KITS: Tamiya F-84G Thunderjet; Airfix F-84-F Thunderstreak; Minicraft/_Hasegawa F-100 SuperSabre; Minicraft/Hasegawa; Minicraft/Hasegawa F-105B Thunderchief; AMT/ERTL F-4E Phantom; Minicraft/Hasegawa T-38 Talon; AMT/ERTL F-16A Fighting Falcon.
KIT #: Sets: Minicraft/Hasegawa SP135; AMT/ERTL 8228
Individual models: Tamiya 60762; Airfix 3022
PRICE: Thunderbirds History ($39.99); Thunderbirds ($15); Tamiya F-84G Thunderjet ($12.99); Airfix F-84-F Thunderstreak ($7)
DECALS: Duh... The Thunderbirds
REVIEWER: Dan Hamilton
NOTES: Wildly varying quality depending on production era of particular model.  Best quality and results: Tamiya F-84G Thunderjet.  Worst quality and results: Minicraft/Hasegawa T-38 Talon.


               A year after the creation of the Blue Angels in 1946, their friendly rival for new pilot recruits – the “Army Air Forces” – ceased to exist when the American military was reorganized pursuant to the National Security Act of 1947.  Its replacement, an entirely new service – the “United States Air Force” – was created at the dawn of the “Cold War” and understandably had other organizational priorities than creating a flight demonstration team to compete with the Navy.  Accordingly, during this period various individual Air Force squadrons and Air National Guard units formed their own teams such as “The Red Devils“ and “Sabre Dancers.” However, in 1949 the Air Force got around to recognizing the pre-existing “Acrojets” team (not to be confused with the 1950’s group by the same name created by American airmen serving in Germany) as its first official demonstration team, but it was quickly disbanded the next year when the Korean War started.  Also in 1949, American airmen serving in Europe independently formed the “Skyblazers” which the Air Force in 1951 recognized as its official European demonstration team.  In 1952, however, the Skyblazers lost a pilot in an accident and the team was temporarily disbanded and its members transferred.

            Finally, in May 1953 the Air Force ordered the creation of the “3600th United States Air Force Air Demonstration Unit” at Luke Air Force Base Arizona.  The team would be headed by the base’s training commander Major Dick Catledge who had been a P-38 fighter pilot during the Second World War.  Within a month, Catledge not only had formed the team but led it in its first performance at a Phoenix Arizona air show.  Like the Blue Angels, the Air Force team flew first and was only named later.  A contest had been held at Luke to help name the team and though most suggested “Thunderbirds,” Catledge rejected it because he said “everything was named Thunderbird in Phoenix.” Rather, they wanted to be named the “Stardusters” -- suspiciously similar to the then disbanded “Skyblazers” from whose ex-members Catledge had recruited his two wingmen Captains Buck and Bill Pattillo (yes, they were distantly related … they were identical twins).  However, Catledge’s superior overruled him and decreed that the team’s name was the “Thunderbirds.” This name reflected not only the native culture of its Southwestern home base, but the mission of the Air Force during the cold war -- in Native American folklore the Thunderbird had the power to give victory to warriors over the forces of evil.



            I began this project with the assumption that all I had to do to assemble the required models was purchase the old out of production Hasegawa “Thunderbird History Set” and then up date it by buying that company’s T-Bird F-16A kit.  I was sadly and seriously mistaken.  The Hasegawa set not only also lacked that team’s first two mounts, but its T-33 kit -- included in the box as one of its five “Thunderbird” aircraft -- was actually a model of the team’s first Public Relation officer’s plane.  Worse yet, the instructions for the Hasegawa set were all in JAPANESE (the first clue should have been the smaller case print on the box that did not show up in the E-Bay auction picture).  Further, the decals for these complex color schemes included only the appropriate insignia and tail paint job -- NOT the colorful red, white and blue scalloped nose and wing tips nor the belly bird-silhouette!!  What follows is a brief description of my overall approach to building the team planes, a summary history of the team’s use of each plane and the construction and challenges -- some met better than others – each kit posed.


