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F-5F Tiger II

Kitty Hawk Models 1/32 F-5F Tiger II Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review November 2018 Manufacturer Kitty Hawk Models
Subject F-5F Tiger II Scale 1/32
Kit Number 32019 Primary Media Styrene, Resin, Photo-Etch
Pros Nicest F-5F kit in any scale Cons See text
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $129.95

First Look

F-5F Tiger II
F-5F Tiger II
F-5F Tiger II
F-5F Tiger II
F-5F Tiger II
F-5F Tiger II
F-5F Tiger II

The F-5F Tiger II is the two-seat companion to the F-5E, a single-seat lightweight fighter developed by Northrop. This design was a follow-on of the company's earlier F-5A/B Freedom Fighter developed in the late 1950s for export to allied nations. The F-5E/F featured an enlarged fuselage for more fuel capacity, up-rated J85 afterburning engines, a radar, and the ability to accommodate a variety of avionics and weapons options to suit specific customers. While the basic F-5E/F could carry unguided bombs and AIM-9 Sidewinders, the more elaborate versions were equipped with radar homing and warning (RHAW), electronic countermeasures, chaff/flare dispensers, and additional communications systems. One of the more elaborate versions was delivered to the Royal Saudi Air Force and included AGM-65 Maverick capabilities along with the above options. Over time, the F-5E/F airframes were updated with newer radar sets, glass cockpits, and additional weapons capabilities. While the F-5E/F never served in front-line service with the US military, the F-5's performance was so close to the MiG-21 that it was a natural choice to serve with the USAF aggressors and USN adversary squadrons.

I was pleasantly surprised when Kitty Hawk announced that they were producing the F-5E and F-5F in 1/32 scale. While there was the venerable 1/32 F-5E from Hasegawa, there have been no production kits in this scale for the F-5F. For those who have enjoyed the earlier Kitty Hawk F-5E release, you won't see any surprises when you open this box as most of the parts trees are common, just one tree with the new forward fuselage and the clear tree are new. The model is molded in gray styrene and presented on six parts trees plus one tree of clear parts, one fret of photo-etched parts, and a set of resin castings. The surface detailing is nicely done, and the overall kit is not over-engineered nor overly complex to build. Among the features and options in this kit:

  • Nicely detailed ejection seats (photo-etched restraints provided for only one seat)
  • Beautifully detailed cockpits
  • Relief detail provided in instrument panel, designed to be overlayed with instrument panel decals
  • Details behind the ejection seat headrests are nicely done
  • Canopy lift mechanisms nicely replicated (designed to be displayed open only)
  • Choice of no pilot, resin seated pilot, and/or resin boarding pilot
  • Resin boarding ladder
  • Nicely detailed landing gear and gear wells
  • Tires are 'weighted'
  • Nose gun bays are nicely detailed
  • Gun bay doors provided for 'open' display
  • Radar dish provided if you want to display the aircraft with radome removed
  • Two J85 engines provided though not overly detailed/complex
  • Choice of open or closed auxiliary intake shutters
  • Positionable rudder
  • Positionable ailerons
  • Positionable stabilators
  • Positionable leading and trailing edge flaps
  • Positionable speed brakes
  • Beautiful wingtip missile rails with hollow tracks
  • 'Optional' antennas and dispensers (see builder's notes)

Among the external stores options included in the kit:

  • 2 x 275 gallon underwing external fuel tanks
  • 1 x centerline fuel tank
  • 2 x Mk.82 500lb bombs with choice of three fuses
  • 2 x Mk.20 Rockeye cluster bombs
  • 2 x AIM-9 Sidewinders with choice of AIM-9B or AIM-9L/M seeker heads
  • 2 x AIM-7 Sparrow (never carried on the F-5 though proposed for the later F-5G)

Markings are included for 11 options:

