Academy 1/48 KF-5E Tiger II

KIT #: 12229
PRICE: $35 Shipped
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: 2015 boxing. Reboxed AFV kit

In 1970, Northrop won the International Fighter Aircraft (IFA) competition to replace the F-5A, with better air-to-air performance against aircraft like the Soviet MiG-21. The resultant aircraft, initially known as F-5A-21, subsequently became the F-5E. It had more powerful (5,000 lbf) General Electric J85-21 engines, and had a lengthened and enlarged fuselage, accommodating more fuel. Its wings were fitted with enlarged leading edge extensions, giving an increased wing area and improved maneuverability. The aircraft's avionics were more sophisticated, crucially including a radar (initially the Emerson Electric AN/APQ-153) (the F-5A and B had no radar). It retained the gun armament of two M39 cannon, one on either side of the nose of the F-5A. Various specific avionics fits could be accommodated at customer request, including an inertial navigation system, TACAN and ECM equipment.

The type has seen considerable foreign use, including the South Korean Air Force. KF-5 variants were built by Korean Air under license between 1982 and 1986. These planes have the larger leading edge extensions and the 'shark nose'. A total of 214 F-5s were procured and joined a large fleet of US built F-5E/Fs as well as older A/B models. Currently, over 150 are still in service.


The purchase of this kit is, like many, based on a decal sheet. In this case it was Furball's new VFC-111 set in 1/48. Asking around I found that the AFV Club kit had the updated nose and strakes for the F-5N flown by this unit. AFV Club kits are not inexpensive but are supposed to be the best around. Fortunately, Academy has reboxed this kit for the home market and I was able to get a couple at a very good discount.

First thing that struck me while looking at the parts is how much it is like the Kinetic F-5A that I built a few years ago. Of course, it is not the same kit, but similar and undoubtedly to allow the multiple variants to be kitted. My previous experience with 1/48 F-5s has been with ESCI, Monogram, and Classic Airframes kits prior to the Kinetic build and those had little in the way of inserts.

The cockpit is very nicely done with raised detail on the side consoles and instrument panels. The bang seat is convincing though there are no belts. There are optional canopy mechanisms for a raised or lowered canopy and this apparently needs to be attached prior to installing the cockpit. Note that you are provided two canopies with one looking a tad more rounded on the top.

Forward fuselage is separate from the rest of the airframe and consists of the lower fuselage with gear well opening along with the two sides. There are separate panels for the gun bay on the left side, but there is no gun bay. Rather odd. Once the nose section is assembled one moves to the upper fuselage sections. In the back are optional intake doors for the engine; one closed and one open. The open one would only be like that when the engine is running so again, odd that it would be included as there is no pilot figure.

After attaching the upper intake section, the wings are assembled. The lower fuselage contains the lower wing half. One will need to open any pylon holes at this time. The kit provides separate flaps, slats, and ailerons as well as a separate rudder. The elevators have to be trapped between the aft lower fuselage and the rest of the fuselage. Exhaust are then installed. A nice note is that there are detail drawings which show the proper alignment of some parts like the nose cone and exhaust to keep you from installing them upside down or backwards.

Landing gear are very nicely molded and your have the door attachment hinges provided as well. Inner main gear doors can be modeled open or closed. Same with the speed brakes. For things under wings you have a pair of fuel tanks as well as one for the centerline. All the pylons have anti-sway braces. The tanks have a polycap installed before gluing the halves together so it is a snap to install them. Sidewinders are provided for the wing tips. There is also a boarding ladder provided.

Instructions are well done with some diagrams to ensure proper alignment. Markings are for two South Korean aircraft with slightly different serials and the twin tiger markings are different sizes. Full data markings are also provided. The light blue in the badge with the larger tiger heads on the sheets in both my kits was off register.


I have to say that I'm pretty impressed with what is in the box. This is supposed to be the best F-5E kit on the market and it certainly does trump the previous Tiger IIs in this scale. As with anything, the real proof is in the building, though it is a great start.


March 2018

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