I took a short family holiday to Vietnam over the Ramadan holidays and on the schedule was a visit to the War Remnants Musuem in Ho Chi Minh City. Before normalization of relations with the US, this museum was called “Exhibition House for Crimes of War and Aggression”. Ahhh Vietnam, not burying the lead at all. Anyway, the military geek in me was excited.
The Musuem is 3 floors with different sections. On the main court are captured American equipment filled with aircraft and ground armored vehicles. Of note to me is the wrongly applied markings on the F-5A as it was flown by the South Vietnamese Air Force and not the USAF.
As I was in a guided tour and had limited time, I was specifically led into 2 rooms only: the Agent Orange exhibit and a photographic exhibit of horrible acts the US enacted on Vietnam. The photos are graphic and disturbing and going for maximum impact. Off the top of my head there were photos from effects of Agent Orange, the My Lai Massacre, photos of villagers ran over by tanks and mass executions and graves. None of them censored and accompanied by damning descriptions. It’s a lot to take in. Taking center stage was also the famous photo of Napalm Girl. One particular curious exhibit was a piece of fuselage from (purportedly) a downed B-52 Stratofortress.
There was also a gallery where they showed captured small arms. Interestingly, there were FN FALs (which are Belgian) and UZIs (Israeli) on display. Of interest to me are what looks to be field modified M79 grenade launcher and a (to me) unknown grenade launcher with heat shield attached to an M-16.
There are a lot more displays that I didn’t have time to see. If I ever come back to Vietnam I’ll definitely visit this place again. It’s a worthwhile visit for anyone interested in military history. As to the perspective being shown here, I’ll just say that history is written by the winners. But I think both sides would agree that war is hell.
Brand: Fujimi K-3
Markings: AirDOC Gulf War Warriors 72006 and Hasegawa 00954
The RF-4C was the unarmed tactical reconnaissance variant of the F-4 Phantom II deployed by the USAF. It was similar to the US Marine operated RF-4B but with different engines and a more spacious nose for more camera options. Though unarmed, the RF-4C could carry a tactical nuclear weapon on its centerline pylon and would eventually be modernized to carry the AIM-9 missile. 503 would be built for the USAF and serve from 1964 to 1994.
This build depicts 64-1047, an RF-4C from 106th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron (TRS) flying during Operation Desert Shield. 106th TRS operated from Shaikh Isa Air Base, Bahrain during this period. 1047 flew 172* sorties over enemy territory in Desert Shield and its mission totals (represented by camels) were painted on its port splitter plate. 1047 would be the ’top scorer’ of 106th TRS, flying more missions than any other RF-4C during this period. The 106th TRS was relieved on 18 December 1990 by the 192nd TRS. 1047 would log 7,300 hours of flight time at the time of its retirement in May 1994 and is now on permanent display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB Ohio.
The first RF-4 kit Fujimi release was the RF-4B in 1984. This particular boxing however, was released in 1996 and offered the option to build either an RF-4C or RF-4E. Fujimi has a different approach to Hasegawa when it comes to depicting the different variants: the RF-4 fuselage comes as 2 nose-to-tail halves instead of simply partial nose segments like Hasegawa. The kit also features:
Back in the early 1990s I built a Fujimi F-4G and remember it to be a trouble-free build by my standards then. Alas, it wasn’t to be for this one.
This kit was quite a bear to build. An initial dry fit showed that the 2 fuselage halves were ever so warped and this would cause me no end in fitting problems.
Since the parts count was low (especially by modern standards), it quickly took shape but I was seriously bogged down with how everything fit together. This was especially true with the nose and it took multiple sessions of gap filling to get it to look decent. The panel lines were also very (VERY) fine and I lost them in the areas I had to fix. I ended up going back to re-scribe all the lost panel lines and I also deepened the remaining existing panel lines so subsequent painting won’t cover them up.
My copy was bought second hand and it was missing the straight edged pylons that were used by the RF-4C and since I intended to build a modern 1990s-era RF-4C I had to get various donor parts. The straight edged pylons and newer 600 gallon centerline fuel tank came from a Hasegawa F-4G kit and the ALQ-131 ECM pod came from the Italeri (Tamiya reboxed) F-16A/B kit.
Colors & Markings
By the 1990s USAF F-4s were given a very nice and simple 2-tone gray camouflage (aka ‘Hill Gray’) much like the one on the F-16. I went through my usual painting procedure with only 1 minor difference. I started with a base of black, then a marble coat of both medium gray and white. I wanted to see if the 2 tones of marble coat had any effect on the main colors.
