Tamiya 1/48 F-16CJ (Block 50) Fighting Falcon Kit First Look
By Michael Benolkin
|Date of Review||March 2007||Manufacturer||Tamiya|
|Subject||F-16CJ (Block 50) Fighting Falcon||Scale||1/48|
|Kit Number||61098||Primary Media||Styrene, Metal|
|Pros||The best F-16CJ Block 50 in 1/48, the only CCIP in 1/48, and has the ONLY AIM-9X missiles available in any scale (for now)||Cons||No provisions for Block 52 (Pratt-powered), no ALQ-131, seamline on the canopies|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$51.00|
For a quick history of the F-16, look here.
For a look at the differences between F-16 blocks, look here.
Tamiya's 1/48 F-16CJ (Block 50) Fighting Falcon kit represents their first 1/48 F-16 release in decades. They produced the YF-16 in the early 1980s (kit 61022) and then remained silent on the subject until their stunning 1/32 F-16CJ Block 50 kit (reviewed here) released over two years ago, followed by the Thunderbirds F-16C Block 32, also in 1/32. These 1/32 F-16s are still the best Viper kits produced in any scale. If you are confused about the various designators (F-16CJ, Block 42, etc.) then you can do some catch-up learning on Viper genealogy here.
While their 1/32 F-16CJ is still my favorite Viper in any scale, this release is definitely scaled down from the 1/32 plans, though there are some pleasant differences as well as some mysteries in this box.
Until now, the Hasegawa 1/48 F-16 series ruled this scale, though the Italeri/Revell and Academy kits are also worth having. Unlike the others, Hasegawa has expanded their F-16 family tree to encompass almost all variants of the Viper. For now, Hasegawa still rules on Block 10 through Block 42 and Block 52. Judging from the way this tooling is laid out, I expect Tamiya to expand its 1/48 Viper domination matrix into other blocks, but we'll talk about this more later.
Like their 1/32 release, this kit is set up to be modular so they can swap parts to render other blocks in the future. It is molded in light gray styrene and presented on eight parts trees, plus three trees of clear parts. There are definitely similarities to their 1/32 kit, but definitely some differences as well.
First of all, straight out of the box, this is the first CCIP Viper in 1/48 scale. This is distinguishable by the bird cutter IFF antennas ahead of the canopy. Tamiya made this section of the nose modular so you can build your Block 50 pre- or post-CCIP. If you aren't following the designations, go back to the Viper genealogy discussion here.
The kit has your choice of clear or gold-tinted canopies and these are molded on an interesting sprue tree that protects the canopy while still in the box. Interesting technique! On the downside, Tamiya has the created the same mold line down the center of the canopy that exists on virtually all other Viper kits. No big surprise, but one could always hope for some new breakthrough in injection molding technology.
Among the differences between Tamiya's 1/48 Block 50 and the 1/32 version:
- AIM-9X Sidewinders now included in addition to the AIM-9L/M and AIM-120C missiles - this is a first in styrene in any scale!
- Pilot figure has two helmets, one with the standard lightweight helmet and a new one with a unique shape that houses the helmet-mounted cueing system. Another first!
- No engine in this kit
- No open gun bay
- No radar
- Leading edge flaps are not positionable
- No JDAMS
- No boarding ladder
Features in common:
- Positionable trailing edge flaps
- Movable/removable horizontal stabs
- Removable vertical stab (making transportation easier)
- Positionable speed brakes
- Choice of 300 gallon centerline fuel tank or ALQ-184 ECM pod on Station 5
- AGM-88 HARMs on Stations 3/7
- 370 Gallon tanks provided for Stations 4/6
- Choice of AIM-120 or AIM-9 on Stations 2/8
- Choice of clear or gold-tinted canopy
Decals are provided for three examples:
- F-16CJ, 92-0895, 5th AF Commander's aircraft, WW, 35 FW, Misawa AB, Japan, 2005
- F-16CJ, 91-0352, 52nd Wing Commander's aircraft, SP, Spangdahlem AB, Germany, 2005
- F-16CJ, 91-0379, 79 FS/20 FW, SW, Tiger Meet of the Americas, August 2001
There is a wealth of aftermarket parts available for the Hasegawa F-16 and I did a little dry-fitting of these to the Tamiya kit. The cockpit is a bit longer in the Tamiya kit, but otherwise the Black Box cockpit drops right in. While I am sure that a purpose-designed seamless intake will be produced for this kit, I found that the Cutting Edge widemouth intake can be made to fit rather easily, which means that the narrowmouth intake can also be adapted. The Hasegawa Pratt & Whitney F100 nozzle fits perfectly on the back of the Tamiya kit. What does all of this get you?
First, if you replace the gear doors with non-bulged ones from a Hasegawa or other F-16A kit, swap vertical stabilizers, and engine nozzles, and plug in a seamless intake, and you can render a detailed F-16A Block 15 MLU or Block 20 Viper!
Swap the widemouth intake for a narrowmouth, get the Pratt nozzle, and you'll have a Block 52 Viper.
Do the same as above, add a wide field of view heads-up display in the cockpit and scab plates to the dorsal spine, and you'll have a contemporary Block 42.
I could go on with the possibilities, but you get the idea. There's no doubt in my mind that Tamiya will address some of this for us, but there are so many resources out there already that you don't have to wait.
Hasegawa versus Tamiya
So why is the Tamiya kit a 'trade-up' over the Hasegawa kit? When I hold the Hasegawa kit, I am still impressed with the engineering and detail in the kit, but when I put the Hasegawa fuselage against the Tamiya part, the difference is quite impressive. The Hasegawa surface has finely scribed details, but these are more representative in presentation than realistic. This is no-doubt due to the lack of up-close detailed photos at the time they engineered the tooling. As I understand it, Tamiya was assisted by Lockheed-Martin on this project and the additional detailing is instantly evident. The difference in the level of scribed detailing is quite stark. Tamiya is the clear winner on up-to-date details!
For some odd reason, Tamiya decided to produce two panels on the starboard side of the dorsal spine, right near the vertical stabilizer, as separate parts. I can't figure that one out as I can't find any imagery that shows a variant of the Viper with anything different there.
I can understand why some features don't scale down gracefully from 1/32 scale, but one feature that I'd hoped would make it to the scaled-down Viper was the positionable leading edge flaps. These were nicely rendered in 1/32 scale and compliment the positionable trailing edge flaps so you can pose your Viper in take-off, landing, or low-speed flight configuration. We can get out the razor saw and lower them the old-fashioned way I suppose...
This kit is the best F-16 kit in 1/48 scale and would be the best in any scale were it not for its big (1/32) brother. I have two more of these kits on order and will be using some of the possibilities listed above to render versions that were not easily done with the Hasegawa kit. Am I dumping my Hasegawa Vipers? Heck no! These will still build into nice models of the Viper, but the Tamiya kit will look better up-close on the contest table.
Here is a list of paints Tamiya identifies for use with this kit and the equivalent colors from other brands (Note: the first two colors are matches to the early war colors applied to USAAF aircraft, the remainder are the Tamiya-recommended colors):
My sincere thanks to HobbyLink Japan for this review sample!