Hobby Boss 1/32 F-84G Thunderjet

KIT #: 83208
PRICE: 7,840 yen at HobbyLink Japan
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver


            Republic began design of the AP-23 jet fighter in 1944, to meet a General Operational Requirement for a single-seat day fighter with a speed of 600 mph, a combat radius of 850 miles, an armament of six .50 caliber machine guns.  Power was to be provided by the General Electric TG-180 axial flow jet turbine.  The airplane would become known as the F-84 Thunderjet, one of the most successful early jets.

            Alexander Karveli’s design utilized a straight-through airflow with a simple pitot intake, seeking to combine maximum flow efficiency with the highest possible Mach number.  The exceptional fineness ratio of the airframe resulted in exceptionally low drag.  The unswept wing had an aspect ratio of 5.1:1, chosen as a compromise between the high value needed for range and the low value demanded to delay compressibility drag rise.  100 P-84s were ordered off the drawing board on January 4, 1945; on March 12, a definite contract for 3 XP-84 prototypes, 15 YP-84A service test aircraft and a first production batch of 85 aircraft was signed.

            The first XP-84 took flight at Muroc Army Air Base on February 28, 1946, with the second XP-84 flying in August and setting a US national speed record of 611 mph that September.

Flight development proceeded slowly due to delayed engine deliveries as Allison struggled to turn the TG-180 into the production J-35.  With the problems that began to emerge in late 1946, contracts for additional aircraft were not signed until June 1947, which was only for 191 aircraft rather than the 411 expected. 

            The first production aircraft was the F-84B, which was virtually identical to the YP-84As other than carrying an ejection seat.  The first unit to receive the Thunderjet was the 14th Fighter Group, beginning in mid-1947 with Initial Operational Capability achieved in December 1947.  Production of 226 F-84Bs was completed in June 1948.  In service, the F-84B was restricted to a top speed of Mach 0.8 because of trim reversal at higher speeds.  In May 1948 all F-84Bs were grounded due to structural failure.  In May 1949 a program of over 100 structural and engineering modifications including wing strengthening was adopted.  The 191 F-84C Thunderjets introduced an uprated J-35 and a new electrical system; these aircraft suffered the same problems as the B-model and were given the same extensive modification program.  The F-84B and F-94C were withdrawn from service in 1952

            The first really combat-capable Thunderjet was the F-84D, 154 of which were produced, beginning in November 1948 and ending in April 1949.  Continued maintenance difficulties, poor serviceability and performance shortfall led to the conclusion that the F-84B and C could not fulfill any mission and cancellation of the F-84D was considered.  A special test of the F-84D at Wright Patterson and Eglin AFBs in February and march 1949 showed that this version was finally able to perform both the fighter and fighter-bomber mission adequately .

            The much-improved F-84E was first discussed in 1948.  Using the 5,000 lb thrust J-35A-17 engine, which provided a 20 percent power increase, Republic lengthened the fuselage to provide more fuel and a more comfortable cockpit and the A-1B radar gunsight was installed.  The wing-tip tanks were approved for use during combat and prpovision was made for additional 230-gallon drop tanks to be carried on the inner wing bomb shackles, extending the combat radius to over 1,000 miles.  The first 1949 contract was for 409 aircraft, followed on by four other contracts that brought the production total to 843 aircraft.

            Having demonstrated inferiority to the MiG-15 when introduced to Korean combat in December 1950 by the 27th Fighter Escort Wing, the F-84 became the main Air Force fighter-bomber used during the Korean War. 

            The F-84E participated in the development of in-flight refueling techniques, which led to the development of the F-84G Thunderjet, which could use the Boeing “flying boom” refueling system.  With an increase in power available to 5,600 lbs thrust and the new A-4 radar gunsight, the F-84G was also the first single-seat, single engine aircraft cleared to carry a tactical nuclear bomb.  3,045 F-84Gs were produced, of which 789 went to the USAF and the rest to NATO air forces, with delivery beginning in July 1951.  The F-84G arrived in Korea in the summer of 1952, which allowed the three fighter bomber wings to regain their full establishment and compensate for losses by that September.  The F-84G continued in service with USAF Tactical Air Command until 1959, and was used in NATO air forces through the 1960s, with Portugal using the airplane in the anti-colonial wars in Angola and Mozambique through 1974.