             I decided I would depict each team commander’s plane as it looked the first season each type of aircraft was flown by the Thunderbirds (with one notable exception as indicated below).  This however required some detailed research that my resources simply did not give -- such as: what was the serial number of commander Catledge’s F-84G and that of its’ second commander Major Jack Broughton’s F-84F?  Help came from the gracious e-mails of the Thunderbird Alumni Association’s Historian, Carol Knotts.  Her answer, respectively: 51-16723 (but the aircraft tail carried the number “116723“) and 56-771 (with a tail number “6771“).  Sure, it is for such things my high school age son calls me a “nerd” … but he comes to me when its time to check his history papers.

 Republic F-84G Thunderjet: 1953-1955 

            The Republic F-84G “Thunderjet” was chosen as the T-birds’ first mount because it represented an Air Force front line combat aircraft (it had more than proven its worth as an attack bomber in Korea), was stable enough for formation flying, strong enough for aerobatic maneuvers and reliable enough to be maintained “on the road” during the team’s busy air show season.  Being a product of its 1950’s origins, Catledge wanted the planes painted in patriotic red, white and blue and with stars and stripes.  The team’s spare pilot, Captain Bob McCormick, took home a small model of the F-84 and came back with both a paint scheme and emblem that have been the team’s trademarks for over 50 years.  After their first season, the Thunderbirds started a tradition of being their nation’s “Ambassadors in Blue” by touring 12 Central and South American countries.  Thereafter, their F-84G’s -- and all subsequent T-birds’ planes -- would carry a decal under the cockpit showing the flags of the various countries in which they had performed.

            Because Hasegawa’s “Thunderbird History” set did not include the F-84G, I chose Tamiya’s Thunderjet kit to fill this gap.  Ironically, the model of this oldest of Thunderbird planes was also the newest engineered kit (i.e. 2001) of those I built as part of the project. And a beautiful kit it is!  Being already molded with a “plated” surface, such allowed me to slowly ease into the early T-bird “natural bare metal” finish without having to figure out “metalizer” -- I would have no choice later.  (I did give it serious consideration for the Thunderjet in order to get that “mixed metal“ look, but the model already looked so good without it that I did not want to risk messing it up: “If its not broke, don’t fix it.”)  The cockpit was wonderfully and refreshingly detailed for this scale (even to the point of including rudder pedals), the recessed panels allowed me to continue my slowly developing “post-shading” skills and the model’s designers even gave the wheel wells attention.  As if aware of my plan of duplicating the appearance of each aircraft when they first began being used by the T-birds, Tamiya kindly included an option to make the F-84F either in the markings for the 1953 season (before the first overseas tour and before adopting their famous Thunderbird emblem) or the more familiar scheme first used in the 1954 season (with the aforementioned flags and two emblem decals that would come in handy for the models later).  The decals also included wonderfully detailed warning and instruction stencils for the fuselage and undercarriage -- a nice surprise for 1/72 scale.  In short, the Tamiya kit turned out the best model of the project.     

 Republic F-84-F Thunderstreak: 1955-1956

             By the end of the 1940’s, the swept wing F-86 Sabre indicated it would significantly out-perform the Thunderjet as a fighter and spurred Republic to redesign its F-84 attack jet as a swept wing fighter with a more powerful engine.  Though still considered a variant of the F-84, only 60% of the “Thunderstreak‘s” airframe was actually similar to its straight winged predecessor. However, because of production delays on the new “Thunderstreak,” Republic continued to improve the straight wing Thunderjet as the interim “G” variant.  Hence, the more advanced swept wing “F” variant actually began production after the more conventional straight wing “G.”  However, the initial poor handling characteristics of the F-84F precluded it from being used by the Thunderbirds until the addition of a “flying wing” horizontal stabilizer corrected the problem in 1954.  It was only then that the T-birds transitioned to Thunderstreaks in 1955.  That this fix worked is reflected by the fact the F-84F continued to serve with NATO air forces even into the mid-1960’s.    

