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F-4 Phantom II Accessories
10 separate sets

 

AirDOC


Reviewed by David W. Aungst


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Background

 

Back a couple months, Paul from Victory Models posted a quick note on the HyperScale forum about new AirDOC resin sets coming out for the F-4 Phantom II. The sets would be mastered by Willy Peeters, and the resin would be cast by Aires. After my heart dropped back down out of my throat, I started the long wait for these sets to be completed and reach the shores of the US.

With Willy Peeters' and Aires' reputations, I was sure the sets would be fantastic.

The sets arrived at my door on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. With the whole day off and nothing to do but marvel at my new toys, I decided my time would be best spent writing up some reviews of the sets to share with the rest of the world.

My excitement was quickly tempered by the fact that several of the sets have issues. I will highlight these as I describe each set.

The set prices quoted here are the prices I paid for the sets from Victory Models. Other sites may have varying prices. There seemed to be a hap-hazard approach to the prices. Some sets with lots of pieces were less expensive per piece than other sets with only a few pieces. I am unsure what AirDOC's reasoning is on this.

FirstLook

 

ARN-101 Update Set (48001, $15.00)

  Update Set 48001
Set Pieces
  Update Set 48001
Instructions
This is a straight-forward set. It applies to late-model F-4Es and RF-4Cs in US service. As far as I know, ARN-101 equiped aircraft have never been sold abroad.  

ARN-101 is a digital fire control computer refit that replaced the older analog systems originally installed in the F-4.

For the F-4E, the system was fit to all surviving US aircraft starting from serial number 71-0224. This is also the first aircraft to get the Target Identification System Electro-Optic (TISEO) applied to it from the factory.

For the RF-4C, the system was fit to most all the surviving US aircraft in the later production blocks. There was not any real pattern to which aircraft got the upgrade, so watch your reference when deciding if you wish to use the upgrade on any given RF-4C model.

The easiest defining attribute to the ARN-101 fit is the diamond-shaped, aerodynamically clean LORAN antenna on the aircraft spine. This antenna is located about halfway between the back of the rear cockpit and the front of the vertical tail. To go with the LORAN antenna are a number of smaller dimple and blade antennae. Rounding out the fit are a slew of static discharge whiskers located on the wings and tail.

The set provides many of the needed updates to accomplish the ARN-101 upgrade on the airframe.

  • the LORAN antenna for the spine
  • a new para-brake door with refined dimple antennae
  • assorted blade antennae
  • a new turtle-deck for behind the rear cockpit with associated antennae
  • a replacement left wing root leading edge with a TISEO camera fit (this is for F-4E updates, only)
  • NOT provided are any of the static discharge whiskers

The "Up" Side

  • Shapes, sizes, and contours on all the pieces look really good.
     
  • The TISEO camera detail inside the wing fairing is exceptional.

The "Down" Side

  • There is some tricky cutting of the kit required to use the TISEO piece. It follows panel lines of the kit, but the lines are not all straight and easy. Getting a perfect fit with only panel line edges (and no filler) will be most difficult.
     
  • The instructions are incomplete at pointing out all the locations of the static discharge whiskers. They show the ones on the vertial tail surfaces, but they ignore the ones on the horizontal tails and wings.
     
  • The modeler needs to figure out how to cover the TISEO camera fairing with a clear window.
     
  • This is subjective, but the relative worth of the set is diminished by the fact that these pieces are mostly all available now through the various Hasegawa Phantom releases. The RF-4 kits provide the LORAN antenna and all the F-4E kits provide the TISEO. The turtle-deck with its associated antennae come in all the USAF releases (F-4C/D/E/F/G). Some thin styrene sheet could make all the blade antennae for a mere fraction of the cost.
     

Recommended -- If you do not have access to various Hasegawa kits which already provide these details, this set will be helpful. I will not be buying another of this set for myself.

 

 

600gal F-4/F-15 Fuel Tank (48002, $19.00)

  Update Set 48002
Set Pieces
  Update Set 48002
Instructions
I do not know the exact date, but somewhere in the late 1970s or early 1980s all the USAF Phantom fleet was upgraded to carry the F-15-style centerline fuel tank in place of the original Phantom-style 600gal centerline tank. My understanding was that the newer tank could carry more G-loading than the old tanks. Oddly, the US Navy never made the same upgrade to their Phantom fleet. Other Phantom users that did make this upgrade were the Germans on their F-4F and RF-4E aircraft and Japanese on the F-4EJ(kai) and RF-4EJ(kai).  

