Italeri/ESCI 1/72 F-4C/D/J Phantom II™ Aces
|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
The Vietnam War was fairly intense in terms of air warfare when the US was flying missions over North Vietnam. The Vietnamese had a stout aerial defense based mostly on AA and SAMs. They were able to place their defensive weapons where they wanted due to the restrictions put on US airpower in terms of targets.
Not surprising that most aircraft lost were due to ground fire of some sort. In the air, pickings were fairly slim. The North Vietnamese used their aircraft wisely and within their capabilities. The MiG-17s were hard to hit while the MiG-19 and MiG-21 aircraft were fast and used hit and run tactics. Still. The US was able to produce a few aces, most of whom got their victories late in the war.
I have been fortunate to have been able to meet all the aces and one near ace (Robin Olds). Col Olds was probably an ace, but gave a kill or two to his wingmen so they could gain experience. All these men were flying various models of F-4 so the Phantom was the ace's plane for the conflict.
According to Scalemates, this is an old ESCI tooling from 1983. I do remember at the time that both Italeri and ESCI had 1/72 F-4 kits, so I'm not sure if that is totally correct or not. Regardless, this is the most recent re-issue and comes with markings for four planes.
Interiors of those days were not the most detailed and that is certainly the case here. Lots of flat panels for instrument decals, no interior sidewall detail and two very generic F-4 seats with the join seam right down the middle of them. Not very encouraging and screaming for replacements. On the subject, I'm surprised that none of the resin folks have ever done a 1/72 cockpit for these or the Fujimi F-4s as they sure could use it. Of course, this is an Air Force interior so the back seat is unsuitable for the Navy version. At least leave out the control stick for the Navy versions. There were two stick USN F-4s, but they were in training squadrons.
The cockpit sits atop the nose well lower forward fuselage piece. Like all F-4 kits of the day, the intakes are about an inch or so deep. Wings are the proper unslatted versions and though the instructions don't show it, you do need to open the holes for the pylons in the wings. Wings are the usual one piece lower section with the outer folding sections molded into the upper wing halves. You are provided both slotted and smooth horizontal stabs. Note that these have reinforcement 'arrows' on both the upper and lower sides. Not only are the underside ones pure fantasy, but the planes of this boxing did not have these at all. Means you'll need to sand these away.
in the back you get both long and short burner cans. Long for the J, short for the rest. Landing gear is adequate for the scale. All the gear doors are single piece that will need to be cut for a gear down presentation. When attaching the nose radome, you will need to make the small extension on the F-4C IR seeker to model the F-4D. The kit only supplies the F-4C version. The canopy comes in four sections so you can pose it open or closed. Considering how barren the cockpit is, it would have been better to provide a one-piece version.
For things under wings you get the standard weapons load out of four Sidewinders and four Sparrows. The kit does provide both USAF and USN inner missile pylons. You also have two wing tanks. The kit does not provide the centerline tank that was often carried by USN F-4s so you'll have to rob that from some other kit.
Instructions are well drawn and provide both Italeri Acrylic and FS.595 paint references. You get four options. One is F-4J of Randy 'jailbird' Cunningham, the F-4C of Robin Olds, the F-4D of Steve Ritchie, and the F-4D of Jeff Feinstein. The USN version is matte light gull grey over gloss white while the USAF options are all in the original SEA camouflage scheme. The sheet provides full stencil decals and those for weapons and pylons as well. It is nicely printed and actually quite large, thanks to all the stencils. Not shown is a smaller sheet with the USAF insignia.
This is very much a case of milking a set of toolings. The ESCI kit isn't a bad kit, but there are much better ones out there. The builder will have to do some modifications to do all the options and especially the F-4D. I find the lack of a centerline tank puzzling, but there you have it. Its saving grace is a great decal sheet and the inclusion of weapons.
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