Finally — an F-4B with engraved panel lines and full intake trunking. Wow!
The kit is molded in three colors — gray, white, and black — for those of you who want a nice-looking model without painting. It really doesn’t look too bad that way, either.
The kit comes with a variety of parts that hint at more versions to come. You get: two different nose cones and four under-nose IR/sensors; four different fin caps; two sets of stabilators, one straight and one slatted; and two different instrument panels for front and back cockpits. Academy also provides options for the refueling system: the U.S. Navy refueling probe or a pane to blank it off and a spine refueling receptacle for the U.S. Air Force version and a plate to blank it off.
You get three types of Sidewinder missiles, two types of Sparrow missiles, and 12 Mk.82 bombs with pre-fusing caps, short fuses, or the extended fuses (which I used).
You get a centerline fuel tank (Navy version) and two wing tanks that aren’t often used on Navy fighters when deployed. They are, however, used on Air Force versions (hint, hint).
You also get a centerline Vulcan cannon, an ALQ-119 ECM pod, and chaff dispensers for later versions, along with all the associated hard points, missile rails, two MERs, and two TERS. Also included are two forward nose-gear doors that are finally the proper shape, one for the Navy and one for the Air Force. And at last you get the longer exhaust cans and wider tires used on later versions. The intake trunking is a nice feature, but you can see a step when you look down the intakes.
The cockpit is an improvement over past kits, but it is still a little spartan; no throttle quadrant, and the seats are Plain Jane. But the side-console inserts are nice.
Another indicator of future variants is that Part No. F40, the lower forward fuselage, is molded separately. In Step 2, the main gear-bay framework and struts are assembled, then installed in Step 3. I didn’t like the possibility of snapping the struts off during construction, but I dealt with it. I did break off a piece of Part F45 or F46, I don’t remember which.
I also lost one of the F30 parts, a gear-door support, but I left the surviving one off. It didn’t make a difference in appearance or structural integrity.
Before joining the wing’s top and bottom, make sure you drill all the necessary holes for the hardpoints and antennas.
When installing the intake-trunk assemblies in Step 4, make sure that they’re seated properly in the lower fuselage. There are corresponding cutouts that match up between the trunks and the lower fuselage. Make sure these mate tightly. The exhaust cans can be left off until final assembly.
Step 6 joins upper and lower fuselage. You have the option of an extended or retracted refueling probe; I closed mine up. I didn’t want to detract from the lines of the model.
In Step 7, installing the intake assemblies, make sure that the seam above the wing is smooth so you can deal with the mismatch that’s inherent in Phantom models; I haven’t found one yet that mates perfectly, in any scale. (Ejector-pin marks have to be filled inside the intakes on their bottom sides.) The panel that replaces the Air Force refueling receptacle is a sloppy fit. Also, the air conditioning intakes (parts G34 and G35) are a bit too narrow. But they’re workable.
In Step 9, Part O2 stands a bit proud and has to be sanded and blended with the fuselage; otherwise the tail won’t sit right.
The rest of the assemblies went off without a hitch. I used the missiles called for in the instructions. The bombs need the pre-arming caps to be installed on the front, but the kit provides both short and extended fuses. I used the latter, also shown with the finished model on the box.
I painted my model with Testors Model Master enamels and Alclad II for the exhausts and Sidewinder tips.
There are lotsa stencils! They went on perfectly, but they like to stick almost immediately. The good news is that they’re arranged in numerical order on the decal sheet, making application easy. Just cut off a row, find them in the instructions (which are very good), and put them on. Tail decals are engineered perfectly and fit with no trimming.
I spent about 45 hours on my kit, 10 just for the decals, and it builds into a terrific model. Highly recommended!
Note: A version of this review appeared in the May 2013 FineScale Modeler.