Hasegawa 1/72 F-4EJ Kai Phantom II “Air Combat Meet 2007”

KIT #: 00888
PRICE: $25.00 or so back when new as new 1/72 Hasegawa Phantoms are in the $40-50 range.
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Fernando Rolandelli
NOTES: Assemble with care

HISTORY

Being an F-4 operator since 1968, with 140 machines on strength, the Japan Air Self Defense Force looked to extend its life into the ‘90s and possibly beyond, until the F-2 could take over. Airframe life was extended from 3000 to 5000 flyng hours, the APG-66J radar was added, as well as other 47 new sub-systems. AIM-7E/F Sparrows were kept as main air-to-air armament, adding AIM-9L/P Sidewinder capability and the ability to carry the AN/ALQ-131 ECM pod. The aircraft is a veritable fighter-bomber, prejudice to Japanese machines carrying “offensive” armaments being lifted. It can carry a variety of indigenous weapons, such as the ASM-1 antiship missile, and the Mk 82 and JM-117 modified with the GCS-1 laser guidance kit, though you would rarely if ever see this loads in pictures. Indigenous AAMs were also tested, like the AAM-3 (kind of AIM-9X) and the AAM-4 (equivalent to the -120), but only the first one is seen in pictures. Maneuvering slats were ruled out because of the cost. The conversion is probably not so radical as, say, Greek Peace Icarus 2000 or German F-4F ICE Phantoms, but the increment in capability is substantive.

Ninety-six out of the surviving 125 -4EJs were upgraded. Seventeen of the remaining were adapted to recce role under the designation RF-4EJ Kai (not to be confused with the RF-4Es!) These machines display the same airframe as the -4EJ Kai, with same armament capability, exception made of the cannon (though the fairing is in place!), and an AN/APQ-172 radar. They are devoid of any internal recce equipment, but they can carry a large Mitsubishi ELINT pod on the center line pylon. They are usually confused for fighter models in picture captions (see some of the sources quoted to believe!) Best bet to identify them in a picture is looking for the typical Japanese tactical recce camouflages and the “Woodpecker” insignia of the 501st Hikotai on the tail.

THE KIT

The Hase family of 1/72nd Phantoms are fine kits, though their “multimould” nature makes them a careful build. I especially like the separate intake plate, cockpit, seats (though both need a PE set), and surface detail. Decals, in this case for 301st and 302nd Sqn. machines in gaudy (and gaudier!) schemes, are first rate, though a bit thick. Armament is absolutely absent, and should be sourced from somewhere else; in this case, an AAM-3 taken from the Hasegawa JASDF weapons set. Not using any PE set, I threw in two Quickboost seats.

CONSTRUCTION

This model was actually built for a friend of mine, an Aussie diplomat colleague here at Nairobi, so I planned it from the start as a “desktop” model, i.e., to be displayed at his office desk on a permanent base under a display case, and possibly subjected to non-specialized cleaning and caring. Therefore, I ruled out opened canopies, and chose to simplify undersurfaces detailing.

Interior went first, building up the sidewalls and HUD from scratch; however, I chose to use the kit’s decals for the instrument panels and consoles, though I strongly suspect that they show the normal EJ dashboards; under a closed hood they look just fine. I added the prominent throttle levers and a lot of cables and electrical boxes. I also added the tiny reinforcement strips at the nose radome, a Kai feature the manufacturer chose to miss (the actual radome in E model kits is a separate part, so they could have moulded a specific one for the Kai).

Airframe construction was as expected, a bit cumbersome because of the many parts in which it is built up from, but that’s model building, I guess. I am a poor assembler who relies more in putty and sandpaper than in proper dry fitting and aligning of the parts, and that approach really doesn’t work that well in these kits. However, the model was eventually assembled, corrected, primed and preshaded.

COLORS & MARKINGS

Painting

After decades wearing the bland Air Defense scheme of FS 16440/White, JASDF Phantoms have blossomed out in many interesting camouflage schemes, sometimes made even gorgeous with Air Combat Meet special paintings. This machine displays a kind of “Ghost” scheme in FS 36320/36375 with the extraordinary 302nd “Kandinsky Eagle” on the tail and the head of a… dragon?... on the nose. The camo was painted in WEMMs colors with hard liquid masks, which look fine in this scale, if you do not overstress the separation lines between the colours, in mottle fashion over the preshading, giving a realistic “dirty” look. The amazing retouching over the panel lines was made by simply hand brushing them in a mix including 35237, then sanding them a little and overspraying them lightly in 36320 for blending. It worked. Exhaust areas and cans were painted in Alclad Aluminium and Magnesium, with MM Gun Metal and a dry-brush of Greys and Tans on the cans themselves. The interior of these received the usual “petals” made of Tamiya tape, an easy trick which looks invariably good.

Decals

Kit’s decals are high quality if a bit thick, but this would not show under a displaying case. Stencils are mercifully bunched together in a most sensible way, relieving the modelers of many hours of sweating, though that means more carrier film to show silvering. No decal solutions were used, everything was made to set by the “hot flannel” trick.

FINAL CONSTRUCTION

Having the canopies closed and fitted from the start meant an uneventful final construction, these being most difficult parts to align. I added the landing gear, gear doors (the angle of the front one is subjected to suspicion) and the armament: the F-15-style central tank, painted 36118 (actually Panzer Grey) and the AAM-3 painted as a training round.

Having used Xtracrilix varnishes as topcoats, the model was safely washed in a very thinned MM Raw Umber and Black, and that was it. No postshading of any kind. 

CONCLUSIONS

Not a weekend project, and certainly a gruesome sight at some stages of the construction, as a finished product the Hasegawa 1/72nd Phantoms always look good. This one certainly tired me a little, but I can still recommend them and shall surely build a couple more.

REFERENCES

-         A. Baugher website (wonderful historical data)

-         The Mc Donnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, Part 3: Overseas Operators”, Andy Evans, SAM Publications (mainly a source of pictures, including this very machine).

-         Koku Fan magazine (being in Japanese language, this was of little help except for pictures, again including this machine)

-         Tamiya magazine

Fernando Rolandelli

January 2009

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