The Thunderjet in Korea - the Career of Willie Williams 

            September 19, 1951: the F-84E "Thunderjets" of the 9th Fighter Squadron of the veteran 49th Fighter Wing headed north at 12,000 feet, each loaded with two 500-pound bombs, along with the 7th and 8th squadrons, the 49ers were tasked to dive bomb the main rail line between Sinanju and Pyongyang at a "choke point" just south of Sukchon where the line went through a marshy area between two hills - the most difficult place for the enemy to have to make repairs.  It was their second mission of the day.

            Leading the Purple Flight was 9th Squadron C.O. MAJ Willie Williams, one of the most experienced pilots in the group.  Element Lead was MAJ James F. Sprinkle, with CAPT Kenneth L. Skeen flying his third mission in an F-84 as Sprinkle's wingman.  "We had transitioned to the Thunderjet by late August," Williams recalled fifty-one years later, "and had been back in Korea for about a week at the time of this mission."

            As the Thunderjets crossed the bomb line, the weather changed from the clear skies in the south to broken clouds that became a heavy undercast by the time the 48 F-84s passed east of Pyongyang.  "I heard the Group Commander call out MiGs above us at seven o-clock, and saw the contrails.  I told the rest of the squadron not to pickle their bombs if they made a pass on us unless it was life and death.  At our altitude, the MiG was not that good, and I was pretty sure we could turn away from them with our ordnance.  I knew they wouldn't stick around that low with 48 of us wanting to take a crack at them."  While the MiG-15 had demonstrated superiority to the Thunderjet in air-to-air combat, in the hands of an experienced pilot the F-84 could hold its own at lower altitudes against the lesser-trained Communist pilots; the 49th Fighter Group was a collection highly experienced flyers, with most pilots having flown at least 50 combat missions.

            "I watched the MiGs above us, and saw them head down.  They were coming right after the four of us in the lead, so I very reluctantly called for Purple Flight to salvo their bombs.  I broke hard to the right as I saw them set up on their firing pass and they overshot.  I reversed the turn to the left, and saw Ken Skeen pulling up high to my left and falling behind as I came around into the MiGs before they could get away to set up another pass.  I got off some shots at two of them, and then warned Jim Sprinkle that he had one on his tail.  Suddenly the MiG on Jim's tail caught fire and was trailing smoke.  Then Ken Skeen called to break right, because I had another one on me.  Ken had shot the one on Sprinkle's tail, and he kept at it till it blew up."

            Though the mission was unsuccessful, inasmuch as the MiGs had managed to catch the 49th without their Sabre escort and forced them to jettison all bombs in the melee that resulted, there was an appropriate celebration back at Taegu that night, since Skeen had scored the group's first MiG kill with the F-84. "The next day, I had each airplane in the 9th painted with a red star to celebrate that kill.  It became part of the squadron insignia for the rest of the war," Williams recalled.

            By this stage of the war, sobering knowledge of the enemy was dictating Air Force strategy.  The two wings of long-range F-84 Thunderjet bombers that were rapidly becoming the most important tactical aircraft of the war besides the F-86 Sabre whose battle for air superiority in Mig Alley over the Yalu made the extended operations over the north by the F-84s possible.  The Chinese had approximately 60 divisions in Korea; each required 40 tons of supplies per day for effective operation.  The air interdiction campaign had reduced rail traffic to a minimum in North Korea, which meant that 6,000 trucks per day had to deliver their supplies to the front lines for the Communists to maintain their position against the United Nations forces.  "Operation Strangle" began officially in July 1951, with the goal of cutting off the Communist front lines from their supplies to the maximum extent feasible.  Only American air superiority made this possible.

