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Tamiya 1/48 F-16CJ Block 50 Fighting Falcon

Kit: 61098
Scale: 1/48
Manufacturer: Tamiya, available from Tamiya America, 800-826- 4922
Price: $51
Comments: Injection-molded, 265 parts, metal pins with four screws and screwdriver, decals
Pros: Fine panel lines; excellent detail, including cockpit, gear bay, and intake duct
Cons: Over-engineered; speed brakes could not be opened; two-piece radome
The F-16 has been one of the West's most successful multirole aircraft since it first flew in December 1976. Tamiya's latest entry in the 1/48 scale aircraft market is a newly tooled F-16CJ comprising 265 parts molded in light gray, clear and tinted plastic, with metal pins and poly-cap inserts. One of two sets of clear parts has a smoke tint. Panel lines are finely engraved and consistent. The cockpit, ejection seat, landing-gear bays and landing gear are also finely molded.

Options include three sets of markings, open or closed canopy, raised or lowered flaps, and "chicken cutter" IFF antennas. Underwing stores include 370-gallon wing tanks, AIM-9X, AIM-9M, AIM- 120C AMRAAM, AGM-88 HARM missiles, and either an ECM pod or a 300-gallon centerline fuel tank.

Study the plans before starting the Kit: Lots of small holes need to be opened for various vent covers. Instructions include metric drill-bit sizes to open all those holes.

I started with the cockpit. After a coat of dark gull gray, I painted the side consoles flat black, then dry-brushed them white for a very convincing look.

The main landing-gear bay comes next. Be careful to follow the instructions! If you install all the gear-bay parts too soon, the finished subassembly won't fit into the lower fuselage. Same goes for the lower-wing inserts. They must be added according to the instructions after the upper and lower fuselage halves are mated.

I deviated from the instructions in only a couple places. I chose to not install the exhaust nozzle as in Step 6, saving it for last. Nor did I install the nose gear until I had attached the intake assembly to the lower fuselage and finished painting the model.

The kit's engineering is extraordinary. If you remove parts from the sprues carefully, you'll need very little filler. I did have to smooth the top halves of the air intake, but the two-piece top fuselage fit together without the trace of a seam!

I painted the exterior with Xtracolor gloss enamels, eliminating the extra step of gloss-coating the model for decal application. After letting the model sit in the sun for a couple of hours, the paint was perfectly dry. A flat-black "sludge wash" really made those fine panel lines pop!

I couldn't resist the Tiger Meet decals. They went on fine, though I did need a little Micro Sol to get them to settle over the surface detail. I let everything dry overnight, then gave the model a final coat of Model Master clear flat before attaching the underwing stores.

The wing tanks and centerline stores are attached with poly caps and metal pins. While this makes the tanks removable, unsightly metal pins protrude from the pylons when the tanks are off. The vertical fin is also attached using metal pins and poly caps, just like Tamiya's 1/32 scale version.

The parts breakdown - with the two-piece top fuselage, multipiece vertical fin, and separate nose inserts - indicates the possibility of Tamiya releasing more versions of the F-16.

I spent about 25 hours on my model, much of it carefully removing delicate parts from their sprues, cleaning them up, and doing lots of test fitting.

The Tamiya F-16 makes a fine addition to any modern jet collection. The finished model is impressive!

- Jon Hergenrother


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