The set provides the following pieces.

  • one F-15-style fuel tank (split into two pieces)
  • the two bellow hard-points where the tank attaches to the Phantom centerline
  • minor detail pieces for the pivot-point on the back end of the tank
  • attachment details (instructions show them, my set did not have them)

The "Up" Side

  • Many Hasegawa Phantom releases do not include this tank in the box. With this set, now you can add this detail to any Phantom kit.

The "Down" Side

  • The inverse of the good point, many Hasegawa releases do have this detail in the box. Modelers need to buy and investigate the kits before just unconditionally buying this set.
     
  • The two-part tank can be cumbersome to assemble. I have had other sets do this two-part style and it can be exceedingly hard to get just the right amount of slag removed from the pieces so that the two mate without producing a distorted tank. The fact that both pieces must be oriented exactly to each other will further compound the issue.
     
  • There are sway bracing struts on the real tanks that are not captured in the set or mentioned in the instructions.

Recommended -- I will definitely be buying more of this one.

 

 

Underwing Inboard Weapons Pylons (48003, $19.00)

  Update Set 48003
Set Pieces
  Update Set 48003
Instructions
At last!!! I no longer have to keep watch on E-Bay for the old KMC Phantom pylon sets that always seem to go for such big dollars. Where KMC provided all the weapons pylons for all the hard-points, this set only provides for stations 2 and 8 (where the Sidewinder missiles are found), but that is OK as this is the most used of all the pylons.  

The set provides the following pieces.

  • station 2 and 8 pylons
  • separate add-on flare and chaff dispensors for the rear ends of the pylons
  • alternate Sidewinder missile rails (Aero-3B and LAU-7)
  • alternate Sidewinder missile rail mounting points
  • sway braces for the lower pylon where the ordnance attaches

The "Up" Side

  • I have waited too long for these to be available. I hope to see US Navy style pylons in the future.
     
  • The flare and chaff dispensors are correctly detailed with the dispensors installed. Every other set before (including KMC) has not gotten these dispensors correct.
     
  • Alternate missile rails and mounting point so that the set will work for most any Phantom user. The instructions indicate which combinations go to what users.

The "Down" Side

Believe it or not, there is a down side to this set.

  • The pylons do not have the large sway braces at the top of the pylons where they attach to the wing. All Hasegawa kits have these braces inappropriately molded to the lower side of the wing. They should be part of the pylons, not the wing, with about three quarters of an inch gap between them and the wing.
     
  • On a pickier point, the pylons are identical, not handed for left and right. There are minor variations in the scribing and details that technically require a left side and right side, but what is present in the set will work.
     
  • I am hoping it is just my set, but my sample came with two left side flare and chaff dispensor pieces and no right side ones. Anyone know how to get replacement parts from AirDOC?

Highly Recommended -- Even without the upper sway braces, I will be buying tons more of these.

 

 

F-4C and F-4D Conversions (48004 & 48005, $22.00 each)

  Update Set 48004
Set Pieces
  Update Set 48005
Set Pieces
  Update Set 48004
Instructions
  Update Set 48005
Instructions
These were my biggest disappointments in the whole bunch. Finally someone has recognized that the F-4J can easily be converted to an F-4C/D with only some minor modifications. These two sets are AirDOCS's attempt at providing these converions.  

The first big note to make is that these sets on their own are not enough. Both sets provide only the following pieces.

  • a replacement nose cone with varied IR sensor fairings (I know, only early F-4Cs had IR sensors, but the fairing remained even when the IR sensor was removed).
  • a replacement forward nose wheel well door with appropriate Air Force details
  • replace main wheels with Air Force style hubs
  • a couple minor antennae for on the replacement nose wheel well door

The instructions state (correctly) that to do a full conversion, you will also need new horizontal tails, new engine exhausts, and new weapons pylons at stations 2 and 8. The instructions fail to mention you will also need a new cockpit.

