Written by 3:24 pm My Builds

Completed : AFV Club 1/48 Northrop F-5N Tiger II ‘VMFT-401 Snipers’

Kit Info
Brand: AFV Club 48101
Scale: 1/48
Media: Styrene
Markings: TwoBobs 48-124 F-5E VMFT-401 Snipers

The Subject
The F-5E Tiger II is an upgrade of the F-5A Tiger. Introduced in 1970, it has more powerful engines, a lengthened and enlarged fuselage, larger fuel capacity, better avionics, better aerodynamics and more crucially, a radar. The F-5E would prove to be a successful combat aircraft for US allies, but would only serve the US in an ‘aggressor’ role for training.

The F-5N Tiger II is an upgrade of the ex-Swiss Air Force F-5E by the US Navy with the replacement of the AN/APQ-159 to the AN/APQ-69 radar, modernized avionics and improved maneuvability. Externally, the standard nose cone was replaced with a ‘duck bill’ one which has a flatter profile. The standard LERX were also replaced with wider ones. The US Navy purchased 36 low-hour F-5E/Fs from Switzerland in 2006 and operates the upgraded F-5N/Fs in the ‘adversary’ role.

Marine Fighter Training Squadron 401 (VMFT-401), known as the ‘Snipers’, is the USMC Reserve fighter squadron tasked to act as the opposing force in simulated air combat. They are based at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma In Arizona and currently operates 11x F-5N and 1x F-5F Tiger IIs. They also help train new Marine F/A-18 Hornet pilots that are assigned to VMFAT-101 at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in California.

Wikipedia – Northrop F-5
Wikipedia – VMFT-401

The Kit
AFV Club introduced this kit in 2010 to all modelers’ delight. We finally had a modern take of this popular aircraft (1,499 built with over 20 users). Before this kit, the only game in town for 1/48 was the Monogram kit from 1978. The F-5N was the initial 2010 release and was released together with the F-5E variant. Options include:

  • recessed panel lines
  • open/closed canopy
  • open/closed airbrakes
  • open/closed engine louvres
  • open/closed port gunbay (but no gun)
  • lowered/raised flaps
  • a small photo-etch fret which includes rear-view mirrors for the canopy and mesh screens for the intake splitter plates
  • 2x nose gear struts (raised or lowered)
  • 2x AIM-9 Sidewinders
  • 2x underwing and 1 x centerline droptanks
  • 1x ACMI pod
  • 1x access ladder
  • Markings for 4x VFC-111 F-5 Sundowners

While the kit is labeled as an F-5E/N, it really only builds into the F-5N.

As of 2023, if you want a modern tooling of the F-5E/N, AFV Club is the only game in town.

The Build
The build went the same as the first go around with the same problems:

  • nowadays I prefer a closed canopy but the kit wasn’t designed for that so some trimming and brute force was required to close the canopy properly
  • the nose to fuselage fit wasn’t great and required removing the locating tab on the fuselage side
  • the gunbay doors required some fiddling to fit closed
  • I did better with the PE mesh screens for the intake splitter plates but I wasn’t happy with how I attached them in place
  • the intake openings didn’t fit quite right and required some work to fair in properly
  • the tail section gave me some fitting problems and I ended up obliterating some rivet details in the process
  • the landing gear parts were still as small and fiddly as ever but I worked slowly and by giving each part time to cure properly, it went well.

As with the previous build, I replaced the ejection seat with a resin one from Wolfpack Designs. I also complemented the included ACMI pod with an AIM-9L Sidewinder from the Academy F-4 kit. This was modified to depict a captive round.

Colors & Markings
The TwoBobs VMFT-401 sheet offers options for three F-5Ns: two in 3-tone gray and one in 2-tone brown and green color scheme. I decided to go with the latter ‘Sniper 12’ scheme. The scheme was made up of FS30279 (light brown), FS30140 (medium brown) and FS34097 (dark green) and I ended up having to mix both the light brown and dark green. The hues were matched to reference photos I found online.

In hindsight this might not have been the right approach as the light brown matched photos but did not match the hue on the decals. Another problem was that the demarcation lines did not line up with the demarcations in the decals. A pleasant surprise though is that TwoBobs now provides both layering and non-layering for some of the markings although the TOPGUN logo still requires careful aligning and layering.

I’m not quite sure yet how I will solve the demarcation line problem but it’s a feature on a lot of adversary aircraft so it’s something to figure out for the next build.

Weathering was again minimal with only a panel wash done with diluted oil paints. As mentioned above the final assembly for the landing gear was done slowly to let the cement cure before proceeding to the next stage. It’s a test in patience but it worked as I didn’t have the same problem as the previous build.

All in all, not a bad result although the demarcations not lining up is quite irritating. I shall do better.

Build Log
Part 1 : Construction
Part 2 : Painting & Finishing

Build 11 of 2022

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Tags: , , , , , , , , Last modified: 29 May, 2023