            Again, Hasegawa’s “History” set also left out the Thunderbird’s second mount.  This time, however, deciding what kit would supply the missing Thunderstreak was not as easy as it had been for the Thunderjet.  Though several companies have offered F-84F kits, none appear to even approach the quality of Tamiya’s Thunderjet.  The Testors kit does not even look like a Thunderstreak, the MPC product was primitive (now I was becoming a model snob), so the choice was down to the Italeri and Airfix offerings.  Because Airfix had the more elaborate cockpit -- such as it was -- it was my choice (I learned later that Revell apparently also made a F-84F kit and cannot opine as to it).  Even then, though the canopy of the Airfix kit may have been molded in two pieces to allow for it to be build in an open position it did not include the unique braces that allowed it to be so positioned.  Some were easily scratch built however from spare sprue.  The decals were also a problem -- I could not obtain a set of the Micro Scale Decal Sheet for the T-bird Thunderstreak (#72-150), so I spent months waiting for an MPC kit to be offered on E-bay because it came with the appropriate decals.  When my patience was finally rewarded, BIG DISAPPOINTMENT -- the decals were so old they practically disintegrated upon being removed from the paper and if able to be placed they did not fit the Airfix kit (serious overlap and wrinkling).  Somehow, with the aid of the matching Model Master “Italian Red” paint (#2719), the markings were made to work.  Nevertheless, they did include decals with the serial number and stencil for the Thunderbird Commander (Captain Jack Broughton), while the unused Tamiya decals for the 1954 Thunderjet season provided both the correct Thunderbird emblem noting that “Luke” AFB was their home field and at least 11 of the flags of countries they had visited in 1954 while still flying the “G“ variant (but not the 12th -- Guatemala -- which had come at the end of the 1954 season).  Though this 1954 decal did at least have the required number of twelve flags for the F-84F (the 12th being that of the United States) -- and few will either know or care that one of the flags is wrongly substituted for the 1956 season -- its still one of those little inaccuracies that nags at me.  Perhaps I’ll go back someday and try to make my own 1/72 miniature flag decal by computer, but what did Guatamala’s flag look like in 1954 anyway?      

 North American F-100C SuperSabre: 1956-1963 (later F-100D: 1964-1969)

             Unlike the seemingly micromanaged Blue Angels, new aircraft procurement for the Thunderbirds apparently occurred without the intrusion of upper management.  When then T-bird Leader Major Jack Broughton was casually asked by his commanding General in 1956 how things were going, Broughton told him he was “just trying to paste things together and get home for maintenance” and that “I want to go supersonic, and the sooner the better.”  The General on the spot offered him the new F-100C SuperSabre and, as Broughton later recalled: “Done deal, 1956 style.”  Because Luke AFB could not support “the Hun’s“, the transition required moving the team to Nellis AFB where the T-Birds remain stationed to this day.  That same year, with the Blue Angels in attendance at an air show, the Air Force’s Team was given permission by its National Air Show Coordinator to fly the last exhibition there without “performance restrictions” since the General already “had submitted his retirement papers.”  Naturally, the final routine of the show featured a T-bird SuperSabre passing at Mach 1.1 -- breaking all the windows in both the control tower and a nearby shopping center but also making the crowd go wild (As a child in the 1960’s I remember the thrill of hearing a boom and seeing the house suddenly rattle as I quickly realized that someone had just gone supersonic over Seattle).  While flying the the F-100, the team would not only add the flags of still more Central and South American countries to their fuselages after performing there, but also those of Canada, five Pacific nations, several European and four “Far Eastern” countries (i.e. Philippines, Formosa, Japan and Korea).  Though during these eight years there were three fatal accidents in the F-100C -- killing 1st Lieutenant Bob Rutte, Captain Charles Salmon and Captain Dick Crane during separate practice sessions (a fourth, Captain Jack Thurman, was killed years later after the transition to the F-100D) -- the T-birds during this period lost far more personnel in two separate crashes of their C-123B transport support planes.         

