Hasegawa 1/48 F-4S Phantom II Kit First Look
By Michael Benolkin
|Date of Review||November 2008||Manufacturer||Hasegawa|
|Subject||F-4S Phantom II 'VF-161 Rock Rivers'||Scale||1/48|
|Kit Number||09807||Primary Media||Styrene, Photo Etch|
|Pros||Easy build, great external details||Cons||Sparse cockpit detail|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$54.95|
For a more in-depth discussion of the history of the F-4 Phantom II in Navy service, see our previous F-4S review here.
The F-4 Phantom II was supposed to be phased out in favor of the advanced fighter, the General Dynamics F-111B. Without digressing into the fallacies of the F-111B, its avionics, weapons, and engines were salvaged and a new airframe designed around that capability - the F-14 Tomcat. The F-4J and F-4B had to soldier on longer than planned while the Tomcat was under development, but as the Tomcats started flowing into the fleet, the Phantoms could finally be retired. Not so fast...
While the Tomcat could safely operate from all of the nuclear carriers as well as the America and JFK, the Tomcat could not be certified for safe operations from the USS Midway. Two squadrons of Phantoms were retained to provide fighter squadrons to the Midway's airwing.
The F-4S was a modernization program for many of the remaining operational F-4Js which incorporated new weapons and the slatted wing that was introduced into the midst of the USAF's F-4E production cycle. These slatted wings provided improved low-speed handling and slower approach speeds which made carrier landings a bit easier. The new weapons carried by the Sierra included the AIM-9L/M Sidewinder which gave the Phantom its first IR missile head-on kill capability.
In addition to VF-151 and VF-161 on the Midway, the Sierra remained in service with two Naval Reserve squadrons as well as with the US Marine Corps. These were all phased out around 1986 with the arrival of the new F/A-18 Hornet (which could operate from the Midway's deck).
Hasegawa has reissued the Sierra a little over a year after their boutique Sierra release that covered VX-30 QF-4S drones. This time, the kit is back with its familiar Midway airwing livery and all is well.
It is surprising that nobody has seriously challenged Hasegawa in all these years for the best quarter scale Phantom. The Tamiya 1/32 kits are still the best Phantoms in any scale, for whatever reason, Tamiya didn't elect to scale down their 1/32 kits into 1/48 as they subsequently did with their beautiful F-16 kits. So until another challenger arrives on the scene, the Hasegawa Phantoms are the best in 1/48 scale and absolutely nobody has produced more Phantom variants in any scale than Hasegawa!
The kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on seven parts trees, plus a single tree of clear parts, and a single fret of photo-etch. 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.
The kit is released in the same configuration as previous releases, which is a bit of a disappointment. Hasegawa has tooled two sets of clears for the Phantom series, the standard set you see here with the individual windscreen and canopies, which is fine if you're posing the canopies open. The new tooling that should have been included is the 'one-piece' canopy that makes for a simple closed-canopy solution. Even if you don't want to pose the canopies closed, the one-piece canopy is handy to mask off the cockpit during painting, then replace it with the individual sections when ready.
The major feature that changes with each of Hasegawa's special edition releases is the decal sheet, and we have three nice examples from the USS Midway to choose from:
- F-4S, BuNo 153808, VF-161, NF/100, CAG, USS Midway, 1982
- F-4S, BuNo 153820, VF-161, NF/101, USS Midway, 1982
- F-4S, BuNo 153880, VF-151, NF/205, USS Midway, 1986
The two VF-161 examples are wearing the overall light Gull Gray subdued color scheme that was later replaced by the tricolor gray scheme used on most F-4S airframes toward the end of their lives and depicted here. The VF-151 example uses this later camouflage scheme.
Here is a list of paints Hasegawa identifies for the colors of this kit and the equivalent colors from other brands:
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.
My sincere thanks to HobbyLink Japan for this review sample!