Fujimi 1/72 F-4K Phantom II

KIT: Fujimi 1/72 F-4K Phantom II
KIT #: 72168
PRICE: approx £20.00
DECALS: One option (Alcock and Brown boxing)
REVIEWER: Fernando Rolandelli
NOTES: Be prepared to do some cockpit work


Bewildered by the failure of their two new strike aircraft programs (the indigenous P.1154 and the US designed F-111K), the Admiralty and the RAF took for once a sensible decision and turned their eyes to the most potent fighter then available, the F-4 Phantom II, which had by the time swept away the competition even within the USAF, where even an early F-4B had proved superior to anything pitted against it.

By the time a decision had been made, the improved F-4J was the standard model and it was the one taken as a basis. Alas, everything would not go so smoothly and both services asked for a number of modifications to increase the proportion of equipment of British origin to politically acceptable levels (40-54%, but at the expense of a higher cost and, as was seen later, rather degraded operational performance).

The most significant was the change of power plant, from the proven J-79 to the equally proven (though not on a Phantom!) R-R Spey. Now, given the fact that one of the most impressive things on a Phantom is its awesome power, why anyone would have deemed that more was needed is a bit puzzling. The Spey was indeed more powerful and it indeed provided a surplus of power at low level. That might have been reassuring in operations from the smaller British carriers (as well as increasing range by a 10-15%), but its bigger size required the redesigning of the rear fuselage, and its air-greedy nature required bigger intakes (by 20%).

 Adding their increased weight, its bigger power never translated into better performance and, being a turbofan instead of a true turbojet like the J-79, its performance degraded with altitude. In the end, the reduction of flight decks to just one (the former HMS Ark Royal) made the whole exercise a bit futile. Only 36 machines (out of the initial planned order of 134, and a total Phantom final procurement of 168) served in the Fleet Air Arm as FG.1 Phantoms, and the number of those who actually saw carrier service is even less, in only one operative unit, no. 892 Sqn (deck operations ceased in 1978). The following 14 were sent straight to the RAF, which used them within No. 43 Squadron.

Contrarily to the squadrons equipped with the “proper” RAF FGR.2s, whose role was ground-attack and recce (amazing sight those big machines performing rocket attacks at tree-top low level over the Central Front it would have been), No. 43 “Fighting Cocks” was an air superiority squadron, based at RAF Leuchars (which would eventually become a “home” of refugee ex-FAA FG.1s, with the conversion of 111 Sqn. to the type), starting QRA (quick reaction alert) service on March 23, 1973. In due time, thanks to the introduction of aircraft better suited to the hazardous role of close air support (the Jaguar and Harrier) all RAF Phantoms were transferred to the air defense role.


I have a liking for the Fujimi Phantoms, stemming out from the 80s, when they were among the best kits available in Argentina. Of them, the British Phantoms are regarded as the best, and this boxing can be said to be the best of the lot. It is amazing how Fujimi kept trying to improve the basic molding, providing for instance cockpit bulkheads on the later J-79-Phantoms boxings, a completely different cockpit in the British Phantoms and finally a lot of extra detail (including really fine exhaust cans) in this boxing. Decals are of consistent high quality, though the White has some ivorish hue, and options have been always good, including the fabled “Yellow Bird” FAA machine from 767 Sqn.

However, I must say that the attempt to improve the cockpit has been mislead to say the least, and in my opinion detrimental of the possibilities of the kit. More on that later.

In a frustrated attempt to fix the cockpit, I bought the Eduard PE for the version I judged the most similar to the FG.1, which is the F-4J’s. In the end, I had to adapt the Aires F-4F set, by sweat, swear and hard work. As I did not want a cheesy commemorative scheme, I got the excellent Xtradecals sheet for an early 43 Sqn, machine.  


Construction began with the cockpit… actually “assessing the damage” to the cockpit and the ways to solve it. I know, I know, Fujimi British Phantoms have a fame of good cockpits only needing good seats, and certainly they look that way on the sprues. However, the initially good-looking raised detail on the consoles is completely spurious, but even that is not the problem, the one you come across when you try to put an aftermarket seat in place: the whole thing is about 2/3 the size! There is no way around this, you can raise the cavernous cockpit floor on a Fujimi J-79 Phantom, but you cannot cut and expand the diminutive, one piece bathtub cockpit in this one. The culprit (or the consequence?) is a too deep front wheel well. I spent some time pondering options (including trashing the whole project, but I had already bought several kits, including the almost collectible “Yellow Bird” boxing).

