Hobby Boss 1/72 F-5E Tiger II

KIT #: 80207
PRICE: 22 yuan RMB
DECALS: Four options


The Northrop F-5E is a well known aircraft, the follow up to the equally well-known, and well-liked, F-5A which first flew way back in 1959. The history of the plane is pretty well known too, so I won't rehash it here (see the wiki link at the bottom if you're unfamiliar with it). 
It might be less well known that Brazil's airforce is quite large - in fact, it's the biggest in South America, and the whole southern hemisphere. Indeed, it is bigger even than the Canadian air force, making it the 5th biggest air arm in the Americas after the US Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines. Amongst its fleet of 12 Mirage 2000 interceptors and 60 AMX International ground attack planes, 6 tankers and 4 UAV drones, amongst several hundred others, there are also 57 F-5E/Fs. These have flown with Brazil for almost 40 years, with first deliveries in 1975.
In recent years some of the Brazilian fleet have been modified to modern conditions. The F-5EM/FM standard includes Grifo radar, IFF, glass cockpit, GPS, helmet mounted displays, inflight refueling, a datalink, and night vision goggle compatability. The F-5EM can carry laser guided bombs and the Israeli Python AAM. I believe the upgraded version has a bigger radome, and it loses one nose cannon to make space for the improved equipment.

This is a decent kit, especially at the price I paid. It says "Re-edition" on the instructions. I am not sure what that's about. I have read some negative commentary on the HobbyBoss F-5 and can only guess that perhaps it was an early release from the company before it got its act together. Now - perhaps - it's been fixed up, hence the "re-edition" title. Total speculation on my part.
It has engraved panel lines, cockpit panel detail front and sides, a basic ejection seat, and some detail in the wheel wells and air brake bays. It comes with a couple of bombs that seem a little undersize but have extended fuses, two underwing and one centerline tank, and two nice Sidewinders. 

It has a pilot, who looks like an escapee from Area 51 who subsequently played himself as Orc #328 in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He has no business sitting in a fighter jet, at least not in this century.

The decals are nice and there are four options: two different US aggressor units, one from the USN in a brown scheme (VFC-13, no date), the other from the USMC in grey (VFMT-401 in 2006), as well as an overall grey Swiss jet (19 Squadron 1980) and a three-tone camo version from Brazil (1/1 Grupo de Caca, 1985).
There is some speculation that this is a repop of the Italeri kit. I don't think it is. For starters, the troglodyte pilot isn't in the Italeri kit (so far as I know) and second, the Italeri kit's seat is split down the middle. This one isn't. Maybe HobbyBoss got the mould from somewhere else or maybe they made it themselves. Who knows.

he tail seems a little inaccurate for the Brazilian aircraft. It should have a sort of leading edge root extension (yes I know those go on wings, but it seems like an apt description). If you look at the US and Swiss versions, the vertical tail goes straight into the fuselage spine, with just a gentle curve. On the Brazilian one, it seems to crank out first. This is clearly seen in the picture linked below. The instructions depict an aircraft from 1985 while the picture linked below was taken in 2005. Perhaps the aircraft changed in the interim.
Also, presumably you can't really build an upgraded version from this kit, at least not without a bit of hefty modification to the nose (although my cursory research couldn't find the true answer to that). But not every plane was upgraded and the linked picture from 2005 clearly shows a plane with two nose guns.
Paint instructions are very nicely done in full colour with four drawings per version. Paint references are in Mr Hobby, Vallejo, Model Master, Tamiya and Humbrol.

I started with the cockpit, using the provided decals for the instrument panel and side consoles. Mr Mark Softer worked well as it always does on HobbyBoss decals. Remember to put the two clear parts in the bottom half of the fuselage before assembling it. I added nose weight too. Fit is actually pretty good. I used a small amount of filler on the wing joins.  There are strange raised panels on either side of the nose, on the intake trunking and towards the exhaust. I don't know what that's about but I sanded them off. 
The intakes aren't hollow. You can either cut them out or paint them black. I didn't think of the former until I'd already glued on the intake openings, so I used the paint it black option. 
The intake area doesn't fit well to the fuselage and I spent a lot of effort here. Sadly I overcooked it on one side and sanded clear through the skin of the plane. If you look carefully at the left side intake rim you can see the mess I made. Rather than try to repair it I just tidied it up and figured no-one would notice. 
The underside fit is a bit weak too as you can see from the underside shot, especially around the wheel bay doors. 
I scratchbuilt the tailfin extension fillet thing from plastic card. It isn't as thick as maybe it should be, and let's be honest my effort wasn't the most professional. If building the Brazilian version you should also add the tail-top sensor pod. I scratched one up before realising the kit actually includes a part for that. 
The kit's cockpit is ok - there's a nice decal for the instrument panel - but the seat is very basic. Some basic research led me to believe that Brazilian F-5Es now have the Martin Baker Mk10 seat and conveniently enough the only place in this country I know to get Pavla products had one. It cost me more than this kit, though still a very fair price, and the comparison is a bit unfair considering how little this kit cost.

The figure in a couple of my photos is an Esci/Italeri pilot from their NATO ground crew set (very worthwhile set with lots of useful figures).

The kit comes with some not-so-good Mk 82 bombs, some decent AIM-9s, a centerline and two smaller underwing tanks. I used the missiles, but not the bombs, replacing them with some better Mk 82s from an Academy A-37B kit. After asking around, it seemed centerline tank was the way to go, and although I usually build my models clean, I tooled this one up with a full load.

The colours called for are Mr Color light green (H303), forest green (H309) and "brown" (H310). I used them all to make the camouflage scheme, hand brushing by freehand. I masked off the lighter grey undersides to get a decent demarcation line. I didn't use the grey the instructions suggested but went with a lighter one (H338). It may not quite be the right colour but it looks okay to me.
At the tail end I used a Mr Color stainless metallic paint and buffed it with a tissue after drying to get it to shine. Later I realised that there are two pods on the side there, which might be sensor pods and therefore may not be silver. Too late! The missile stripes are free-handed paint.
The decals are typical HobbyBoss quality - they go on easily and work well with Mr Mark Softer. 


I ummed and ahhed for a while before buying this and felt there weren't many helpful reviews online to assist my decision. That's why I've prepared this one, even though I admit my build is not the greatest ever. But if you can get it for a reasonable price, I see no reason why you couldn't enjoy this HobbyBoss F-5. It has a good choice of decals, is generally an easy enough build for anyone prepared to use a bit of basic modeling skill, and looks the part.

Great photo: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Brazilian_Air_Force_F-5M.jpg
Compare this one for difference in tail fin: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:F-5N_from_VFC-111_Sundowners_taxiing.jpg

Richard F

November 2013

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