            When I finally got to building the first real T-bird in the Hasegawa “History” set, I was presented with several unexpected problems.  The Hun kit’s cockpit lacked a joy stick and the canopy was molded in the closed position necessitating the hot X-acto treatment to allow for an open display.  Further, the F-100 provided was the “D” variant that the T-birds actually began using in 1964 (see explanation below) -- rather than the “C” version that was required by my plan to build each type of aircraft as it appeared when it first flew with the Thunderbirds.  In that the only apparent outward difference between the “C” and “D” was that the latter had a higher tail fin, a wider wing root area and a refueling probe, the deletion of the probe was the best I could do to dress the F-100 “retro.”  Next, I now had to deal with “metalizing.”  Foolishly in my first effort I attempted different finishes on different panels so as to get that realistic “mixed metal” look.  Not a good idea for someone still learning how to airbrush and mask -- after several failures I airbrushed it in an overall single shade (Model Master Non-Buffing Aluminum Metalizer) and regrettably gave up on a more complicated metal surface.  Last, and most painful, were the decal problems. 

            First, and most obvious, none of the included decals included the famous red, white and blue scallops for the aircraft nose cones.  This forced me to buy a AMT/Ertle “Thunderbirds” set which contained models at least of the team’s F-100D (paint scheme vintage 1966 of course), the F-4E and F-16A.  However, even then, the AMT/Ertle decals contained a hue of red that was far darker than the proper “Thunderbird Red” actually used.  Accordingly, even with the new decals, the red had to be painted over with Model Master’s “Italian Red” to match.  The second decal problem was that up until 1958, the T-bird’s Super Sabre displayed large serial numbers on their fuselages and both of the decal sets were for later versions.  Luckily, decals for one of the later T-bird aircraft in the Hasegawa set included the team plane tail numbers which they would subsequently add to their paint scheme -- and they coincidentally were similar in size to the early F-100C fuselage serial numbers.  The I only needed the number “1” when I built that other T-Bird plane (i.e. the commander’s plane), while the serial number of the commander at the time of the T-bird’s first use of the Super Sabre did not include the number “1.”  Accordingly, I was able to cannibalize enough number decals to cobble together the right serial numbers for the Leader’s F-100C (though I had to paint the single number that repeated -- don’t look too closely at one of the number “2”s on my Super Sabre.)  Finally, the flag decal continued to be a problem.  Before transitioning to the Super Sabre, the T-birds had flown a show in Puerto Rico and their first scheme for the F-100C would have included that 13th flag.  The decals that came with the set, of course, instead included dozens of flags because it was intended for the Super Sabre as it appeared in the 1960’s after numerous foreign deployments.  Again to the rescue, sort of, came the Tamiya F-84G decals -- it had also included a second 12 flag decal without the red edged box around the flags that was used on the 1953 Thunderjet version that I had chosen to build.  Accordingly, my 1956 Thunderbird F-100 almost has the right number of flags -- and one of the flags it does have is wrong for that year.  Again, not a glaring inaccuracy but a nagging one. 

 Republic F-105B Thunderchief: 1963-1964

             Intended to be a successor to its F-84, the “Thud” was designed by Republic as an all weather supersonic aircraft capable of carrying both nuclear and conventional bombs.  Starting in 1963, the Thunderchief conducted more than 75 percent of the Air Force’s assault missions in Vietnam and in doing so sustained horrific losses -- over 333 F-105‘s were lost in the three years between 1965 and 1968 and its pilots had only a 50 percent chance of surviving a tour without being shot down.  Indeed, after flying the Thunderchief in only its sixth show at McCord AFB in Washington State, in May of 1964 one of the T-bird’s Thuds during landing maneuvers at the next site broke in two due to a manufacturing error that caused a structural failure and the fiery death of Captain Gene Devlin.  All Air Force F-105B’s were grounded and the spin doctors used the incident to assert that the legendary Thuds were “not well suited to the air demonstration mission.”  However, the Thunderbird Commander at the time -- Major Paul Kauttu -- has since argued that the F-105 was not only “an outstanding fighter aircraft“ but also “an excellent demonstration aircraft” and that “Gene Devlin’s accident and the high combat casualty rate experienced by the Thud are in no way characteristic of an inferior aircraft.  One was an isolated case of defective manufacturing, and the other was caused by poor strategy from Washington.”  Nevertheless, immediately in need of new aircraft, the T-birds converted to the F-100D SuperSabre which they continued to fly until 1969.