The main colors of FS 36270 and FS 36118 were a mix of Vallejo Model Color and Mig AMMO paints. They were thinned with acrylic thinner and given a few drops of Vallejo Glaze Medium to cut their opacity. Interestingly the demarcation lines on the nose were hard-edged but the one on the intakes were soft. These were easily replicated with masking tape and blutack.
The AirDOC sheet stated that the walkways were outlines but based on photos of 64-1047 I had, these needed to be solid dark gray patterns. I decided to mask and spray these instead of using the Hasegawa decals since I thought fitting around the intakes would be an issue. Based on the locations indicated on the Hasegawa instructions, I masked these off and sprayed the walkways.
Once the camouflage was done, I had to mask them off and paint the exhaust area. The primary colors I used were Vallejo Metal Color Exhaust Manifold and Dull Aluminium. There are small sections on the horizontal stabilizer that were darker where I used Model Air Metal Gun Grey. I think the area where I used Exhaust Manifold should be darker but I moved on and addressed it during weathering.
Since I wasn’t particularly happy with this build, I decided to save the (very nicely done) stencils from the AirDOC sheet for a more ‘worthy’ kit. WIth that in mind, I mixed and matched: RF-4C specific markings from AirDOC and generic stencils from Hasegawa F-4G (00954) sheets. I really like the AirDOC decals: they are thin, have barely any carrier film, are strong and reacted very well to Mark Softer. Thing is though, all the numbers were standalone so I had to cut out individual numbers to form all the squadron markings. It was lucky they were so robust (they were printed by Cartograph) since it took time to line up everything. It was a pain, but the end results looked good.
A minor complaint about the AirDOC sheet is that the marking callouts only showed 1 side of each subject. For 64-1047 there was only a port-side view and generic top and bottom views so I had to guesstimate how the shark mouth markings would look from the bottom. The positions of the tail markings were also just a best guess and from various online references. I also suspect the decals weren’t properly sized for Fujimi F-4s but there was nothing seriously over/under-scaled.
After another gloss coat to seal the decals, I did the usual panel wash with Mig AMMO Deep Brown Panel Wash. I previously would wipe everything down with a damp (with turpentine) tissue. This time I tested with a dry make-up sponge and waited till the wash has dried completely. It cleans er… cleanly but requires more effort to get the excess paint off. It worked better when damp with turpentine but started to break off in clumps. Anyway I still have a pack of them and will experiment further.
The whole kit was filtered with red, blue and medium gray oil paints using the oil dot method. I kept the filtering light since this is a 1/72 kit. I then randomly faded the upper surfaces with white oil paint but didn’t with the bottom since the upper surfaces are exposed to the Sun more.
From photos I’ve seen, no 2 F-4s look the same in the exhaust area due to heat stains and general wear and tear so some creativity can be had here. I first filtered the exhaust area with both thinned deep brown wash and black oil paints. Staining was also added with the same colors by splotching thinned oil paints with a used round paint brush. I kept the filters and staining lighter on the bottom but based on photos, the rear area can get quite dirty so I did the same splotching with the round brush using very thinned deep brown wash. I did this in stages as the wash dried.
By this time it does seem like a lot of work for some subtle changes but taken as a whole, the kit now looks visually more interesting.
After everything was given a day to dry, I sprayed a flat coat and did the final assembly for the landing gear and stores. It took some fiddling to attach all of them as the main gear doors were butt joints. The struts also needed trimming.
I had to do some touch-ups after taking off the masking tape but thankfully it was nothing difficult. I did however have to live with a step on the pilot’s canopy. It was that or the canopy won’t fit properly on the side. It was also obvious there were no cameras behind the camera windows. Should really have done something about them.
Now all that remained were painting the usual lights on the wingtips and the tailfin. These were transparent colors over a silver base and shined up with Future. The absolute last thing was the nose probe. This was painted after being attached.
So that’s it. With so many problems, my luck ran out and I did not finish by 27 May 2019, the time limit for an FB group challenge I joined. I did however finish in the last day of May so my ‘1 kit a month’ run was intact. This was far from a good build though. With so many fitting problems and my brute force solutions, this was at best, a 3 foot model ie. looks OK from 3 feet away. Still, having started and stopped a few of the Hasegawa F-4 kits, I’m glad I managed to see this one through to completion.
Time to finish this thing. First an overall gloss coat to prep for decals.
The AirDOC decals are printed by Cartograph and look very good. However, all the aircraft numbers and codes are individually printed and need to be added 1 at a time.
I decided to use the slime lights from the Hasegawa sheet instead. I’ll save the AirDOC ones for a better-made build.
