Zoukei-Mura Inc. 1/48 F-4J Phantom II Kit First Look
|Date of Review||November 2016||Manufacturer||Zoukei-Mura Inc.|
|Subject||F-4J Phantom II||Scale||1/48|
|Kit Number||48004||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Beautiful molding, excellent detail||Cons||See text|
|Skill Level||Experienced||MSRP (USD)||$75.00|
The Navy flew the F-4J extensively in Southeast Asia as the aircraft featured the AWG-10 radar system and up-rated engines over its predecessor, the F-4B. When Secretary of Defense McNamara's mandated replacement for the Naval F-4 faltered in development (the F-111B), the Navy performed a life extension program on their fleet of Phantoms. The F-4J received avionics updates and was also retrofitted with a similar flap/slat system as the later block USAF F-4Es. These updated F-4J aircraft were designated as the F-4S. The F-4S soldiered on until the F-111B replacement, the F-14A Tomcat, could enter the fleet in sufficient numbers.
Zoukei-Mura surprised the modeling community with its reveal of a 1/48th scale F-4J Phantom II prototype at the 2015 IPMS/USA National Convention. A number of knowledgeable F-4 folks examined this new model and all came away impressed. Even so, I was a bit skeptical of another F-4 in 1/48th after Academy had released their own F-4J several months earlier. You'll recall that when Academy first released their F-4B in 2012, it was met with a great deal of skepticism until it was more closely examined and revealed the subtle shape errors in the Hasegawa kit(s). With Academy at the top of the 1/48 Phantom ladder, could Zoukei-Mura really do better? Let's take a look.
This kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on nine parts trees plus one tree of clear parts (duplicate tree not shown). This kit does have some amazing detail yet is laid out for relatively simple construction. Among the features and options in this kit:
- Beautiful front and rear cockpits
- Stick, throttles and even canopy lock handles provided
- Detailed Martin Baker ejection seats (no crew restraints provided)
- Canopy can be posed in open or closed positions
- One-piece canopy provided for closed option
- Nicely detailed J79 engines
- Optional engine stand provided
- Intake ducts to the compressor faces
- Intakes include pitots
- Exhaust nozzles molded in open position
- Detailed wheel wells and landing gear
- Leading and trailing edge flaps molded separately but depicted in up/neutral position
- Ailerons molded separately but depicted in neutral position
- Tail hook molded separately but depicted in up/stowed position
- Speed brakes molded separately and depicted in open position
- Ventral aux air doors molded separately and depicted in open position
- Positionable air refueling probe
External stores include:
- 4 x AIM-7E Sparrow
- 4 x AIM-9D/G Sidewinder
- 2 x 370 gallon external tanks
- 1 x 600 gallon centerline tank
Decals are provided for one subject:
- F-4J, 155800, VF-96, NG/100, USS Constellation, 1972, CAG (Showtime 100)
The decal sheet is printed by Cartograf and provides an extensive set of markings and stencils for the airframe and weapons. The markings include the MiG silhouette worn on the vertical stabilizer by VF-96 aircraft between January and early May 1972 signifying Randy 'Duke' Cunningham's and Willy Driscoll's first MiG kill on 19 Jan 72. This aircraft, callsign Showtime 100, had the MiG painted out on the vertical stabilizer after Cunningham and Driscoll made their second MiG kill on 8 May. The single MiG silhouette on the tail was replaced with two red stars on the splitter plate. These markings were short-lived as Showtime 100 was lost on 10 May after Cunningham and Driscoll shot down three more MiGs but were hit by an SA-2. Cunningham was able to get the aircraft 'feet wet' where they could eject safely and they were quickly rescued making the two of them the first US aces of the Vietnam war.
So how did Zoukei-Mura really do with this kit? If you've built the Hasegawa and/or Academy Phantoms, you'll understand the following points:
- Cockpit detail is far better
- Aux intakes have details inside thanks to the J79s that are included in the kit
- The little details from antennas to catapult bridle hooks are molded separately and included
- The underside of the fuselage is one piece so you don't have the awkward (for me) joint found in the Academy kit
- While the kit has nice detail, it isn't over-engineered like some of their earlier kits
The cockpit really is amazing though I'm curious why, with the nice raised details on the instrument panels and side consoles, they included decals for the panel and console details. They may overlay the raised details as Furball Aero-Design's instrument panel decals do beautifully with the Academy F-4J. Since there are no crew figures in the box, it is a bit disappointing to have these nice ejection seats without any crew restraints but there are plenty of options in the aftermarket for these.
The kit is designed for easy building and is modular to allow for other variants to be released in our future. While it is modular, it doesn't have the multitude of inserts and overlays that other 'modular' kits have employed, the exception is an insert along the dorsal spine which also covers most of the dorsal seam line.
For a look at this kit built-up, look here.
My sincere thanks to Zoukei-Mura Inc. for this review sample!