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:
- Separate fold out instructions for the 2 variants
- ALQ-118 ECM pod included
- 4x AIM-7 Sparrow and 4x AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles are included but not used
- Both straight and curve edged pylons (though my copy is missing the former)
- Both RF-4C and RF-4E exhausts
- Chaff boxes for the pylons
- Variant specific antennas and bulges
- Catapult strops or blanked off covers for the bottom fuselage
- A 4-part canopy though you can’t pose these open
- Very fine panel lines
- Clear parts for the camera covers but not the camera parts themselves
- Open or closed flare doors
- Very simplified gear bays
- Horizontal stabilizers that fit via tabs which give a more positive fit
- Markings for 6x RF-4Cs and 2x RF-4Es
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.