Hasegawa 1/48 F-104G Starfighter 'NATO Fighter'
|PRICE:||2400 yen when new|
|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
|NOTES:||2000 limited edition|
While the F-104 had originally been designed as point defense interceptor, typical of many aircraft, it was developed into something more. While the USAF purchased and operated 153 of the earlier F-104A, It wasn't really what they wanted. 77 F-104Cs were then built that incorporated the ability to carry bombs, but still, it did not provide the payload wanted and like the earlier F-104A, these were soon relegated to operations by the Air National Guard.
Lockheed then went on to develop the F-104G, none of which were bought by the USAF. However, Lockheed's aggressive marketing resulted in 1,122 aircraft produced as multi-role fighter-bombers. Manufactured by Lockheed, and under license by Canadair and a consortium of European companies which included Messerschmitt/MBB, Dornier, Fiat, Fokker, and SABCA. The type featured strengthened fuselage and wing structure, increased internal fuel capacity, an enlarged vertical fin, strengthened landing gear with larger tires, and revised flaps for improved combat maneuvering. Upgraded avionics included a new Autonetics NASARR F15A-41B radar with air-to-air and ground mapping modes, the Litton LN-3 Inertial Navigation System (the first on a production fighter), and an infrared sight.
The type had a very checkered early career with the Bundeswaffe as pilots used to the much more easy to fly F-84s and F-86s were not ready for the much more pilot intensive F-104s. A rather large percentage of these planes were lost with rather high casualties. Some WWII era pilots in the Bundeswaffe at the time felt the aircraft were dangerous. However the truth was that the pilots needed to be properly trained in Starfighter operation and once that was in full swing, accidents dramatically decreased and it turned into one of the safest aircraft operated by the Germans. Interestingly, none of the other operators had the sort of troubles experienced by the Germans.
When Hasegawa first released this kit back in 2000 as the F-104J, it was a kit that was much sought by enthusiasts. Prior to this only Monogram had a decent 1/48 F-104, but this kit put that one to pasture and is still the best available in the scale.
Were this kit to be molded today, one would have found it to be quite modular, especially the fuselage, to take care of the earlier version with the smaller rudder and the two seat version. However, Hasegawa did not do that molding complete fuselage halves save the nose cone, for all the major versions. For that, many of us are quite grateful. The kit includes a complete cockpit with tub, eleven piece ejection seat control stick, and rear bulkhead. The detailing on the instrument panel and side consoles is raised and Hasegawa provides a decal for these areas as well. Two different seats are provided depending on which markings option you are using, the German seat being different from the Dutch and Italian one.
The nose gear well is incorporated into a lower front fuselage insert while the main gear is assembled of several pieces and glued into one fuselage half. Both the main and nose gear are held in place by vinyl bushings. Wings have separate flaps, ailerons and slats though these are to glued in the neutral position. There are separate speed brakes which can be modeled open if one wishes. I particularly like that the main wheel hubs are separate from the tire, making painting a lot easier. The main gear legs include the brake lines and the main gear doors are bulged. The kit included two different burner cans with the German option getting a longer version.
Tip tanks are each a five piece construct and one has to drill each one for a formation light. There is a separate windscreen, canopy and back-lite though it appears this is to be modeled closed. The only weapons pylon offered is a centerline one and there is nothing to put on it.
Markings are provided for three planes. One is the box art plane from JBG 32 of the Bundeswaffe in 1983 carrying special markings. Next is an Italian Air Force plane with 6 Stormo and finally a Dutch plane with 312 Squadron. Though the instructions show all the upper camo colors to be the same, I think there were differences in shade between each nation's planes as they were built by different factories. The decal sheet is very large and contains complete data markings. These are 'old school' Hasegawa decals in that they are relatively thick and the whites are off-white. However, very hot water should work just fine. As a note, the sheet includes both a complete tail markings for the JBG 32 plane or separate bits in case you'd rather paint the white background. This isn't a bad idea as you'll have to paint the tip tanks anyway.
Looking back I find it pretty amazing that I've only built two Hasegawa F-104s. One two seat version in 1/48 and one Italian plane in 1/72. These really are great kits that go together with minimal fuss and are highly recommended.
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Thanks to my stash for the preview kit.
If you would like your product reviewed fairly and fairly quickly, please contact the editor or see other details in the Note to Contributors.
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