Revell Germany 1/72 RF-4E Phantom II
Model, Text and Photos by: Mike O'Hare
Is there anything that really needs to be said about the F-4 Phantom? One of the most successful jet aircraft from the western world, the more than 5 000 aircraft built have served with over a dozen countries. Now in its fifth decade, the type still serves a vital role in 7 of those countries today. They type modelled here is the RF-4E, a reconnaissance version built for the export market, merging the RF-4C's camera systems with the F-4E's fuselage. Although most RF-4Es lacked the ability to carry weapons (though some Luftwaffe examples were later modified to carry cluster bombs), it's arguably one of the most interesting versions from a modelling standpoint, as it has worn many of the more colourful Phantom camouflage schemes.
Revell Germany's newly tooled Phantoms are certainly up to the high standards of their other recent releases. Fine recessed panel line and rivet detail, nicely rendered wheel well and landing gear detail along with enough cockpit business to make the average 1/72 modeller happy. It's worth noting that the kit is essentially a scale-down of their 1/32 F-4 series, not unlike the 1/32 and 1/72 Tornados. And just as with those 1/32 kits, the instrument panel detail in the RF-4 isn't quite as nice as that in the F-4F kit. Both accurately depict their subject matter well, and both are of the raised type, but the instrument panels in the RF-4 are just a bit flatter, with raised bezels and switches on the panels, while the F-4F kit has ever so slightly heavier detail, and depicts bezels on raised instrument boxes, on top of the panels. It's not a concern at all, more of an odd quirk. Breakdown of the kit is similar to that of Hasegawa's F-4 family, with a few notable differences. First and foremost, Revell's Phantoms include engine turbines on a bulkhead inside the fuselage. There is no intake trunk, but it is better than Hasegawa's short, flat bulkheads in my opinion. Revell also include the auxiliary engine vents between the main landing gear bays; a nice touch, as these doors are usually seenopen on Phantoms at rest. Revell don't, however, include the optional photo-flare buckets above the exhausts. Shape-wise, the kit is quite good, however the tail cap is canted a bit too far forward. Simple to fix with some filing, but an odd mistake nonetheless. As well, the canopy angle is a bit flat, in my opinion, and should slope down more. Opening the canopies goes a long way towards hiding the problem, but it does mean the forward fuselage appears slightly heavy; this is really only noticeable if the kit is displayed next to a Hasegawa Phantom, as Hasegawa have nailed the F-4's shape. Also worth noting, Revell's drop tanks are quite tubular, with bullet-shaped end caps mounting to cylindrical centre bodies. Every other F-4 kit's drop tanks are more curved. I can't say whether they're right or wrong, and it's entirely possible that German F-4s used a slightly different tank design, but it does look a little bit unusual. The RF-4E is moulded in green plastic, while the F-4F release, which swaps out the forward fuselage sprue to depict a gun nose, also adding missiles, slatted outer wings and the new instrument panels, is done in grey.
Decals are included for two different Luftwaffen RF-4Es. One is a recce meet special scheme, in overall black with a large badge underneath, thankfully broken down with cut-outs for the gear doors to ease application. The other is a regular service aircraft in the Norm '83 scheme, the subject seen here. As a minor nit-pick, it would have been nice to see Revell include decals for both recce squadrons and a few spare number decals to depict other jets, but the decal sheet is quite large as it is.
