I just purchased a copy of the new book "Modelling the F-4 Phantom II" by
Geoff Coughlin and Neil Ashby. Having worked on F-4Cs and F-4Es for five
years during the 1980s I believe I have a somewhat unique perspective on
modeling this airplane.
The book is six chapters plus a foreward by an RAF Phantom pilot, an
introduction that suggests different modelling tools and materials, a
section on weathering, duplicating the bare metal areas, displaying the
completed model and photographing the model, a biography and reference
section, and a list some of the currently available Phantom kits with some
comments about each. One possibly problem for American purchasers of the
book is the liberal use of British brand-name paints, materials and
chemicals, calling for the use of such materials as "Rotring air brush
cleaner" and "Halford's screen wash." I would have no idea of what the US
equivalents of these would be, but of course on this group we can get that
info readily from our Brit friends I'm sure. The authors also describe
using different gauges of "fuse wire" for cockpit details, but as an
American, even being an electronics tech, I'm not sure what fuse wire is nor
what an American equivalent would be. FWIW, I've found several gauges of
lead wire at a fishing tackle shop (for tying flies) that work very well for
detailing, perhaps this is the same stuff?
The book doesn't really give too many insights about the F-4 and it's
unique characteristics; rather, it shows several models in three scales,
1/72, 1/48 and 1/32, discussing construction, detailing with resin and
photoetch, painting, decaling and weathering with washes and pastels. If
you are looking for a project as super-detailed as Pierre Greutert's superb
1/32 F-4S (those of you who are members of the Yahoo groups F4sForever and
F-4Discussion know the model I'm referring to), you'll be disappointed.
This book has each subject model built more-or-less out of the box, with the
additions of detail parts in the cockpits and other areas but no major
surgery or scratchbuilding.
The first project is an 81TFS (Spangdahlem AB, Germany) Hill Gray painted
F-4G in 1/48 scale by Hasegawa with Eduard photo etch, Aires exhaust
nozzles, and AirDOC decals. There are a couple of very minor errors in this
chapter, referring to AGM-88 HARMs as AGM-45 Shrikes in a couple of places
for one, as well as mentioning cutting and dropping the "Moulded-in flaps on
the main wings... just inboard of the wing-fold", the "flaps" which of
course are the ailerons. I would have hoped a book on the F-4 would have
mentioned the unique-to-Phantoms (AFAIK) characteristic that when the stick
is deflected one aileron goes down while the opposite side has a spoiler
that comes up (with that side's aileron traveling upwards only a couple of
degrees as the spoiler comes up). As the book says, when the hydraulics
aren't pressurized, both ailerons tend to droop over time. The F-4G is
shown with the left side aileron fully down, which was possible but rare to
see. Generally the ailerons would droop to a maximum of only 30 degrees or
so, and most often the ailerons on each side would be at noticeably
different angles from each other.
Interestingly, in this chapter the authors describe a mistake they made,
planning to use the Aires resin exhaust nozzles but failing to make sure
they fit before gluing the major assemblies of the aircraft together.
Because of some plastic structure inside the rear fuselage of the Hasegawa
kit that should have been cut away for the nozzles but wasn't, the author
had to cut the nozzles much shorter so they would fit. I liked that they so
readily admitted their mistakes and how they compensated; who among us has
never done something similar?
The authors also heavily tint the center windscreen green on this and most
of the other models in this book, which is incorrect. The three-piece
windscreen on a Phantom consists of the side panels which are Plexiglass
plastic roughly 1/2 inch thick, and the center panel which is laminated
glass, roughly an inch thick. Glass is less transparent than plastic
(compare a large acrylic aquarium with a glass aquarium of similar capacity
at a pet store if you want to see this for yourself), and really thick glass
takes on a very faint green tint. I'd seen many models of Phantoms with
tinted center windscreens before I joined the Air Force, so when I was
working on them I took a good look to see if this was accurate. In most
lighting conditions, the center windscreen looked clear, but perhaps VERY
slightly darker than the side panels. However, in certain lighting
conditions (hazy no-shadow days as I recall) the glass would appear a
beautiful shade of green. The center windscreens on book's models are
tinted far too dark. If you are going to tint the glass on your models,
make it subtle!
