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Hasegawa TF-104G starfighter

20 Apr

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With the aid of Alclad II and Hasegawa’s excellent kit, Michael Ullmann built a Luftwaffe two-seat Starfighter with a difference: the later TF-104G variant in the type’s original natural metal finish.

When West Germany decided to buy the Lockheed F-104G in November 1958 it was logical that it would require a training version of this then-sophisticated aircraft. Therefore, on 18 March 1959 the Luftwaffe ordered a first batch of 30 F-104D trainers. This aircraft was the two-seat version of the USAF’s F-104C fighter-bomber. Later in 1959 the Luftwaffe order was changed to cover 30 F-104Fs. Essentially an improved version of the F-104D, the ‘F’ variant was specially developed for the Luftwaffe. The F-104F was not combat-capable and was intended only for training, replicating the flight and performance characteristics of the single-seater. With a requirement for more F-104 trainers the Luftwaffe ordered a first batch of 54 TF-104Gs in mid-1961. The TF-104G had a limited combat capability. The aircraft was equipped with the same NASARR navigation and mission electronics as the F-104G and had four hardpoints for weapons and fuel tanks. In total the Bundeswehr ordered 137 TF-104Gs in several batches. The first example was handed over on 2 April 1963 and the last on 29 January 1968.

Training in Arizona

Roughly half of the TF-104Gs were not flown to Germany for delivery – instead they were delivered to Luke AFB in Arizona, where the most significant part of the Luftwaffe’s Starfighter training effort was located. Indeed, almost all Luftwaffe Starfighter pilots – and those of many other nations too – learned to fly the F-104 at Luke. The decision to move Starfighter training to the US was a logical one. In West Germany only limited airspace was available for fast-jet training and the weather conditions were often poor. In Arizona the airspace was almost unlimited and included weapons ranges, while the weather was perfect for flight training. Interestingly, all Luke-based Luftwaffe Starfighters were technically German property, but for legal and insurance reasons all wore USAF ‘buzz’ numbers and serials. When West German Starfighter training ended in 1983, the remaining F-104G and TF-104G aircraft were sold to Lockheed. The firm refurbished and updated these machines and sold them to the Republic of China Air Force. With the end of the Starfighter’s career in West Germany, the remaining Bundeswehr TF-104Gs in Europe were handed over to Greece, Italy and Turkey. In all, the Bundeswehr lost nine of its 30 F-104Fs and 33 of its 137 TF-104Gs. The first TF-104G was lost on 26 April 1965 and the final example was lost on 26 April 1989 -exactly 25 years later. In both instances, all involved crewmembers ejected safely.

Left: The cockpit tub is seen after painting with a base coat of flat light grey.

Below left: The pre-assembled cockpit tub with its tandem crew positions is pictured after applying the kit-supplied decals for the respective instrument panels.

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Below: The fuselage halves are glued together. Michael used his preferred ‘liquid glue technique’, leaving no visible seams between the fuselage halves, (all Michael Ullmann)

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Right: The top side of the pre-assembled fuselage reveals how Michael used foam to prevent overspraying the light grey colour of the cockpit frame into the finished cockpit area. In order to achieve a perfect natural metal finish, at this stage of assembly the entire fuselage was treated with a local polish compound to produce a mirror-like appearance.

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Above: The Blackbox resin Lockheed C-2 ejection seats are perfectly detailed and fit well into the cockpit after minor shaping. This photograph shows that the seats received their first paint coat in light grey.

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Above: Minus wings and tailplane, the fuselage is now ready for painting. Tamiya masking tape was used to protect the crystal-clear cockpit canopies from over-spray. It was now time to clean the surface of the model with alcohol to remove any residues. This gave the following coat of gloss black primer a perfect surface on which to adhere.

Above left: The whole fuselage was sprayed in Alclad gloss black primer. This primer is vital in order to achieve the desired natural metal finish.

My model represents aircraft 5706, handed over to the Luftwaffe on 9 April 1963. The aircraft served exclusively with WaSLw 10 (Waffenschule 10; Weapons School 10, equivalent to an OCU), before it was written off following an accident on 13 November 1979. Both pilots ejected safely. Starfighter pilots progressed to WaSLw 10 following their training in the US, and, based at Jever, they learned to fly the Starfighter under German weather and air traffic safety conditions.

Left and far left: The finished fuselage paintwork. After spraying several thin layers of highly polished aluminium, Michael masked areas according to original colour photographs of TF-104Gs and painted them with different shades of aluminium available from Alclad. This gave the model the appearance of different sheets of metal being used for its surface. Other areas of the fuselage were sprayed in various colours, including zinc chromate for the air brake interior, F. S.16473 grey for the nose cone and F. S.34079 green for the anti-glare panel.

The Hasegawa 104 starfighter

The Hasegawa TF-104G kit was the logical sequel to the company’s superb single-seater F-104 Starfighter family. Building the TF-104G variant was therefore a pleasure. The only items missing from the kit were the original Lockheed C-2 ejection seats, but this was not a major problem, since I had enough in my spares box, taken from numerous Blackbox cockpit sets.

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 The perfect surface finish of the Hasegawa kit meant that it was a ‘must’ to complete the TF-104G in the fairly seldom seen natural-metal finish that was used by the Luftwaffe for only a short period during the early 1960s. When examining a photograph of a natural-metal finish Luftwaffe two-seat Starfighter, it is useful to know that a machine wearing the code BF+011, or BB+361 through to BB+389, is an F-104F. Aircraft wearing codes BB+101 through to BB+118, or a code with a KE+ or DA+ prefix, areTF-104Gs. For the natural metal finish I used Alclad II lacquers, as I find that these produce the best finish of all the different brands available. 

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Above, top and left: The model nears competition, with the wings now attached. (Early German Starfighters had gloss white wing upper surfaces, with F. S. 16473 gloss grey on the undersides.) The decals were taken from the fabulous Victory Models sheet for the German Starfighter. Sadly this superb decal sheet is no longer available. With the tip tanks attached, the different shades of aluminium used for painting these parts become apparent. In the last of these views (above) the model is almost finished: all the decals have been applied (including WaSLw 10 insignia), the Black Box ejection seats have been positioned in the cockpits and Hasegawa’s perfect canopy transparencies are visible.

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