Dragon 1/72 F-5E Lightning Recon

KIT: Dragon 1/72 F-5E Lightning Recon
KIT #: 5040
DECALS: Three Options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken


The Lockheed P-38 Lightning was a World War II American fighter aircraft. Developed to a United States Army Air Corps requirement, the P-38 had distinctive twin booms and a single, central nacelle containing the cockpit and armament. The aircraft was used in a number of different roles, including dive bombing, level bombing, ground strafing, photo reconnaissance missions, and extensively as a long-range escort fighter when equipped with droppable fuel tanks under its wings. The P-38 was used most extensively and successfully in the Pacific Theater of Operations and the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations, where it was flown by the American pilots with the highest number of aerial victories to this date. America's top ace Richard Bong earned 40 victories (in a Lightning he called Marge), and Thomas McGuire (in Pudgy) scored 38. In the South West Pacific theater, it was a primary fighter of United States Army Air Forces until the appearance of large numbers of P-51D Mustangs toward the end of the war.

The P-38 was the only American fighter aircraft in active production throughout the duration of American involvement in the war, from Pearl Harbor to VJ Day.

Lockheed modified 200 P-38J airframes in production to become unarmed F-5B photo-reconnaissance aircraft, while hundreds of other P-38Js and P-38Ls were field-modified to become F-5Es (the subject of this kit), F-5Fs, and F-5Gs.


It has been a very long time since Dragon has issued any of its Lightning kits and I believe this one is new (though I could be wrong). This one differs from the others in that the nose section is completely clear. The modeler will have to cut away some parts for the standard nose in order to install this one. Though there are some 'holes' in the sprues, it does appear that one could do a standard P-38J from this kit. I say a J as there are no anti-compression flaps molded on the bottom of the wings. These were pretty much standard on the P-38L model.

The kit itself is very nicely molded with well done engraved panel lines. It belies its 10 year plus age quite well, though I did note a teeny bit of flash in a few places. The kit  comes with a one piececanopy that is quite clear so you'll be able to show off the nicely detailed cockpit interior. There is also good detailing in the landing gear bays as well. No cameras are supplied, but really, you'll be using most if not all of that hollow nose to put in weight as the P-38 is a major tail sitter. A small photo etch fret is included for seat belts, elevator mass balances and two pieces that are not identified in the instructions. One looks like an interior floor or perhaps a nose well interior and the other is a small box shaped item.  The only real 'things under wings' this plane should have are the two drop tanks. The instructions have you drilling out the rocket rail mounts for the outer wings so you need to ignore that when you get to that section.

Instructions are nicely done and provide both Gunze and Model Master paint references. You do need to need to be aware of the one construction glitch. Apparently most Dragon instructions contain at least one goof like this. Markings are provided for three planes, all in unpainted metal finishes. The box art plane with the nice sharkmouth is from the 22nd PRS in 1944. The other two are from the7th Photo Group, also in 1944 and differentiated only by one having invasion stripes on the tail booms and serials. These latter have no other distinguishing markings. Decals look to be quite nice and should provide no surprises.


It is nice to see this in 1/72 scale. Previously, we have only had the old Revell P-38 kit to provide us with a photo recon variant so those who specialize in this type of plane will be pleased it has been released.



March 2008

My thanks to http://www.dragonmodelsusa.com for the preview kit. Get yours today at your local shop or ask them to order one for you.

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