Saturday, 14 July 2012

Build Review - Hasegawa 1/48 RF-4B Phantom II

I just love the Phantom II. Of all the military jets produced this one just looks like it means business. Decent kits of it in 1/48 are few and far between, Hasegawa is really the only choice for the discerning modeller. I had this kit in my stash for some time and thought it was time to put it together. What really caught my eye was the El Toro all-black deactivation scheme offered in the kit. I don't normally go for "special" paint schemes but this one just looks so cool!

I had built a couple of Hasegawa F-4s before, so knew what to expect. The cockpit tub is nicely presented with well detailed sidewalls and control panels. They came up really well with some careful painting. I had a couple of resin F-4 seats in my stash so I did not bother with the kit seats, although I have to say they are not at all bad and would look perfectly acceptable if used, perhaps with the addition of some harnesses.

Being the "R" version, before closing up the fuselage there is some work to be done in the nose section. Specifically, some very nicely moulded camera hardware that can be clearly seen through the glazed sections of the nose so I took my time painting these up carefully. I also added some lead shot to the nose cone section, since although F-4s are not generally a problem when it comes to tail sitting, I never like to take any risks. The cockpit tub sits on the nose wheel bay, in common with so many jets, and this took a small amount of persuasion to sit snugly in the fuselage but it was nothing compared to the camera hardware in the nose. Since it sits astride the nose area, getting it lined up when putting the fuselage halves together was quite a chore, but I got there in the end.

I then spent a little time and effort cleaning up the fuselage seams, which are a little troublesome on this bird since there is so much real estate on the spine. It would be lovely if Hasegawa had taken a leaf out of Tamiya's book and done an "over and under" fuselage to avoid this problem.

Next the wing section goes on. The wings are put together "Spitfire Style", i.e. a single under plate with two top sections for each wing. This is not a problem, but there are a couple of large moulded blocks in the centre of each wing (I am sure someone could tell me what they actually represent) which need to be removed for this version. There were similar requirements for other protrusions on the model elsewhere and this does annoy me. It's all very well including a little "cut this off" symbol in the instructions but this is a big lump in the middle of an otherwise perfectly smooth wing section and cleaning up the mess afterwards is a right pain and I defy any modeller to make a perfect job of it. This is just lazy on the part of the kit manufacturer, I feel I am doing their work for them.

Anyhow, rant over. The tail planes go on with minimal fuss, although as always with F-4s, getting the correct angle is a bit tricky. I then gave her a good rub down all over ready for painting. I masked the canopies with Tamiya tape and a steady scalpel hand, and sprayed the undercarriage bays white in the first instance. These were then masked off using their own kit doors on Blu-Tack, always a good way to do it if you can as you have a ready made mask and you get the doors painted with the rest of the model.

Since this was an all black scheme, I took the trouble to give the whole plane a good coat of primer. This revealed a few blemishes which had to be dealt with. Next I sprayed her all over with black with a small amount of brown mixed in. Pure black is TOO black for this kind of scheme in a scale model and the brown just gives it a more convincing hue. Once this was done I had to mask out the tail and exhaust sections which are silver and steel, and used Alclad Polished Aluminium for the shiny bits and Dark Aluminium for the exhaust sections which gave a nice contrast. A couple of good coats of Klear later and she was ready for decals.

Decaling this scheme was a surprisingly simple affair, with one exception - see later. Since these "special scheme" planes are rarely, if ever, used operationally they don't tend to bother with many of the minor stencils and warning symbols that take us modellers forever to put in place. So only major markings are required and this job was a pure pleasure. However, "user error" came into play with the U.S.A.F. roundels. Hasegawa supply white "blanks" for these partly to mask the black and also to provide a white border around the roundel. Even with my years of building such planes I never actually realised that these are not quite symmetrical vertically. So the first blank one I placed on the wing went on upside down and until it was dry and I was ready to place the roundel over it I never realised. Fortunately this was the only one I had done so far but the only solution was to place it as best I could and then touch up the border with paint, which took me ages to get right. Beware! But otherwise the decals are very usable and bedded down beautifully.

Decals on and another coat of Klear later I considered my weathering options. Black colour schemes are very difficult to weather but it is also true that as previously mentioned, this plane would not have had much use since it was painted, and so weathering should be minimal. So in the first instance I gave the metallic areas a black oil wash which brought out the detail nicely. Some modellers treat the panel lines on a black aircraft with a grey wash but that looks unrealistic to my eye - just look at the photos of the real plane, you cannot see any panel lines against the black. So the only panel lines I treated were where they intersected the decals to help blend the markings in, and I was very happy with the result.

I then sprayed the whole plane with satin varnish. The actual plane is gloss black but in 1/48 scale a full gloss finish just makes it look like a Dinky toy, so this was toned down accordingly. Scale gloss is actually more like satin, for your reference. I then applied a minimal bleaching to the centre of the panels using a highly thinned sky grey mix. Again, less is more here since the plane should not look too weathered, but this really helps to make it look more realistic.

It did not take too long to construct and paint the undercarriage and fuel tanks, which again, got minimal weathering, and slotted nicely in to place. Fortunately, the undercarriage structure of the F-4 is rather more straightforward than many of it's contemporaries and thus presents relatively few headaches to the modeller.

The final task was to paint up the resin ejector seats and slot them in to the cockpit, before gluing in place the raised canopy hoods. This is a bit of a precarious operation that needs an incredibly steady hand, but when one has so much lovely detail in the cockpit it would be a crime not to show it off to its best advantage.

And so there we have it, a real beauty of a model if I say so myself. The kit is the best you will find in this scale (despite it's minor faults) and I will certainly be doing more "special" schemes in the future as they really do make a change from the norm. I hope you enjoy it!

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