Matchbox 1/72 CF-116D/F-5B Freedom Fighter

KIT #: PK-39 (1986)
PRICE: $Currently OOP
DECALS: Two Options
REVIEWER: Victor Scheuerman
NOTES: This is the 1991 Revell boxing with better decals and single color molding


The ‘Freedom Fighter’ was the outcome of a 1954 decision by Northrop to produce a cheaper lightweight fighter that could challenge the performance of more expensive rivals. The end result, the F-5 (A single seat, B two-seat) was initially exported as Mutual Aid Program equipment to Greece, Turkey, Nationalist China, Philippines, Iran and South Korea. 

 The F-5B was also widely exported with examples being used by Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Ethiopia, Jordan, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Thailand, South Vietnam and Venezuela.  Both the F-5A and F-5B would also be produced under license in both Canada and Spain.  

 Northrop’s initial models used two General Electric J85-GE-13 turbojets that would result in a maximum speed of 925 M.P.H. at 36,000 feet. Though the F-5B was a trainer, it could carry the full external load of 6,200 pounds of ordinance like the single seater, though it lacks the latter’s two 20 MM cannons. One of the criticisms of this basic jet is its short range and because of this, it almost always carries its signature ‘Coke-bottle’ wing-tip tanks.  


Matchbox’s version of this widely exported trainer encompasses a total of 42 parts including a clear one-piece canopy. The external surface is a combination of both raised (petit) and engraved panel lines with the latter not quite their normal ‘trench’ depths. A very basic cockpit is offered with two almost adequate ejections seats and the rear instrument panel console.

 External stores include two bombs for the underwing pylons and the option of Sidewinders (poor interpretations) or the fuel tanks (nicely captures their unique shape) for the wing tips. Matchbox did a good job on the landing gear with the main struts having their almost scale retraction arms molded in place and the wheels feature some detail. However, as normal, the gear doors are rather thick and should be replaced with card or sanded thinner.  

 As this is a Revell boxing the nine assembly steps are well illustrated with detail colours notes offered at each step. In addition, the two decal options are very well covered with each having four views showing the camouflage pattern (Canadian) and decal locations.

Again, because this is a Revell boxing the decals are quite nice for both options.

 A  Canadian “Aggressor” is the first option and Red 02 (box art shows Red 07!) and this features a wrap around scheme that requires mixing both of the recommend colours. I would question this scheme as it may be the Faux Pas II Scheme of Grey 36473 and Blue 35550 that was only carried by Red 06.  This aircraft also features the small size national insignia.   A Norwegian is the second option, but I would also question the recommend over all white finish (should be sprayed aluminum?). In addition to full size national insignia, it features the unit emblem on the tail. Basic stencils are provided for both aircraft and the false canopy for the bottom of the aggressor is also included. 


While the ESCI/Italeri is a much better two seat F-5 in this scale, the Matchbox kit does come out ahead of the Hasegawa and Pioneer alternatives.  

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