Tamiya 1/48 F-16CJ block 50

KIT #: 61098
PRICE: $60.00 MSRP
DECALS: Three options
NOTES: Aeromaster 48-072 used (long out of production)


The F-16 Fighting Falcon aka Viper was originally designed to be a simple cheap light weight fighter that was to compliment the F-15 Eagle.  The General Dynamics engineers and USAF pilots (among them the controversial John Boyd) helped design an airframe that proved to be something a lot more than just a mere compliment to the F-15.

The Block 50 series F-16CJ was borne out of the need to replace the aging F-4G Wild Weasels that had served in the USAF for 20 years.  Unlike the previous Wild Weasels, the F-16CJ was the first single seat Wild Weasel with computers doing much of the work of the “Wizzo” aka GIB.  There are some Block 50 Two Seater DJ Wild Weasels, but the CJ is the most common.  Due to being a single seater, F-16CJ Wild Weasels work in pairs or flights unlike previous ones (F-100F, F-105G and F-4G) which tended to work alone or with a flight of regular fighter bombers. (Actually, these guys have pretty much always worked in teams with a regular fighter being the hunter part of the team to suppress ground fire and the weasel being the killer to take out the site's radar. Standard F-4G ops had these planes worked in concert either with a standard F-4E or an F-16C once the F-4Es were withdrawn from service. Ed)

 The CJ is armed with HARM and/or Shrike Anti Radiation Missiles (role to take out enemy radar by homing in on the signal) as well as equipped with Sidewinder and AMRAAMs for self defense.

 Of all the attack missions, the most difficult is probably the Wild Weasel aka SEAD aka Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses.  It is politely termed as a cat and mouse game (with the Weasel and EAD (enemy air defense) alternating between being the cat and the mouse.

 Basically, the Weasel’s job is to force the EAD to attempt to light up their radars onto them (especially fire control radars.)  Once the Weasel gets a lock on an EAD radar transmitter’s location (and hopefully before they can shoot at the Weasel) it will fire an ARM to attempt to destroy the radar.  Sometimes one isn’t going to get a kill, but  damaging the radar or causing it to shut down is good enough for a mission kill.  In many cases though, the enemy gets the first shot and makes the Wild Weasel’s job more of a challenge.  Definitely not a task for the faint of heart.

 The unofficial motto of the Wild Weasel (according to Wikipedia) is YGBSM--You Gotta Be $#%@ing Me.


The Tamiya F-16CJ is one of the best 1/48 scale kits out there.  The kit’s parts are typical Tamiya quality with almost no flash except mold marks--most notably on the centerline of the canopy which is unavoidable due to the complexity of the canopy--and the parts detail is amazing for 1/48 scale with well defined panel lines that look okay for the scale.  Along with the plastic, Tamiya also supplies several poly caps, flat pin rivets, phillips screws and a tiny phillips head screwdriver.

 Tamiya provides two different canopies.  One the standard model clear canopy and the other is scale tinted for those who want a color accurate F-16 canopy.

 Tamiya’s F-16CJ certainly looks like an F-16 which is fine with me.  I’ll leave the details analysis to others who are in the know.


I didn’t exactly follow the instructions as I opted to do things in a different order than what Tamiya suggested.  I will only focus on the areas that I found a bit vexing to build or when I compare it to the popular Hasegawa kit.

 As with most aircraft kits, I started with the cockpit.  Tamiya has done a very good job with this cockpit and the detail is good enough that I think most modelers will dispense with adding a resin cockpit.  The bang seat is as well detailed to the resin ACES seats I have (and much better than the ones that come with the Hasegawa Vipers), but if you feel the need for detail then I do recommend getting PE harnesses as the harness decals provided by Tamiya are so so.

 I used Dark Gull Grey as the basis of the cockpit interior color.  Tamiya does provide decals for the instrument panels, but I prefer to brush and toothpick paint the details.  I used Citadel Black, Silver and Red for the instrument details and Tamiya Clear Green for the Multi Function Displays (note: you can barely see the MFDs due to the layout of the F-16 MLU cockpit.)