The second chapter in this book illustrates the Revell RF-4E in 1/72
scale, using Eduard Photo etch, part of the Aires Cockpit and afterburner
nozzles, and AirDOC decals to finish the model in AG51 marking in the two
dark greens, dark gray Luftwaffe scheme of the 1980s. This is a short
chapter, but does a nice job of showing the detail that can be incorporated
in this small scale.
The third chapter details the 1/48 scale Hasegawa FGR.2 in 23 Squadron
markings painted light grays, using the aires F-4E/F cockpit with
modifications, Airwaves seats for British Phantoms, and AeroMaster decals.
They show the difficulties involved in getting the Aires cockpit to fit, and
have a few good detailing ideas. One minor quibble I have is that the
author deflects the rudder and rudder pedals (correct) and the nose wheel is
turned to match (maybe not so correct). On the Phantom (as with most other
aircraft with hydraulic nose wheel steering) the nose wheel position is
independent of the rudder pedals with the hydraulics depressurized. The
rudder is mechanically as well as hydraulically connected to the rudder
pedals, but the nose wheel steering is hydraulic only with a small hydraulic
motor and gears. Whatever position the nose wheel is after engine shutdown
or after the tow bar is disconnected is where it will stay. The rudder and
rudder pedals will go to a neutral postion, unless a stiff breeze blows the
rudder off to one side in which case the pedals will deflect accordingly. As
an addendum, on the Phantom when the hydraulics are depressurized the
control stick goes to the centered neutral position no matter what
deflection the stabilator was set to during shutdown. The stab will retain
whatever position it was when the hydraulics were depressurized even as the
control stick goes to centered neutral. The ailerons were always at neutral
and the spoilers closed when the jet was shut down in my experience. The
spoilers could be pried up by the crew chief during his preflight
inspections. Normally they'd close themselves after he let them go, but
sometimes they'd stay up a little. Still, it was extremely rare to see them
open even a little without the hydraulics pressurized and the stick
deflected. Do note Phantom spoilers were used in conjunction with the
ailerons only; the left and right wing spoilers couldn't be raised
simultaneously like you might see on an airliner or cargo aircraft. Anyway,
it is possible that the nosewheel, rudder pedals and rudder would all be in
alignment off to one side on a parked Phantom, but it's much more likely
that the nosewheel would be centered. If you want to throw contest judges
for a loop, cock the nosewheel off to the opposite side from the rudder and
pedals; you'd be just as correct but it'd sure look unnatural!
The next chapter features the 1/32 scale Tamiya F-4J in the RAF's 74
Squadron markings from Yellow Hammer, Eduard PE, Cutting Edge Sidewinders
and Navy Wheels, a CAM SUU-23A gunpod on the centerline, and Reheat seats
and intake covers. This model features a scratch-built Ram Air Turbine and
landing gear downlocks made from thin plastic tubing. Most Phantom models
I've seen don't have the downlocks in place, which clamped over the rod
portion of the gear retraction actuators. Those downlocks were in place
until just before the crew "stepped" to the jet when we maintenance folks
would remove them, and reinstalled by us as the aircrew was still getting
out of the jet after they shut it down. Accurate downlocks would be a nice
thing to have Cutting Edge or someone else market.
The authors did an excellent job depicting the worn paint on the canopy
sills, worn from personnel getting in and out of the aircraft. The only
problem I see with it is that they have the left and right sills equally
worn. In reality the right sill was never badly worn, and we entered and
exited the cockpit from the left side only. The righthand sills got only
very minor wear from the crew chief standing on it as he polished the
interiors of the open canopies.
This model also has an open dragchute door with a chute packed inside.
This is inaccurate, as the door would be pulled closed as soon as the chute
was stuffed in the canister, or the door left open with no chute inside.
You could display a model with the chute inside like this if you also
position a maintenance stand under the rear of the jet and have a crewman on
the stand about to close the door.
This model uses the Cutting Edge wheels for Navy Phantoms which are bulged
to represent aircraft weight. The True Details Company seems to have
started this trend, but Phantoms' and many other high-performance fighters'
tires don't bulge with weight. The tires have extremely strong sidewalls.
As weight is added to the aircraft, the bottoms get flatter and flatter, but
the sidewalls don't bulge at all. As a side note, forgetting to move the
chocks away from the tires before we refueled and loaded up the jet would
mean the jet would settle onto the chocks with all its additional weight.
