Collect-Aire 1/32 Northrop T-38A Talon






See Review


Mike Idacavage


Resin kit


From the time that the Northrop T-38 Talon first flew in April 1959, this aircraft has played a significant role in the US Air Force. Even though the last airframe rolled off the assembly line in 1972, the Talon is very much a significant part of the training curriculum for an Air Force pilot. However, the almost 1200 airframes have done much more than serving as the introduction to fast flight. The T-38 has been seen by millions over the years in the colors of the USAF Thunderbirds, as the chase and proficiency aircraft for NASA, and performed in the adversary role for the US Navy and Air Force. Of course, the Talon has also found a home outside the US with Germany, Portugal, Taiwan and Turkey flying the T-38. For an aircraft with such visibility and that fact that more Air Force pilots have flown the T-38 than just about any other aircraft, it is amazing that this aircraft has not been represented in kit form up to now. There are several kits in 1/72 and 1/48 scale that are listed as T-38s, but in all cases the model is a somewhat modified F-5B. This situation has now changed with the release of a T-38A in 1/32 scale by Collect-Aire. The model represents a true T-38A and not a converted F-5B.


The model is packaged in a standard, strong Collect-Aire box with a print of a painting of a T-38A on the cover. The kit is molded in a fine, yellow cast resin with some detail parts in white metal. There are approximately 70 plus parts in this kit. The parts are packaged in a multiple of smaller plastic bags to prevent damage. The surface looks smooth and I have not found any surface resin bubbles that need filling. In addition, my kit came with not one but three Vacuform canopies. Yea! It is always a nice touch to have an extra canopy or two in case the modeling gremlins strike while you are cutting the canopy from the carrier sheet. The fuselage is split vertically and is hollow. In fact, if it was not in a resin yellow color, it could pass as an injection molded fuselage. There appears to be no surprises in the manner that the kit builds up as the sequence follows a standard injection molded aircraft kit. The cockpit is composed of 27 pieces and has the early style of ejection seats. A really nice touch from Collect-Aire is the inclusion of a notice with this kit that the people who had designed this kit will be casting an "Improved Northrop Seat" for this model and that Collect-Aire will be sending the seat upgrades to the builder as soon as they become available. The seats that come with the kit are made up of seven pieces and look rather nice as is. The cockpit instrument and side panels have molded in detail and need only some dry brushing to make them stand out. There is also a small clear plastic sheet and template for cutting out the inter-canopy blast frame glass.

The model can be built with the canopy open or closed and the speed brakes open or closed. The white metal parts are for the landing gear and are some of the best white metal castings that I have seen. One change that I plan on making is to substitute the resin pitot tube on the front of the nose with one scratch built from tubing or large needle. I am not sure how long a resin pitot tube will survive on my modeling bench! The wing is molded as one piece and looks to be in-scale in respect to overall thickness.

Along with the model itself is a builders guide containing the kit instructions and a separate T-38 color reference guide. This last booklet is an eight page color reference guide for the different markings that come with the kit. What about the markings, you may ask? Collect-Aire has done an outstanding job when selecting the markings for a jet that has been used in so many different schemes. They have included decals to do a total of 6 different style of markings for the Talon! These markings are spread out over 4 (!) different decal sheets and look to be printed well. To start, there are three different versions of the NASA T-38. This is definitely my favorite. One can build the Talon with the early yellow tail band, NASA Wurm markings or the current style vector markings. For the vector aircraft, one has a choice of 4 different aircraft in this scheme, differing only in registration and pilot names. There is only one set of decal stripes for the NASA Talons so the registration for the 6 different aircraft are printed separately on small segments of blue stripes. All the modeler has to do is cut out a small section of solid stripe and add the segment containing the registration of choice. Probably the most visually stunning of the markings included with this kit are those for the USAF Thunderbirds. It looks like all of the red and blue markings are included for this version. The markings only include those for the number 1 Thunderbird aircraft. The next Talon covered in the kit is an all black T-38 flown at Holloman AFB. The T-38s flown at Holloman are used for proficiency training for the F-117 pilots. Having seen these aircraft in the past, I must say that the scheme fits the Talon well! The last set of markings included with the kit are for markings for a Talon used for student training by the ATC. Along with the primary markings, there are a whole host of smaller detail decals for suitable for each version.

Now for the big question that I have been asked since I received this kit. Is it worth it? My answer is a clear yes! This may be one of the best Collect-Aire kits issued. The kit is designed well and the moldings are of high quality. The price is getting up there ($ 189.95), but it is a good value for the money in my opinion. It is the only T-38 available and will look outstanding in this scale. I have waited a long time for a decent model of a T-38 and I am happy to report that Collect-Aire met my expectations. I brought this kit to my local IPMS chapter meeting for some additional comments. Coincidently, the theme of the meeting was 1/32 jets, so the Talon received a lot of discussion. The kit was reviewed very favorably at the meeting, with several modelers planning on adding it to their collection. The most significant problem that I can see with this model is that with the great decals in the kit, Iíll have to save up and buy a second copy so I can do a Talon with different markings!

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