Hasegawa 1/48 F-104S Starfighter Kit First Look
|Date of Review
|Lockheed F-104S Starfighter
|This kit builds into an F-104S
|Lacks underwing pylons
Less than five years after Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier, Clarence 'Kelly' Johnson was looking at the first combat experience between jet fighters over the skies of Korea and understood the need for an aircraft that could reach high altitude and affect a high-speed intercept to achieve and maintain air superiority. His revolutionary Model 83 was designed to meet that need and was submitted to the USAF as an unsolicited proposal. The Air Force agreed with the need, but decided to seek other ideas from industry. Designs were submitted by Republic and North American, but a cautious Air Force staff opted for the Lockheed design. The F-104 was born.
Italy would have the distinction of building the ultimate F-104 - the Sierra. Based upon the highly successful F-104G, the F-104S would be the first to carry radar-guided missiles, the AIM-7 Sparrow, and additional underwing pylons allowed the Sierra to carry 2 x AIM-7 and 4 x AIM-9 for the intercept role, or up to ten Mk.117 bombs for the air-to-mud mission. The radar illuminator for the Sparrow took up valuable room and necessitated the removal of the M61 Vulcan cannon. When production ended for the Starfighter, Fiat/Aeritalia had turned out 205 Sierras for the Italian Air Force and another 40 for the Turkish Air Force.
The Italians upgraded the Sierra twice, once to incorporate the all-aspect AIM-9L Sidewinder, the second time to add GPS and upgraded avionics to extend the lives of a handful of Sierras until the Eurofighter was ready. In the end, the Starfighter had to be retired and temporarily replaced by F-16s before the Eurofighter would overcome its development delays.
I was curious. I heard rumors that this kit really was an F-104S. After buying the 1/32 Hasegawa kit that was supposed to be an F-104S only to find an F-104G with Sierra decals, I was understandably skeptical. Hasegawa has a bit of a history for claiming a certain version in the box and not providing the plastic to render that version. One of the more annoying examples was their first F-14 'Bombcat' with no bomb racks or bombs. I am happy to report that this kit is indeed a Sierra.
The kit is molded in light gray styrene, and is impressive with its sharply-scribed detailing. It is presented on ten parts trees, plus one tree of clear parts. A number of the trees are common to the other 1/48 Starfighter releases as well.
The details start in the cockpit with the Martin-Baker ejection seat being comprised of eleven parts. No seatbelts or harnesses are molded in place, so you'll need to obtain some photo-etch to address these issues. Decals are provided for the side consoles and instrument panel.
The afterburner chamber is the nicest I've seen from Hasegawa, with the business end of the J79 protruding into the chamber and a finely molded flameholder/spray ring placed at a scale distance from the turbine face.
The cockpit, main wheel wells, and afterburner section are mounted into the fuselage halves before gluing the fuselage together.
The tiny wings feature positionable leading edge and trailing edge flaps, as well as positionable ailerons. In addition, the rudder, stabiliator, and speed brakes are also positionable.
The dual ventral fins that sit on either side of the centerline ventral fin (unique to the F-104S) are present. One of the other distinctive features is a small resin part that fairs over the M61 Vulcan opening. Unfortunately, the F-104S' new underwing pylons are not provided as Hasegawa doesn't provide the other underwing pylons either.
The markings included in this kit are for a commemorative aircraft that features an elongated cat about to pounce upon three mice painted on the port side of the aircraft, with normal markings for F-104S 51-01 of the 51st Stormo/22nd Gruppo on the starboard side.
I am happy that a true Sierra is now available. I'll have to make my own underwing pylons, but at least Hasegawa is getting us closer. With the variety of beautiful color schemes available for the Starfighter, you'll want to render one or more of these nice aircraft for your scale flightline.