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Kitty Hawk Northrop F-5E Tiger II

FineScale Modeler reviews the 1/32 scale aircraft kit with great resin figures
Northrop originally designed the F-5 as a low-cost alternative to other supersonic jet fighters of the late 1950s and it was widely exported to countries in Asia, Africa, and South America. Developed in the early 1970s, the F-5E Tiger II added more powerful engines, greater fuel capacity, and a larger wing as well as improved radar.

The 450-part kit is crammed with details and options, including two nose types that can be left off to display the radar, detailed cannon bays, open or closed auxiliary intakes on the rear fuselage, separate control surfaces and speed brakes, and optional resin or plastic afterburner nozzles. Also in the box is a selection of underwing stores: two sizes of fuel tanks; AIM-9B and -9E Sidewinder and AIM-7 Sparrow air-to-air missiles, and Mk.20 and Mk.84 bombs.

Finally, the kit provides a pair of resin pilots, one standing, the other sitting to fit the ejection seat, control stick, and throttle. Both are beautifully cast with realistic wrinkles in their flight suits and sharp helmets.Reflecting how widely the Tiger II has been exported, the kit provides markings for nine fighters, four American and one each from South Korea, Iran, Singapore, Mexico, and Brazil.

Cockpit assembly proceeded quickly, but I had to sand a few parts so the locators fit properly. Photo-etched (PE) seat belts are provided if you don’t use the seated pilot. Brackets fitted behind the seat support the canopy in the open position, the kit’s only option. If you want to pose the cockpit closed, you’ll need to modify the parts.

The nose gear bay must be built around the nose gear leg, so be careful handling the model to avoid snagging it on something. 

The gun bay fits around the nose-gear bay. The parts fit perfectly, although it takes care to get the guns and ammo belts in as they must be installed at the same time. 
A single upper fuselage part accounts for most of the airframe aft of the cockpit, eliminating a lot of awkward filling, sanding, and rescribing. 

Nicely detailed engines fill the rear half of the fuselage but, oddly, no trunks link the front fans with the open intakes.

The wings and separate control surfaces assembled easily. Crisply molded detail fills the main wheel wells and marks the landing gear legs. 

Choosing the VFC-111 Sundowners U.S. Navy adversary from among the myriad marking options, I used only the large centerline fuel tank to match photos.

I painted the three-color soft-edged camouflage with Tamiya acrylics, then applied the decals. The markings were beautifully printed but they are a little thick. Decal solvent helped settle them.

Kitty Hawk’s big F-5E presented few challenges and I spent roughly 60 hours building and painting it. I recommend it to modelers with a bit of experience masking irregular shapes.

Note: A version of this review appeared in the November 2018 issue.


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