Italeri 1/48 F-4E Phantom II Kit First Look
|Date of Review
|F-4E Phantom II
The McDonnell F4H Phantom II was an evolutionary growth of the F3H Demon and the F-101 Voodoo. Designed as a multi-role fighter, it represented the next generation of fighter, where missile finally replaces the gun. The F4H was redesignated as F-4 in 1962 and the initial versions (F-4A and F-4B) were designed for fleet defense in all weather conditions. As the Vietnam air war grew in intensity in the late 1960s, the Air Force found itself without an all-weather fighter. The interceptors of the Century Series deployed for air defense duties in South Vietnam and Thailand in the early years, but they were not suited for offensive counter-air (OCA) missions. Once again, the Air Force turned to the Navy and adopted another of their aircraft.
The F-4B was delivered to the USAF for familiarization, but the initial versions build to Air Force specifications were the F-4C and F-4D. In operations, these aircraft were not the most agile fighters, but they could hold their own against the MiGs. The one major problem the Phantom faced was what to do when the dogfight drew so close that the MiG was inside minimum effective range for its missiles. The aircraft needed a gun. 20mm gun pods were developed and deployed with limited success. Whether the gun pod was suspended on the centerline or in pairs under the wings, the guns would vibrate when fired and their pods would oscillate on the pylons. The results were interesting to say the least - even with the pipper on target, the tracers are circling the skies ahead of the Phantom - everywhere except where the pipper was resting. Some pilots even 'walked the rudders' to try and get rounds on target. What was needed was an internal gun that was hard-mounted to the airframe.
The F-4E concept started as an F-4D with a nose transplanted from an RF-4 to provide the additional volume to house an M61 Vulcan cannon. The type also incorporated updated engines and avionics when it entered production. The initial blocks of the F-4E had the same hard wing as the earlier Phantoms and while was an effective MiG killer and strike aircraft in Southeast Asia, the aircraft received wing slats to improve maneuverability and low-speed performance. The F-4E not only served within the USAF through the 1990s, it also served with Egypt, Greece, Israel, Japan, Iran, South Korea, Turkey, Germany (revised into the F-4F), and even Australia as an interim solution until their F-111Cs were delivered.
Italeri has reissued their venerable F-4E Phantom II in 1/48 scale. Out of the box, the kit represents the early production F-4E signified by the so-called 'hard wings' (no leading edge slats). The kit's tooling is modular so that Italeri could render several versions of the F-4 and they did get certain details correct including the slotted tail surfaces and the larger J79 burner cans. The kit features scribed surface detailing which denotes that the tooling was produced after the kit makers transitioned from raised to scribed surface details.
Among the features and options:
- Spartan cockpit
- Canopies can be positioned open or closed
- Landing gear can be positioned open or closed
- Choice of early or revised 20mm gun muzzle fairing
- Slotted stabilators
External stores include:
- 2 x 370 gallon wing external tanks
- 1 x 600 gallon centerline external tank
- 4 x AIM-9 Sidewinders (these need to be replaced)
- 4 x AIM-7 Sparrow
The kit provides some nice decal options including:
- F-4E, 68-0401, 32 TFS/17 AF, USAFE, Soesterberg AB, 1970s
- F-4EJ, 87-6412, 501 Hikotai, JASDF, Hyakuri AB, 2004
- F-4E, 809, Israeli AF, 1969
- F-4E, 69-7209, 1 Sqn, RAAF, 1970
The decals are provided on one large sheet that is nicely produced.
Some points to consider:
- The cockpit is rather sparse and any resemblance the kit's ejection seats have to the Martin Baker seats is strictly coincidental. These are by no means show stoppers as even the best F-4E in 1/48 scale (Hasegawa and reboxed Pro-Modeler) also requires aftermarket cockpit and ejection seat transplants.
- Ditto on the Sidewinders
- You might also consider replacing the landing gear as the kit parts don't look convincing and there are good white metal options in the aftermarket.
- The afterburner chambers are shallow and the afterburner spray nozzle detail that inserts into the nozzles is scaled down to simulate depth. There are good alternatives in resin available.
This might seem like a lot of work to get a good F-4E built out of the box, but AMS modelers do these same swap-outs (and more) to the Hasegawa kits as well. Just think of it this way, if you use this kit as the foundation for an F-4E build, think of the bragging rights you'll have when you tell everyone that this is the Testors kit (one of the early boxings of the tooling after Italeri acquired the ESCI tooling).
My sincere thanks to Hobbico for this review sample!