            The effect of this operation was to force the Communist air forces to attempt to block the fighter bombers.  As F-84s inbound for a strike passed between Sonchon in the south and Sinanju, the Communists would get word of the size of the strike.  The MiGs would take off from the airfield complex at Antung in "off-limits" Manchuria then climb to their ceiling of 50,000 feet and overfly the F-86 patrols south of the Yalu, to hit the fighter bombers north of Sinanju with the objective of making them jettison their bombs and defend themselves against the superior MiGs. While only a few F-84s were shot down by the MiG-15s, the Communists gained their goal with the first pass as the Thunderjets salvoed their bombs.  Combined with the great increase in AAA weapons south of Sonchon along the Main Line of Resistance, it was estimated by December 1951 that only seven percent of the bombs dropped hit the intended targets.  By October, with 70 operational F-84s, the 49th Fighter Wing flew 1,727 sorties, mostly deep-penetration raids, which were so effective that by mid-November any strike north of Pyongyang could expect to be intercepted by MiGs.  "We kept our losses down with our tactics," explained Williams.  "We maintained close formations, and we always turned into them once they committed to their gunnery run.  Our ability to out-turn them at our operational altitude was crucial to survival."

            Williams was detached from the 9th Squadron in early 1952 to participate in what became known as Operation High Tide, the use of F-84s for long-range attacks supported by in-flight refueling.  Williams returned to the squadron in the summer of 1952.  By this point, he had flown the equivalent of three complete tours, but had no plans to leave.  "I knew Don Blakeslee, and I knew how he had doctored his books in England during World War II, listing any mission that didn't contact the enemy as a training flight, any mission flown with another unit as orientation, things like that.  I did the same thing myself.  I know it may not sound particularly right these days, but the flying we were doing in Korea was very satisfying to me and I didn't want to stop.”

            Aircraft attrition had been so bad that in April 1952 the 49th only had 41 operational aircraft.  Delivery of the "definitive" F-84G had been delayed, and operations in Korea were hamstrung by lack of aircraft.  The situation got so bad the only way the Air Force could make up the attrition was to send 102 F-84Ds to the far east, which was not seen as progress.  In order to lower maintenance problems, the 136th Wing handed over all its F-84Es to the 49th Wing, and began operating the D-models. The crisis eased in the summer of 1952, as the 49th Wing had took delivery of their first F-84Gs in July and were fully-equipped with the "definitive" Thunderjet by October 1952.

            Williams was involved in the final development of Thunderjet tactics in the Korean War - the use of the airplane as a night intruder over the north.  "The Douglas B-26 was the workhorse over the north at night, but the Communists were getting used to them, to the speed with which they could make an attack, and the gun crews were starting to hit them more often.  We figured that with the Thunderjet, we could hit them fast enough the gun crews would be firing at our engine sound, which would be behind us." 

            The F-84 was not designed for night operations, and the instrument panel lighting was modified.  "Even then, it was bright enough that to check the panel you needed to close one eye and put your hand over it before you looked down, so you'd still have night vision."  The Thunderjet carried two 1,000-pound bombs for these missions, set with proximity fuses so they would explode 50 to 100 feet above ground.  "Our plan was to harass the crews who were working on the trucks, repairing the roads, things like that."

            Flying over North Korea at night was far different. "In the daytime, you could fly over the whole country and never see anything moving, but at night you'd be at 30,000 feet and you could see every major supply route up there completely lit up with truck headlights!"  The mere presence of the F-84s had its own effect on the enemy.  "When we got over station and they could hear us on the ground, all those lights would go out, and you knew they were reduced to about walking speed, if they could move at all, and they sure weren't getting any repairs made with no light. Our biggest problem would be if a searchlight got lucky and lit up the cockpit - if that happened it would be pretty easy to fly into a mountainside and never see a thing." 

            At night, the pilots could also spot trains.  "I came up with the tactic of getting down low, where you could see the reflected moonlight on the tracks," Williams explained.  "When you lost the reflection, you knew there was a train there and you could swing in on an attack before they could run it into a tunnel to hide it.  One of our guys found an ammo train as I was coming up to relieve him on station, and he got lucky with both his bombs.  I was 100 miles away when that thing went up and it was the biggest fireworks display I ever saw!"

