1/48 Hasegawa F-4E Phantom II

by Eric Hargett

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It seems that the majority of people who build aircraft models either have or intend to complete a kit of the F-4E Phantom II.  After gaining inspiration from the wonderful reviews of F-4E builds on ARC, I decided to finally try my hand at a 'Rhino'.  And really, who can resist building one of the most famous all-weather attack aircraft of the USAF...the look alone is enough to get the modeling gears turning.  I won't bother with historical context as this has been covered very well in past reviews.  I used Hasegawa's 1/48 F-4E Phantom II kit for my build, which by the way is getting harder and harder to find these days.  Aftermarket items include Eagle Strike decals (#48150 Vietnam Warriors), True Details Resin Martin Baker MkH7 ejection seats, canopy masks by EZ Masks from Canada and armament stores from Hasegawa 1/48 Aircraft Weapon Sets A, B and C.  I admit that I'm a historical junkie of American airpower during the Vietnam war and so decided to model my kit after F-4E-35-MC Phantom II 67-308 'Betty Lou' of the 469th TFS based out of Korat, Thailand in 1969.

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Overall the fit of this kit is good and construction was straightforward with minimal filling and sanding required.  The cockpit was painted with both Flat Black and Gunship Gray with washes and dry brushing to bring out the details.  The True Details resin seats are great and look superb when accents are applied.  Probably the most tricky part of the entire build was positioning the wings correctly against the fuselage subassembly. This requires a three stage approach of gluing the forward portion of the wing to the fuselage first, allowing it dry and then progressing to the middle and finally aft section of the wing, with sufficient drying time between the stages.  Doing it this way avoids the need for C-clamps or any other device to hold the two subassemblies together while potentially denting or marring the surface from the clamps.  I used parts for the early F-4E (i.e. shorter gun barrel without the extra vents) not the late version.  After the main body of the aircraft was complete, I focused my attention on constructing the underwing stores and landing gear.

As usual, most of my time was spent painting and weathering the aircraft.  Vietnam-era F-4Es had notoriously filthy ventral surfaces and grimy and/or faded dorsal areas and this kit would be no exception.  I started by pre-shading all panel lines and 'shadow' areas with Flat Black.  Wheel wells and the inside of the wheel covers were given a light coat of Tamiya Flat White Primer followed by a light mist of Tamiya Flat White.  The wheel wells were masked and a few fine mists of Tamiya Flat White Primer were then applied to the ventral surfaces followed by a few light coats of Pollyscale U.S. Tactical Light Gray (FS55394), focusing on panel centers.  Where needed, particular areas were masked with blue tack in preparation for the SEA camouflage scheme.  I first airbrushed two light coats of Dark Tan (FS30219) over much of the dorsal surfaces followed by a lightened tint of 60% Dark Tan mixed with 40% U.S. Tactical Light Gray applied to panel centers and random locations were sun-bleaching would occur.  My next step involved affixing handmade paper stencil patterns with very small quantities of blue tack to mask off areas that would remain Dark Tan.  The distance between the paper stencil and the model surface varies from 1/16" to 1/8".  Positioning the paper stencil at this distance from the model combined with about a 30 degree angle on the airbrush spray creates a subtle 'feathered' look to the demarcation lines that resemble 'free-hand' without having to do so.  Again, two light coats of Medium Green (FS34102) were applied followed by a lightened tint of 60% Medium Green, 20% U.S. Tactical Light Gray and 20% Tamiya Flat Yellow applied to panel centers and random locations.  Additional paper stencils were affixed to prepare the model for the final paint.  You guessed it, another two light coats of Dark Green (FS34079) followed by a lightened tint of 60% Dark Green, 30% Flat Yellow and 10% U.S. Tactical Light Gray in panel centers and random areas.  Model Master Chrome Silver was applied randomly along leading edges to simulate chipped paint.  The entire kit was then given a coat of Future and areas of the vertical stabilizers and aft fuselage section were masked for application of Alcad II Aluminum, followed by White Aluminum and Dark Aluminum to particular panels.  The nose was painted Tamiya Flat Black.  Another coat of Future and the kit was ready for decals.

The decals were great and adhered nicely with a few coats of Solvaset.  Another coat of Future and it was time for weathering.  I first applied an acrylic Neutral Gray wash to the ventral surfaces and an acrylic Flat Black wash to the dorsal areas.  A coat of Future and black and burnt sienna oils were used to simulate leaks and grime.  Varying shades of gray pastels were applied after a coat of Future and Clear Flat.  Another coat of Future (is this starting to sound like a broken record...) and Tamiya Smoke was airbrushed over the entire kit randomly.  Flat Black was airbrushed to simulate exhaust stains.  Another coat of Clear Flat, more weathering with pastels and finally I sealed the kit with two more coats of Clear Flat.

Oh but I wasn't done yet...I wanted this bird to be fully loaded so after consulting my references, I decked-out my kit with a nice combination of missiles and bombs typical of F-4Es making sorties into North Vietnam in the late 1960s.  I placed six Mk82 on an MER along the centerline fuselage, three M117s on TERs for each wing, three AIM-7 Sparrows and one ALQ-87 ECM pod.  Painting and weathering all of the underwing stores took about 1/3 the time I spent on the aircraft.  At this point, you may notice that the starboard underwing fuel tank is a different shade of Medium Green than the rest of the aircraft.  Underwing fuel tanks for F-4s during the Vietnam war were interchanged among the different aircraft on the base, so a set of underwing tanks were not necessarily assigned to only one aircraft.  Using this information and a bit of artistic license I purposely changed the tint of the Medium Green of the starboard underwing tank to represent one that may not have received quite the amount of wear-and-tear that the aircraft itself had undergone.  I think this makes the kit look a bit more dynamic and realistic.

I finished the kit with another light coat of Clear Flat, painted the oleo struts of the landing gear Model Master Chrome Silver, the red lights with Tamiya Clear Red and green lights with Tamiya Clear Green.  I lost track of how much time I spent on this kit, but it was well over 50 hours, mostly devoted to painting and weathering.  In summary, this was a great build of a great aircraft.  As always, thanks to all the many contributors of reviews to ARC.  It's nice to see other people's work that provides inspiration for many of us.

Eric

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Photos and text by Eric Hargett