Italeri 1/32 F-104G/S Starfighter Kit First Look
By Michael Benolkin
|Date of Review||December 2013||Manufacturer||Italeri|
|Kit Number||2502||Primary Media||Styrene, Photo-Etch|
|Pros||Nicest F-104 kit in any scale to date||Cons||Nothing noted|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$169.00|
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.
Two XF-104s were delivered less than two years later, but the first production F-104As would not enter service until early 1958.
The F-104 was the first operational aircraft to fly above Mach 2 (twice the speed of sound). Its small airframe enclosed a powerful afterburning J79 engine which could take the F-104 from the ground to 80,000 feet in less than five minutes.
The F-104G and its two-seat trainer variant, TF-104G, was produced as a multi-role fighter for operations in Belgium, Germany, Holland, and Italy, with each of these countries producing a combined total of over 1000 airframes. Many of these would find their way into other Air Forces including Greece. Like the USAF F-104C, the F-104G was limited in its intercept capabilities because while it had a good radar, it lacked radar-guided missiles that could affect an intercept in all weather conditions (the AIM-9 Sidewinder is ineffective in clouds).
Aeritalia modernized the F-104G design with the new J79-GE-19 engine, an improved radar, and the addition of the AIM-7 Sparrow and later the Aspide radar-guided missiles. This new version designated F-104S was the ultimate Starfighter interceptor, though the M61 Vulcan cannon that armed all previous versions of the Starfighter was removed in the F-104S to make room for additional avionics.
For many years, 1/32 scale modelers had their choice of Hasegawa or Revell for a kit of the F-104G Starfighter. Hasegawa was the only manufacturer to render the F-104C, F-104J, and (sort of) F-104S in this scale. Now you have a new choice with Italeri's latest release and this is a beautiful kit.
Molded in light gray styrene, this kit is presented six parts trees, plus one tree of clear parts and one fret of photo-etched details. Among the features and options in this kit:
- Choice of Lockheed C2 or Martin Baker GQ7A ejection seat, both with photo-etched pilot restraints
- Nicely detailed cockpit
- Positionable canopy
- Optional boarding ladder
- Choice of photo-etched or molded instrument panel and side console details
- Detailed J79 engine with early and late afterburner nozzles
- Optional engine stand to display kit engine
- Detailed wheel wells
- Detailed M61 Vulcan (F-104G only)
- Positionable gun bay doors
- Positionable dorsal avionics bay doors
- Positionable leading and trailing edge flaps
- Positionable speed brakes
- Positionable rudder
- Positionable stabilator
- Tail section can be displayed removed and seated on optional dolly
- Choice of standard or heavy duty main wheels
- Choice of standard or bulged main gear doors
- Choice of single F-104G or triple F-104S ventral fins
External stores included in the kit:
- 2 x AIM-9B Sidewinder
- 2 x AIM-9L Sidewinder
- 2 x Aspide
- 2 x Wingtip Fuel Tanks
- 2 x Underwing Fuel Tanks
Since one of the subjects of the kit (below) is a German Navy Starfighter, it would have been nice to have a pair of Kormoran anti-ship missiles to support that option.
The kit includes two HUGE decal sheets with the following marking options:
- F-104G, 3-35, 28° Groupo CBRO, 3° Stormo, Villafranca AB, AMI, 1984
- F-104G, 28° Groupo CBRO, 3° Stormo, Villafranca AB, AMI, 1987-90
- F-104G, 6-09, 154° Groupo CB, 6° Stormo, Ghedi AB, AMI, 1971
- F-104G, 26+56, Marine Geschwade 2, Eggbeck AB, West Germany, 1973
- CF-104, 12872, 417 Sqn, Cold Lake AB, RCAF, 1962
- F-104G, 32715, 335 Mira, Araxos AB, Hellenic AF, 1970
- F-104G, D-8051, 332 Sqn, Leewarde AB, Royal Netherlands AF, 1967
- F-104G, FX12, 349 Sqn, Beauvechain AB, Belgian AF, 1965
- F-104S-CB, 51-55, 155° Groupo CBO, 51° Stormo, Istrana AB, AMI, 1980
- F-104S-ASA, IX° Groupo CIO, 4° Stormo, Grosseto AB, AMI, 1998
In addition to this great selection of subjects, the sheets also provide an extensive array of airframe maintenance stenciling. You can be certain that there will be a variety of aftermarket decal options which will hopefully include US Air Force markings for the F-104Gs that operated out of the Luftwaffe training school at Luke AFB including some interesting US Bicentennial schemes.
The instruction manual is also noteworthy in that it is (1) large format; (2) 48 pages; and, (3) illustrated with high quality CAD images for assembly instructions and full-color profiles for decal placement/color scheme instructions. This is how everyone should do their instructions. Since this is a PRM edition, this kit also features a 24-page color photo booklet containig photo walk around images of the F-104G and F-104S for your reference.
Overall this is a very nice kit. It offers more details and options than the Hasegawa or Revell kits, it was the recipient of many colorful commemorative paint schemes in its NATO service, it can be easily adapted into an F-104J, and the F-104G even flew with some colorful paint jobs with NASA. Italeri balanced detail with complexity and avoided the over-engineering that might have made this kit a more difficult and more expensive project. As it stands, it is about twice the price of the latest Hasegawa offerings but you'll see with the scribed surface detailing and all of the extras in the box, the price is going to be worth it.
For a look at our quick-build of this kit, look here.
My sincere thanks to MRC for this review sample!