            Despite its faults, Williams appreciated the Thunderjet.  "It was a maintenance hog, and the TBO on the engine was horrible until we got to the G-model.  Everything you've ever heard about the airplane taking every inch of runway to get airborne is true.  But as far as jets were concerned, it was about as rugged as the old Thunderbolt.  We got chewed up by flak and by MiGs, and brought them home with some pretty big holes in them.  The ground crews managed to put them back together and they kept on flying. I never knew a pilot who didn't think the Thunderjet would get him home as long as the wing hadn't been shot off."  By the end of the war in July 1953, Willie Williams would be the high-time Air Force pilot of the Korean War in terms of missions flown and hours logged, flying from November 1950 to the end.


            This is Hobby Boss’ second 1/32 F-84 kit, the first being the F-84E released last spring.  The main difference between this F-84G kit and that kit is the lower fuselage panel that has the blow-in doors.  Decals are provided for two aircraft, the famous “Four Queens” flown by the Wing Commander of the 58th Fighter Bomber Wing in late 1952, and an F-84G used by the French Air Force.


             Overall, the fit of this kit is superb. If you test fit three times before gluing once, you will only need a little bit of filler along the fuselage centerline seam.  If you are very careful in assembling the fuselage halves once you have the interior in place, you will have virtually no centerline seam to worry about; I was able to get rid of that seam on this model by scraping it and applying a bit of Tamiya surfacer to hide it completely.

             The color call-outs in the kit instructions are wrong.  The wheel wells and gear door interiors should be Yellow Zinc Chromate.  I added some Tamiya Flat Yellow to the Tamiya Zinc Chromate bottle and got what I was looking for.  After it dried, I applied a thin coat of Tamiya “Smoke” to pop out detail and give the impression of oil and grease smears one would find on the operational airplane.  The early F-84G had a Dull Dark Green cockpit, with black side panels and the area under the gunsight and the area behind the cockpit under the canopy flat black, with the interior of the windshield and the canopy also flat black.  The strengthening tape should be inside the canopy rather than outside as it is molded, but I left that alone after my previous near-disaster with attempting to modify the canopy.  From a distance you cannot tell anyway.

             I decided that this time I would assemble the model with the canopy closed, since that allows the fine lines of the airframe to be seen more clearly.  It also meant I didn’t have to worry about not using photo etch seatbelts and could get away with using some of my collection of no-longer-available lead foil from wine bottles to make seat belts.

             Since I had the under wing ordnance from the previous kit, I decided to hang the maximum number of rockets under the wing, using all that were provided from both kits.


            I gave the model an overall primer coat of Tamiya Flat Aluminum, then gave a thin coat of Talon “aluminum,” which I then masked and did different panel colors using the Auto Air “Aluminum” and “Pearlized Silver” colors. These work much better going on over a painted surface than bare plastic.  The anti-glare panel was done with Gunze-Sangyo “Olive Drab 1.”

             I used the kit decals to do the Wing King’s airplane from the 58th Fighter Bomber Wing. These went on without problem.  They are incorrect in that the USAF should be in Insignia Blue instead of black, and they managed to get “58th Air Bomber Wing” for one decal, rather than 58th Ftr Bomber Wing”.  Most people will not notice either of these problems. 

            I assembled the landing gear and attached it, then hung the ordnance.  I unmasked the canopy and all was finished.


             This is an excellent model of this famous airplane.  The rivet detail and other surface detail is very fine and petite, and looks very accurate under a coat of paint.  Outside of one sheet of decals for the F-84G from Zotz, which includes the same markings the kit provides, I am not aware of other aftermarket sheets for the model, which is a shame since the F-84G served with many air forces and had some very colorful markings applied during its career.  Highly recommended.

Editor's Note: Do not send e-mails to Tom about the speed brake. Apparently Hobby Boss brain farted and put the E speed brake on the G sprue and vice versa. The kit does not offer both. Those of you who have both kits or want to build a very early G will not have a problem.

Tom Cleaver

February 2012

 Review kit courtesy of HobbyLink Japan.  Order yours at: http://www.hlj.com/product/HOB23208

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