Kitty Hawk 1/32 F-5E Tiger II
KIT #: KH 32018
PRICE: $60-70 street price 
DECALS: Seven options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: 2018 tooling


The F-5E and F-5F Tiger II are part of a supersonic light fighter family, initially designed in the late 1950s by Northrop Corporation. Being smaller and simpler than contemporaries such as the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, the F-5 cost less to both procure and operate, making it a popular export aircraft. The F-5 started life as a privately funded light fighter program by Northrop in the 1950s. The design team wrapped a small, highly aerodynamic fighter around two compact and high-thrust General Electric J85 engines, focusing on performance and low cost of maintenance. Though primarily designed for the day air superiority role, the aircraft is also a capable ground-attack platform. The F-5A entered service in the early 1960s. During the Cold War, over 800 were produced through 1972 for U.S. allies. Though the USAF had no acknowledged need for a light fighter, it did procure roughly 1,200 Northrop T-38 Talon trainer aircraft, which were directly based on the F-5A.

After winning the International Fighter Aircraft competition in 1970, a program aimed at providing effective low-cost fighters to American allies, Northrop introduced the second-generation F-5E Tiger II in 1972. This upgrade included more powerful engines, higher fuel capacity, greater wing area and improved leading edge extensions for a better turn rate, optional air-to-air refueling, and improved avionics including air-to-air radar. Primarily used by American allies, it remains in US service to support training exercises. It has served in a wide array of roles, being able to perform both air and ground attack duties; the type was used extensively in the Vietnam War. A total of 1,400 Tiger IIs were built before production ended in 1987. More than 3,800 F-5 and the closely related T-38 advanced trainer aircraft were produced in Hawthorne, California. The F-5N/F variants are in service with the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps as an adversary trainer. Approximately 500 aircraft are in service as of 2014.


I'm a bit late in previewing this one as the importer had run out, but it is here now and like all of Kitty Hawk's kits, I'm impressed with the amount of detail and the sheer number of parts in this one. Now let me preface all this by stating that I do not read other reviews of kits, preferring to go into them without any preconceived notions.

It is pretty obvious from looking at the sprue layout that the F-5F is going to be produced as the cockpit section is separate from the rest of the fuselage.  Kitty Hawk hasn't missed anything in the cockpit from what I can see. The seat is a goodly number of parts and there are etched belts that can be installed. The area behind the seat is also fully detailed with some sort of avionics. It appears that the canopy mechanism is molded in the open position though those who want to close this should not have any issues.

The nose gear well and gun bay is a major construct in and of itself and you are provided both guns and ammo boxes for the bays. The nose gear is to be installed at this time as the mounting tabs on the gear strut cannot be easily installed into the slots in the well after it is assembled. One then installs this assembly and the cockpit into the forward fuselage halves along with the cockpit sidewalls. There is a radar antenna, which I'm sure most will leave off. You have a choice of standard and sharknose radome. You will need to do your research on the sharknose as the wing lerex is the later version and will have to be trimmed back for the earlier planes. There is more p.e. for the canopy frame and the gun bay locks. These are also designed the be open.

With the nose done, you move on to the rest of the fuselage and wings. The engines are built up along with the main gear wells and the main gear. Note that the tires are all flat on the bottom. The wells are then put into the flatish lower fuselage and the upper section added. At this time, the nose section is installed along with the intakes (more p.e. on these), engine blow in doors (open or closed) and the exhaust with resin burner cans.

Upper and lower wing halves are assembled and the landing gear with doors are installed. Ailerons, flaps and slats are separate. The fin also has a separate rudder, all of these being molded in the neutral position. Once the flight surfaces are installed on the fuselage, a myriad of antennas and sensors as well as the nose doors, inner main doors and the speed brakes (posed open) are installed. The kit includes the chaff/flare dispenser used on the later planes so check your references to see if your model will need this feature.

There are four wing pylons, wing tip racks, and a centerline pylon. For things to put on them are two styles of Sidewinders, a pair of Rockeyes or Mk,84 iron bombs, a pair of Sparrows, and three fuel tanks. The kit also includes a resin seated and standing pilot.

Instructions are typical and there are no fewer than nine options. Two from VFC-111, one South Korean, one Mexican, one Iranian, one Singaporean (one of the last F-5Es built), one Brazilian, and two USAF planes from Luke AFB. Now I know that some planes (notably Brazil and Mexico) were fitted with extended fin fillets, but I'm not sure just when that was done or if the markings provided are the early schemes. I also question if the AF tail code was as shown on the right side of the fins of the VFC-111 planes as it is mirror imaged. Again, do your research on whichever option you choose. The two sheets are very nicely printed and will prove to be quite thin.


It is obvious to me that Kitty Hawk researched the fully modified F-5Ns operating out of Key West for this kit as there are features that simply were not present on earlier planes. The builder will have to do some additional research on most of these schemes to see just what bits were there or changed. A look at the photos in the reference will be sufficient to get the lerex shape right for early planes. It will be just a few minutes with a sanding stick to fix.

This is a very nicely done kit that has a lot more detail in it that the significantly older Hasegawa kit. Care in construction will result in an excellent model. I've built Kitty Hawk kits and they do take some patience to build. Not for the beginner, but an intermediate or advanced modeler will have no difficulties. I'd recommend picking one up if you are a fan of the type.


July 2018

Thanks to Glen Coleman and Kitty Hawk  for the preview kit. You can find this kit at your favorite hobby shop or on-line retailer.

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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