  • F-5F, 10594, RoKAF
  • F-5F, J-3211, Swiss AF
  • F-5F, 21105, Royal Thai AF, 30th Anniversary markings
  • F-5F, 853, Royal Singapore AF
  • F-5F, 855, Royal Singapore AF
  • F-5F, 840456, VFC-111, AF/100, USN
  • F-5F, 841586, VMFT-401 'Snipers', 00, USMC
  • F-5F, 30127/5401, RoCAF
  • F-5F, 000297/5385, RoCAF
  • F-5F, 830121/5395, RoCAF
  • F-5F, 50681/3-7154, IRIAF

For whatever reason, the decals and profiles appear to have been rushed. The profiles are printed in black and white, which is unusual for Kitty Hawk, but not a serious problem. The identities of each subject are only in Chinese however, so forgive me if I didn't decode the above subjects completely/correctly. Finally, the decals themselves are okay for the most part, though some of the stencils are in gibberish. One wasn't too bad: "This is a thin skinned honeycgwb strugtinre", though a number of them either say "SHSGEWBSJSKAL SJSJWIOFHS" or "SHD SJWUAD WOID". There are other examples, but you get the idea - aftermarket decals are at least recommended for stencils.

Builder's notes:

As with the F-5E, this kit has great potential, yet shares many of the same glitches that are easy enough to rectify/work around. These include:

  • If you look at the resin parts in the image bar above, you'll see some interesting things. There is a seated pilot figure, a standing pilot figure stepping up the boarding ladder, a new boarding ladder, and two parts not called out by the instructions, but an important addition - an air refueling probe!
  • The F-5E kit included the older radome as well as the shark-nose radome. This kit omits the earlier radome, so you will have to raid an F-5E kit if you need the older radome
  • The fuel filler caps are molded onto the right side of the dorsal spine (they belong on the left side). I show how to correct that in my F-5E build review
  • Many subjects don't use the dorsal antenna (part B31), so you'll need to fill the hole and remove the molded-on antenna base
  • Ditto on the rear RHAW antennas (parts B42/B43)
  • The kit nose (parts D50/D31) has the RHAW antennas molded just behind the radome, check your references to see if your subject has these installed
  • The kit provides the horizontal plate antenna atop the vertical stabilizer, you'll want to see if this antenna was installed on your subject
  • This F-5F has the chisel-type wing LEX which is common for late-block and some updated aircraft. Earlier F-5Fs have the swept-back LEX, which is easy enough to replicate with a careful cut of the kit's LEX. As always, check your references
  • The ejection seats are nicely done and while the photo-etch fret has the pilot's restraints provided for one seat, they're not mentioned in the kit's instructions
  • No option for the 'extended' nose gear strut used during take-off
  • The pilot figures are beautifully done and represent the older hard-shell helmets of the 1970s and 1980s. If you're doing a contemporary aggressor/adversary, you'll want to tweak the helmet to look like the current lightweight version
  • No mold lines in the canopy or windscreen
  • The rear canopy has the later-block exhaust vent on the left-rear side of the canopy frame. Earlier F-5Fs did not have this vent, so you may need to fill in this detail if your subject didn't have that feature
  • The F-5E did not include intakes trunks and that is also true in this release. When you look down an intake, you'll see both engines inside along with the hollow fuselage shell. While someone in the aftermarket may come up with a fix, this might be a good time to either blank off the back of the intakes like the Hasegawa kit or install some intake covers
  • Most export F-5Fs were armed with the AIM-9J and some were updated with the AIM-9L. While the AIM-9L is in the box, the kit doesn't provide the AIM-9J, just the really early AIM-9B which is rarely seen.

As I said above, most of these are nits which can be addressed with a little modeling skill and some good reference photos. With all the features and options in this kit, there are many possibilities right out of the box, and just imagine all of the colorful subjects that will come with the aftermarket decals. I am looking forward to building this kit along with another F-5E very soon. You can see my first F-5E kit built-up here.

My sincere thanks to Kitty Hawk Models for this review sample!