 The HOTAS controls were easy to paint.  Tamiya says that you shouldn’t glue the port side throttle.  I strongly suggest you do as I nearly lost it when it came loose several times during various stages of construction.  Looking at the ‘pit, I don’t really see the need for a resin cockpit unless you really want one as the kit cockpit level of detail is on par with the quality seen in their P-47 and F-4U kits.

 I set aside the cockpit parts and started on the fuselage.  Tamiya did things a bit different with their Vipers is that they broke up the top fuselage into sections unlike Hasegawa’s kits.  I suspect they did this to lessen the chance of the warpage (something I encountered with the Hase 1/48 Viper that I built.)  It is a good idea, but it does leave a seam that needed to be fixed.  I do suggest that you sand the mounting lug to remove flash or you might find that the parts do not fit as snug as they should.  I used a bit of Tamiya’s White Surface Primer (equivalent of Mr Surfacer) to diminish the seam even though it is along a panel line because I ended up with a bit of a step between the two parts.  A bit of wet sanding with increasingly finer grades of sandpaper made it shallower so that it does not stand out.

 The top fuselage was set aside for the intake.  This is one reason why I like building prop planes as dealing with intake seams is just a pain. 

 Tamiya broke up the intake into two sections.  One section is the wide mouth intake opening and the seams which require small nimble fingers.    I used a liberal amount of Tamiya White surface primer to fill the seam and then spent a good hour sanding it.  It might not be as smooth as it could be in some of the back portions, but I do not care.

 The second section of the intake is the aft wheel well.  Fortunately, this portion of the intake is not that narrow and is much easier to sand/fill.  The interior of the intake and wheel well were sprayed with two or three thin coats of Flat White and set aside.  The engine face was painted using Talon Dark Aluminum and when it was dry, the part was glued in place

 To get perfect alignment on the tail, Tamiya uses small screws (provides a small screwdriver), mounting brackets and flat head rivets.  Looking back, it would have saved me a lot of masking if I had waited to attach the tail after painting as it is a different color than the fuselage.  Use a little bit of force to get the tail in place and then I added some glue.

 Tamiya did an excellent job (for the most part) of keeping seams on panel lines or in places where it would be easy to sand.  I assembled the main fuselage parts but kept off various small parts like the underside fins and intake lip to reduce the amount of masking and painting head aches.  I opted to keep the flaps up as many of the photos I had of the Viper at rest, the flaps were up.

 One of the areas you should watch out for as the nose.  Tamiya provides different panels for the older and newer versions of the CJ and they will need some filler--I selected the newer version with the “bird shredder” antenna.  The nose cone is a two piece part with a lot of fine raised surface detail right at the seam.  I could not replicate that post sanding and I used a knife to make a “engraved” line  but it stands out and looks pretty stupid.  Best to ignore the missing detail or use stretched sprue to recreate it.  Also test fit the join between the nose cone and forward fuselage just to make sure that you will not have any steps.  I left the nose cone off until after painting as it was a different color.

 The tailplanes are attached using poly caps, but I recommend you glue them in place as the tailplane mounting pegs are very weak (I broke both so I speak from fumble fingered experience.) 

 The fore and aft landing gear had to have mold lines removed, painted and most of the parts were left off until after painting the fuselage.

 I also worked on the weapons and pylons.  This is where the Tamiya Viper really shines in comparison to the Hasegawa Vipers as the detail is very very good.  The Fuel tanks ECM pods, pylons and HARM missiles all have seams that require sanding.  The fuel tanks in particular are a bit tricky as there is some raised details that you have to watch out for (but they do provide aft end caps for the fuel tanks so you don’t have a seam to deal with.  Unfortunately, the HARM missiles have seams in the rear exhaust, but it is up to modeler to deal with it (I did not.) 

 Also, Tamiya does a pretty good job with the missile, fuel tank and pod attachments.  They use the flat pin rivets and poly caps to act as attachment points and tanks are notched to keep them in perfect alignment.  The missiles are also notched to keep them on the rail and not slightly offset the rails (as which has happened to me when dealing with ordinance.)

 The canopy needed to be sanded with various grades of sandpaper and then polished with fine micromesh sanding pads till the scratches disappeared.  I did a rare good job polishing the caonpy and didn’t need to dip the canopy in future.


