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Starfighter Kit

Italeri 1/32 F-104A/C Starfighter Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review December 2020 Manufacturer Italeri
Subject F-104A/C Starfighter Scale 1/32
Kit Number 2515 Primary Media Styrene, Photo-Etch
Pros Nicest F-104 kit in any scale to date Cons See text
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $159.99

First Look

Starfighter Kit
Starfighter Kit
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 and 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.

While most folks believe that the F-104 was a dedicated high-speed interceptor, the F-104C was also a skilled bomber. If you can find a copy of the old movie 'Starfighter', you'll see actual footage of George AFB F-104s bombing in the desert. Not just bombing - SKIP bombing - all while the F-104 was still in its prime. When the F-100 Super Sabre failed as a fighter escort against MiGs over Vietnam, the F-104 and other radar-equipped interceptors were brought into theater to provide escort as well as defend South Vietnam and Thailand airbases from MiG airstrikes. When the airstrike threat failed to materialize, the F-104 was able to deliver bombs of its own before deploying back home.

Six years ago, Italeri released what is easily the best F-104 Starfighter kit in any scale (less than 1:1) with their 1/32 F-104A/C and F-104G kits. We did a quick-build of the Italeri 1/32 F-104G when it was first released and it went together nicely. A few months ago, Italeri released both kits with different decal options, and while the first release of the F-104A/C offered decals for more 'generic' aircraft, this release offers some nice looking subject options.

Among the features and options in this kit:

  • Nice Lockheed C-2 ejection seat
  • Nicely detailed cockpit
  • Positionable canopy
  • Optional boarding ladder
  • Detailed J79 engine with early and late afterburner nozzles
  • Optional engine stand to display kit engine
  • Detailed wheel wells
  • Detailed M61 Vulcan
  • Optional air refueling boom
  • 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

External stores included in the kit:

  • 2 x AIM-9B Sidewinder
  • 2 x Mk.117 750lb bombs
  • 2 x Wingtip Fuel Tanks
  • 2 x Underwing Fuel Tanks

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

  1. F-104A, 56-0821, 331 FIS, Webb AFB, 1964, 'City of Lamesa/Sooner Boomer'
  2. F-104A, 56-0840, 538 FIS, Larson AFB, 1958
  3. F-104A, 56-0857, 56 FIS, Wright-Patterson AFB, 1958
  4. F-104A, 56-0880, 337 FIS, Westover AFB, 1958
  5. F-104A, 56-0791, 83 FIS, Tao Yuan AB, Taiwan, 1958, 'Vociferous Viking'
  6. F-104C, 56-0919, 435 TFS, Da Nang AB, Vietnam, 1965.

In addition to this great selection of subjects, the sheets also provide a nice array of airframe maintenance stenciling. The instruction manual is also noteworthy in that it is (1) large format; (2) 40 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.

If you're going to model an early F-104, check your references to see whether your subject had been fitted with the Lockheed C-2 upward firing ejection seat (included in the kit) or the original Stanley C-1 downward firing ejection seat (not included). I'm sure we'll see some C-1 seats show up in the aftermarket. The sprues still have many parts used in the F-104G/S release including the Martin Baker zero-zero ejection seat, but that was not fitted to operational USAF F-104A/C airframes.

This is another nice release from Italeri which will build into a nice model. This subject will look awesome either in bare metal or Southeast Asia camouflage, just grab your favorite references and tailor the build to your subject.

My sincere thanks to MRC for this review sample!