The bullet you ride or run, it is said, and I decided to bite it. I got an Aires set, modified it to an acceptable form by erasing the double controls and adding new rear sidewalls (the right hand one a donation from a Hasegawa kit –every one, even those of USAF aircraft, comes with the “Navy” style sidewall- and the left an adapted kit’s part) and radar stick, and coerced it into place by sawing the roof of the wheel well to reduce its depth (of course, the front u/c leg height had to be adjusted); it was left a bit shallow, but that’s better than a Hobbit-sized cockpit! Besides, the Aires set has to be heavily coerced to fit anything, even its intended Revell-Germany recipient kit.

It must be said that the construction the rest of the kit was uneventful, exception made of the windscreen, whose fit was crazed by the Aires coaming, and the fiddly attachment of the hoods if glued opened. Pylons showed some annoying ejection marks. Airbrakes were left open, and I took the chance to pose the flaps deflected. I discarded the “rubber tires” option and went for the plastic ones. The two piece exhausts are particularly remarkable.

 The armament was another question. The kit properly comes with the “air defense” armament package  of four Sparrow, four Sidewinders and one SUU-23/A Vulcan 20 mm gun pod (RAF FGR:2s come with the “ground attack/recce” package of four Matra 155 launchers for 68 mm SNEB rockets on TERs and a big multisensor ventral pod). The appropriateness of the cannon pod should not be doubted: though not carried by FG.1s in FAA service, it was quickly introduced once they were transferred to the RAF. The Sidewinders seem to be the -9E version, which was not used by British Phantoms (nor by any Navy version, to which they are related); I modified them into -9Ds by cutting a slice of the nose immediately forward of the fins, and gluing back the nose itself. The Sparrows show an unexplainable raised panel in the mid of the fins; I erased them and rescribed them as engraved ones. 



 Though later low-viz schemes are purposeful and, when combined with squadron leader features even dazzling (a contradiction in terms), I like the earlier tactical camouflage of DG/DSG/LAG. This very early example sports glossy paintwork and Type A tricolor roundels, all of which looks very sixties.

I preshaded the airframe; the more on the undersurface, then applied the Xtracolors paint, with liquid masking, in my usual “mottle-painting” style, to get an uneven coverage. This spoils the otherwise “decal ready” glossy surface typical of Xtracolor paints, so I applied a thorough Xtracrylixs clear gloss varnish (it makes the surface impervious to oil washes and airbrushed fumes and dirt). Metal parts were painted with Alclad Aluminium, Magnesium and Burnt Metal, with a shade of Exhaust to achieve the warm copperish hue.


 As I have already said, the ones in the kit allow you to build two 1979 RAF machines, involved in the commemoration of the crossing of the Atlantic in 1919, finished in Light Aircraft Grey overall (I have seen a Superscale sheet on the same subject). They are printed by Cartograf in good colour density and registration. Not having used them on this kit, but a bit of Red strip on another, I can say they seem a bit stiff but they perform acceptably.

The Xtradecals ones are excellent, if a bit translucent; that gives an “instant fading” effect! They lack a bit in the way of stenciling, but, if you are using a “normal” FG.1/FGR.2 as a base kit, you’ll have no trouble.


 Phantoms are (were) awesome looking aircraft, oozing brutish power. British ones are a bit of an oddity, and the early ones look like “a Phantom in a Hunter’s disguise”, with those camouflage and markings. The model, as a project, is very attractive, with lots of possibilities, and when finished it certainly looks quite good. However, it entails much more effort than anticipated. That is, unless you are prepared to leave the cockpit strictly “as is”; maybe with the hoods closed or some Harfoot pilot in it. 


-      JBaugher website (historical notes)

-     “British Phantoms. The Phantom FGR.2 (F-4M) of the RAF in Germany”, Wilfried Zetsche and Marcus Herbote, Airdoc Aircraft Documentations.

-     “Modelling the F-4 Phantom II”, Geoff Coughlin and Neil Ashby, Osprey Modelling, Osprey Publishing.

Fernando Rolandelli

July 2008

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