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Revell 1/48 F-5E Tiger II Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review December 2011 Manufacturer Revell
Subject F-5E Tiger II Scale 1/48
Kit Number 5318 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Simple build Cons See text
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $23.00

First Look


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 and later as an aggressor aircraft due to its similar size and maneuverability as the MiG-21.

The F-5E was a major improvement in the series featuring more powerful J85 engines that required the unique 'Venetian blind' styled auxiliary air inlets just behind the trailing edge of the wings. The F-5E was also the first of the series to offer an radar and enhanced avionics to employ a wider range of weapons. For more on the F-5E/F series and the nations that operated the aircraft, go here.

Revell has reissued the classic Monogram 1/48 F-5E Tiger II. For the longest time, it was the best F-5E in 1/48 scale (since the only other choice was the ESCI/ERTL kit). More recently, AFV Club has released a number of variants of the F-5E and it's twin-seat companion, the F-5F. While I've got one of the new AFV Club kits, I'm not quite ready to retire my stash of Monogram F-5Es just yet. Let's take a look:

The kit is molded on light gray styrene and presented on two parts trees, plus a small tree of clear parts. The tooling dates back to the late 1970s, so the panel lines are raised, not scribed. Given the age of the molds, it isn't surprising to see a hint of flash here and there, but overall the kit is still looking good. One of the hallmarks of Monogram kits were there ease of assembly and staggering detail (for the day). Even by today's standards, Monogram kits are very well detailed and this kit is no exception.

Among the features of the kit:

  • Nicely detailed cockpit
  • Canopy can be posed raised or closed
  • Optional boarding ladder
  • Optional standing pilot figure
  • Positionable speed boards
  • Detailed landing gear

Some of the details seem to have become softer over time (or perhaps weren't as sharp as we remember) but the instrument panel and side consoles would benefit from some Eduard photo-etch details.

This kit cane with an interesting array of external stores which still make me cringe:

  • 2 x AIM-9J Sidewinder
  • 2 x GBU-10 Paveway 2000lb laser guided bombs
  • 2 x SUU-16 20mm gun pods
  • 1 x 275 gallon centerline tank

Why does this make me cringe?

  • 1 x AIM-9 weighs around 188 pounds
  • 1 x GBU-10 weighs around 2100 pounds
  • 1 x SUU-16 (loaded) weighs around 1650 pounds
  • 1 x 275 gallon Sargent Fletcher tank (loaded) weighs around 2000 pounds

The loadout as shown on the box art and in the instructions work out to nearly 9900 pounds. The externals payload of an F-5E is around 7000 pounds. I'd have to dig into my tech orders to see if the GBU-10 can even be hung under the outboard wing stations, but let's just say this load is a bit ambitous. This isn't something new to this release as these parts have been in this kit from the beginning.

Speaking of parts, there are a few things in this kit that are not mentioned in the instructions but are worth knowing should you want to make use of them:

  1. In addition to the standard radome, the RF-5E Tigereye nose is also in the box. The sharknose radome that has been in some releases is not in here
  2. There are RHAW/RWR antenna fairings included for the sides of the nose and rear fuselage as used on NATO and other international F-5E/Fs. The box art shows these on the USAF example (wrong!) and I still want to revoke this chap's artistic license. Nevertheless, you can build some international variants out of this box
  3. The distinctive blade antenna worn on the dorsal spine of some international F-5Es is also in this box

So is seems that Revell/Germany has made a few tweaks to the tooling for their European releases of this kit and you benefit from these nice additions.

Profiles and markings are included for two examples:

  • F-5E, 71-1417, 425 TFW, Williams AFB, AZ, USAF
  • F-5E, 160672, VFA-127, NJ/23, NAS Fallon, NV, USN

The instructions indicate that the USAF example was from the 58 TFW at Luke AFB but the F-5s were operated out of 425th TFW at Williams AFB (hence the 425 on the nose of the box art example).

While this kit is older, it still is an easier build than the AFV Club kit and at less than half the price. While most folks would leave the aircraft 'clean' (no pylons or externals) as an aggressor/adversary, you can make use of the wide variety of aftermarket weapons that are available. The AIM-9s and the SUU-16s are a bit soft in detail and there are plenty of other stores you can properly load on this aircraft that are not in this kit from simply Mk.82 slicks to AGM-65 Mavericks. Check your references for what works on the F-5E you're modeling (not every country had AGM-65 capability for example).

This is still a great kit and still my favorite F-5E in 1/48th.

Thanks to Revell for this review sample!