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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 5470 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Best single-seat F-5 in 1/48 scale Cons
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) Out of Production

First Look


In the eyes of the USAF and USN, the F-5 was a low-tech aircraft that didn't warrant front-line service, but it was relatively economical to operate and it had similar flight characteristics as the venerable MiG-21. In US military service, it gave fighter pilots the opportunity to fight a dissimilar aircraft under a variety of conditions and live to tell the tale. The aggressors knew that if a 'nugget' fighter pilot could survive his first 10 combat missions, he'd likely survive his career. The idea was to give these new pilots their first 10 combat missions over Nevada or Southern California.

I remember paying a visit out to Nellis in the mid-1970s. A big test program was underway to develop new tactics and test out the new AIM-9L Sidewinder on the Navy's new F-14 Tomcat and the Air Force's new F-15 Eagle. Six of each were based out of Nellis to combat the F-5 aggressors.

Just before I got there, the Air Force lost one of their new F-15As to a head-on collision with an F-5. The two aircraft were in a head-on intercept profile and they only saw each other at the last second. Both aircraft jinked, and the left missile rail of the F-5 was sheared off by the left intake of the Eagle. That missile rail flew through the F100 engine and blew it up big time! The resulting explosion took out the flight controls and the other engine. The Eagle driver successfully ejected and took a helicopter flight back to Nellis. The F-5E returned to Nellis, received a new missile rail, and was back on the line by the time I got there.

An issue of Aviation Week and Space Technology that was published several months later showcased the test effort of the F-14 and F-15 versus the F-5E. Ironically, the Navy and Air Force had claimed that their new super-fighters would achieve kill ratios on the order of 15:1 against the hapless aggressors. While the score was still in favor of the new aircraft, AW&ST quoted kill ratios significantly lower against the F-5. While the F-5E/F would continue in the aggressor roles for more than 25 years, the USAF finally replaced them with F-16s.

This kit was re-issued in 1991 with a novel improvement - photo-etched parts from Model Technologies (remember them?). This was one of several kits in the series where Monogram packaged one of their tried and true kits with Model Technologies photo-etched parts. Others in the series included the 1/48 A-4E Skyhawk and the 1/48 F-100D Super Sabre.

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.

The Model Technologies photo-etch provided some nice enhancements to the stock Monogram kit including better detailing on the canopy lift mechanism, canopy mirrors and locks, afterburner spray rings, and more.

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 one aircraft:

  • F-5E, BuNo 158878, 44, Top Gun, NAS Miramar

While several companies have released F-5s in 1/48 scale over the years, none have come close to topping the Monogram kit for the title of best F-5 in 1/48 scale. 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'.