J, the TransAtlantic Phantom FGR.2, and F-4S 'Vandy 75'. Until Tamiya released their awesome F-4C/D and F-4J kits in 1/32 scale, the Hasegawa 1/48 Phantoms were the best F-4 kits in any scale. Nonetheless, these kits remain the leaders in 1/48!
The first thing you notice about this kit is the beautiful full boxtop photo of a VF-161 F-4S in its natural element. As might be expected, the engineers at Hasegawa mixed and matched sprues to arrive at this kit. The fuselage parts are F-4J, while the wing is F-4E. With the exception of a few very minor details, the combination is very accurate.
The kit is beautifully molded with no flash and very minimal ejector marks. All details are finely scribed. Also included in the kit is the rear cockpit sidewall that distinguishes a Navy Phantom from a USAF bird. The kit is armed with four decent AIM-7s, four crude AIM-9Bs (replace them!), one centerline tank, two wing tanks, and Navy pylons.
Hasegawa did not include any of the 'Hi Grade' parts in this kit (white metal landing gear and wheel hubs, rubber tires, and photo-etched parts), they did add one photo-etch 'sprue' that is critical for the F-4S. Evidently, the F-4Js were starting to experience fatigue problems in the main spar/wing box area and McDonnell Douglas reinforced this area during the upgrades. The photo-etch sprue shown below corrects the kit wing to the 'bandaged' configuration.
Hasegawa also provides markings for two VF-161 aircraft. One is the 'CAG' aircraft and the other a normal squadron bird. Both aircraft reflect the 'low visibility' paint schemes used near the end of the F-4S's service with VF-161.
Hasegawa's love affair with the Phantom is shared by many modelers around the world. This kit, along with the others in the Hasegawa line-up, are the best Phantom kits in 1/48 scale. The Tamiya 1/32 Phantoms have assumed the title of best Phantom in any scale (below 1:1).
I highly recommend this kit to any Phantom lover!