Airfix 1/72 F-16A

KIT #: 74025
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Spiros Pendedekas
NOTES: Part of the “100 years of Flight” Airfix set that contains 7 kits


The F-16 is a single-engine, highly maneuverable, supersonic, multi-role tactical fighter aircraft. It more or less emerged after the experiences gained in the Vietnam War, calling (among others) for a small, lightweight aircraft with high thrust-to-weight ratio, that could maneuver with the minimum possible energy loss. It had to be relatively inexpensive to build and simple to maintain. Well, the rest is history!

Much smaller and lighter than its predecessors, but using advanced aerodynamics and avionics and highly agile, the F-16 was the first fighter aircraft purpose-built to pull 9-g maneuvers. Its features included a frameless bubble canopy for better visibility, a side-mounted control stick, and a reclined seat to reduce g-force effects on the pilot. It was armed with an internal M61 Vulcan cannon in the left wing root and featured multiple locations for mounting various missiles, bombs and pods.

The 138th Attack Squadron (138 ATKS) is a unit of the New York Air National Guard's 174th Attack Wing located at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base in Syracuse, New York. It was formed in August 1942 and has flown a variety of aircraft in a multitude of operations ever since. As of 2021, it is currently equipped with the MQ-9 Reaper Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA).

In 1991, the 138th TFS deployed to the Persian Gulf with 516 members in support of Operation Desert Storm. Limitations regarding the performance of their F-16s using gun pods in Close Air Support role resulted in quickly switching to bombing role, where they excelled, receiving the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, with the "V" device for valor.


This is the venerable Airfix mold, which initially appeared in 1982 and can be built either as single or double seater. The specific kit appears to be a 1999 reboxing and is contained in the very attractive 2003 Airfix “100 years of flight” commemorative gift set. The sprues and clear fret are sealed together in a single bag, meaning potential scratches. Unsealing the bag, I was greeted with three light gray sprues that contain all parts of what seems to be a not that complicated build. Detail is raised all over, except from flaperons, slats and rudder hinge lines, where it is engraved.

Cockpit is simplistic with a plain looking seat, an instrument panel and a stick. An average pilot is supposed to be attached to the seat. Landing gear and wheel wells are also looking relatively simple, at least they are not looking toy-ish. Wings, rudder and stabilators are one piece, a nice touch. The intake not only is shallow, but lacks the distinctive mid-strut. The exhaust is also shallow, with the exhaust cone average looking. External stores are well appointed and include two wing tanks, six AGM-65 Mavericks, two GBU-16s, two Sidewinders and an AN/ALQ-119 ECM pod.

Clear parts are clear but thick and, in my case, not very well molded, with heavy flash. Instructions are done in typical (now older) Airfix style, two b/w folded A3 sheets presented as a mini booklet, with a short history at the front and the construction spread in 11 clear steps. Three schemes are provided, two are single seaters ANG birds, with the third being a double seater Belgian, all in Hill Gray camo. Decals contain a lot of stenciling, which might help beefing up the simplistic kit looks, but are the typical older style Airfix/Heller ones: their registration is questionable, with some white bleeding off the gray areas.

All in all, the initial impression is that this is an adequate kit, if not a tad on the simplistic side for the 2020 decade. That said, since I love tackling older/simpler kits, I decided to give this kit a go, finishing it as a “wheels-up” 138 TFS bird, as it stood in the Gulf during operation “Desert Storm”.


I started by trapping the cockpit tub between the top and bottom fuselage halves, then attached the front top spine part that covers the rear cockpit opening (it is not attached when building the double seater). I then attached the wings, stabilators, airbrakes and aft fuselage cylindrical part. The two piece air intake was next, followed by the three gear doors in “closed” position, the two strakes and the arresting hook. Fit was more or less good, with some care needed in blending the intake to the lower fuselage (a common “attention” area to most F-16 kits, especially the “old school” ones). The two wing tanks were also assembled at this time.

The model was then filled and sanded and the wing pylons were attached. I was ready to take it to the paint shop, but simply could not live with the strut-less intake: I thus drilled a hole at an angle from the intake underside and inserted a stretched sprue piece of more or less appropriate thickness, which was secured in position with thin glue and the area then filled and sanded smooth. While it is true that in the real plane the strut has a sort of hyper-elliptical cross section, I deemed my “circular cross section” approach passable and headed to the paint shop!