            This next T-bird in the Hasegawa “History” set was even less detailed than its F-100 kit.  The Thunderchief cockpit consisted of a nondescript seat molded onto the floor intended to be covered by a molded shut canopy.  Though I did my best to whittle the chair down to something that looked sort of like the real ejection seat and made the canopy in the open position for consistency sake, it was a far cry from the heady days of building the Tamiya F-84G.  Similarly, the air intakes were nowhere near flush with the wing and because this was a big airplane-- indeed, it was the most powerful and largest single engine fighter at the time -- the spindly little styrene plastic landing gear could hardly support the model’s weight.  Further, Hasegawa’s failure to provide red, white and blue nose scallops and belly bird motif decals could not be cured by the AMT/Ertle  “Thunderbird” set because it did not include an F-105 model -- much less its decals.  Accordingly, with trepidation I masked and airbrushed the nose cone and then touched it up with a hand held brush.  For the bird outline on the undercarriage, I had to paint it completely by hand (because I did not trust my slowly evolving airbrush skills -- I was amazed I had been able to passably air brush the far more simple nose cone, I certainly wasn‘t ready to paint an actual design!)  To the extent decals were provided, they were accurate and conveniently allowed for construction of that flown by Commander Kauttu.  At least this time there was no flag decal problem because the kit’s set included one that was of the correct period -- the T-bird’s use of the Thunderchief did not last long enough for it to be deployed overseas and therefore it never had the opportunity to wear more than one set of flags.   

 McDonnell-Douglas F-4E Phantom: 1969-1973

             After the 1969 death of a T-bird pilot in an aging F-100 (see above) and then a midair explosion that same year, the Air Force agreed to supply the team with new F-4E’s.  This would be the only period in which both the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels would fly the same aircraft.  However, the Phantoms supplied to the T-birds had originally been painted camouflage green and therefore had to be painted over in white with the traditional team markings on top of that.  Though this extra paint added an additional 800 pounds to an already 20 ton monster, it established a new paint scheme which all later T-bird aircraft would follow.  The added weight had little effect on flying the Phantom because, as Thunderbird Crew Chief Mike Jacobssen would later write: “[N]o airplane in Thunderbird history has the hair-on- the-chest brutality of the F-4.  Like the B-52, the F-4 was not a machine called ’she.’”  However, this power came at a high cost -- in fuel.  Accordingly, when the fuel crisis came in the early 1970’s and the Blue Angels simultaneously had several accidents in their Phantoms, “[w]e were guilty by association” according to T-bird Maintenance Supervisor Roger Hemme.  Because five T-38 Talons could fly on the fuel used by a single F-4E -- and because for political purposes the military had to show it was “conserving” energy like everyone else -- the Thunderbirds transitioned to the Talon in 1974.

            The Phantom was the Thunderbird of my childhood and the aircraft I most associated with the Vietnam War that was ever present while I was growing up.  Hence, in building it I felt in some strange way that I was building a part of my own vicarious history.  It therefore deserved better than the treatment the Hasegawa “History” set gave it -- again little cockpit detail, a single molded shut canopy and incomplete decals.  However, in refreshing and satisfying contrast, the AMT/Ertle “Thunderbird” set (which I originally had bought just to get the F-100 decals and the F-16 model to complete the project) supplied a Phantom that was wonderfully detailed and had a full set of appropriate T-bird decals -- even if they were the wrong shade of red.  Indeed, the AMT/Ertle F-4E cockpit not only had more realistic ejection seats, a canopy that was intended to be positioned open, dual joy sticks and front and rear instrument panels with good decals for the gauges, but even had some (ever-so-difficult-to-paint) ejection handles for the seats!  The choice of which model to build this all important part of T-bird (and my vicarious) history was a no-brainer.  With a little “Italian Red,” the decals worked marvelously and saved me the anxiety of trying to hand paint the impressive bird motif on the plane’s underbelly.  Some of the Hasegawa decals -- i.e for the team tail numbers -- did come in handy however.  Unlike the set included with the AMT/Ertle kit, Hasegawa provided two styles of numbers -- the early version and the later version -- but apparently you have to read Japanese in order to know their significance.  I figured it out only when I noticed during my research that the first T-bird phantom paint scheme had a different font style on the tail than the later planes (I think they were later attempting -- here comes the heretical speculation -- to duplicate the Blue Angels team number style).  

