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F-5B Freedom Fighter Kit

Kinetic 1/48 F-5B Freedom Fighter Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review February 2014 Manufacturer Kinetic
Subject F-5B Freedom Fighter Scale 1/48
Kit Number 48021 Primary Media Styrene, Photo-Etch
Pros Options for F-5B, CF-5D, and NF-5B Cons See text
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $25.95

First Look

F-5B Freedom Fighter Kit
F-5B Freedom Fighter Kit
F-5B Freedom Fighter Kit
F-5B Freedom Fighter Kit

Northrop developed the F-5 as a small, twin-engine, light-weight, multi-role fighter for the export market with hopes of interesting the US military as well. First flown in July 1959, the supersonic fighter entered service in Canada, Spain, Norway and the Netherlands. Other countries would adopt the agile and easy to maintain aircraft as development continued. The USAF would finally operate the aircraft in limited quantities in Vietnam.

While the F-5A/B lacked a decent radar, the aircraft was very agile and could hold its own in a dogfight. The F-5's small size made it difficult to acquire visually and would serve as one of NATO's principal point defense fighters for several decades. The Canadian Armed Forces also operated the CF-5 for almost 40 years, a testament to the aircraft's economy, flexibility, and utility.

Kinetic Models has been producing some interesting subjects to date and this latest release is no exception. Here is the Northrop F-5B Freedom Fighter in 1/48th scale and it follows their F-5A release that we looked at here and quick-built here..

While the F-5B has had some reasonable kits produced in 1/72 scale, there has been few options in 1/48 scale and none in 1/32 scale. In 1/48th scale, we have the slightly underscaled Fujimi kit and the slightly problematic Classic Airframes kit.

Molded in light gray styrene, this kit is presented on six parts trees plus one tree of clear parts and a small fret of photo-etched parts. Since there are few photo-etched and no resin parts needed to build this kit, the skill level required is really basic. The photo-etched pars included are for the formation (slime) lights and the frames for the chaff/flare launchers. The primary work will be the airframe which is rendered in segments, so some fitting and trimming skills will be needed.

The kit is packaged in an end-opening box, which means that you won't be able to stack the kit with much of anything else without crushing the contents. A tray and lid type box would have been a better choice.

Kinetic has really captured the detail in the cockpit. One of the most significant structures in there is the twin rails for the ejection seat which also mounts the actuators for the canopy lift systems for the front and rear cockpits.

Among the features and options in this kit:

  • Detailed cockpits
  • Positionable canopies
  • Optional boarding ladders
  • Full length intake ducts with J85 compressor faces
  • Positionable rudder
  • Positionable stabilators
  • Positionable ailerons
  • Positionable leading and trailing edge flaps
  • Positionable speed brakes
  • Photo-etched slime lights (CF-5/NF-5)

External load options:

  • Choice of wingtip fuel tanks or missile rails (stations 1/7)
  • 2 x AIM-9B (stations 1/7)
  • 2 x AIM-9J (stations 1/7)
  • Choice of two styles of centerline fuel tank (station 4)
  • 2 x underwing fuel tanks (stations 3/5)
  • 2 x rocket pods (stations 2/3/5/6)
  • 2 x Mk.82 slicks (stations 2/3/5/6)

Of course the F-5 could carry a wider range of stores, but kudos to Kinetic for proving a nice variety to start from in this kit.

This kit provides markings for 26 examples:

  • F-5B, 72-0439, 425 TFTS/58 TTW, USAF, 1973
  • F-5B, 72-0441, 425 TFTS/58 TTW, USAF, 1973
  • F-5B, 72-0441, 425 TFTS/405 TTW, USAF, 1982
  • F-5B, 72-0441, IAAFA/37 TW, USAF, 1993
  • F-5B, 65-13074, 602 TFS/3 W, USAF, 1966
  • CF-5D, 116815, 419 Sqn, CAF, 1986
  • CF-5D, 116812, 419 Sqn, CAF, 1986
  • CF-5D, 116809, 419 Sqn, CAF, 1986
  • CF-5D, 116817, 419 Sqn, CAF, 1983
  • NF-5B, K-4001, 313 Sqn, Royal Netherlands AF, late 1970s
  • NF-5B, K-4017, 314 Sqn, Royal Netherlands AF, late 1970s
  • NF-5B, K-4019, 314 Sqn, Royal Netherlands AF, late 1970s
  • NF-5B, K-4020, 314 Sqn, Royal Netherlands AF, late 1970s
  • NF-5B, K-4002, Royal Netherlands AF, mid-1980s
  • NF-5B, K-4014, Royal Netherlands AF, 1984
  • F-5B, 907, 718 Sqn, Royal Norwegian Air Force, late 1970s
  • F-5B, 908, 718 Sqn, Royal Norwegian Air Force, late 1970s
  • F-5B, 14909, 718 Sqn, Royal Norwegian Air Force, early 1970s
  • F-5B, 69241, 718 Sqn, Royal Norwegian Air Force, early 1970s
  • F-5B, 906, 718 Sqn, Royal Norwegian Air Force, 1970
  • F-5B, 243, 718 Sqn, Royal Norwegian Air Force, 1970
  • F-5B, 64-13377, Hellenic AF, 1966
  • F-5B, 64-13377, Hellenic AF, 1997
  • F-5B, 64-13378, Hellenic AF, 1998
  • F-5B, 65-10586, 522 FS/23 FW, South Vietnamese AF, 1969
  • F-5B, 65-13074, 522 FS/23 FW, South Vietnamese AF, 1969

The decal sheets provide a really nice set of markings printed by Cartograf. The markings provide the key airframe stencils as well as all of the essential national and distinctive unit markings. The instructions provide recommended paints for each of the color schemes, though it looks like these came from the Vallejo color wheel that I found had some glitches, but you can use our color matches if you find the indicated paints don't look right.

This kit does correct a glitch from the F-5A release, you'll still see two port tip tanks in this kit, but they also provide a correct starboard tank as well. I noted from my quick build that the parts numbers for the intakes remain the same as the F-5A release, so if you find that the intakes don't fit, do the parts swap shown in the quick-build to get you back on track.

This kit should be available soon at your favorite hobby shop. Better yet, this kit is available at $25.99 from LuckyModel.

My sincere thanks to Lucky Model for this review sample!

For a look at the F-5A kit built-up, check out our quick-build review here.