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Stunning Sufa,Revell’s F-16B plastic model

27 Apr

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Converting Revell’s F-16B

Yoav Efrati’s 1:72 F-161 Sufa took first place in the 1:72 scale aircraft category at Israel’s national IPMS competition in 2006. He used an IsraCast resin set and Reveil and Hasegawa kits to create his masterpiece.

On 7 June 1981, at 17:35 local time, four ‘First Jet’ Squadron and four ‘Knights of the North’ Squadron F-16As bombed Iraq’s Al-Tuwaitha nuclear research centre, located 20 miles south of Baghdad, 600 miles away from Israel, bringing Saddam Hussein’s nuclear ambitions to an end. This highly successful mission showed the world that General Dynamics’ ‘lightweight’ fighter was a heavyweight contender in the arena of attack bombing. As the 1960s’- and 70s’-vintage Centuiy Series fighters, Skyhawks and, eventually, F-4 Phantoms reached the end of their useful lives, many were replaced by ever more complex and heavier versions of the F-16 Fighting Falcon. So it was with the Israeli Air Force when a successor was sought for the F-4E Phantoms operated by the ‘Bat’ Squadron and the ‘Orange Tail’ Squadron.

The latest version of the F-16 to operate with the IAF is based on the Block 52 two-seat F-16D, fitted with a 29,000-lb thrust Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 engine. To Block 52+ standard, this version of the

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Falcon has the ability to carry 450-US gals of fuel in twin upperfuselage conformal fuel tanks, giving it a 920-mile range that is close to that of the F-15 Strike Eagle. Internal offensive and defensive avionics developed in Israel explain this version’s F-161 designation. It is named ‘Sufa’, which means storm in Hebrew. With the aid of IFF interrogator antennas fitted forward of the windshield, the Sufa provides beyond visual range intercept capability using AIM-120 air-to-air missiles, which are unique among the IAF’s F-16 community. The first squadron to introduce the F-161 into IAF service was the ‘Negev’ Squadron which serves as a training squadron for ‘Bat’ and ‘Orange Tail’ Squadron pilots and navigators.

The ‘Bat’ Squadron was reopened as an F-161 unit on 28 December 2004 to operate as the ‘Negev’s’ sister squadron at Ramon air base in the Negev Desert.

The F-16I provides the ‘Bat’ Squadron the platform it needs to carry its original mission, which was first conceived 50 years ago with the introduction of the Meteor NF. Mk 13 night fighter: ‘to fight in day, at night, and in fog, when others cannot’. This motto was behind the squadron’s selection of successive fighters: Sud-Aviation Vautour N; Mirage IIIB/C; F-4E, F-4E(S) Hiac, RF-4E and the locally modified Kurnass 2000 versions of the Phantom.

The ‘Bat’ Squadron initiated the first operation of the Suez War when, on the night of 28 October 1956, squadron commander Yoash Tzidon downed an Egyptian 11-14 bringing back the Egyptian army high command from a coordination meeting with its Syrian equals. Fifty years later, as the ‘Bat’ Squadron’s 50th anniversary celebrations were winding down, it was assigned bombing missions deep into Lebanon, at the forefront of the second Lebanon war.

Building the model

The ‘Bat’ Squadron Sufa I built is based on Revell’s 1:72 scale F-16B, Kit No. 04355 and IsraCast resin conversion kit 72002. The Revell kit’s breakdown enables the modeller to attach the conversion parts prior to cementing the top and bottom halves of the model together. Its weak point is its intake assembly, which leaves gaps inside the intake duct that are extremely difficult to sand smooth. To remedy this problem I used an intake assembly taken from a 1:72 scale Hasegawa F-16, which instead of a cumbersome duct provides a deep recessed intake that is sealed off at its aft end. Construction began with the removal of the nose wheel well from Revell’s lower intake ramp, Part 18, and its installation inside Hasegawa’s intake halves, B14 and B15 (Photo 1). To fit the Hasegawa small-mouth intake (Part B4) atop the Revell nose wheel well, its upper surface was filed down using a rasp file. In retrospect I recommend using Hasegawa parts F9, B4, B14 and B15 instead of installing Revell’s nosewheel well. Once the intake assembly cement was fully cured, I sawed 2 mm from its aft end. The Hasegawa intake assembly and Revell lower fuselage, Part 22, panel lines were aligned to bring the intake lip to its proper location. Instead of using the IsraCast intake seals (Parts 19) I applied cynoacrylate glue between the intake trunk and the lower fuselage to seal off the gap located there. The mainwheel well assembly (instruction Step 11) was now added, followed by kit parts 40 and 69. Note that the IsraCast resin nose and mainwheel door (parts 7, 8, 9 and 12) internal details are incorrect and were replaced by items taken from Hasegawa’s F-16CJ. Only after the model had been painted and the doors attached was I to learn that the Hasegawa mainwheel well doors are shorter in length than Revell’s wheel wells.

