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F-5E Kit

Hasegawa 1/32 F-5N Tiger II 'VFC-111 Sundowners' Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review March 2008 Manufacturer Hasegawa
Subject F-5N Tiger II 'VFC-111 Sundowners' Scale 1/32
Kit Number 08182 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Easy build, nice details Cons
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $48.95

First Look

F-5E Kit
F-5E Kit
F-5E Kit
F-5E Kit
F-5E Kit
F-5E Kit
F-5E Kit

In the mid-1950s, Northrop Corporation developed a light fighter concept dubbed N-156. Powered by a pair of J85 afterburning turbojets, this small supersonic fighter was designed to be agile and affordable. The Air Force wasn't interested in the aircraft at the time, though a derivative of N-156 was successful as a supersonic trainer aircraft, the T-38 Talon.

Northrop pressed ahead with the N-156 and developed their single-seat fighter which would become the F-5A Freedom Fighter and eventually sell over 1,000 aircraft to air forces around the world. After the USAF implemented a number of improvements on a number of F-5As destined for Vietnam and redesignated F-5C Skoshi Tiger, Northrop continued with the next generation, the F-5E Tiger II.

Powered by a pair of improved J85 engines, the F-5E incorporated a number of improvements in avionics and operational capabilities. This aircraft and its two-seat companion, the F-5F, remain in service with a number of operators to date.

During the later years of the Vietnam war, the Air Force realized stood up a aerial combat training center at Nellis Air Force Base to give fighter pilots much needed combat experience in a realistic environment before meeting a real adversary in combat. To provide flight crews with a threat aircraft with very similar size and performance characteristics, the F-5E was pressed into US Air Force service.

While the US Navy had the ideal simulator for the MiG-17 (the A-4 Skyhawk) for their own training schools, they also acquired the F-5E and F-5F for Top Gun. Some were procured directly and received standard USN bureau numbers (serial numbers), while others were surplus airframes from the US Air Force, and these retained their standard USAF serial numbers (formatted to look like bureau numbers). The latest batch of F-5Es acquired for USN aggressor training have been designated 'F-5N'.

Hasegawa has reissued one of their more popular kits, the 1/32 scale F-5E. This model has been around for a while and features finely molded raised panel lines and rivets. Nevertheless, nobody has produced a better kit of the F-5E in any scale to date. This is a bit surprising given the popularity of the subject.

The kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on five parts trees plus a single tree of clear parts. As designed, the kit represents the F-5Es that came off the production line in the early 1970s. One thing that Hasegawa did was replace the radome. Gone is the standard F-5E radome which is still used on F-5Es around the world. In its place is the sharknose radome that came out of the F-5G/F-20 program. So if you're going to build an F-5E that isn't using the new radome, you'll have to trade your new radome for an older radome out of another issue of this kit.

Kit options include:

  • Choice of open or closed canopy
  • Choice of open or closed engine auxiliary intake doors
  • Port gun bay can be posed open or closed
  • Optional boarding ladder
  • Optional centerline fuel tank
  • Optional AIM-9 Sidewinders (lose these!)

The kit also includes wing pylons, additional external tanks, and bombs that are not used in this version but might be useful in your spares bin. Such is the case with the kit's two AIM-9B (sort of) Sidewinders. The aggressors (and most everyone else) flies with at least the AIM-9J/P Sidewinders and more often than not, will carry the AIM-9L/M Sidewinders. These missiles are always simulators, so they will either have blue missile bodies or standard gray missile bodies with INERT markings and stripes. You're on your own to find the right heaters for this model.

The kit does include the RWR (radar warning receiver) fairings on the nose and tail section used on Swiss Tigers and were retained on these aircraft acquired by the US Navy. If you're building a different US Navy aggressor aircraft, check your references, but you'll likely need to leave these parts (A4/A5 and D5/D6) off your aircraft.

Markings are provided for three aircraft:

  • F-5E, 761548, AF/101, VFC-111, NAS Key West, 2007, Skipper's aircraft (formerly Swiss AF J-3023)
  • F-5E, 761575, AF/107, VFC-111, NAS Key West, 2007 (formerly Swiss AF J-3050)
  • F-5E, 761576, AF/111, VFC-111, NAS Key West, 2007 (formerly Swiss AF J-3051)

The skipper's aircraft has the full-tail Sundowner artwork where the two line aircraft wear abbreviated artwork on their rudders. All three of these examples wear the sharkmouth.

This kit is still nice despite its age, and while it would be welcome for Hasegawa (or someone) to retool this subject into more contemporary standards, the average modeler will appreciate the ease of construction of this kit. The AMS modeler will have a field day given the variety of aftermarket goodies that have been produced for this kit over the years.

My sincere thanks to HobbyLink Japan for this review sample!