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Starfighter Kit

Italeri 1/32 TF-104G Starfighter Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review September 2018 Manufacturer Italeri
Subject TF-104G Starfighter Scale 1/32
Kit Number 2509 Primary Media Styrene, Photo-Etch
Pros Nicest F-104 kit in any scale to date Cons Nothing noted
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $151.00

First Look

Starfighter Kit
Starfighter Kit
Starfighter Kit
Starfighter Kit
Starfighter Kit

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).

It might be hard to believe, but nearly five years ago, Italeri introduced the their new-tooled F-104 kit in 1/32 scale, with the venerable Revell and Hasegawa kits as previously the only options. Hasegawa had released the F-104A/C and F-104G/S in 1/32, though the first S release (as I recall) was an F-104G with S markings. As with the other kits in this series, the Hasegawa F-104s has usable details but raised panel lines. When Italeri released their first kit, the first offering was the F-104G/S, with proper details to do either aircraft. This was followed a year later by the F-104C, and those two kits effectively retired the Hasegawa 1/32 Starfighters (the Hasegawa 1/48 Starfighters are contemporary tooling and are currently the best F-104s in that scale).

Here is Italeri's latest release, the TF-104G in 1/32 scale. Like the previous Starfighter kits, this model is a straightforward build and offers some beautiful details straight out of the box. Molded in light gray styrene, this kit is presented seven 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 cockpits
  • Positionable canopies
  • Optional boarding ladders
  • Molded instrument panel and side console details with additional details for specific subjects
  • Detailed J79 engine
  • Optional engine stand to display kit engine
  • Detailed wheel wells
  • Positionable dorsal avionics bay door
  • 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

External stores included in the kit:

  • 2 x Wingtip Fuel Tanks
  • 2 x Underwing Fuel Tanks

The kit also includes AIM-9B, AIM-9L, and AIM-7s which are not called out in the instructions, but missile rail pylons are an option in place of the external tanks on the wingtips or underwing tanks.

The kit includes two HUGE decal sheets with the following marking options:

  1. TF-104G, 20-5, 20° Gruppo/4° Stormo/AMI, Grosseto, Italy, 1985
  2. TF-104G, 4-23, 20° Gruppo/4° Stormo/AMI, Grosseto, Italy, 1986
  3. TF-104G, BB+386, 4th Training Squadron/OTU 10/Luftwaffe, Norvenich AB, Germany, 1964
  4. CF-104D, 12633, 1st Wing/RCAF, Lahr AB, Germany, 1966
  5. TF-104G, 13076, 69 TFTS/58 TFTW/USAF, Luke AFB, USA, 1976 (Bicentennial markings)
  6. TF-104G, 104-22/CEB-2, Escuadron 104/Spanish AF, Torrejon AB, Spain, 1968
  7. TF-104G, FC11, 10th Wing/Belgian AF, Kleine-Brogel AB, Belgium, 1981
  8. TF-104G, D-5803, Royal Netherlands AF, Volkel AB, The Netherlands, 1977-78

In addition to this great selection of subjects, the sheets also provide an extensive array of airframe maintenance stenciling.

The instruction manuals are 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.

Overall this is another very nice kit and the first styrene kit of this subject in this scale. There are some great subject options in this box and we'll no doubt see more in the aftermarket. You can also render the TF-104B, CF-104D, TF-104D, TF-104DJ, or F-104F subjects as you wish with a little research and alteration. Thank you Italeri for bringing us a nice TF-104G!

For a look at our quick-build of the single-seat F-104G kit, look here.

My sincere thanks to MRC for this review sample!