Hasegawa 1/72 F-104J Starfighter '203rd Squadron'
|PRICE:||1800 yen SRP$?|
|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
|NOTES:||2003 Limited Edition|
Called 'A Missile with a Man in it', the F-104 was developed as an interceptor, an aircraft who's sole mission was to get to the enemy planes (as in bombers) as fast as possible so that they could shoot them down before they reached their target. To that end, Lockheed designed the smallest airframe that they could fit around the J-79 turbojet. A thin, rocket shaped fuselage, short, stubby wings, and a nose section big enough to hold a pilot, radios and a 20mm cannon.
They succeeded brilliantly, however, it took a pilot of above average skill to pilot this one as it had a very high landing speed and was not a plane you could toss around the sky. It equipped basically one wing at George AFB and eventually several ANG squadrons with the US. It was NATO and Japan who were left to further develop the Starfighter, eventually making it into a fighter-bomber. Despite the real lack of USAF use, the Starfighter was built in quite large numbers in Italy, Japan and via a consortium in Europe. Used by well over a dozen countries, the last F-104 was retired just a few years ago when the Italian F-104S/ASA version was retired.
Japan was one of several nations to choose the F-104 for its main interceptor. Unlike other nations, it was primarily used for that mission as Japan's military is strictly defensive, hence the JASDF (Japanese Air Self Defense Force). The type was license built by Kawasaki and had a long career with the JASDF.
In the 1980s/90s, Hasegawa went through a period of releasing a lot of new kits, many of them replacements for older tooling. Well, they were supposed to be replacements, but the older toolings are still being produced and sold, though at a much reduced price. One of those was the F-104. It is a thoroughly modern molding with engraved panel lines, the usual ability to be kitted in several different versions (hence the separate nose section), and with enough detail to please most.
Typical of all Hasegawa 1/72 kits, the cockpit has instruments represented by decals and could also use an aftermarket seat, though the one provided has the proper shape. An interesting item is that the cockpit tub can have the sidewalls moved to properly fit the instrument panel. This cockpit fits atop a one-piece nose gear well. One builds up the nose section before attaching it to the completed fuselage section late in the build. This is to allow the TF-104 to be kitted using many of the same parts. There is a nicely done tail pipe that has an exhaust compressor stage visible. This is not the case for the intakes which simply disappear into the fuselage. Thanks to the design of the intakes, you will not notice any issues with this.
Landing gear are nicely done and quite well detailed. The forward main gear doors are shown in their proper 'near closed' condition. The wings are a single piece as is appropriate for such thin constructs and holes for the pylons are already opened up in the bottom of them to accept the wing pylons. There are fuel tanks for these pylons as well as either wing tip missile pylons or fuel tanks. There are also lower fuselage missile pylons provided, but no armament is included, that having to come from the various Hasegawaweapons sets. The cockpit canopy can be displayed open or closed.
Instructions are well done and provide the usual Gunze paint references as well as any modifications needed. There are few pieces not used. For this boxing you are provided two schemes, both in unpainted metal with white upper wing surfaces and grey lower. The first option is the box art plane with 203 Squadron. The other is with 201 Squadron. Much of the decal sheet is stencils. There is very little white on the sheet, that being confined to the roundels. This is the usual off-white, but in this case, I don't think it matters all that much as there is so little of it. These decals are a bit thicker than many and really require hot water to work their best.
It is not surprising that Hasegawa picked this to kit as they tend to initially focus on types operated at home for the home market. This kit is not a difficult build and if you've done their 1/48 kit, you will find this one to be quite similar. As usual, no weapons are provided, though at least you get the underfuselage missile rails. Snag one of their weapons sets or head for the spares box for the sidewinders.
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