Hasegawa 1/72 RF-4C 'USAF Special'

KIT #: 00787
PRICE: 2600 yen SRP
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: 2005 Limited Edition


In the early 1960s, the USAF recognized the need for more tactical reconnaissance aircraft to reinforce the RF-101s then in service. Realizing that the Navy had developed the best production fighter in the world and that speed was necessary for a good tactical reconnaissance plane, the USAF chose a modification of the F-4C fighter (itself a mildly modified Navy F-4B). The RF-4C development program began in 1962, and the first production aircraft made its initial flight on May 18, 1964. The Air Force officially accepted a total of 499 RF-4Cs.

The RF-4C could carry a variety of cameras in three different stations in its nose section. It could take photos at both high and low altitude, day or night. The RF-4C carried no offensive armament, although during the last few years of its service some were fitted with four AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles for defense. The aircraft was also not modified with any of the upgraded wing and stabilizer bits as maneuvering was not considered a desirable feature.

The 16th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron became the first operational unit to fly the RF-4C. In October 1965 that unit deployed to Southeast Asia to provide photographic reconnaissance of the growing conflict in South Vietnam. In the following years, RF-4Cs flew reconnaissance missions around the world, including Desert Shield/Desert Storm in Iraq in 1990-1991. The Air Force retired all of its RF-4Cs by 1995.


For 1/72 Phantom scale modelers, the Hasegawa kit is still the benchmark. There is always hope that a new tool Phantom will come from someone, but realistically, other than the cockpit and perhaps wheel wells, there is not all that much that can be improved upon. Like all their Phantom kits, this one is a bevy of inserts or alternate parts so that all the variants can be kitted.

The cockpit is probably the area that could use the most improvement. Instrument panels and side console instruments are simply decals, though one can go aftermarket with some nice etched brass sets to spruce things up. The seats are five pieces and look like the Martin-Baker seats used though without any harness.

As in many F-4 kits, the area forward of the wings is separate to handle the differences in that area. Since the RF-4B uses the same nose section, the air refueling probe doors will need to be filled. The kit does some with something to put in the camera bay, though it is basically just a shape. Both the earlier square and later later lower nose section is provided, though for this special boxing, the rounded one will be the one to choose. Also take note of the box art or photos of the real plane to determine which upper fuselage antennas to use. The small addendum sheet included with this kit only relates to the markings and not any bits used in the build.

This aircraft also used the F-15 style of centerline tank if it was carried. What was not carried were missile rails. To my knowledge, the 106 RS did not have them. The kit does come with the proper USN style wing pylons. These would have carried jamming pods during operations. The kit also includes inserts for the rear Sparrow bays as the RF-4C did not have those present.

Instructions are for the standard RF-4C boxing so one does have to pay attention to exactly which bits are needed on this particular build. The decals are nicely printed, but unfortunately, are old style Hasegawa decals with the white areas an ivory color so it would be best to seek aftermarket, even for this scheme. As a side note, I read an auction description that commented the decals had yellowed. Apparently the seller was unaware of the nuances of Hasegawa kit markings.


Though it is always a shame when Hasegawa uses their old style decals on what would be a very colorful model, such is the way things are. The kit itself is still an excellent build, though perhaps a tad fussy due to all the inserts. If the type is something you wish to model, then by all means pick up this or any other boxing and use aftermarket decals on it. It makes an excellent model for your Phantom collection.



March 2015

Thanks to me for the preview kit. You can find this kit at your favorite hobby shop or on-line retailer

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