Kinetic 1/48 F-5B Freedom Fighter

KIT #: K48021
PRICE: $40.00  SRP
DECALS: Nineteen Options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken


The Northrop F-5A/B Freedom Fighter and the F-5E/F Tiger II are part of a family of widely-used light supersonic fighter aircraft, designed and built by Northrop. Hundreds remain in service in air forces around the world in the early 21st century, and the type has also been the basis for a number of other aircraft.

The F-5 started life as a privately-funded light fighter program by Northrop in the 1950s. The first-generation F-5A Freedom Fighter entered service in the 1960s. During the Cold War, over 800 were produced through 1972 for U.S. allies. The USAF had no need for a light fighter but specifed a requirement for a supersonic trainer, procuring about 1,200 of a derivative airframe for this purpose, the Northrop T-38 Talon.

The improved second-generation F-5E Tiger II was also primarily used by American Cold War allies and, in limited quantities, served in U.S. military aviation as a training and aggressor aircraft; Tiger II production amounted to 1,400 of all versions, with production ending in 1987. Many F-5s continuing in service into the 1990s and 2000s have undergone a wide variety of upgrade programs to keep pace with the changing combat environment.

The F-5 was also developed into a dedicated reconnaissance version, the RF-5 Tigereye. The F-5 also served as a starting point for a series of design studies which resulted in the twin-tailed Northrop YF-17 and the F/A-18 series of carrier-based fighters. The Northrop F-20 Tigershark was an advanced version of the F-5E that did not find a market, thanks to the meddling of politicians who removed advanced systems from the aircraft before allowing foreign sales. The F-5N/F variants remain in service with the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps as an adversary trainer.


The model community has long awaited a new tool 1/48 F-5A/B kit. True, there was a short run version produced by Classic Airframes and your editor built a couple of these, however, it was typical of the genre and required advanced modeling skills to complete. No longer as we now have a standard injection molded kit from the folks at Kinetic.

The kit is designed in modular fashion, boding well for a variety of F-5 types to be done in the future. Basically, the fuselage is built in forward and aft sections with various inserts to take care of the difference in the F-5A and B so that most of the same sprues can be used. There is no difference in equipment or airframe such as we saw with the F-5A. Apparently all B models were built by Northrop so aside from the radar equipped planes built for South Korea, are essentially the same. The kit comes with complete intakes, a nice touch, though perhaps somewhat difficult to built and eliminate the seam that runs down the length on both sides.

There are separate control surfaces for the rudder, ailerons and flaps. The latter can be molded in the lowered position. Moving forward, there are separate speed brakes and another insert for the forward fuselage side and for the lower forward fuselage. The cockpit is well appointed with raised detail for the instrument panel and consoles.  The canopy can be posed in the open position. In fact, most of the new bits for the F-5B are on their own sprue.

For the wings you can put Sidewinders or tip tanks on the end. I am not sure if the tanks are properly angled down or not as it is difficult to tell without building the kit. Under the wings are four pylons for Mk.82 slick bombs, rocket pods or drop tanks. F-5Bs were normally not armed, but were combat capable. Two different centerline tanks are also provided. Another inclusion is a small photo etch fret for the slime lights (when required) and vents. 

The instructions are a whopping 34 pages, though much of that is for the 19 markings options. There are five US options; two in SEA camo with one being for the 602 TFS in Vietnam. The other and one of the silver and one of the grey planes are for the 425 TFTS while the other grey plane is for the 37th Training Wing. The instructions state that the two grey planes are actually air superiority blue and frankly, I've never seen an F-5 in this color so suspect it is actually ADC grey. I'm willing to be proven wrong if you have photos.

Next we have four Canadian CF-5D aircraft. One is in silver with red bits and the other three are in various camouflage schemes for aggressor training. All are with 419 Squadron. Three Dutch planes are next with two in the original camouflage scheme and one in the later greys. From the Norwegian Air Force in the 1970s we have three silver planes with 718 Squadron.  Next are three Greek planes, two in camouflage and one in silver portraying a prototype and one with the 4441 CCTS. A third one is listed as being ADC Grey with daglo patches flown at Kelly AFB while awaiting delivery to Greece. Finally, a pair of South Vietnamese Air Force planes in SEA camo. You will notice that for several of the nations, there are additional serial and code options provided. The decal sheet is quite large and very nicely printed. For those who want something different, there are aftermarket sheets out there that cover a number of other nations.


I am sure many will be eager to get their hands on this one if they have not already. I have to honestly say that I was hoping for a more crisply molded kit as detailing seems a tad on the soft side. I also found some flash, something one does not expect from a new kit, but it is nothing major. I also really dislike the flimsy, one-piece, end-opening box. Surely a kit of this size and price deserves a real box. The comprehensive decal sheet is a real bonus and should not leave anyone lacking in markings options.


April 2015

My thanks to, well, me for picking this one up. If you want to see how the F-5A built, here is a link.

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and fairly quickly, please contact the editor or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

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