Brand and Kit Number: AFV Club AR48102
Media: Injection Plastic, Photo-etch, Resin
Aftermarket: Seat from Wolfpack Design WPD48089
Markings: TwoBobs 48-216 F-5E PACAF Gomers #2
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.
In the latter half of the 1970s, the 26th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron received the F-5E from undelivered stocks for the Republic of Vietnam Air Force and an embargoed Ethiopian Air Force order. The aggressor F-5Es were painted in a variety of colorful camouflage schemes designed to mimic those in use by Warsaw Pact aircraft. During this period, the squadron was based in Clark AFB, The Philippines. The unit is currently active as the 26th Space Aggressor Squadron.
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. This kit is designed for multiple variants and options in this particular boxing include:
Panel lines are recessed and look good. The kit also comes with a small photo-etch fret which includes rear-view mirrors for the canopy and mesh screens for the intake splitter plates.
Right from the beginning I decided to replace the stock ejection seat with an aftermarket one. I used a resin one from Wolfpack Design.
Overall fit was good but there were some things to note:
I also ended up making a few mistakes:
Colors & Markings
The decal sheet offers 6 options with the most interesting being 75-01561 in the Vietnamese Air Force’s SEA camouflage and a striking sharkmouth. As usual, TwoBobs’ decals went on very easily although they are a bit troublesome with the layering involved. The camouflage pattern as printed on the sheet also did not line up properly in some spots so some guesstimation was made.
Weathering was kept to a minimum with my usual mix of dark gray and raw umber oil paint sludges. Due to the darker colors up top, the effect isn’t very obvious.
The F-5E doesn’t have many antennas and yet I managed to ping 1 off into the black hole that is my room. In my defense, it’s really tiny. The last item on were the exhausts which as mentioned above, ended up not fitting well at all. Serves me right for being careless during assembly.
All in all, it has been a fun build. Putty was kept to a minimum but the really tiny parts were a challenge since I have presbyopia now.
Number 7 of 2017
The resin ejection seat was painted separately and left out until final assembly. The cockpit is much improved with this lone aftermarket part and I highly recommend it.
The nose gear is a straightforward build. The kit gives you the option of an extended nosegear. If I’m not mistaken, the nose gear takes on that form when taking off and landing.
The kit also includes both opened and closed options for the main landing gear doors. Looking at photos online, I saw both instances so I went ahead with the open option. The air brakes are also left open.
The main landing gear are quite detailed. The door is connected to the strut with 2 (very) small levers. Exact placement is not very clear in the instruction sheet so I did some guessing. I’m not sure I got it correct though. The connection is quite fragile so I added some diluted white glue around the joints.
The arrestor hook was painted in black, masked then sprayed white instead of using the included decal.
Since I have a resin seat, the canopy will be left open. The canopy struts needed some trimming to fit into the cockpit. They do however, friction fit so I’ll only cement them into place after I have installed the canopy.
I modified the included AIM-9 to replicate an inert training missile. I wasn’t sure an ACMI pod was in service at this time (1970s) so I left it off.
So work has finally continued after not having touched this kit since end of June. Markings are from TwoBobs’ 48-216 F-5E PACAF Gomers #2. As usual, some layering of decals are required but once cured they look great. I then mildly weathered and panel washed the kit with my usual thinned oil paint sludge.
The landing gear assembly proved to be quite a challenge for my eyes with the tiny parts involved. I glued all the parts in place with super glue and reinforced the joints with diluted PVA glue.
It’s a bit slow going but I’m getting there.
To prep for painting, I began with masking off the cockpit, adding the HUD and attaching the windscreen.
The instructions called for aluminum for the wheel bays but I only had Model Air Metal Steel on hand. I think it looks close enough.
All the landing gear and doors were also painted steel separately.
The exhausts and engine housings were painted Vallejo Metal Jet Exhaust, left to cure for a day and then masked off. The exhaust cans themselves will be attached during final construction.
I went through a few rounds of checking seemliness and joints, using whatever paint that was available.
Painting begins with a base coat of AK Black Primer.
Then I mottled Model Air Insignia White over the whole surface. I still have the habit of mashing the trigger so my mottling is uneven. Guess I shouldn’t try to tackle WW2 German mottle camouflage just yet.
