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Revell 1/48 F-89D/J Scorpion Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review June 2007 Manufacturer Revell
Subject F-89D/J Scorpion Scale 1/48
Kit Number 4548 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Easy build, very nice detail Cons See text
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) Out of Production

First Look


As experience with the fledgling jet engine grew and more powerful (and reliable) engines were on the horizon, the USAAF put forth a requirement in 1945 for a night fighter replacement for the P-61 Black Widow. One of the designs to make the grade was from the manufacturer of the P-61, Northrop. Their answer was a twin-turbojet-powered aircraft with a large wing area to provide reasonable low speed performance as well as high-altitude. The initial design also featured a nose-mounted quad gun turret, but this was later deleted.

The F-89D entered service in 1954 and differed from previous versions of the aircraft as it was the first of the series not to carry guns. These were replaced by rockets, 104 to be exact. These were aimed in bad weather using an interesting combination of radar and autopilot. Over 680 of the D-models were produced.

Beginning in 1956, 350 F-89Ds were put through an upgrade program, replacing the radar system and updating other avionics. More importantly, this aircraft was the first to carry the Genie MB-1 rocket. If you read the description of the Genie, it is a 'nuclear-tipped rocket' but if you look at the weapon, it's more like an atomic bomb with a rocket motor. The F-89J had the distinction of being the only interceptor to fire a live Genie in 1957 which detonated over the Yucca Flats Nuclear Test Site. In addition to the Genies, the F-89J could also carry the wingtip rocket pods of the F-89D and four Falcon air-to-air missiles, making this Scorpion the most heavily armed interceptor of its day.

This was a pleasant surprise from Revell in 1990. Following the same design standards set by the recently acquired Monogram, Revell produced two versions of this aircraft in 1/48 scale, the F-89D/J (this kit) and the F-89C. Both are long out of production but are still available at reasonable prices.

The kit is molded in silver styrene and presented on four parts trees, plus a single tree of clear parts. When I opened the box, I was treated to an interesting scheme of clear part protection (not!) - the silver parts were bagged and the clear parts were not. They were unharmed, but rattling loose in the bottom of the box. In fact, the windscreen, rear cockpit windscreen, and canopy had all detached from the clear sprue.

In standard Revell designs of the time, the detailing on the surface of the parts are finely done, but all raised. The surface of the parts are reasonably smooth which is another important attribute since the F-89s were primarily bare metal aircraft.

The cockpit tub is nicely detailed front and back. Two different types of ejection seats are provided as the rear seat had a foot tray for the radar operator (amongst other design differences). Two sets of instrument panels are provided for front and rear cockpits depending on whether you're modeling the F-89D or F-89J.

The kit provides engine compressor faces for inside the intakes as well as early styled afterburner chambers in the rear.

Once you've decided which instrument panels to select, you will be opening a series of holes in the underside of the wings to facilitate the appropriate external stores. The F-89D has wingtip tanks with rocket pods installed on the front end of the tanks as well as underwing drop tanks.

The F-89J has larger tip tanks and six underwing pylons, two for the Genies and four for the Falcons.

Aside from leaving the external stores off the aircraft, the only real option in this kit is the positionable canopy.

Markings are provided for two aircraft:

  • F-89D, 52-2155, 61 TFW/USAF
  • F-89J, 52-1949, 132 TFW/IA ANG

It's rather odd that Revell didn't bother to identify the units that these decals represent. Unfortunately Google wasn't much help either.

I've seen a few of these models built up over the years, but I don't think Revell understood the fear that large bare metal subjects had on modelers. I don't know how well the F-89C and F-89D/J kits sold, but I don't recall ever seeing these re-released. I found this one still sealed shrinkwrap for sale on eBay at a very reasonable price. Now that we have Alclad II, it may be time to give this bird a go.