After the Korean conflict, and with the advent of guided air-to-air missiles like the Sparrow and Sidewinder, military planners foresaw the end of dogfighting. Instead, future air engagements would be accomplished at supersonic speeds and with guided missiles. Guns and dogfighting were going to be things of the past, or at least so they thought!
At a time when the mainstay fighter for the US Navy carriers was the F-8 Crusader, Navy planners were already seeking a replacement. The F-8 could not achieve Mach 2, nor could it employ the Sparrow radar-guided missile. The Navy wanted a stable missile platform that combined speed, endurance, reliability, advanced radar capabilities, and still operate off of the deck. LTV proposed a sport model of the F-8, dubbed Crusader III, which was capable of Mach 2+ speeds and could employ the Sparrow and Sidewinder missiles. In the end, however, the winner was the McDonnell Douglas F4H-1 Phantom II.
The F4H-1 was quickly replaced by the F4H-2, incorporating a number of engineering changes that were identified while operating the F4H-1. The Air Force recognized the potential of the Phantom, placed an order of their own for the F-110 Spectre and requisitioned a number of F4H-2s for training and evaluation. After the 1963 realignment of US military aircraft designations, the F4H-2 became the F-4B, and the F-110 became the F-4C.
The Navy flew the F-4B extensively in Southeast Asia and as technology improved, the Navy ordered the F-4J to replace the F-4B. The F-4J featured an improved radar and higher thrust J79 engines. When Secretary of Defense McNamara's mandated replacement for the Naval F-4 faltered in development (the F-111B), the Navy performed a life extension program on their fleet of Phantoms. The F-4B received avionics updates and the resulting aircraft was designated F-4N, while the F-4J was not only given upgraded avionics, it also retrofitted with a similar flap/slat system as the later block USAF F-4Es. These updated F-4J aircraft were designated as the F-4S. These upgraded Phantoms soldiered on until the F-111B replacement, the F-14A Tomcat, could enter the fleet in sufficient numbers.
Tamiya's 1/32 F-4J Phantom II kit represents their continuing trend of providing more bang for the buck. Recall that their first 1/32 offering, the F-14A Tomcat, was a major breakthrough for large-scale modelers. Next came their 1/32 F-15 Eagles (an F-15C and an F-15E). These reflected even better molding and detail. These kits also reflected a heftier price.
At the 1995 IPMS/USA National Convention, there was the continuous sound of jaws dropping as Tamiya put their test shot of the (then) upcoming 1/32 F-4C/D kit on display. This kit demonstrated even greater improvements in molding technology. The fuselage was not molded in the traditional left and right halves with the wing plate covering the bottom. Instead, Tamiya molded the fuselage as one major piece and the bottom wing plate. No seams on top! To make matters more astounding, the Tamiya representative announced that their Phantom series would be offered at lower prices. They definitely kept their promise!
On opening the box, the first thing that catches the eye is the full-length tube of bubble-wrap that protects the fuselage. The next thing that catches the eye is all of the finely molded and detailed parts that make up this kit. The kit is molded in light grey plastic and each sprue tree is protected in its own bag. What is really impressive is the engineering that went into the molds for this kit!
In addition to the awesome fuselage, the kit features complete intake ducts from the splitter plate to the engine face. When you look down the intakes, you see the proper angles and change of shape from the intake to the engine.
The cockpit is definitely Navy. There is the proper wall on the right side of the rear cockpit instead of the console found in the USAF examples. There are no flight controls in the back office either. The ejection seats are made up of four pieces, are nicely detailed and were designed to accommodate the two crew figures included in the kit. If you choose to display the kit without the crew strapped in, you'll want to replace the seats with aftermarket examples that feature the harnesses.
The larger instrument panels are multi-piece affairs that feature decals for instrument faces. This renders the same effect as the acetate instruments used by companies like Eduard.
The landing gear struts are white metal parts that are screwed into the wheel wells for strength. Plastic overlays provide detail to these metal struts. The tires are rubber that are mounted on plastic rims.
Among the other features that Tamiya has provided:
- Beautifully detailed cockpits
- Postionable canopies
- Optional crew figures
- Positionable boarding ladder
- Nice intake ducting w/J79 engine faces
- Equally nice afterburner chambers
- Highly detailed wheel wells
- White metal gear struts
- Rubber tires on styrene wheels
- Positionable speed brakes
- Separately molded outer wing panels that have hinge detail but you'll need to provide your own hinges to pose the outer panels folded
- Positionable air refueling probe
- Movable stabilator with anhedral molded into part!
- 4 x AIM-9B Sidewinders
- 4 x AIM-7E Sparrows
- 2 x 370 gallon outboard tanks
- 1 x 600 gallon centerline tank
There are two large decal sheets in the kit that carry the three marking options and all of the stencils. These include:
- F-4J, 155800, VF-96, NG/100, USS Constellation, CAG
- F-4J, 155579, VF-151, NF/216, USS Midway
- F-4J, 155281, VMFA-451, AA/211, USS Forrestal (Bicentennial Markings)