                  Northrop T-38A Talon: 1974-1982

 The T-38 Talon was the world’s first supersonic trainer and had been an essential part of training Air Force pilots (and amazingly, still is).  Upon being selected as the replacement to the massive and thirsty Phantom, team members realized the much sleeker and efficient trainer was so small that the traditional T-bird markings could not be seen by the audience.  Accordingly, the paint scheme had to be modified to a more abstract design while still keeping some of the team’s trademark features.  Thereafter, it was in this plane that the Thunderbirds became an official Bicentennial organization and were allowed to display the official Bicentennial logo on their tails even though only military installations supposedly qualified for such designation.  (My research reveals no official comment from the Blue Angels, though one can imagine many unofficial comments were made).  Likewise, it was in this plane that on July 4, 1976 the T-Birds were awarded the unprecedented privilege of flying over the Capital dome during the opening of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.  However, for some it also is this plane that evokes more emotion than any other plane flown by the Thunderbirds because it was involved in an unprecedented tragedy that almost resulted in the disbandment of the team.  Though Captain Charlie Carter had been killed in a 1977 accident while flying a T-bird Talon, years later several accidents occurred over a short period of only eight months.  In May of 1981 Captain Nick Hauk was killed when his T-38 stalled and crashed, while four months later in September of 1981 Lieutenant Colonel D.L Smith was killed when his plane stalled after ingesting seagulls and his ejection seat’s parachute failed to properly deploy.  Then, another four months later -- after the remainder of the 1981 season had been cancelled -- in January of 1982 during training the entire four plane diamond formation flew their T-38’s straight into a Nevada field killing Major Norm Lowry, Captain Pete Peterson, Captain Willie Mays and Captain Mark Melancon.  Though there were calls for the team (and perhaps all flight demonstration teams) to disband, both the executive and legislative branches of the United States government staunchly supported the continuation of the T-birds.  After a year of rebuilding, the Air Force Thunderbirds flew its next show in March of 1983 in the new F-16 Fighting Falcon.

            My reading revealed that the T-bird engineers certainly had made significant modifications to their Talons before they flew them.  However, I have found nothing to indicate those modifications included the shape of the aircraft’s wing.  Though the wing of the Thunderbird’s actual T-38 intersects the air intake of the engine in a straight line from the wing tip, for some reason the wing of Hasegawa’s kit adds an intermediate angle just before it joins with the fuselage.  Similarly, though the Thunderbird Talon had a prominent aerial on the top of the fuselage just behind the canopy, Hasegawa’s model did not.  These details were not at first obvious because the kindly Hasegawa illustrators drew the plane on the box cover and in the directions as it should have looked -- not as the model actually would be constructed.  Further, unaware of any other T-bird decals for the T-38, I was again forced to paint on the nose scallops and belly motif.  This time, at least, the abstract design required by the Talon’s size included more straight lines and allowed me to use my primitive airbrushing skills to mask and paint the majority of it (and then hand paint by brush from the point where the more complex curvatures began).  However, the Hasegawa decals did provide the option of displaying the T-Bird’s coup of having the Bicentennial logo on their vertical stabilizers.  This historic privilege (and thumb in the eye of their rivals the Blue Angels) was just too good to pass up, and required that I abandon -- for the Talon at least -- my theme of building the planes of the commanders at the time the particular plane was first flown by the team. 

 General Dynamics F-16A Falcon: 1983-present (now the “Lockheed-Martin F-16C)

             When the Thunderbirds selected their new airplane for the 1983 season, the world wide energy crisis was no longer in the forefront and the team could return to its tradition of flying a premier fighter aircraft -- this time General Dynamics F-16A Fighting Falcon.  In 1992, the team was the last Air Force squadron to fly the Falcon’s “A” variant and therefore transitioned to the more advanced “C” version now built -- as a result of consolidation in the intervening years of the military industrial complex -- by Lockheed Martin.  Though the “C” is outwardly similar to the “A,” it has upgraded avionics and radar systems.  In the Gulf War it apparently performed well in actual air-to-air combat and is the only fighter to win both of the Air Force’s premier competitions - Gunsmoke, air-to-ground and William Tell, air superiority.  Indeed, at least 24 other nations have also chosen to fly the Falcon, and -- having been flown by the Thunderbirds for over 20 years -- it is the longest serving T-Bird mount in its history.

