ESCI 1/72 F-5A Freedom Fighter




$7.50 (in 1985)


See review


Scott Van Aken




In the mid-1950's, the USAF was looking for a replacement forthe T-33 to be used by air training command. The bidding was fierce as it wasanticipated that this would be a rather large contract. Northrop had beenworking on a lightweight fighter design based on two small afterburning J-85turbojets. These were then incorporated into a slim 'wasp-waist' fuselage withshort, broad wings. The aircraft was over-engineered to improve structuralstrength as it was designed to be fully aerobatic. The landing gear was alsomade stronger than needed, and allowed the use of the aircraft on unpreparedsurfaces. This aircraft became the T-38. It was the first dedicated trainer tobe capable of speeds in excess of Mach 1.

Boosted by the success of this project, Northrop then turned itsattention into modifying the design into a lightweight fighter. Using much ofthe same design components as the T-38, Northrop started work on the N-156F.Emphasis was placed on ease of maintenance, especially engine changes. The F-5has a track and trolley system built into the engine bay to allow easyinstallation and removal of the engine once the tail cone is removed. Inaddition to modifying the forward fuselage for a single seat and 20mm cannon,the wings were enlarged by adding a forward fillet and changing the intakedesign.

As history has shown, the N-156F then became the F-5A and was ahuge success. Though the USAF did not buy the expected number of aircraft,preferring larger, more complex aircraft like the F-4, the F-5 was proven incombat in Vietnam, the initial deployment going under the name Skoshi Tiger.This USAF combat evaluation was a huge success, showing that a small,lightweight aircraft was fully capable of operation in a combat environment.After this, the F-5A was chosen by a large number of foreign countries, severalof them choosing to undertake production licenses. Even today, forty years afterfirst flight, the F-5 continues to provide service.


ESCI's kit is undoubtedlyone of thefinest F-5 models available in any scale. If you are modeling the F-5A it IS thebest in any scale. Initially released in the mid-1980's,the kit has superb detailing consisting of finely engraved panel lines. The kitis designed in a modular fashion to allow for other variants to be kitted usingcommon parts. The cockpit is well detailed with an ejection seat, tub, controlstick and instrument panel. Decals are provided for the instrument panel andside consoles. There is adequate detail in the wheel wells and the speed brakescan be displayed in the down position if desired. The kit also has alternatenose landing gear for the Dutch NF-5A. There are also additional rear fuselagescoops for the NF-5A.

You have a choice of either fuel tanks or Sidewinders for the wing tips. Thereare also underwing pylons, though there are only fuel tanks for the inner pylonssupplied with the kit. You'll have to come up with ordnance for the outer pylonsfrom the spares box. There is also a centerline fuel tank provided.  Thecockpit canopy can be displayed in the open or closed position. While notincluded in this boxing, there are other boxings of this kit that offer a reccenose option.

The instructions are very good, giving a 13 step construction sequence. Colorsare shown for each step. The color chart is very good giving not only a commonname but also the FS 595 equivalent. As is befitting a kit of this aircraft,there are four camouflage options, all of them European. The decal sheetincludes options for a Dutch NF-5A in NATO camouflage, a Norwegian F-5A inoverall silver, a Spanish F-5A in overall silver and a Greek F-5A in a pseudoSEA camouflage scheme.

Overall, this is a really nice kit. I have built several and have always enjoyedthe experience. Unfortunately, with ERTL/Racing Champions, the owner of all theESCI molds, in financial trouble, it is unknown if these kits will ever bereissued. If you can find them, buy them.


Northrop F-5/F-20 by Jerry Scutts, Ian Allen, 1986

Review kit courtesy of me and my wallet!

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