Zoukei-Mura Inc. 1/48 F-4D Phantom II Kit First Look
By Michael Benolkin
|Date of Review||February 2018||Manufacturer||Zoukei-Mura Inc.|
|Subject||F-4D Phantom II||Scale||1/48|
|Kit Number||48007||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Beautiful molding, excellent detail||Cons||See text|
|Skill Level||Experienced||MSRP (USD)||$75.00|
In the early days of the Vietnam airwar, MiGs were able to engage US strike aircraft over North Vietnam with little effective resistance. The Air Force's primary air defender was the F-100 Super Sabre, which lacked an air intercept radar to find and engage MiGs hiding in the clouds. The F-104 Starfighter was deployed, as was the F-102, but they lacked the range and even with radar, they didn't have effective missiles to engage the MiGs in the clouds. In addition, interceptors in the USAF inventory like the F-102 and F-104 lacked self-sealing fuel tanks for air combat. In short, the USAF didn't have a fighter to escort the F-105s and B-52s 'downtown'. The US Navy had a similar problem with the F8U Crusader and already had the F4H Phantom II in development. As the Navy transitioned from the initial XF4H-1 (F-4A) into the production F4H-1 (F-4B) mission-capable aircraft, a number of these airframes were loaned to the USAF for evaluation. The Air Force adopted the F-4 and issued their revisions to McDonnell Douglas for the F-110 Spectre. In 1963, when all branches of the military were directed to standardize their aircraft nomenclatures, the F4H-1 became the F-4B and the F-110 became the F-4C.
In order to get the F-4C into theater as soon as possible, the Air Force also adopted the AIM-7 Sparrow and AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, but unlike the F-4B, the C-model had flight controls in both cockpits, air refueling via boom and receiver, and wider tires requiring a 'bump' in the upper surface of each wing. While the F-4C was gaining wide acceptance in combat, development of the F-4D incorporated an improved radar and avionics, and replaced the Navy's AIM-9 with the AIM-4 Falcon used by the Air Defense Command interceptors. While the AIM-4 Falcon did achieve four kills with the F-4D, it was clear that the missile wasn't suited for agile targets and the F-4D fleet was converted to carry the AIM-9 like the F-4C. At the time, the Navy was already developing improved versions of the AIM-9 based upon its combat experience, but the Air Force did not want to be further dependent on the Navy, so it contracted for its own family of Sidewinders.
The F-4D was noted for a number of interesting variants. One was the Pave Phantom which saw 72 Block 32/33 F-4Ds modified with the distinctive towel-rack LORAN antenna on its dorsal spine for precision navigation for dropping sensors at night over the Ho Chi Minh trail. Ten F-4Ds were modified for the distinctive PAVE KNIFE laser designation pod which facilitated the use of GBU-10 laser-guided bombs on high-value targets like the Paul Doumer bridge. Other aircraft were modified for PAVE SPIKE, PAVE LIGHT, and other special configurations including the EF-4D Wild Weasel to supplement the EF-4Cs in the field.
As we saw on display at the Zoukei-Mura Inc. display at IPMS/USA 2017 Nationals, here is their latest masterpiece, the F-4D Phantom II. As with the previous releases, the kit is engineered to use the common parts trees across all of the similar airframes including the F-4C, F-4D, F-4J and F-4S variants, and supplementing those trees with the details unique to each variant. As any Phantom Phan would know, the F-4C/D were very similar, so most of the parts trees are common between the two kits. What is different is Parts Tree L, which has the front and rear instrument panels, front cockpit coming, chin fairing, and fin cap details unique to the F-4D. The LORAN antenna is one of the parts that has been in previous releases but not used.
The kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on eleven parts trees plus one tree of clear parts (duplicate trees 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
- Positionable trailing edge flaps
- Positionable ailerons
- Optional modification to pose stabilators 'pitched up'
- Tail hook molded separately and can be depicted in up/stowed position
- Speed brakes molded separately and depicted in open or closed position
- Ventral aux air doors molded separately and depicted in open position
- Optional LORAN antenna
External stores include:
- 4 x AIM-7E Sparrow
- 4 x AIM-9E Sidewinder
- 4 x AIM-9J Sidewinder
- 2 x 370 gallon external tanks
- 1 x 600 gallon centerline tank
Note: Check your references, but if you're depicting a Vietnam-era aircraft, you may need aftermarket AIM-4 Falcons for the F-4D's early period in-country, or AIM-9B Sidewinders for the span of time after the AIM-9 conversion was completed in theater and the availability of the improved AIM-9E. You'll find the PAVE KNIFE pod in one of the Hasegawa weapons sets along with the GBU-10 (which is also available in the aftermarket).
Decals are provided for two subjects:
- F-4D, 66-8812, 497 TFS/8 TFW, Ubon RTAFB, 1971 (LORAN-equipped)
- F-4D, 65-0593, 8 TFS/49 TFW, Takhli RTAFB, 1972
The decal sheet is printed by Cartograf and provides an extensive set of markings and stencils for the airframe and weapons.
If you've built the Hasegawa and/or Academy Phantoms, the Zoukei-Mura Phantoms are superior in a number of ways including:
- Cockpit detail is far better
- Aux intakes have details inside thanks to the J79s that are included in the kit
- Many of the little details 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
- Rails on the AIM-9 missile rails
- The kit has nice detail without it being complex or over-engineered
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.
According to Zoukei-Mura's team, we next Phantoms we should see are the long-nosed variants including the F-4E. We'll see which subjects they'll also tackle (F-4F, F-4G, RF-4C/E) and whether they'll circle back to render the F-4B or the Spey-powered F-4K/M variants. In any case, the best kits for the F-4C, F-4D, F-4J, and F-4S in 1/48 scale come from Zoukei-Mura Inc.
My sincere thanks to Zoukei-Mura Inc. for this review sample!