Constructions start, as usual, in the cockpit. There's no real surprise in how anything goes together, and the raised detail makes everything fairly easy to paint. I substituted a pair of resin ejection seats (probably True Details), mainly because they were already painted and I was feeling particularly lazy. The kit's seats are very nicely done, but they do lack that certain look that resin seats provide. Not to mention belts, and I'm terrible at adding belts. Fuselage construction for me was complicated by the fact that I'd decided to add a semblance of intake trunk. Because of the shape and location of the F-4's intakes, you only really have to add the outer halves to give the impression of a full trunk back to the turbine face, which makes it a reasonably simple matter. The turbine bulkhead was hacked in two, with each side glued into its respective fuselage half. I then mixed up a batch of milliput, slopped it into each fuselage half and started shaping. My goal was simply to give a smooth transition from the intake back to the turbine so that it LOOKED like an intake trunk, not to worry about any real accuracy. Once dry, the milliput parts were CA'ed into place (as they promptly popped out when dry ), sanded to smooth out and painted gloss white. With the intakes more or less done, the fuselage went together. Though the breakdown here LOOKS similar to Hasegawa's F-4 series, the way Revell has handled location tabs and specific breaks makes things a little trickier. With a number of Hasegawa and Fujimi Phantoms under my belt, I got a bit cocky and had a bit of a hard time of it. I can only suggest test fitting here, and to start out by following the directions - just because you THINK you know better, doesn't mean you do That said, nothing was overly problematic, and all the parts did pop into place eventually; they just required a bit of pulling and prodding. As well, assembly was hampered by my intake trunks, which pushed a few key areas slightly out of shape.
|Shot down the intake, all that is visible is the outer half. Note the poor job measuring for the splitter plate!|
Modern German Aircraft use their own national standard for colour matches - the RAL system. This is along the lines of America's FS matches, and Britain's BSC colours, but of course, with everything being different. It was quite a chore trying to find paint matches for the various RAL shades with locally available paint brands, so in the end I ordered Xtracolor tins for the camouflage from Roll Models. The Xtracolor paints spray beautifully and dry overnight to a nice, decal-able gloss, so this was, by far, the best option. While waiting for the paints to arrive, I researched camouflage patterns and decided to use one of the Norm '83 patterns from the Don Colour web site, mainly to be a bit different from what the kit depicts. Don Colour's paint diagrams were scaled up to the dimensions of the kit using a photo editor, then printed out. I find the easiest method here is to just crop to the edges of the image - from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail, and wingtip to wingtip, then punch in the kit's dimensions using the image size function. Hey-presto, drawings exactly the same size as the kit. It's also best to make the drawings slightly larger than the kit, to account for slight bulges, curves and the like. The base colour was sprayed, in this case, FS 34079. When dry, I cut out the 34079 portions of the diagram and taped them onto the model and sprayed the next colour. The process is again repeated for the third shade of green. I'm particularly fond of this method, as it's easy to get accurate, repeatable demarcation lines that are nice and tight, but slightly feathered. With the camouflage done, the wheel wells and engine bays were masked around and sprayed white (easier than painting white first, then masking off) along with the landing gear struts and doors. The radome was sprayed with a gloss black and left to dry, and the drop tanks and pylons were painted in a variety of greens - it seems that no two of them match on real Phantoms, so I wanted to replicate this patchwork appearance. The fuselage was masked off around the natural metal areas aft of the engine and these were first sprayed with Mr. Surfacer, then lightly buffed with a cotton swab and sprayed with Alclad. The lower portions and exhausts are done in steel, with the uppers in a mixture of steel and aluminium. Painting done, the model was glossed and readied for decals.
I know Revell has a pretty poor reputation among modellers for their decals, but I must admit I was quite impressed with the way they went on. The decals were as good as any kit items I've used, and though a tiny bit thick, with Micro Set/Sol, blended right in once flat coated. Registration was pretty much perfect and the detail is quite crisp. My only real complaints are to do with the lack of carrier film on the larger fuselage stripes. The lines along the intakes, and the boxy shape on the spine only have carrier film along the lines themselves, which makes them very flexible, and thus difficult to line up properly. You can see from the shot below that the decals on the spine are bowed out (my fault). It would have been much easier had Revell used a large expanse of carrier film here to give the stripes rigidity. Of course, then I'd be complaining that there was too much carrier film Also worth noting is the squadron badge. Revell forgot the pupils in the owl's eyes - they're just white circles on the decals. Oddly enough, in their kit, Hasegawa DID manage to include the pupils, but filled the area between the wings and tail in with red (as you can see, this is white - as it should be - on Revell's decals).
