Revell/Hasegawa 1/32 F-5E Tiger II 'Swiss'

KIT #: 4720
PRICE: $39.95 MSRP
DECALS: See review
REVIEWER: Jeff  Brundt
NOTES: 2 Bobs decals and Black Box cockpit used. Both OOP.

HISTORY

In 1970 Northrop won a competition for an improved International Fighter Aircraft (IFA) to replace the F-5A. The resultant aircraft, initially known as F-5A-21, subsequently became the F-5E. It was lengthened and enlarged, with increased wing area and more sophisticated avionics (the F-5A and -B had no radar). Various specific avionics fits could be accommodated at customer request. Unlike the gunless F-5B, it retained a single M39 cannon in the nose, albeit with a reduced ammunition capacity. A reconnaissance version, the RF-5E Tigereye, with a sensor package in the nose displacing the radar and one cannon, was also offered. The latest radar upgrade included mapping capability, however, most nations chose not to upgrade due to financial reasons, and the radar only saw very limited service in USAF aggressor squadrons and Swiss air force.

In 1968 The US Navy instituted a formal Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT) program in, with the formation of the US Navy Postgraduate Course in Fighter Weapons Tactics and Doctrine at NAS Miramar, which is better known as Top Gun. This program was established in response to a relatively poor air-to-air combat result over Vietnam--the kill ratio being only about 2 to 1 in favor of the Navy, which was far from satisfactory. The first course began in March of 1969.

At first, the emphasis was placed on close-in air-to-air dogfighting, which had previously been de-emphasized in favor of missile launches, but it later became recognized that it might be useful to fly against a dissimilar type of adversary aircraft in the simulated dogfights. This would force students to pay closer attention to the equipment flown by the enemy--recognizing its strong points and looking for any weaknesses.

At first, Douglas A-4 Skyhawk attack aircraft were used as the adversary trainers, since the aircraft was small, highly-maneuverable, and well suited to replicate the Soviet fighters of the day. The adversary Skyhawks were painted with camouflage schemes that approximated those of potential enemies. The Skyhawks were later joined by Northrop T-38A Talon trainers.

This program was successful in improving the Navy's kill ratio in combat over Vietnam, and by 1972, the Navy's kill ratio in air-to-air combat had jumped to about 12 to 1. The success of the program resulted in the TOPGUN program being elevated in status to that of a separate establishment in July 1, 1972, when it formally adopted the title Navy Fighter Weapons School. At the same time, it was decided to expand the Top Gun program beyond NFWS at Miramar, and the Navy set up dedicated full-time adversary squadrons at NAS Oceana, Virginia and at NAS Miramar, California.

VFC-13 began its life in 1946 when VF-753 was commissioned and began flying the F6F Hellcat. Today's squadron was formed on September 1, 1973 at NAS New Orleans when the US Navy was reorganizing the US Naval Reserve. The squadron first flew the F-8 Crusader. In April 1974 they transitioned to the A-4 Skyhawk. The demand for west coast adversary squadrons and other fleet support missions meant the squadron was moved to NAS Miramar in February 1976, that summer they transitioned from the A-4L to the two seat TA-4J. In 1983 they returned to single-seat aircraft when they transitioned to the A-4E, and in 1988 they upgraded to the more powerful A-4F. (Editor's note: Throughout the Skyhawk era, the unit always had at least two TA-4Js.)

In October 1993 VFC-13 transitioned to the F/A-18 Hornet which further enhanced the squadron's ability to perform its adversary mission by providing an even more capable and realistic threat aircraft. When the Navy relocated the Naval Fighter Weapons School, or TOPGUN, the squadron transferred to NAS Fallon in April 1996 and also transitioned to the F-5E Tiger II. The unit's mix of 23 F-5E, F-5F and F-5N aircraft are all painted in a variety of colorful adversary schemes of blue, gray, or brown camouflage. In January of 2006, VFC-13 established a permanent detachment of 12 aircraft at NAS Key West for East Coast training. Subsequently, in the fall of 2006, the VFC-13 Key West detachment was designated squadron VFC-111, with an assignment of one F-5F and 10 F-5N. In parallel, the eleven aircraft strength of VFC-13 at NAS Fallon was increased to 17 (still all F-5's).

VFC-13 provides quality adversary training for regular Navy fleet and replacement squadrons and air wings, reserve fighter and attack squadrons, U.S.A.F. and U.S.M.C. units, and Canadian forces. The Fighting Saints have received two consecutive C.N.O. Safety Awards, the Golden Wrench Maintenance Award, and in 1994, a Battle "E" award. 

THE KIT

In almost constant production for 25 years this is the only 32nd scale kit of the F-5E around. The kit, when purchased from an estate consignment at my local hobbyshop, was in the Revell of Germany boxing as a Swiss Tiger but it is all Hasegawa. The kit is molded in light gray styrene and has five sprues molded in light grey and a single sprue of clear parts. The kit is definitely of late 70’s vintage with raised panel lines, huge joint gaps/mismatches and sparse detail despite being in a newer boxing. RoG hasn’t done much to improve the original Hasegawa molding. The kit represents the F-5Es that came off the production line in the early 1970s. The kit includes the sharknose or ‘shovel-nosed’ radome that came out as a result of the F-5G/F-20 program.

Kit options are:

The kit also includes wing pylons, additional external tanks, and bombs that are found in Swiss service. The kit does include the RWR (radar warning receiver) fairings on the nose and tail section used on Swiss Tigers and were retained on these aircraft acquired by some the US Navy Aggressors (be sure to check references to make sure).  

