Monogram 1/48 F-5E Tiger






Two aircraft


Scott Van Aken


1978 boxing


The F-5E "Tiger II" was a greatly improved version of the earlier F-5A "Freedom Fighter". Redesigned as a highly maneuverable, lightweight and inexpensive air superiority fighter, the -E featured an air-to-air fire control radar system and a lead computing gunsight. More powerful J85 engines required the fuselage to be both widened and lengthened. The forward wing root was redesigned to give the "Tiger II" wing its characteristic triple delta shape.

The first flight of the F-5E was on 11 August 1972. The first USAF unit to receive the aircraft was the 425th TFS at Williams AFB, Arizona responsible for training foreign pilots in the F-5 aircraft. The most well known use of the "Tiger II" was as an aggressor aircraft at the USAF Fighter Weapons School, Nellis AFB Nevada. The aggressor pilots of the 64th Fighter Weapons Squadron were trained in Soviet tactics and used the -Es to simulate MiG-21s for training USAF pilots in aerial combat skills. Eventually, aggressor squadrons were formed at RAF Alconbury, U.K. and Clark AB, PI for training USAF pilots stationed overseas along with pilots of friendly foreign nations.

The type was also used by the US Navy with its famous TOP GUN adversary school for a number of years. The type was then passed on to the reserves who flew it with VF-126 and other squadrons. When the USAF was forced to trim back its aggressor squadrons in the early 1990s, many of those aircraft were transferred to the Navy who is still flying the type from NAS Fallon, Nevada and other locales.




This is a relatively old, but still quite nice kit. This particular boxing is 1978, but it was reissued a year or so ago so finding one won't be a problem. The kit is of the raised panel line variety, but is quite accurate despite that 'problem'. The only other kit in this scale is by ESCI and hasn't been around for over a decade. The kit is relatively flash free and though there are a few sink areas, none are terribly difficult to fill. There are ejector pin marks on the inside of gear doors, on the landing gear, pylons, and other pieces, but most will be easy to remove.

In terms of optional bits, well, that is pretty well limited to an RF nose and the ability to have the canopy open or closed. You are also provided a pilot figure, helmet in hand and a boarding ladder. The pylon attachment slots are built into the bottom of the wing so in order to do either of the schemes offered on the sheet, these will have to be filled and sanded smooth. Things under wings include two podded guns, two LGBs and two Sidewinders. A centerline fuel tank is also provided. Nice stuff but the F-5E never carried the gun pods or the LGBs. The Sidewinders are not well molded so are best replaced.

Markings are for two aircraft. Call them aggressor or adversary planes, it means the same thing. One is for the Navy's TOP GUN and the other for one of the various aggressor squadrons the USAF used to have. Both are in very nice multi-colored patterns. The decals themselves are well printed, in register, and a bit on the old side. Most builders will replace them with some aftermarket ones. Speaking of which, there are a number of aftermarket bits available for this kit, including a proper cockpit among other goodies.


I've built several of these kits over the years. They go together fairly well, but the upper/lower split of the fuselage will require careful construction and filler. Same goes for the intakes. Nothing that most modelers can't handle, but enough to possibly frustrate the squeamish or those who only build 'shake and bake' kits.

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