The F-4S was an updated version of the F-4J, produced in the late 1970s to give the USN and USMC a relatively modem fighter, while waiting for the F-14 and F-18 to come into service. Perhaps the modifications most visible externally were the smoke-free jet exhausts! The Navy received its first machines in 1978, and the Marines retired their last aircraft in 1992. The Fujimi kit dates from the late 1980s, and is the first of the ‘modern-standard’ kits of the F-4 series. The standard of moulding is quite good for a 20-year-old mould, with only a few visible sink marks and ejector-pins, and no flash. Along with the 70 grey plastic parts, there is a four-part canopy. The decal sheet gives two finish options, and the instructions come in eight stages.
The cockpit interior is basic by today’s standards. You get a tub, two instrument panels, two control columns and two two-part ejector seats. There is also a rear bulkhead and another between the pilot and the RIO. These are not shown in the instructions, but do need to be added for a correct fit. The instrument panels are given as decals, and there is no side-wall detail. I just added masking-tape seat belts, but the canopy is very clear, so adding detail is worthwhile. For a non-OOB build, replacement seats are essential. The undercarriage legs and doors are reasonably well-detailed, but undercarriage well detail is minimal, neither is there anything to see inside the intakes.
Fit of major airframe components is good, verging on very good, and main assembly is rapidly completed. The intakes needed a little work for a good fit, but other than that, I only needed a little Tipp-Ex here and there as filler. Do not forget to open up the inboard slat actuator locating holes, and pay careful attention to which actuator goes where. The burner cans look a little clunky, but are OK when painted up. The cockpit canopy is perhaps a little too wide – but can be corrected with careful sanding. A single-piece alternative would have been useful, since many modellers will wish to model the canopy closed. When cleaning up the centreline seam, I had to remove a number of aerials and probes, and restore them with hypodermic needles and pieces of plastic card at final assembly.
I found the main undercarriage locating pins particularly weak, and had to reinforce them by carefully drilling holes in the legs and the wing undersurface, and inserting lengths of brass rod. The kit includes a full complement of stores – a centreline and two underwing drop tanks, four Sparrows and four Sidewinders. The locating holes for the pylons need enlarging, and the pylons need careful test-fitting to ensure a good join.
Both finish options are from VX-4 – Vandy 1 – the famous ‘Black Bunny’ in overall gloss black, and Vandy 5 -‘White Bunny’ in overall gloss white with light grey anti-dazzle panel. Both aircraft have the hot areas of the rear fuselage and stabilizers in natural titanium. I chose Black Bunny, using Humbrol 85, followed by several coats of Klear. For the natural metal areas, I started with Alcald II Aluminium and Dark Aluminium, but finding insufficient contrast between the two colours, I sprayed some clear decal in dark metallic shades mixed from various Humbrol Metalcote shades, and used these instead. The burner cans were painted Metalcote Polished Steel, buffed to a high degree of shine. The decals were rather thick, but settled down quite well with the aid of a lot of decal solvents. The white areas and items were sufficiently opaque to almost totally disguise the fact that they had been applied over a black surface. The limited number of warning stencils, however, could have been more crisply printed.
The model is spot on spanwise but maybe 1mm too short. All the lumps and bumps distinguishing a F-4S from other Phantom lis are there. However, the AIM-7s look slightly too fat, and the AIM-9Bs have the wrong shape of nose and forward fins – I would have replaced them had this not been an OOB review build. This kit gives you a good starting point for a 1/72 F-4S, but a fully detailed model would need a lot of help. It is probably most useful for someone wishing to produce a number of F-4Ss in different colour schemes, who can close the canopy and live with the fairly basic detail. On this basis, the kit can be recommended.
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