The F-5 I’m modeling deployed with the 1 brown 2 green South East Asian camouflage. I began the camouflage with free-handing the brown with Model Color US Tan Earth.
My bottle of Model Color is close to a decade old and it took quite a bit of thinning and retarder before my airbrush could spray it. Even so, it sputtered and dried at the tip quite often.
The reference I have for the camouflage is from Twobobs’ 48-216 F-5E PACAF Gomers #2 sheet. Like my previous experience with the F-16 using Twobobs’ decals, the camouflage demarcation lines don’t line up, so I guesstimated some of the lines to line them up better. I used rolls of blutack and backfilled the rest with masking tape.
I used AK Interactive’s Medium Green for the lighter green color. The AK paint, being a newer formula (I believe Vallejo has reformulated their line in recent years) thinned and went on more easily and the mottling shows through more.
I then added more blutack and backfilling with masking tape for the darker green shade. For this I used AK Interactive Dark Green. However, the tone wasn’t darker at all so I added a drop of Model Air Black Grey to darken it.
The color looks good, but I lost almost all the mottling details on the dark green.
I’ll need to do touch-ups next: fix the chipped paint, add definition to some of the demarcation lines, reduce the patchiness of the lighter green and bring back some patchiness to the brown and dark green areas.
Work continues and I begin with masking the canopy. Unlike my previous builds, I decide not to dip the 2 canopy parts in Future since they look quite clear as is. Maybe I’ll brush on some in the end. I’m also planning to leave the canopy open so I decided to mask the inside of the frame. It’s my first time doing it so it took a while but it wasn’t too bad.
I thought the coaming was too thick so I thinned it off by scraping with a blade. Otherwise the instrument panel fit well.
The nose to fuselage joint was good but there is a noticeable step where the bottom plate joins the top.
I ended up thinning the bottom plate and the guide on the fuselage and a judicious use of a spring clamp to minimize the step.
Where the front of the bottom plate meets the body will require some filling and rescribing though.
AFV Club offers both opened and closed options for the engine lourves towards the back. Based on photos, they are closed when on the ground with the engines off. With slight trimming, they fit nicely.
The wing to fuselage fit is very good without need for any filling.
There are separate slats and they don’t droop when the aircraft is on the ground. The LERXs needed some adjusting to fit perpendicular along the intakes.
The flaps are also separate. These are also usually straight when on the ground. I did however, find a photo of slight drooping of the flaps after I have fitted these straight. I think it would have made it more visually interesting so it’s something to file away for my next F-5 build. Both the slats and flaps fit well.
I’m modeling an F-5 from the 36th AGRS in the 1970s and I thought to arm it with 1 CATM AIM-9 on 1 wingtip and an ACMI pod on the other. But I couldn’t find reliable info on whether the ACMI was introduced by this time so I decided to leave it off. With the wingtip pylon now bare I added a bit of detail with a strip of clear plastic from a thin blister pack. It’s not entirely accurate but it’ll do.
The PE intake grills were too large and I ended up using some elbow grease to shape them back to size using cutters and a diamond file. Big mistake.
Turns out, I didn’t read the manual properly. The top edge of the grills were supposed to be folded 90 degrees. And I only realized this after trimming both grills and slightly ruining part of one. Yet another case of RTFM: the folder is getting thicker.
The rudder is a separate piece from the tailfin and it fits good. However, there’s a slight gap between the tailfin and the fuselage.
The engine housing is a separate part. Seen from the side, it’s trapezoid-shaped. It took a bit of finessing to get the bottom to remain flush with the body but gaps remain. The horizontal stabilizers joined in the middle with a rod which is then attached to the engine housing with a c-shaped clip. The rod is just slightly too short (by about 1mm) which results in a very stiff fit between the stabilizers and fuselage when the housing is fitted. I liked how AFV designed this though as usually the stabilizers are one of the harder things to fit right when they are molded as separate pieces.
Last on was the nosecone which went on without a problem. There are remarkably little seamlines to fix with the most prominent being a line that runs down the middle of the nose and the fit of the left gunbay doors requiring additional trimming.
Can’t wait to start painting this.