Airfix 1/72 F-5A (N156F)
KIT #: ?
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Carmel J. Attard


The F-5 was the outcome of a project begun by Northrop with the aim of developing a small lightweight supersonic fighter that would be substantially cheaper than its contemporaries of similar performance. Construction of three N156Fs began in May 1958 as a private venture, which was subsequently backed by the US Department of Defence. The first of these flew on July 30, 1959. Production contract was placed for N-156s to be supplied as the F-5A and RF-5A single seat and F-5B two-seat. The latter offers conversion training capability, under mutual aid programme to the smaller nations militarily allied with the USA, to countries as Nationalist China, Korea, Philippines, Thailand, South Vietnam, Greece, Turkey, Netherlands, Spain, Norway among others.

The all-purpose fighter under the designation F-5A was powered two General Electric J85-GE-13 turbojets. These rated at 3,050 lb.s.t. dry and 4,080 lb.s.t. with afterburner. The first prototype was scheduled to join the test programme in January 1963.The prototype undergone a number of tests adopted for the type in various missions and the production aircraft being scheduled for completion by summer of the same year. The N156F or F5A was to be the recipient of potentially large orders as the F-84F Thunderjets, RF-84F Thunderflash and F86F Sabres operated by NATO and SEATO air arms are phased out.

  The production version had seven external stores stations rather than the five originally fitted. Back in those days the cost was reportedly to be £160,000 and £216,000 according to equipment installed. Considerable effort was expected to reduce maintenance time and cost. 25% of fuselage area was devoted to access doors for the quick-release type, and were stressed than bolted doors are used. These embodying small, easily removable access panels so that the line mechanic can inspect, adjust and lubricate without removing main doors. The whole of rear fuselage, including the tail plane is detachable to provide access for servicing and removal of the engine.

 More improved versions continued to evolve. Among these, a version known as the F-5-21 had up-rated engines and many new other features produced to the USAF contract as the F-5E for American allies. An F-5B fitted with experimentally with J85-GE-21s rated at 5,000 lb.s.t. was first flown on March 28th, 1969. It entered service with many countries and rendered stalwart service with a good number of air forces that had the earlier version in service.


 A somewhat primitive model when compared with the F-5 models of production version released in later years by other kit manufacturers. However it is ideal for producing a model of the prototype version of the F-5. Moulded in silver plastic and issued with one decal set consisting of an F5A in service with the Imperial Iranian Air Force pre 1980 era in an all metal finish. Decal was clearly printed and of correct register. There are two, clear, very basic parts that form the canopy, which is rather thick in section and of poor fit. Ejection seat was replaced, as the one issued is far from what one should expect. Undercarriage doors were also on the thick side in section and I needed to sand them down.


 Another straightforward kit build. Trimming of fins from almost all items is the first step forward and that is when the parts start to take their rightful shape. There were parts that definitely needed replacement with others borrowed from more recent F-5 kit releases. These include the nose and main wheels, wheel well doors and detailed cockpit interior along with a more representative ejection seat. Other detail made to the instrument panel and side console. Seat belts were made from narrow strips of masking tape painted in light brown colours. Nose pointed aerial replaced with a metal one. Two under wing tanks were borrowed from those of another kit. These were modified having shortened overall length and aft fins added.

 Fitting the canopy required a small amount of filler, as there was a gap at the rear. Under fuselage pylon was added from scrap piece of thick, shaped plastic card. The wing pylons came from one found in Italeri kit. These were repositioned to a station closer to the fuselage and are 12.5 mm from the wing tips. Other extra work involved replacing the two nose guns with metal ones, Nose wheel well opened and rebuilt deeper, scored panel lines at top and bottom of wings, and added nose landed light which was engraved under forward fuselage. Engine exhaust nozzles appear to be of correct size and were retained.


I went for the prototype version of the F-5 as I had the markings ready made on Micro Scale decal sheet 72-104 Northrop F-5A ‘Asia’. The model was airbrushed in Model Master silver. Only the nose cone and anti glare panel were black. Area at nose, rear fuselage and wing tips were day glow orange. These had an undercoat of white first. Central fuselage pylon was also day glow in accordance with a colour picture that I had.

 Decals that came from Micro Scale Adopted for the Northrop N156F consisted of the legend ‘Freedom Fighter’, a tail motif that is in the shape of a scythe, which then I figured it to be a ‘speed bird’, and the tail serial number. Some stencil decals also came from same sheet.  The Prototype F-5 did not carry any USAF or star and bar markings. These decals are over 30 years since when bought and to ensure these did not break when immersed in water I have given them a coat of clear lacquer and this worked 100%. A small silver decal was added to the back of tail serial 94987 at the portion that comes over the day glow area on the tail fin. The danger stripes markings are kit decals. Black narrow stripes applied over wings and white fuel tanks were cut from solid black decal using steel rule and a sharp Exacto blade. An overall coat of Klear was applied and this sealed the decals in place.


 I always wanted to build the prototype version of the popular F-5 fighter ever since I have seen a colour picture of it in a Flying Review issue dated 1960. Micro Scale decal simplified matters, as it was the ideal decal for this model. This was another colourful models coming from the mid 50s to late 60s era which is meant to be the most colourful days ever for military aircraft types in my opinion.

Carmel J. Attard

January 2013

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