With the decaling done, the model was glossed again to level out the surface, then given a wash. I've been shying away from thinned paint washes lately, instead using watercolours from tubes. An appropriate colour is mixed, one for each shade in the camouflage, slightly darker than the camo colour itself, then the watercolours (tube type) are thinned slightly with water, and mixed with a healthy squirt of liquid dish soap. The main benefit here is actually thickness - just like the sludge wash, the paint doesn't run along panel lines with this method, so you can pick out individual blocks of colour with great precision. The wash is slopped along all the panel lines, then wiped off with a dry, or very lightly dampened paper towel. The soap prevents the wash from drying too quickly, so there's a pretty good working time - if the wash does dry, it will tend to clump or flake, pulling out of the panel lines in larger pieces. If this happens, switch to a damp cloth or lightly moisten along the panel lines with a new brush, and wipe the excess off gently. As a worst case scenario, you'll have to re-apply the wash in a few spots, and if you completely muck things up, hold the model under some running water to remove all traces of the wash. Very easy to master, and very forgiving of mistakes - what's not to love?
After the wash had dried overnight, the model was matte coated. Final assembly was completed, with the glossed radome tacked on, tailplanes, pylons and landing gear added, and the various lights and such picked out with a fine brush. The exhaust area was given a faint, misty coat of matt black paint to simulate the sooty Phantom's exhaust staining, and the wheel wells and turkey feathers given a light wash of home made smoke - India ink mixed with Future - to pick out the details and add depth. Mixing Future with Ink allows you to vary the intensity of the smoke, from a very faint tinge to full-on pimpmobile. The cameras were inserted into the nose, simply sliding into place with a friction fit. This done, the glazing was all glued in place and the camera bay cover finally glued on.
With the model just about finished, I attacked it with pastels. Using green, white and black, four different mixes were made by blending the pastel dust, from light to dark. These were dabbed lightly on the model's surface in a random pattern, excess dust blown gently off, then the pastels blended in by wiping along the direction of streaking with a cotton swab. This gives a pleasantly mottled appearance of fading, shadows and general grime, but it subtle enough not to be overwhelming. As a final touch, streaks of oil and hydraulic fluids were added to the underside by simply adding a dots of tinted Future and smearing it in the direction of the airflow with a fingertip.
It's an excellent kit, very enjoyable to build, and can be the start of a fairly sizeable Phantom collection. A bit of work will allow you to build RF-4s from Iran, Greece, Turkey, Japan and Israel, while there's a number of iterations of operational camouflage schemes seen on German RF-4s, plus some very nifty test schemes and countless air display/colourbird markings. As well, with a bit of effort, the F-4F, aside from modelling the countless German paint jobs, can be converted to an F-4E, with all the markings options that entails. But the question remains, how does it compare to Hasegawa's F-4 Family? That's a difficult question to answer. As a kit, I'd say Revell is leaps and bounds ahead, with better detail (by far) throughout, and just a nicer looking all-round product. And at the price, it really can't be beat - if nothing else, it makes a great OOB kit as a break from more involved builds, and would be a good choice for newer modellers just getting started in the hobby. Unfortunately, it's hampered by two things: the shape niggles (it's close, but it just isn't dead on like Hasegawa's), and the limited versions available. With Hasegawa's Phantoms, you can build almost any Phantom, save the Spey-engined types, from the same basic tooling. If you're into the F-4, or simply plan to build more than the RF-4, F-4F and (with work) F-4E, then there will be a noticeable difference between them, in terms of shape, detail and surface detail. This goes a long way towards evening out the playing field, and in the end, it's probably a wash: the individual modeller will have to decide what's most important themselves, and go with that. It's a kit that's definitely worth picking up, however.
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