Trumpeter 1/72 F-5E Tiger II




($7.00 at North American Hobbies)


Two aircraft


Scott Van Aken


Hey, it's an engraved Italeri kit!


Here's a trivia question for you. What was the last US designed fighter that had more overseas sales than those bought by US forces. If you guessed the F-5E, you'd be right. Since that period of time, mass purchase by the US military has been a requirement for any aircraft that has a target at overseas sales. The demise of the vastly superior F-20 only went to prove that. Though a superb short range interceptor with excellent ground attack capabilities, the F-20 was doomed as the USAF refused to purchase any and Congress prevented any of the 'good stuff' from being part of an export package.

The F-5E was an improved F-5A and developed by Northrop into a very good and relatively inexpensive point defense interceptor and light ground attack aircraft. Not only was the type proven in combat in Vietnam, but it was sold to a number of countries who were very happy with the product and some continue to fly it to this day. In the US, the type is still being used as an aggressor with USN adversary squadrons who train in dissimilar air combat.


If you think this is deja vu all over again then you are probably correct. The first thing I noticed when the box was open was, 'hey, this is the Italeri kit, only engraved'. Well, basically that is exactly what it is. I see very little difference in the sprues over what was produced 15-20 years ago by Italeri. The engraving is a touch heavy, but some of that will be toned down by paint.

Now this isn't exactly the same. There are a few differences. For one thing, there is a pilot figure; I don't remember Italeri including that. There is also some detail on the side consoles and the instrument panel; I don't remember that being there either. I also don't remember bombs being included. In all other respects, it is pretty much the same. The clear bits are fair with some detritus embedded in the lower aft part of the canopy. The canopy is also a bit thick at the top giving it a slightly 'flattened' look.

Well, let us take a look at the molding on this one. There is a bit of flash on a few of the parts, but it could also be heavy mold seams as well. There are ejector pin holes  on the wings by the pylon holes, the inside of the main landing gear, the fins and body of the missiles, and the fins of the bombs. Some of these are rather deep so just sanding down the part won't fix them. Sink marks were found on the wings and fuselage. The wings have them around the wheel wells (which have very nice detail, by the way), and the upper fuselage half has them opposite alignment pin areas where the plastic is thick. Again, filler will take care of them.

Instructions are very good and give paints in Tamiya colors. No FS numbers are given, which is a shame as it is going to be tough to duplicate the two schemes exactly without them. Two schemes are provided on the decal sheet. One is the box art scheme for a USAF Aggressor (which would never be carrying any droppable weapons), and the other for a Swiss AF version; actually the second F-5E delivered. There are some extra 'bumps' on the Swiss version which are called out in the instructions. The Swiss aircraft rarely carried wing mounted weapons either, so the wing holes will need to be filled for both schemes! 

The decals are very glossy, a touch fuzzy and just like the Italeri sheet. The US insignia are out of register and the wrong blue so those go in the toidy. Finding replacements that small may be a problem. Fortunately, there are many aftermarket sheets for the F-5E so finding alternate schemes is not much of a problem.



Well, the bottom line is; should I buy this kit. Well, there are two things in its favor. One is that the overall detailing is an improvement over the Italeri kit, despite the slightly overdone panel lines. Secondly, it is available, which the Italeri kit may not be in your area. Downside is the sink marks and ejector pin marks. Not to say the Italeri kit didn't have these, as it did; just that they were not so, shall we say, intense. That being said, it should still make a presentable model and is one that those getting out of simpler kits should find to be satisfying.

Review set courtesy North American Hobbies, where everything is 20-30% below retail.

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