64-1047 had a striking shark mouth painted onto its nose during its deployment. It took a healthy dose of Mark Softer to get the shark mouth to conform and luckily it was quite robust and didn’t tear.
The AirDOC sheet isn’t clear with the placement of the marking since it shows only 1 side of the subject so I had to guesstimate. I skipped some of the less obvious stencils and then it’s another gloss coat before weathering begins.
The panel wash is the usual Mig AMMO Deep Brown Panel Wash.
It smells compared to the usual oil paint I use but it’s pre-mixed so is more convenient.
After about an hour of drying, it was time to wipe off the excess panel wash. I’ve read that facial sponge works so I gave that a go.
It does clean better but the one I used started to break off in clumps when damp with turpentine. It also works when dry although some force is needed to get rid of the dried oil wash.
Then I added filters to be bring down the overall contrast. I used medium gray, red and blue oil paints for this using the oil paint dot method.
With a damp paintbrush I worked front to back on the wings and tailfin and top to the bottom on the rest.
The result is subtle, but the contrast between the main colors and the marble coats are reduced and because I added red in random places, those areas look slightly warmer. Those areas in blue become slightly cooler in tone.
Fading is next. I used white oil paint for this. I dotted random spots all over the kit.
Again working with a damped brush, I slowly blended the oil paint with short strokes. There are now subtle fading in the paint surfaces.
For the exhaust area I added a filter with deep brown and black oil paints. I made sure to do it in an up to down strokes.
I then faded some panels with white and then used thinned black oil and randomly splotched the exhaust areas.
I did not do fading on the bottom since I figure it won’t be as exposed to the Sun. But photos show the bottom gets stained towards the back so I splotched the area with thinned deep brown oil paint. I worked in stages to build up the stains by waiting for each layer to dry first.
After another day of drying, I gave everything a flat coat and can finally put everything together. The horizontal stabs fiction fit with no problem. The nose gear and door fit quite nicely but the main gear doors only butt join to the bays which requires some careful cementing. The inside door struts are too long and were cut to the correct length.
And of course, disaster struck. A drop of cement dripped onto the finishing. So out with the buffing pad then a quick spray of gunship gray.
Once the gear was secure I added the stores starting from inside out: belly tank, pylons, ECM pod then wing tanks.
The masking tape on the clear parts was then removed carefully. I did OK with the masking with only minor touch-ups required. There’s a step between the back of the pilot’s canopy and the middle frame which I have to live with. It was the best all round fit I could manage. There’s also dust behind the camera windows. I tried blowing them with a rocket blower with no luck. Any masking tape residue was cleaned off with a cotton bud soaked with airbrush cleaner. I also brushed Future on some of them to bring back some of the shine.
Last on were the wingtip lights that I handpainted and shined up with Future and the pitot tube. I can finally call this unexpectedly challenging build done.
Next up is (what I hope to be) a more relaxing build than the Fujimi RF-4C. This is another powered suit from Maschinen Krieger. This time, it’s a recon version of the standard SAFS.
Fit as usual is so-so with fairly obvious gaps. I went with the 2-armed option instead of a laser for the left arm.
Unlike the older SF3D/Ma.K Nitto kits, the PC joints are stiff and allows the kit to keep a fixed pose. I decided to go for a more dynamic running pose.
The kit can be broken down into subassmeblies for easier preparation.
To attach to the base, I need to insert a rod through the left foot. To make the rod more secure, I added a 0.5mm plastic plate inside the foot so there are more layers for the rod to go through.
The PC joints are as usual a material that doesn’t take paint well or easily trimmed so they need to be replaced with epoxy putty.
I haven’t found anything to replace the hoses but since they are so thin I will deal with them using weathering and washes instead.
I use a local 2-part epoxy putty called ‘Epoclay’ which is used for sculpting figures by hobbyists. Instead of replacing the PC joints I just wrap epoxy putty around them.
The joint folds were added by randomly pressing the flat end of a Tamiya stirrer into the still soft epoxy putty. Once dried, I’m left with a fixed posed kit.
THe newly wrapped partds fit back into the sockets with some trimming. Checking it with the base, I’m not sure if I want to add a bit of incline to the pose of the Rapoon. Doing so will give a clearer view of the front but I think it might look a bit unnatural.
For detailing, I added hoses from the back of the feet to the lower legs. The wires are from soldering wire and I added housings on the lower legs using Wave U-vernier option parts.
I also added details to the shoulder sensor (?) pod using Kotobukiya MSG option parts.
And I’m more or less done. Next is to fix the gaps (which there are quite obvious ones) and I can start painting.
Pt. 1 – Construction | Pt. 2 – Painting & Finishing