            I had originally separately purchased a Hasegawa Thunderbird F-16A kit to complete the project, but again it did not match up well against the AMT/Ertle model.  The later again had a more detailed cockpit with joy stick, extensive instrument decals, a more accurate ejection seat and a clear piece for the “heads up“ display.  Accordingly, again, the AMT/Ertle kit was used instead.  However, neither kit allowed the canopy to be built in an open position and I did not feel the hot X-acto treatment would work to duplicate the way in which the F-16 looked with an open canopy.  Accordingly, it was built as engineered by AMT/Ertle -- closed.  The Hasegawa kit this time however did at least provide the appropriate decals -- including the nose scallops (in the appropriate shade of red) and the bird motif for the underside of the aircraft.  Further, unlike the AMT/Ertle kit, the Hasegawa model included decals for the first F-16A Commander -- Major Jim Latham (the AMT/Ertle set includes the last F-16A Commander -- Lieutenant Colonel Chuck Simpson).     


            From having repeatedly lost E-bay auctions for Thunderbird models when the price just got too high, I know there are a lot of modelers who are planning the same project as I (and if they‘re reading this review: you may have won, but I got a better price … eventually .. maybe.)  Though I too have a closet where model kits go to die, my recommendation is not to let this project languish -- it should be built.  It was a blast to research and build because it not only stretched back into the distant past, but included my own remembered past as well as extended to the present today.  (Indeed, it will never be finished -- when the team transitions to a new plane in the future such as perhaps the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, I’ll be one of the first in line to buy the model and to order a larger display case for my set!)  Though I had usually build only World War I and II subjects, this effort opened up the joys of building jets -- especially the earliest versions.  Though building the Hasegawa set had many frustrations, especially when unfavorably compared to the AMT/Ertle set, it does provide some planes not easily found separately.  On the other hand, the AMT/Ertle set was wonderful -- but it was limited to just three planes and its decals were the wrong shade.  Without a doubt, the Tamiya kit was the best build of the project -- if that company could be persuaded to offer a complete a T-Bird set, future modelers could avoid the above frustration while still enjoying the above thrills.

January 2005



 Bob Gore & Carol Knotts, We Rode the Thunder: The Autobiography of the United States Air Force Thunderbirds (2003)

 Larry Davis & David Menard, F-84 Thunderjet In Action (1983)

 Bert Kinzey, F-84 Thunderjet in Detail (1999)

 United States Air Force Thunderbirds (1987)

 Ray Wagner, “The North American F-100 Super Sabre,” Aircraft in Profile Vol. 2, No. 30 (1965)

 Ray Wagner, “The Republic F-84F Thunderstreak,” Aircraft in Profile Vol. 4, No. 95 (1968)

 Theodore W. van Geffen, Jr, “Republic F-105 Thunderchief,” Aircraft in Profile Vol. 11, No. 226 (1972)

 John Darrell Sherwood, Fast Movers: Jet Pilots and the Vietnam Experience (1999)

 Computer Discs

21st Century Airplane Magic, Flight Demonstration Squadrons: Navy Blue Angels, Air Force Thunderbirds

 Web sites:

 Bruce Craig, F-84 Thunderjet: The Straight Stuff,

USAF Aerial Demonstration Teams

 United States Air Force Thunderbirds

 The Ejection Site

 Instrument Panels

 Cybermodeler Online: Aircraft Photo Walkarounds & References

 Phil's  Aeronautical  Stuff: Aircraft Detail Photos

 Aircraft Resource Center: Aircraft Walk Arounds

 Robert Lundin’s Aircraft Walk Around Center

 Highgallery: United States Air Force Thunderbirds


If you would like your product reviewed fairly and quickly by a site that has nearly 300,000 visitors a month, please contact me or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

Back to the Main Page

Back to the Features Page