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Monogram 1/48 F-20 Tigershark Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review April 2006 Manufacturer Monogram
Subject F-20 Tigershark Scale 1/48
Kit Number 5445 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Easy build, nice details Cons Old-school raised surface details
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.

Northrop continued to evolve the F-5 from the initial production versions of the F-5A/B/C/D and into the more capable F-5E/F. Development didn't stop there. The F-5G was designed to be a lower-cost alternative to the new (then) F-16. Powered by a single GE F-404 engine (which also powers the F-18 Hornet), the F-5G had an advanced radar that could guide the AIM-7 Sparrow (previous F-5s were limited to infrared missiles).

Initial response to the F-5G was luke warm, despite an impressive display at the Paris Airshow. It seemed the aircraft needed a new image. The aircraft was redesignated F-20 Tigershark and a significant advertising campaign began to generate a launch customer. Three aircraft were built and put through extensive testing to show just how capable the aircraft really was. Nevertheless, a combination of serious politics by the Senator from Fort Worth TX (home of the F-16) and the loss of two of the three prototypes to crashes doomed the aircraft to a footnote in history.

When this kit first appeared in 1986, it nicely captured the details of the little fighter. Molded in BMW Charcoal Gray Metallic (or close anyway), the kit is presented on three parts trees, plus a single clear tree containing the canopy and windscreen. During one phase of the Northrop marketing blitz, aircraft two and three were painted in the sexy BMW Charcoal Gray. For a closer look, go here.

The kit features a nice cockpit tub complete with the new instrument panel with multi-function displays. You have the option of a seated pilot figure for the cockpit. As with the Monogram F-5E and F-5F kits previously released, the kit is a simple build. Take your time, dry-fit and trim the parts to achieve the good fit before gluing. This will minimze any filling that may be required, especially since this kit is getting so old and you don't know how the plastic has responded to any cycles of hot and cold over any years of storage.

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

External stores include the centerline fuel tank, a pair of Sparrows and a pair of Sidewinders.

Markings are provided for two aircraft:

  • F-20 #1, 82-0002, wearing red & white paint scheme with black stripes and Paris Airshow ID number 339
  • F-20 #3, N44671, wearing the BMW Charcoal Gray paint

This is the only kit of the F-20 to be produced in 1/48 scale. Hasegawa also released the aircraft in 1/72, but the Monogram kit gets my vote for best Tigershark.