Tamiya 1/100 F-4EJ Phantom II
|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
From 1968, the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) purchased a total of 140 F-4EJ Phantoms without aerial refueling, AGM-12 Bullpup missile system, nuclear control system or ground attack capabilities. Mitsubishi built 138 under license in Japan and 14 unarmed reconnaissance RF-4Es were imported. One of the aircraft (17-8440) was the very last of the 5,195 F-4 Phantoms to be produced. It was manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries on 21 May 1981. "The Final Phantom" served with 306th Tactical Fighter Squadron and later transferred to the 301st Tactical Fighter Squadron. Of these, 96 F-4EJs were modified to the F-4EJ Kai (改, modified) standard. 15 F-4EJs were converted to reconnaissance aircraft designated RF-4EJ, with similar upgrades as the F-4EJ Kai. Japan had a fleet of 90 F-4s in service in 2007. After studying several replacement fighters the F-35 Lightning II was chosen in 2011. Delays with the F-35 program have meant that some F-4s have remained in service. As of 2017 all three of the JASDF's remaining Phantom squadrons are based at Hyakuri Air Base in Ibaraki prefecture north of Tokyo. Among the remaining three squadrons, the 302nd Squadron is scheduled to be reorganized into the first JASDF F-35 Squadron at Misawa Air Base in the beginning of 2019. The other two squadrons are anticipated to retire their F-4s in 2020. Some F-4s are also operated by the Air Development and Test Wing in Gifu Prefecture.
Back in the 1970s, Tamiya made a rather major push to have 1/100 scale become a standard small aircraft scale. They had produced several kits to 1/50 and met with some success and their 1/35 scale for military vehicles has since become the standard scale. However, after producing a couple of dozen kits to this scale, it became obvious that it wasn't going to overcome 1/144, which was very much the standard for airliners. None of the other kit makers really embraced 1/100 so it has pretty much languished with but a few sporadic kits being released to this scale.
Their F-4EJ is quite typical of their kits. This is not the Tamiya of the 2010s, so the level of detail simply isn't the same. Most of the parts are engraved, but there are some, like the tailplanes, that have raised detailing. There are a couple of cockpit tubs but these have no real seat detail. The intakes are a splitter plate and outer intake with the tailplanes and wing each being a single part. Exhaust simply glue to the back of the fuselage.
On the underside, the main gear inclues the wheels though the nose gear has small wheels. All the door attachment areas are fairly large with the smaller nose and main gear doors molded in place. There are huge slots on the underside of the wings for the pylon attachments. An interesting choice of weapons for this one are Falcon missiles. You also get the wing tanks and a single piece canopy that is fairly thick and will test your masking skills.
Instructions have three construction steps with Tamiya paint colors. All four options are in USAF light grey over Navy white. I am honestly not sure if these were painted in 16473 or 16440 so will need to research things. The white does not cover the upper control surfaces as was typical for USN planes. There are markings for four aircraft, each from a different squadron. The box art plane with the diving eagle is 302 squadron and the others are 301, 303, and 306. All planes have black radomes and anti-glare panels. Decals are nicely printed and will work best with hot water.
Many of these kits get released from time to time and generally sell very well, despite their age. They do take some skill to build, as I discovered when doing their F-4K. However, they are not beyond the skills of most and make for nice models that do not take up a lot of shelf space.
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