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With the intake in place, 1 applied all the resin items to the upper and lower fuselage halves using the following technique. To enable the resin parts to be shifted, I first wetted the underlying plastic with Testor liquid cement. This lightly bonded the resin while I adjusted its fit and once I was satisfied with the location of a part, thin Loctite cynoacrylate cement was applied at its root. This both sealed the gap between the resin part and the plastic fuselage and fixed it in the required location. To assist in rapid drying of the cynoacrylate glue, Zap Kicker was applied using a Q-tip swab.

IsraCast parts were applied to the lower fuselage half in the following sequence to ensure correct placement of the components relative to each other: 15, 10 and 11, 2 x 14, 17 and 18, and 3 and 4. On the left lower fuselage, above the engine intake, an auxiliary intake was added, made from plastic rod. Filler was used to seal off the kit’s recessed chaff/flare dispensers (these were to be replaced with renditions found on the Sufa decal sheet) (Photos 2 and 3).

The kit’s vertical fin root (Part 28) and upper antenna fairing were cut off with repeated strokes of a sewing-needle scriber. The new resin vertical fin upper fairing (Part 5) was attached and two brass pins added to the base of the fin. The tip of the kit’s radome (Part 37) was drilled through and a telescoping blue-tip syringe and a metal rod inserted through its centre. The length of the pitot was determined from the kit’s plastic pitot (Part 38) (Photos 4 and 5).

The upper fuselage parts 23 and 131 were now assembled together and the joint reinforced with thick plastic rod and cynoacrylate glue (Photo 6). The first resin item to be added to the upper fuselage was the centerline spine, Part 20. The fairing for Vulcan cannon’s muzzle, kit Part 84, was added in order to help in locating the left CFT (conformal fuel tank), Part 23 (Photos 7 and 8). Filler was required at the forward and aft ends of the CFTs. A thin strip of Tamiya tape was used to mask the gun fairing adjacent to the CFT during the application of the putty and its subsequent sanding down. The forward cockpit instrument panel, Part 13, rear cockpit dashboard, Part 16, and forward RWR sensor, Parts 1 and 2, were now added. The vertical fin was attached to the spine with its alignment and position ensured using brass pins previously drilled and fitted inside the vertical fin. Note that the rudder lower aft tip is in line with the fuselage spine aft antenna.

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I opted not to use the IsraCast wing leading edges, parts 22 and 23, and used Hasegawa’s F-16CJ wing leading edge sensors, F1 and F2, instead. Their location is 9.5 mm inboard the wing tips. AIM-120 AMRAAM wing tip rails (parts Gl) were also taken from teh Hasegawa F-16CJ kit.

To fit the rails onto the Revell kit’s wing tips, the exisiting position lights were sanded flush using a sanding stick.

The Sufa carries a LANTIRN navigation pod, which was taken from Hasegawa weapons set X72-12 and cemented to the left side of the intake. IAF F-16’s also carry the indigenously-developed Litening II laser targeting pod, made by the Rafael armament development agency. This pod is shorter than the AN/AAQ-14 targeting pod found in the Hasegawa weapons set. However, I converted the latter to represent a Litening II by sawing off a section 5.5-mm long from its centre, to give a new overall length of 29 mm. I also reshaped the pod’s intake to have a scalloped vertical leading edge with a fore-aft length of 7.5 mm. Two diagonally-positioned holes were drilled in the pod’s forward ball to accept reflective lenses after painting.

Next a 4- x 4-mm vent was scratch built from 1-mm strips of sheet plastic and cemented onto the right side of the upper fuselage, forward of the CFT. The kit’s exhaust (Part 34) lacks internal nozzle leaves. These I simulated by cementing strips of sheet plastic inside the nozzle (Photo 9). The exhaust duct was painted

Humbrol 28 light grey, with the afterburner nozzle Xtracolor Burnt Steel and the turbine blades Humbrol 32 dark grey. Tamiya tape was cut into 3-mm wide bands, painted Humbrol 32 and then cut into short segments and applied to the inside of the exhaust duct. The exhaust area was then washed with Tamiya XI9 Smoke diluted with alcohol, and later dry brushed with Humbrol 121 Sand (Photo 10). The external surfaces of the exhaust nozzle were painted using Humbrol 201 dark metallic grey for the ‘turkey feathers’ and Xtracolor X508 Burnt Iron for the bare metal area between them.

To minimise inadvertent breakage, the rudder static discharge wicks, vertical fin leading edge illumination mast, wing tip trailing edge wicks and horizontal stabiliser wicks were replaced with lengths of 0.30-mm nylon fishing tackle. To fit them into angular cuts made by a knife bladp, each strip of fishing tackle was cut at an angle opposite the angled cuts made in the parts. The nylon pieces were glued in place using cyanoacrylate and trimmed to a length of 2 mm before being painted Humbrol 32 during final assembly.

