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.
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.
Finally ready for painting!
I begin as usual with a base primer of black.
I’m trying something new with a marble coat of medium gray and white colors. Not sure if it’ll affect the final paintjob though. Let’s see…
Modern USAF F-4s came in a striking 2-tone gray camouflage of FS36270 and FS36118. For the lighter FS36270 ‘Neutral Gray’ I’m going with Vallejo Model Color Medium Sea Grey. This was thinned and with a few drops of Vallejo Glaze Medium added to cut down on the paint’s opacity.
Once cured I mask off the demarcation lines. Interestingly they are a mix of hard and soft edges. So it’s masking tape for the hard ones and blutack for the soft ones. I referenced the AirDOC info sheet for the camouflage pattern.
Next is FS36118 ‘Gunship Gray’ for the darker gray tone. I’m using Mig AMMO Medium Gunship Grey.
The Hasegawa sheet comes with the dark gray walkway decals but I think it will be easier to mask and spray it. The AirDOC instruction indicates that the walkways are outlines but checking photos online they are the solid dark gray type. So it’s time for more masking tape.
I used a mix of Vallejo Model Air Dark Sea Grey and Engine Grey for the walkways. I think the tone is quite close to the photo reference.
So did the mix of gray and white marbling affect the final paintwork? In my opinion, nothing obvious. So the extra work wasn’t needed. Anyway, moving on.
Next up, the exhaust area which on the F-4 is bare metal and through time, gets gloriously weathered and stained. More masking ensues to get this done.
I went with Vallejo Metal Color Exhaust Manifold and Dull Aluminium. Weathering and staining will be done later.
The fuel tanks, pylon and ECM pod were duly painted in FS36118. The landing gear was painted as per instructed. A third metallic tone on the horizontal stabs was Model Air Metal Gun Grey.
Weathering and finishing next!
So I was told by a fellow modeler that the fit of the 4-part canopy might not be great so I decided to do a quick dryfit. Thankfully they fit fine. Problem is the rear canopy has a crack in it. Nice. I’ll live with it. A dip in Future is next for these.
The nose inlets were attached and well, they didn’t look right.
They sit proud of the nose. Looking at reference photos, the ends should smoothly transition into the nose.
So I quickly sanded where they join the nose. The transition is smooth now.
I originally wanted to leave this alone but since I’ve done so much already I might as well do it. The ‘arrowheads’ on the horizontal stabs are not present for the RF-4C I’m modeling.
These were quickly trimmed away and sanded down.
I test-fitted the stabs into the slots on the fuselage. On the starboard side there are 2 visible holes that are out of place.
So I filled the gaps with plastic plate.
I marked all the panel lines on the spine since they will definitely be obliterated by the time I’m done fixing the gaps.
See? Anyway, now I need to scribe them all back. Also, all the panel lines are very fine (though nice), too fine in fact. So I went ahead and went over them lightly with my scriber.
My scribing skills is amateurish at best. And after a re-check, I missed out on the refueling door when I took this photo. Ah well.
I think they should look fine under some coats of primer and paint.
I’m modeling a USAF aircraft so I had to remove the panel lines for the air-to-air refueling door on the side of the cockpit.
The catapult strops are blanked off but the parts provided didn’t fit properly so I added 0.2mm plastic plate and carefully sanded it flush to the bottom.
The kit provides a clear HUD but it’s very thick so I decided to make one from scratch. First I cut out 2 small triangles from plastic plate to act as the HUD mount.
The HUD itself is a clear piece from a battery blister pack.
The RF-4C has a offset antenna on the spine. I added this using 0.2mm plastic plate. This was glued into a groove I cut out so it’ll have a stronger fit.
The final step before painting is attaching the ejection seats and the canopy in place.
Now I can FINALLY start finishing this thing.
So I’ll be building a Desert Storm era RF-4C. The kit will require donor parts to get it to be configured correctly.
USAF F-4s use straight-edged styled pylons. The kit is supposed to include them but alas, these were missing (I bought this kit used). I got a spare pair with the sway braces from a Hasegawa RF-4 kit. Based on a reference photo, I also trimmed the bottom of these pylons flat. The ALQ-131 pod comes from the (Italeri reboxed) Tamiya F-16 kit.
By this time, the USAF F-4 mounted a different version of the 600 gallon fuel tank. This tank is the same as the one carried by the F-15. The kit includes the old-style tank so I got another donation from the Hasegawa RF-4 kit. The mounting method had to be modified. I made new pins using stretched sprue for a more positive fit. I also added plates to thicken the whole molded-on pylon for some height so the tank clears the bottom fuselage.
Work on the nose begins with attaching the side windows for the camera first before the fuselage halves come together. The bottom camera windows are molded as 1 piece of clear plastic. These were also masked off.
There’s no tab that holds the camera plate in position so I made some with plastic plates.
There’s an odd gap between the plate and the nose gear bay.
With a spray of primer, the problem becomes more glaring. The gaps around the camera plate are quite bad.
So instead of throwing the kit against the wall, I decided to try to fix it. The gaps were filled with both epoxy and AK Interactive putty.
Putty, sand, buff, prime, check, putty, sand, buff, prime, check. After (quite) a few rounds of this, I think the nose looks acceptable.
A small plate is added to cover the gap behind the camera plate.
Onwards to the intakes which is usually a problem area for aircraft kits. The interiors were painted in white and masked off before installation.
For the port side intake, I had to choose to have a gap at the bottom or up top. Since there’s less molded details on top, I went with aligning the intake with the bottom so there’s now a sizeable gap up top. The panel lines on the intake and the main body also don’t quite align. I’ll have to live with it.
I inserted plastic plate and trimmed off to quickly fill the gap.
On the starboard side, there’s a thin step where the intake meets the body. I shaped a small plate to cover this step.
WIth that settled, the instake fits very well though there’s a gap at the bottom.
This was fixed with more inserting of plastic plate and trimming off.
More fixing of stuff next…