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

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review April 2006 Manufacturer Monogram
Subject F-5E Tiger II Scale 1/48
Kit Number 5407 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Best single-seat F-5 in 1/48 scale Cons
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) Out of Production

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.

When this kit first appeared in 1978, it nicely captured the details of the little fighter. Despite the kit's age, nobody has produced better kit of this aircraft in any scale, though the Hasegawa 1/32 F-5E is definitely a contender.

Molded in light gray styrene, the kit is presented on two parts trees and a single tree with the clear parts. The kit represents Monogram's philosophy of lots of details with the fewest parts. The cockpit kit is a very simple affair, but when painted properly, you'll have a very detailed cockpit to the eye.

The cockpit tub goes into the upper fuselage half along with the 20mm guns and the lower fuselage half drops into place. The wings and horizontal stabs are pre-molded to the upper fuselage half, so there is little to mess up with this project.

I remember when I first saw this kit, I was shocked and pleased at the same time. Shocked that Monogram would actually arm this kit with two big honking 20mm gun pods AND a pair of Paveway laser-guided bombs. The wingtips do get a pair of Sidewinders and a centerline fuel tank is also included. I was pleased as I can always use Vietnam era 20mm gunpods on the F-4 as well as the early Paveways.

The canopy can be posed open or closed. The speed brakes are likewise positionable.

Despite all of the heavy metal included for the underwing pylons, you can use a variety of weapons on the aircraft depending on the nationality of the F-5E. In US markings, the only armament you'd need is a captive AIM-9 on one wingtip and an ACMI pod on the other. These were dedicated and hard-working aggressor aircraft. The markings included in this kit reflect that heritage.

Markings are provided for two aircraft:

  • F-5E, 74-01510, 10, 57 FWW, Nellis AFB
  • F-5E, BuNo 159822, 40, Top Gun, NAS Miramar

As I said at the beginning, the Hasegawa 1/32 F-5E is nice, but I won't go so far as to say that it takes the title of 'Best F-5 in any scale'.