Zoukei-Mura 1/48 F-4J Phantom II
|KIT #:||SWS 4|
|PRICE:||I paid $75.00 plus shipping|
|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
|NOTES:||New tool kit (2016)|
The F-4J was an improved F-4B version for US Navy and Marine Corps, with emphasis on air-to-air combat capability improvement, which include: J79-GE-10 engines with 17,844 lbf (79.374 kN) of afterburner thrust each, AN/APG-59 pulse doppler radar coupled with the AN/AWG-10 Fire Control System for look-down shoot-down capability, larger main landing gear wheels resulting in wing bulges similar to F-4C, slatted tailplane, ailerons drooped 16.5° when landing gear and flaps were deployed to decrease the landing speed, zero-zero ejection seats, expanded ground attack capability, no IRST sensor under the nose; One USN pilot and one USN Naval Flight Officer became aces in F-4Js. First flight May 1966; 522 built. 302 of the survivors were later converted to F-4S standards starting in 1977. The aircraft was retired from USN squadron service in 1987 while the USMC operated them until 1992.
For decades, modelers have had the pleasure of building 1/48 F-4 kits. The main choices of most were the Monogram and the Hasegawa versions. Monogram pretty well stuck with the F-4C/D and F-4J, while Hasegawa kitted all but the early F-4A. There were other Phantoms in this scale, but they were more like toys than kits. The H & M ascendency came to an end a few years back when Academy decided to enter into the market. These kits were really quite expensive, but benefitted from years of improved molding technology and soon became the darlings of the 1/48 F-4 community. So far, Academy has released F-4B/J and F-4C/D kits.
Now we have this one from Zoukei-Mura. It has taken the F-4 kit that one extra step forward. It is obvious from the superbly molded and detailed sprues that they plan on more than the F-4J. Most of the sprues are simply labeled F-4 Phantom II, but some have SWS4 on them for bits specific to this kit.
If you like a lot of pieces, then this one is for you. I can only guess, but I'd say it is in the 400 part category. Z-M has chosen a standard method of molding the kit with right and left fuselage halves, a single lower wing, separate upper wing halves and separate outer wings. The kit has a proper USN rear cockpit with the abbreviated left side console and none on the right. The seats are proper for this version and include separate cushions to assist in painting. It is here that the only damage occurred with my kit as one of the ejection handle assemblies was broken in parts. All of the instrument sections have raised detail and you also have decals you can place over them if you so wish.
The kit provides two complete engines and a rather neat option is to use sections of the E sprue to make an engine stand! The kit cannot be built without the full engines. There are full intakes also provided, which is a very nice touch, though there are seams that will have to be dealt with. The only ejector pin marks that the builder will have to remove are on the inside of the outer intakes. On the outside of these parts, the placement for the RHAW antennas for the F-4S and late F-4Js is marked so for this kit's markings, those need sanded away. The kit has the barrier cutters molded on the fuselage, something that most kits miss.
On the wings, holes will need opened for the pylons and the wing tanks. One can open the holes for the centerline after the kit is nearly complete as they are opened from the outside. The kit provides separate ailerons and flaps as well as outer slats. However, they can only be done in the neutral position. Not so the speed brakes which can be molded down. The outer wing sections simply slot into the main wing and cannot be modeled folded.
The Sparrows and Sidewinders are superbly done and all of the fins are separate pieces, making each of these a small model in its own right. I very much like that Z-M has included a single piece canopy in addition to the usual one with separate bits. Some people like closed canopies and thanks to the clarity of the clear bits, little will be missed with this feature. Something I've never seen in any F-4 kit is that the thin metal ring on the aft fuselage around the burner can is a separate piece. This will very much simplify painting as that area is always a bit of a pain to mask. There are also the usual antennas and a boarding ladder as part of the package. Landing gear are superbly done and there should be no issues in this regard.
The instruction booklet is quite comprehensive and offers a lot of small detail and alignment drawings. It does make for a busy presentation, but is well done. Paint references are Vallejo and Gunze. A complete and quite large color and markings diagram is provided as these planes and their weapons have a lot of stencils. Markings are for the one plane shown on the box art, the aces plane from VF-96, which would be in a museum were it not shot down during its last engagement. The large decal sheet is superbly done and includes all the black bits around the canopy as well as fuselage walk area markings. Those not wishing to do a common subject like this will find a plethora of aftermarket decals for the F-4J.
So there you have it. Another great kit to add to the F-4 pantheon. It is not inexpensive and many will either pass on it or wait until it becomes more available at a lower price. To be honest, if you are happy with what you have, there is no real reason to get this just because it is new. However, if you are a died-in-wool Phantom Phanatic and have to have the best, well this is it.
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