Kitty Hawk 1/32 RF-5E Tigereye
KIT #: KH 32023
PRICE: $60-70 street price 
DECALS: Five options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: 2018 release


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. The RF-5E was billed as a low cost photo reconnaissance aircraft and targeted those nations that were already fairly large F-5E operators. This version promised good tactical reconnaissance along with commonality with a type that was already in service. 


It should be no surprise that this is basically the F-5E kit with a separate nose. This new sprue section includes not only the new nose, but the various cameras. It takes the place of the standard gun nose on the kit sprues so you can only build the RF-5E with this kit.   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. Note that the photo etch fret is the same as used in the F-5E.

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 recce bird only has the left side gun and the new sprue contains a new upper muzzle opening. 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 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. I have my doubts as to how much of this stuff is actually carried and I'm thinking it would be pretty well limited to fuel tanks and wing tip missiles. The kit also includes a resin seated pilot.

Instructions are typical and there are five options provided. Two are the demonstrator in various markings along with a Malaysian plane, a Taiwan AF plane and a Singapore aircraft.  The decals are very nicely printed and will prove to be quite thin. A smaller sheet that is not shown has decals for the instrument panel and side consoles as well as the various weapons. A full batch of stencils is also included.


This is a very nicely done kit that has a lot more detail in it that the significantly older Hasegawa kit and allows you to do the recce variant. 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.


February 2019

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.

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