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Hasegawa 1/48 scale F-104C Starfighter "USAF"

Manufacturer: Hasegawa, distributed by Marco Polo Import, 532 S. Coralridge Place, City of Industry, CA 91746, 626-333-2328.
Kit: No. PT-19
Scale: 1/48
Price: $28.98
Comments: Injection molded, 132 parts (4 vinyl), decals.
Pros: Excellent detail and fit, wild decal markings.
Cons: No missiles included.
The F-104 was perhaps best remembered as "the missile with a man in it," but the sleek day fighter had only a brief career with the USAF. After a handful of wings used the initial A model in Air Defense Command service, the 479th Tactical Air Wing was the only active-duty unit to use the beefed-up C model. The F-104 had better luck with foreign air forces, and it's still seeing service in some European air arms.

Hasegawa's new Starfighter is beautifully molded in gray and clear styrene, showing crisp recessed panel lines and rivets. Details abound from the ejection seat to the tip tanks. The afterburner is a jewel, with detail inside and out. The instrument panel is well done, and provides a decal option. The landing gear struts and bays have great detail, too. The fuselage is molded in left and right halves from the exhaust nozzle to the radome bulkhead. The two-piece radome is unusual - most Starfighter kits have one-piece radomes.

The only drawback to the kit parts was a scattering of ejector-pin marks, but leveling these off didn't harm the recessed details. Be careful of the area forward of the gunsight - that seam will have to be eliminated before you install the canopy.

The fit of the parts is near perfect, with a precise location of the cockpit tub into the fuselage. I like the vinyl grommets that hold the main and nose gear struts. They make adding the gear after painting sure and precise.

The fit of the wings is so good that I used no filler and no seam is visible. I like the separate leading and trailing edge flaps, ailerons, and rudder. The kit provides poseable speed brakes and a twin missile rack under the fuselage, although no Sidewinder missiles are included. The refueling probe had a couple of pesky ejector-pin marks on the upper (more visible) side.

The only filler I used was a little along the fuselage seams and drop tank seams. The fit of the windscreen to the fuselage, usually a problem, was exceptionally good.

Hasegawa chose probably the two most colorful USAF Starfighters for its decal sheet. Both are commander's birds from the 479th, and the one I chose was the outrageous red-tailed fighter flown by the equally colorful Col. George Laven. The decals seemed thick on the sheet, but went down fine with a little solvent. They stick pretty well, so don't add solvent until they are in the final position. Some stencils and markings go over other decals, so study the instructions carefully.

Hasegawa's color recommendations give only Gunze Sangyo paint numbers, and with only one FS color mentioned, the modeler is left guessing. One thing Hasegawa missed on Laven's bird: he had whitewalls painted on the tires!

I spent about 20 hours on this beauty, many of that on the complex decaling. I used Phil Friddell's F-104 in Action (Squadron/Signal) as my prime reference.

The first of Hasegawa's Starfighter family promises many more versions and marking to come. And with detail this good, I'm going to build every one.

Randal Dieck

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