CONSTRUCTION

 This is my RevellAG/Hasegawa F-5E “Sharknose” done up in VFC-13 colors using Two Bobs Aggressors decal sheet now, sadly OOP.

 This model was a battle from start to finish.

 Since I wanted to close up the gun bay on the nose I first had to fit the doors. I don’t think it was ever Hasegawa’s intent for you to close these up. The fit is terrible and gaps and mismatches abound. Copious amounts of bondo, styrene sheete, CA, Mr. Surfacer, Mr. Dissolved Putty along with repeated applications of each and lots of wet sanding were required to bring the moldline into shape.

 I used the Black Box resin cockpit. The kit tub isn’t that bad considering the vintage but the BB pit though does add quite a bit to the model and is an improvement over the kits offering. The BB pit is not a “drop-in” affair, however. Grinding and shaping of the resin tub is required to get it to fit properly inside the forward fuselage and allow the forward fuselage halves to join together without a gap. The glareshield requires some cutting of the kit and a few dry fits to make sure it installs properly. The cockpit was painted with Tamiya acrylics then given an enamel wash to ‘pop’ the details. The various knobs and switches were done with a fine brush, steady hand and keen eye.

 Fitting the forward fuse to the aft fuse requires a bit of putty, Mr. Surfacer and sanding getting things to spline correctly. You want to do this before you install the intakes though so you have good access to areas that will be limited when they are in place. The intakes too require putty and sanding to get them to fair in smoothly with the fuselage. I think by now I’ve used almost a whole tube of Squadron white putty on this beast.

 The wings were assembled and also needed some putty to conceal the join lines on the bottom side. I thought about dropping the flaps but I figured at this point I already had spent way more effort than I anticipated. With the wings done they were glued to the fuselage and more putty was needed to clean up the joints. (Are you starting to see a pattern here?) Even the vertical fin needed putty to hide seam lines.

 More putty, Mr. Surfacer and sanding sessions followed until the model was deemed ready for paint. It should be noted here that all during the sanding process the canopy retraction and extension mechanism that’s part of the BB cockpit was carefully accounted for so as to prevent damage to it. Unfortunately the best laid plans and intentions of modelers are often for naught. During one wet sanding session one of the mechanism arms was knocked off and sent spinning down the drain. I think the screams could have been heard 100 miles away by Scott Van Aken in central Illinois. At this point with all I had been through I was seriously considering putting the model through a wall. However, patience and calm persevered and I managed to scratch build a replacement from kit parts and some scrap styrene. Another disaster averted.

 I replace the kit pitot tube with some small diameter brass tubing and music wire. It runs the full length of the radome to the cockpit so there’s no chance of it breaking off.  

COLORS & MARKINGS

The model was first primed with Mr Surfacer 1000 followed by panel line shading with Floquil grimy black. Next an over all coat of PollyScale dark ghost grey was applied to the entire model. This is where the fun started. Using paper templates scaled up from the three views provided with the Two Bobs decal sheet I applied the masking for the cammo scheme. A few nights and several rolls of Tamiya tape later the masking was finished and it was time to apply the PollyScale Blue USQM 3-1. I’m not exactly sure what this color is and where it’s used in real life but it was the closest match I could find to the Two Bob’s color sheet. This was allowed to dry then the model was masked again for the radome and wheel wells. The radome was sprayed Tamiya flat black and the wheel wells were sprayed with Tamiya gloss white. After the paint dried overnight all the masking was removed. The results were quite spectacular. The aft, stainless steel area of the hot section was painted with various shades of Alclad II along with the exhaust nozzles.

 The decals were an old Two Bobs sheet I got from another modeling buddy via one of the forums. The Two Bobs sheet gives you options to do three different Aggressors and the data sheet is excellent with full color pictures and drawings. I particularly liked the two toned splinter scheme. The decals went on without trouble and needed just a bit of Solvaset to get them to conform.

 Now came all the fun parts like gear doors, landing gear struts, tires, etc. These were cleaned up, ejector pin holes filled (did I mention ejector pin marks abound on this kit….and in some most inconvenient places), sanded, seams removed and such then painted, weathered and made ready for assembly. The kit canopy is bare bones basic and doesn’t even have panel lines on it. It’s just a smooth piece of plastic. After polishing and dipping the canopy in future I installed the Black Box resin details (pre-painted with Tamiya dark grey and weathered) then applied BMF to the exterior for the aft doghouse portion (the kit canopy has no raised area to duplicate this), side frames and canopy arch. The clear portion was then masked off in prep for final paint.

 The airframe was now given a satin clear coat with PollyScale clear and final assembly commenced.  I scratch built the ACMI pod with one of the kits unused Sidewinders, the kit unused pitot probe and some music wire using reference photos from the web. It was painted international orange, black and silver and glued in place on the left wing tip launch rail. The wheel wells, landing gear, air brake bays and gear doors were given a black enamel wash to bring out the highlights. I assembled the kit’s boarding ladder and after a Mr. Surfacer white primer application is was painted yellow. The black, antiskid areas on the rungs were hand painted.  

CONCLUSIONS

 And there you have it…..a 1/32 version of a TOPGUN adversary aircraft. This model was a challenge from start to finish but in the end the effort was worth it. The BB cockpit is simply stunning and the color scheme really grabs your attention.

Jeff  Brundt

June 2008

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