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Build : Hasegawa 1/72 Mitsubishi F-2A Viper Zero

Kit Info
Brand: Hasegawa 00545
Scale: 1/72
Media: Styrene
Markings: DXM Decals 71-7123
‘JASDF F-2A 3rd TFS 60th Anniversary’

The Subject
The Mitsubishi F-2, nicknamed ‘Viper Zero’, is a multirole fighter manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Lockheed Martin for the Japan Air Self-Defence Force (JASDF). It is based on the F-16 Agile Falcon, General Dynamics’ low-cost alternative for the Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) competition. Production began in 1996 and first service entry was in 2000.

The F-2 was planned as a replacement for the Mitsubishi F-1 with the initial intention of a fully 100% domestically developed and manufactured aircraft. However, amid the risk of deterioration of US-Japan relation and under pressure from the US government, it became a joint development. Responsibility for cost sharing was split 60% by Japan and 40% by the US with Lockheed Martin manufacturing all the aft fuselages and wing leading-edge flaps and eight of the ten left-hand wingboxes.

Mitsubishi used the existing F-16 design as a reference with the resulting F-2 looking like an enlarged F-16 with minor cosmetic differences. However, they differed in many aspects internally. The F-2 is the first operational military aircraft featuring an AESA radar and is also designed to carry domestically produced ordnance like the ASM and AAM series of missiles and GCS series of bombs. Initially planned for 141 F-2s, the total was reduced to 94 due to production costs. As of 2014 there are 61 single-seaters and 21 two-seat trainers in operation.

The subject of this build is F-2A serial 43-8524 as she appeared in 2016 wearing the 60th Anniversary special scheme for Hyakuri-based 3 Hikotai (3rd Tactical Fighter Squadron) of the 7th Air Wing. 3 Hikotai is currently the longest-serving JASDF squadron having been active since 1 October 1956. 3 Hikotai was also the first operational F-2 squadron.

Sources:
Wikipedia – Mitsubishi F-2

The Kit
Initially released in 1998 by Hasegawa, this is the 2003 reboxing and is the ‘general white box’ release for this subject in their catalog. The kit features:

  • option to build both A and B versions
  • options for open or closed canopy
  • parts breakdown is very similar to the F-16 kit including the lack of details in the wheel bays and cockpit, very shallow intake and having part of the exhaust being molded into the fuselage
  • closed nozzle only
  • static dischargers are molded on and oversized
  • horizontal stabilizers attach via polycaps
  • stores (surprisingly for Hasegawa) include 4x ASM-2 air-to-surface missile, 2x AAM-3 air-to-air missile and 3x external fuel tanks
  • markings for both 3 Hikotai and 21 Hikotai and additional serial numbers to build any of the F-2A/Bs operated by the two squadrons

Hasegawa usually makes an extra effort when designing Japanese aircraft but this looks to be a somewhat simplified kit. It’ll be interesting to see how it builds up.

The Build
Much like their F-16 kit, the general fit of the kit is good. The details however are just a slight upgrade from the much older kit. Some notes regarding this build:

  • the canopy has a seamline running down the middle which required removing. I then dipped it into Deluxe Materials Looks Like Glass (an alternative to Future Floor Polish) which worked up to a point (see below)
  • I added details to the very basic ejection seat
  • this particular F-2 was unarmed while wearing the special marking but had wing pylons attached so I detailed them instead of leaving them bare
  • I believe the nozzle should be open when the engine is off but there’s nothing much to do about it
  • there are Injection pin marks in all the gearbay doors
  • gearbays are basic with little internal details
  • the pylons required trimming to fit and were painted and attached prior to painting the main body
  • the canopy requires some finessing to fit properly
  • the nose gear is fragile and I managed to break it once

I installed the main gears from the beginning to get a stronger fit and while I didn’t accidentally break them, I did break the actuators for the gear doors. But hey, I only broke them once!

Colors & Markings
The F-2s are painted in a two-tone blue camouflage but for this particular F-2A, I’m using DXM Decals offering to model the special 60th Anniversary livery which is an overall medium blue with a digital camouflage on the upper surfaces.

The special scheme is provided as decals so except for the canopy requiring to be the dark blue the kit is in an overall medium blue color. I had to match the dark blue to the decals and though my effort came quite close, I think it’s still different enough to be noticeable. I also handpainted the small details like IFF ‘bird slicers’, lights and antenna before decaling began.

DXM Decals split the scheme into two parts: the digital camouflage and the stencils. The decals were thin enough that they were OK being stacked together but it also means I spent a lot of time applying them since I had to wait for the digital camo layer to cure first before stacking the stencils on top. DXM also missed out on a few details for the digital camouflage: they had cut outs for the IFF blades (which required judicious use of Mark Softer) on the nose but not for the RWR blisters on the side. The decals for the spine were also missing the cutouts for the antennas. For the former I had to slice the decal up into pieces and patch around the blisters. For the antenna blades I put the decals around the blades and patched up any resulting empty spaces with the spare rectangles DXM printed onto the sheet. The result is a lot neater than dealing with having to add cutouts for the antennas but the camo on the spine is now wider than it should be. If I had to do it over again I think I would have tried to add the cutouts.

There were stencils aplenty that required careful checking with the instruction for their positions. Luckily, DXM has chosen to group some of them together into larger single decals. Unfortunately though, the decal placement sheet looks like it was printed on an inkjet printer at a low resolution so it looks blurry and pixely which made it hard to make out the positions of some of the stencils. Some of the stencils were also missing their corresponding numbers.

Other than these issues, the decals went on easily and were robust enough for prolonged re-positioning. They also reacted well to Mark Softer and Setter when required. I even managed to reposition a cured decal by soaking it with water and it lifted without issue.

Finishing
Being a commemorative bird, this F-2 was kept very clean so I only did a simple panel wash to give the overall kit some depth. At this point I was on the final stretch but removing the canopy masking I found that the masking tape had reacted with the Deluxe Materials Looks Like Glass and has left it sticky and patchy as if it hadn’t cured and there were sections that were lifted by the masking tape. With the help of a generous helping of Vallejo Airbrush Cleaner and cotton buds I slowly removed all the sticky stuff and then handpainted slightly thinned Future Floor Polish. The result is not perfect but is much better now.

I’m quite disappointed with the Deluxe Material Looks Like Glass. I followed the instructions and had let the clear parts to cure for at least two hours yet they still reacted to the masking tape. I thought Future can go unpredictably sideways but along comes an alternative that gave an even more unexpected result.

In any case after mitigating that disaster I then attached all the gear doors and wheels with the last piece being the nose probe. With those all done I’m finally done with my build. So, as usual, the build went smoothly until it suddenly went pear-shaped fast. Sometimes things still go wrong no matter how careful you were.

Build Log
Pt. 1 – Construction
Pt. 2 – Painting & Finishing

Build 2 of 2024

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Tags: , , , , , , , , Last modified: 9 June, 2024
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