Trumpeter 1/72 F-105G Thunderchief Kit First Look
By Michael Benolkin
|Date of Review||June 2008||Manufacturer||Trumpeter|
|Kit Number||1618||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Nice detail, lots of options in this box||Cons||Still needs some quality control on their decal subjects|
|Skill Level||Intermediate||MSRP (USD)||$36.95|
As the Vietnam war continued to escalate, the Soviet Union provided their North Vietnamese comrades with a new weapon to combat the 'Yankee Air Pirates', the S-75 Dvina, known within NATO as the SA-2 Guideline. As an emergency counter to this new threat, a new concept was developed - the Wild Weasel. Wild Weasel 1 was based on the two-seat F-100F, the back seater operating the sensors to detect and locate the Fan Song tracking radars used to guide the SA-2 missiles. Unfortunately, the F-100F didn't have range AND payload, so the Hun Weasel went north with its two 20mm cannons and marking rockets. This was the Hunter/Killer team with the Hun as the Hunter, and a flight of bomb-laden Thuds to follow the smoke of the marking rockets and be the Killers. When the Thuds were unloaded, they could slip out of the area at Mach 1+ leaving the lone Hun Hunters to motor out on their own.
This initial Hunter/Killer scheme had high attrition as tactics were developed on the fly to figure out how best to use this new capability. Soon the F-100Fs were gone, but the success of the program ensured the future of the concept. Since the F-100F was a mis-match for the Hunter/Killer teams, F-105Fs were scavenged out of training units around the world and converted to EF-105Fs (not officially designated such) and became the Wild Weasel II. The F-105F was the first Weasel equipped with the AGM-45 Shrike anti-radiation (radar-seeking) missile.
As the Weasel mission expanded and technologies improved, the F-105G was introduced to the North Vietnamese air defenders and for the first time, they could shoot at an SA-2 site without being inside the kill ring of that same missile. We finally brought a gun to this knife fight - the AGM-78 Standard ARM. While this sounds like just another missile, many folks don't realize that the AGM-78 was based upon the Navy's Standard missile - the same missile family that still provides surface-to-surface, surface-to-air and surface-to-space strike and defense capabilities for Navy ships. The engineers adapted this ship-launched missile into an air-to-surface weapon. Just to annoy the Vietnamese missile operators, Thud crews could fire the missile away from the SAM site as not to scare them into turning off their radars, then after a pre-determined time, the missile would make a preprogrammed turn back toward the site and smite them out of existence.
The F-105G would remain the primary Wild Weasel platform for the USAF into the early 1980s until they were replaced by the F-4G Phantom II Wild Weasels.
Trumpeter has released their Thud Weasel kit in 1/72 as a planned companion to the F-105D kit released last year ( look here). Like the F-105D, this kit packs some nice details and modeling options in one box.
The kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on five parts trees, plus a single tree of clear parts. The front and rear canopies are positionable, and the instrument panels and side consoles are rendered as decals.
While there are limits on what you can do with injection-molded styrene in this scale, Trumpeter has really stepped up the details in here in comparison with other Thuds in this scale. Check out those nice landing gear struts compete with taxi lights!
Among the options Trumpeter provides out of the box:
- Positionable air refueling probe
- Positionable gun bay access doors (with a gun bay provided)
- Positionable landing flaps
- Positionable ailerons
- Positionable stabilators
- Positionable canopies
- Positionable speed brake petals
- Centerline fuel tank
- Inboard wing tanks (2)
- AGM-45 Shrike (4)
- Shrike twin-rail launchers (2)
- AGM-78 Standard ARM (2)
- ALQ-87 (2)
There are some interesting things in this box. On the down side, Trumpeter molded the ALQ-105 fairings to the sides of the fuselage, so you'll have to do some surgery and filling to backdate this kit to an F-105F. On the plus side, they provide you with a wealth of Weasel bullets. Typical loadout for the Thud G-Weasel was the centerline bag, one wing tank on the inboard station to provide some extra range while hauling the big honking AGM-78 bullet on the other inboard station, and either one AGM-45 and one ALQ-87 on the outboards or one AGM-45 on each outboard station.
The kit provides twin-rail launchers for the Weasel to carry four AGM-45s on the two outboards. While I haven't seen this configuration, it may have been in the books and not widely used. Likewise, while I'm sure the F-105G could loft two Standard ARMs, that configuration didn't leave it with much fuel as the inboard and centerline stations were the only ones plumbed for external tanks. In fact, you didn't see many aircraft with two Standard ARMs unless you were an F-4G.
Markings are included for three aircraft:
- F-105G, 62-4440, 17 WWS/388 TFW, JB, Korat RTAFB, Thailand
- F-105G, 63-8321, 561 TFS/388 TFW, WW, Korat RTAFB, Thailand, 'Bam-Bam', Triple MiG Killer (see notes below)
- F-105G, 62-4444, 128 FS, 116 TFW, GA ANG, Dobbins AFB, GA
If you remember the decal problems from Trumpeter's F-105D release, I had hopes that they'd do better this time, and they did get closer. On 440, this aircraft is on display at the Hill AFB museum and they got this one right. On 444, since there are no distinctive markings on this aircraft whatsoever, I'll assume that it did serve in the GA ANG. The aircraft is now on display in Glenville NY.
That brings me to the second subject (and my favorite real-life Thud). The instructions call this out as 63-8321 from the 516 TFS but this should be the 561 TFS 'Black Knights' with the 388 TFW. I don't even have any history on a 516 TFS in my records. Second, the aircraft is wearing three red stars and the name 'Bam-Bam' which makes this the famous 63-8320. 320 is the only Thud to have three MiG kills (though she acquired them as an F-105F). This aircraft is (or was) on display at the USAF Museum after being a gate guard at George AFB.
320 and 321 were on the line at George AFB, CA when the Thud Weasels were operational, but unfortunately 321 crashed near Thousand Oaks, CA on 2 Mar 1978 operating as Thud 71.
I really wish Trumpeter would get someone to check their decal subjects as these were simple errors.
On the plus side, Trumpeter provides a wealth of maintenance stenciling for the airframe and for all of the missiles.
The kit still looks nice to these eyes and should build up into a nice model of the Thud. Die-hard Thud lovers can backdate this airframe with a little plastic surgery (pun intended) to render the F-105F. Either way, I'm glad to see this nicely detailed kit of a favorite subject.
My sincere thanks to Stevens International for this review sample!