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Sufa colours

The first items to be painted were the cockpit tubs and instrument panels, the latter cemented to the upper fuselage half prior to painting. Cockpit tub assemblies 1 through 8 were painted Humbrol 140 grey. The instrument panels, cockpit combing and cockpit side consoles were painted Humbrol 32 grey, washed with Humbrol 33 flat black and dry brushed with Humbrol 32 lightened with white. The ejection seats were painted Humbrol 140, with 33 flat black seat cushions, Humbrol 2 green seat covers and 155 olive drab overhead parachute pack. The cockpit screens were painted No. 2 green, with other details in the cockpit picked out in Humbrol 130 white, 60 red, and 24 yellow. (Photos 11 to 14)

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With the cockpit assemblies painted, they were cemented to the upper fuselage using cynoacrylate glue. The fuselage ha;ves were then joined and the IFF antenna panel and radome fitted.

The location of the canopy-mounted helmet mounted display sensors was determined by positioning the canopy and marking their location just above the ejection seat forward line using removable marker. The canopy was then turned upside down and sensors made from Evergreen strip No. 120 (0.5- x 0.5-mm) were cemented in place using tube cement applied with a toothpick. The aft sensor was positioned 5.5 mm from the aft frame line and the forward sensor

4 mm from the centre frame line. Small lengths of fishing line were used to represent the wires leading from the sensors to the frame, attached only at the edges, with minute drops of tube cement. The forward canopy section was tinted on its inside surface with Tamiya X-24 clear yellow, diluted with alcohol and applied with a brush.

The external surface of the model was now painted, using Humbrol 127 Light Ghost Gray (F. S.36375) for its undersur-faces; Xtracolor X105 Sand (F. S.33531), Testors Model Master 2049 RAF Sky Type

5 ((ANA610) F. S.34424) green, and Humbrol 119 red-tinted tan for its upper-surfaces; Humbrol 140 for the radome; Humbrol 126 (F. S.36270) for the missile rails and antennas; and, finally, Testors Model Master F. S.36118 Gunship Gray for the target and nav pods. Once the camouflage had been applied (Photos 15 to 17), grey-coloured pencil was used to represent the seals between the CFTs and upper fuselage.

Sufa decals

IsraDecal sheet IAF-55 was used throughout, with teh decals applied on a smooth, glossy Future Klear acrylic lacquer surface. The sheet provides sufficient stencils for two Sufas and one Singapore air force F-16D. To view its PDF instructions correctly you will need Adobe Acrobat 7. To verify decal placement, I used IsraDecal Publications’ Sufa book and made the following placement adjustments. From decal 33 I cut out the door stencils to match Revell’s panel locations. The location of the upper and lower wing roundels is 3.49 cm from the outboard tips of the Star of David markings to the inboard side of the missile rails, and 1.83 cm from the lower points of the stars to the wing trailing edge. The location of decal No. 70 is at the same panel location as decal 67. Humbrol 32 dark grey was brush painted atop the refuelling probe outline decal. Decal No. 91 was not used at the wing leading edges, but was used to provide a straight demarcation line between the white intake duct and grey intake lip.

Sufa stores

Once decal application was complete, I proceeded with painting the external stores. A Tamiya X-19 Smoke wash was used to accent the bombs’ recessed panel details as well as other details on the model and other stores. The three external fuel tanks were painted Humbrol 127 (F. S.36375 Light Ghost Gray) with stencils obtained from Revell’s F-16A MLU decal sheet. A pair of GBU-10 Paveway II LGBs was obtained from Hasegawa’s

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Weapons Set X72-11. The bomb centre-sections were painted Humbrol 117 (F. S.34102) and their forward and aft fins Humbrol 155 olive drab. The forward fin roots were painted Revell 381 (RAL8025-F. S.30140) red brown, with Humbrol 91 brass bands aft the forward fins. Paragon’s Python IV bodies were painted Humbrol 128 (F. S.36320) with Humbrol 146 (F. S.16473 centre fins), Humbrol 224 olive green seeker sections and XtracolorX502 Natural Steel forward and aft fins. Humbrol 11 silver, 174 red, 2 green and white were used for the missile details. Hasegawa’s AIM-120s were painted overall Humbrol 127 (F. S.36375), with Tamiya X-2 white radomes, Humbrol Metalcoat 27003 fins and Revell 381 (RAL8025-F. S.30140) red-brown rocket nozzles.

With the external stores cemented to the wings, the model was sprayed with a mixture of Tamiya X-21 Flat Base, and Future Klear thinned with alcohol. The last items to be added were the reflector lenses on the Litening pod, the Python IVs and nose gear door, all attached with clear epoxy glue. Humbrol 11 silver was used to paint the gear door actuator rods, landing gear retraction actuators, intake positions lights, vertical fin strobe light, AIM-120 radome tips and Paveway II tips.

Yoav Efrati Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Ra’anan Weiss for the samples of his Sufa book, conversion kit and decal set. Also, the ‘Bat’ squadron personnel who hosted our photo visit to the Squadron.

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