Once the aircraft was started and the pilot gave the signal to "pull
chocks", we'd discover the error. We'd have to pound, kick, cuss and
otherwise struggle to get the chocks out. I personally ruined a couple of
pairs of boots from kicking out stuck chocks! If you could get one chock
loose, you could use it to knock the others loose. Sometimes it was a real
battle! We tried not to forget to move the chocks away from the tires
before servicing the jet.
The authors include a photo of a real Phantom in which the three access
panels on the sides of the intake bulge out slightly. The caption points
this out and says "Tamiya accurately represented these panels... contrary to
some views". These are the panels that some modeller have mistakenly called
"Battle Damage Repair patches". I have similar photos I took of other
Phantoms in which these same panels were flush. I don't remember them
bulging out like this on any of the Phantoms I worked on. Why are they
bulged out on this particular aircraft (and the Tamiya model)? Darned if I
know. Perhaps they had a thicker than normal layer of sealant on the lip
that the panels mount to. Personally, when I finally get around to building
a Tamiya Phantom I'm sanding those panels flush.
The last model featured is another 1/32 scale Tamiya model, this time the
F-4E. The authors also used several Eduard photoetch sets, Reheat seats and
intake covers, Cutting Edge resin leading edge slats and wheels, and decals
from CAM, AirDOC, and Superscale. The model is finished in Greek Air Force
markings; interesting to me on a personal note, 68-0408 is the tail number
they picked. I worked on this very tail number at Ramstein AB, Germany in
the 1980s when she belonged to the 526TFS. This model is painted in the
Hill Gray scheme 408 was in when it was received from the USAF, and is
depicted by this model very faded. Paint touch-ups are represented by
darker gray, including the spot where the American "star and bar" was
painted over by the Greeks when they received the jet. The authors show a
number of "faded paint" and oily, greasy stain weathering techniques. This
model is very well done. The paint and weathered finish is spectacular.
There are a few extremely minor errors. One is that the author put on all
the correct downlocks and REMOVE BEFORE FLIGHT flags, but they put the 370
gallon wing tank safety pin RBF flags on the outboard sides of both pylons.
The pins should be on the left side of both pylons, so on the right wing the
RBF flag ends up on the main landing gear side of the wingtank, not the
The second minor error involves the little antenna at the rear of the
panel directly behind the rear canopy. This is the antenna for the SST-181X
rendezvous beacon. The Tamiya Phantom was first released as an F-4C or D
version. On the F-4D, the SST-181X antenna was mounted on the aircraft
centerline as you see here. On the F-4E version, it was relocated to the
righthand side of the same panel (Door 19). Tamiya didn't make this
correction in their F-4E release, and the authors didn't catch it either.
The last error I spotted is that 68-0408 had the modification done in
approximately 1984 while it was at Ramstein in which the upper UHF comm
antenna was relocated from inside the cap at the top of the vertical fin to
the right side of the upper fuselage. The authors didn't add this antenna
to the fuselage. There is another antenna on the top fuselage centerline
between the SST-181X antenna and inflight refueling receptacle that I'm not
familiar with; it wasn't on 408 when I worked on her. Navy Phantoms have an
antenna located there, so I think it was more likely a mistake on this F-4E
and should've been removed.
For the cockpit, the authors used the new pre-painted Eduard photo-etch
set, and the effect is outstanding. I was interested to see that they added
the gunsite video tape recorder on the front cockpit right console, the
first time I've ever seen this on a model. This was added to real F-4Es and
Gs to replace the old film gunsite camera approximately 1985. It was great
for smacking your right elbow against when you were reaching for switches on
the right console.
Again, scratch-built downlocks are put on the landing gear actuators,
greatly enhancing the authenticity of this model. I would have liked a bit
of a written description of how those were constructed, or perhaps a
step-by-step series of photos.
The last chapters suggest ideas for displaying Phantom models, for
weathering and painting, for photographing the models, and a bibligraphy of
This book relies more on photography than text to show modeling techniques
such as cockpit detailing and weathering. It appears geared toward an
intermediate modeller, one who has basic construction and painting
techniques down, but needs to learn weathering techniques.
- posted 18 years ago