Painting a Viper can be a pain especially if you fully assemble the model.  Mostly this is due to the four grey scheme and the fact that many of the small parts are a different grey than the sections they attach to.  Even then I had to do a lot of masking. 

 The model was first preshaded in flat black to highlight various panel lines and detail.  Next I used the four shades of Gunze Acrylic grey (FS36320, FS36270, FS36118 and FS36375) each sprayed in very light coats so as to allow the preshading to work, but I varied the amount of paint on the panel lines so it would look blotchy along the panel lines.  I followed the standard USAF scheme and painted the various bits (including the canopy) and Flat White for the  HARMs, landing gear and afterburner interior.  Unfortunately, I ran out of FS36375 aka Light Ghost Grey as I got to the weapons/tanks and went to the Hobby shop.  They did not have the Gunze equivalent (it was the begining of the great Gunze bugout) so I found myself using the Polly Scale equivalent which is not equivalent to the Gunze equivalent.  If anyone even bothers to ask why I have two shades of light ghost grey then my cover story is that the USAF changed paint contractors.

 The trickiest part of the painting was the intake lip, tip of the tail (yellow), exterior of the burner can (Talon dark and Tamiya Silver Titanium) and the white AMRAAM nose cones.  Mostly due to ensuring that the masking prevents color bleed thru.

 Once everything was dry, I attached all the airframe components (minus the canopy, nose cone and small antenna) before spraying on the gloss coat.

 When I opened up the box, I took one look at the decal sheet and decided not to do any of the various Wing Kings Tamiya had on it.  If I have a general (but not always followed) preference it is that I prefer using non-Wing King markings.  Fortunately, I had an Aeromaster F-16 sheet which had a F-16CJ flown by one Captain Michelle Meyer of the 35th FW (based in Misawa Japan) in the older configuration (ie: no AIM9Xs and no bird shredder antenna in the nose.)   It was close enough for me so I used it with the upgraded Viper CJ.  In terms of accuracy, the markings aren’t even close, but it was my choice.

 Unfortunately, I ruined one of the Aeromaster WW decals and had to use the stylized 35th FW Wing King WW decals from the Tamiya sheet further sliding this model into the realm of fiction.

 Tamiya’s decals for this kit are much better than the ones for their earlier kits.  They aren’t as thick as the ones in their earlier kits and the stencils are very good (a pain due to the number of stensils) and don’t require lots of Solvaset to snuggle into detail.  MicroSol and MicroSet worked fine.

 Once dry, I washed the model with a damp rag to remove as much of the decal solutions before applying water color wash (a mix of flat black, burnt sienna and raw umber with a drop of dish soap.)  It kept the wash thin so as to make the Viper a little used but not beaten up like the paint job of a USN fighter.  I carefully removed the excess wash with wetted Q-Tips before I sealed it all with a couple of thin coats of Gunze Flat.


A 3g fishing weight was glued (with CA glue) in the nose to make sure the Viper stayed nose down.  The instructions don’t mention a nose weight, but I noticed that the Viper was balanced such that a slight knock could make it a tailsitter when loaded for bear so I figured better safe than sorry.

 The multitude of antenna were added which was a bit annoying, but par for a modern military jet.  The various landing lights were hand painted (a separate part) and glued in along with the various missile rails.  Intake lip, wheels, missiles, fuel tanks, ECM pod, rails and finally the nose cone with pitot tube were added.

 Tamiya provides you the option of open canopy vs closed based on which canopy frame you select (I chose the open canopy option.)


Tamiya did an excellent job with the layout and engineering of the Wild Weasel Viper.  I wouldn’t say that you should get rid of your Hasegawa F-16 kits because they are still good, but they definitely are not in the class of this Viper especially in terms of the assembly and ordinance/engine/cockpit details.  The only way Hasegawa’s Vipers beat Tamiya’s F-16 kit is on price alone but the price advantage is negated by the fact that you need to buy Hasegawa’s weapons sets which aren’t up to date (missing the AIM9X and (well detailed) AMRAAM missiles) and a possible replacement resin cockpit or very least a resin bang seat.

 This by no means should be considered an easy shake and bake kit in part to its complexity,  It does requires some planning and effort to produce a decent model.

 Kit courtesy of my wallet.

Dan Lee

August 2008

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

Back to the Main Page

Back to the Review Index Page