Zhengdefu 1/48 F-111E






One aircraft


Scott Van Aken




The F-111 program started as the infamous TFX project of the late 1960s. This was under the tutelage of then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. A one time CEO of a car company, McNamara foresaw a single plane that was able to provide different needs for both the USAF and the USN. The Air Force needed a strategic/tactical bomber capable of being very fast. The Navy needed a fast fleet interceptor to use with its new long-range Phoenix missiles that were under development. The end result, thanks to commonality, was a plane that was too small for the Air Force and too large for the Navy.

After going through the motions of development and fleet trials, the Navy finally managed to convince the politicians that this plane was NOT what the Navy wanted. It was way too big and too complex for carrier duty. However, a plus was that it did help to develop the Phoenix missile that was used on what the Navy really wanted, the F-14 Tomcat.

The Air Force kept with it, seeing in the F-111 a plane that would make for a great strike interdictor, despite its size. It was a plane that could be integrated into SAC with the FB-111 version and in TAC with the other variants. However, the complexity of the plane nearly did it in. During operations where six F-111As were sent to Southeast Asia for operational testing in Vietnam, three of them were lost. Bad press followed as it does any technologically advanced plane like the F-111. You can see similar things with the Osprey program in the Marine Corps today.

 After all, the F-111 was the first production plane to have not only swing wings but also terrain-hugging radar/autopilot. In fact, the autopilot was probably the cause. It hugged the terrain so closely that every little hump and dip was transferred to the airframe. A method of smoothing out the roughness of the flight eventually was developed and with less stress on the airframe, fewer problems were the result.

Eventually, the F-111 was developed as the C model with long wings for Australia and then the D, E, and F short wing versions for the USAF. These provided sterling service and became very capable long range strike aircraft. Older F-111A models were developed into EF-111As using the electronics suite from the EA-6B. When the FB-111A was retired, several were modified as F-111Gs though their service was short. Eventually, the cost of maintaining these planes was such that they were retired to the boneyard, still with many useful hours on the airframes. Now the only F-111s you will find are those with the RAAF, that service having both F-111Cs and ex-USAF F-111Gs.



What we have here is yet another ripoff of an accomplished model. In this case it is the Academy F-111 series. Though I have not built the Academy kit, from what Grenville Davies says, it is not an easy build. However, the results of his build belie the difficulty of the kit.

However you look at it, you really get your money's worth on this kit. Hobby Lobby has a bunch of these Zengdefu kits and none are more than $12. Face it, when was the last time you got this much plastic for so little. It makes one wonder how successful these will be in the US market, especially since the plastic is the same as the host kit, though for well under half the cost. You do pay for it in the form of pretty basic instructions and, in this case, terrible decals.

Modelers with experience can get around the instructions. After all, are they not sort of a guide or suggestion to most of us? Beginners may have troubles with them, but then they aren't as fussy as some of us older types. There are some generic color callouts and FS numbers are used in the overall camo scheme diagram at the end. The decals are a nightmare. They are not for any specific plane and are very poorly done. Crisp they aren't and the letters/numbers are in a font that almost looks hand painted! If you buy this kit, you'll need aftermarket decals. Anyone know of a sheet?

Review kit courtesy of me and my wallet!

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