This was going to be an early Hill Gray F-16, so I first gave the topsides, including the radome, a coat of Hu140 dark gray, then masked it off with masking tape and also by using some tack for the distinctive “Hill Gray” curved demarcation line at the front fuselage sides. I then applied Hu128 (for the interim gray) at the front, the complete fin, the strakes outer areas, the vertical fuselage areas aft of the wings and the air intake sides, then masked it off as well. Hu127 was finally applied for the lightest of the grays, basically covering all undersides areas. The wing tanks were painted Hu127, as well. After removing the masks, I gave the whole model and the wing tanks a coat of Future and proceeded to decaling.

I used the kit decals, in order to represent “The Boys from Syracuse” #79404 bird, as it stood in Al Kharj Air Base in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. A number (maybe all) of those Gulf War “Syracusian” F-16s carried a ferocious snake and a falcon on the port and starboard fuselage sides respectively. The specific bird carried an impressive tally of accomplished missions onto the nose LG door.  Decals detached easily from their backing paper and adhered well onto the surface, but their registration was off, with the white bleeding through gray, which, in some cases was not tolerable, Thankfully, I had a leftover decal sheet of the same kit and it was much better in registration, so I used those decals. It is true that the hefty number of stencils added a lot of interest to this simplistic and “all gray” model.

An interesting “discovery” was that some, if not all ANG F-16As of that time (and definitely "my'' chosen bird, as I was lucky enough to find pictorial evidence) did not feature walk lines, only the “NO STEP/WALKWAY '' coding. Typically, my “discovery” took place after having applied walk lines, which were only correct for the Belgian version of the kit…. Thankfully, they were easily removed.

A coat of Future sealed the decals.


In order to finish the cockpit, I attached the instrument panel with the tiny transparent HUD upon it, then the side stick, the seat, followed by the pilot. Basic cockpit and seat color was Hu140 Gull Gray. Instrument panel, anti glare areas and stick grip were painted black and seat cushions a lighter gray. The brave “Boy from Syracuse'' pilot had a dark green suit, gull gray seat belts, helmet, oxygen hose and gloves, black boots, goggles and vest and “flesh” face. He was then placed into the cockpit, comfortably sitting on his reclined ACES II seat.

The intake was painted white with its shallow end matt black, in an attempt to make it look “deeper”. The exhaust cone was painted Testors burned metal and attached. Its innards were painted white and weathered with black pastels, in order to simulate the ceramic coating. Its rear end was also painted matt black, to make it look deeper.

The wing tanks were decaled and attached, and so were the already painted white and decaled Sidewinders. I decided to go mean and add two (kit supplied) triplets of Mavericks, one at each wing. The Mavericks were painted white with gunmetal exhausts (which were beforehand hollowed for extra realism), decaled and attached onto their triple ejection racks (also painted white), with the completed assemblies attached onto their pylons.

The kit supplied AN/ALQ-119 ECM pod was painted olive drab with black dielectric panels, decaled and attached at the centerline. The front and side pitots were attached too, their tips painted gunmetal.

Since this was an intensively used machine at harsh conditions, quite a bit of weathering was performed, mainly consisting of applying dark brown/black dry pastels at places where dirt, grim would accumulate, or even to simulate the distinctive staining around the gun area. A matt coat gave the Desert Falcon its final shade.

The transparencies were hand painted and attached, whereas the intake mounted navigation lights were represented by red and green blobs of Humbrol clear paints

The model was mounted onto a custom stand (basically an aero engine gear with a rod welded, then chromed plated) and posed at a lightly ascending/banking position, before calling it done!


The venerable Airfix 1/72 F-16A/B is an old mold but solid kit of this important plane, with good general shape and acceptable fit. Its details are on the simplistic side, especially at the key areas of cockpit landing gear. Intake and exhaust should have been deeper and the intake should feature the distinctive central supporting strut. Ordnance is adequately provided, in order to make a mean armed Falcon. While decals featured plenty of stenciling, their registration could be better (something that has been solved at recent Airfix re-releases, where the decals are perfect).

This is not a difficult model, even a novice modeler can put it together and experiment in painting those gray shades! Whereas newer and more detailed F-16 kits nowadays exist, this regularly reissued kit is by no means obsolete. If you have one, or find one at a good price, it might not be a bad idea to build it and come up with a nice early Falcon.

Happy modeling!

Spiros Pendedekas

20 May 2022

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