The good news is that these other items are readily available from various manufactures, including AirDOC. AirDOC 48003 and 48010 (reviewed elsewhere in this posting) provide the tails and weapons pylons. Aires and Eagle Designs provide very nicely molded engine exhausts. KMC is the only company to date that I am aware of to have made the F-4C cockpit. Black Box is the only company to date that I am aware of to have made the F-4D cockpit.

The "Up" Side

  • The nose wheel well door looks really nice.
     
  • It is nice to finally have someone recognize these sets needed to be produced.

     

    The down side far outweighs these pluses, however.

The "Down" Side

      Update Set 48004
    Figure 1
  • The sets actually do not provide an F-4C nose! The set that claims to be for an F-4C really has an early F-4D nose. The difference is in the extra bulge at the back of the IR sensor fairing. This area is smooth on the F-4C and lacks the extra bulge seen on this piece. See the Figure 1. I could sort-of excuse this if the instructions mentioned sanding down the nose to get the correct shape, but they do not.
     
      Update Set 48004
    Figure 1
  • Both sets have noses that are greatly undersized to fit the Hasegawa F-4J kit. See Figure 2. I thought that this might be related to resin shrinkage, but I have created and cast my own F-4C nose using Alumilite (which is renowned for shrinkage), and my castings are not as undersized as the ones from AirDOC.

    This is going to be real hard to fix without obliterating the details around the sides of the nose. An option could be to laminate styrene around the resin nose to increase its cross section, but that will then require a lengthy recontouring process to blend the stripping into the rest of the nose.

NOT Recommended -- I hate giving this rating, but I have to call it the way I see it. I can make my own sets easier than fixing these sets.

 

 

F-104 Underwing Fuel Tanks and Pylons (48006, $23.00)

  Update Set 48006
Set Pieces
  Update Set 48006
Instructions
These are very nice and sorely needed as Hasegawa has never produced these details in any of their Starfighter releases.  

The set provides the following pieces.

  • two underwing fuel tanks
  • two underwing fuel tank pylons
  • two sets of fins to attach to the rear ends of the fuel tanks

The "Up" Side

  • Good castings.
     
  • One-piece tanks assure true-ness of the tank, as averse to a two-piece style. This seems to only be true of the 1/48th scale set. The instructions mention that the 1/32nd scale set has two-piece tanks.

The "Down" Side

  • I am not an expert, but I read a report from someone that the way the casting block is attached to the bottom of the tank eliminates the possiblity to detail this area (pipe endings and check valves). These seem easy enough to add, though.

Recommended

 

 

External "Probe and Drogue" Aerial Refueling Probe (48007, $10.00)

  Update Set 48007
Set Pieces
  Update Set 48007
Instructions
Various foreign Air Forces use the "probe and drogue" style of aerial refueling, like the US Navy does. Being equiped with Air Force style Phantoms that come with the high-speed boom recepticle on the spine is not helpful to these Air Forces. They have taken the approach of refitting their Phantoms with a fixed (non-folding) probe on the right side of the aircraft. This set provides pieces to replicate this detail.  

The set provides the following pieces.

  • a replacement fuselage section with external refueling pipe
  • a length of separate pipe tipped with the refueling probe

The "Up" Side

  • The style of providing these pieces duplicates nicely the details of the real items.

The "Down" Side

  • There is some tricky cutting of the kit required to use the pieces. The cuts follow panel lines of the kit, but the lines are not all straight and easy. Getting a perfect fit with only panel line edges (and no filler) will be most difficult.

Recommended -- I like the detailing of these pieces and would not mind picking up another couple sets.


 
 

IAF Sparrow Bay Sidewinder Adapter (48008, $15.00)
 

  Update Set 48008
Set Pieces
  Update Set 48008
Instructions
Leave it to the Israelis to come up with a workable solution to limited hard-points. When carrying larger ordnance on stations 2 and 8, those pylons can no longer carry Sidewinder (or Python) missiles. In order to provide some self defence capability, the Israelis created an adapter to fit into a forward Sparrow missile well that allows for the carriage of a Sidewinder (or Python) missile. This set provides pieces to replicate this detail.  

The set provides the following pieces.

  • a LAU-7 missile rail
  • a Sparrow missile well adapter and pylon
  • assorted sway braces

The "Up" Side

  • Good details
     
  • Easy construction and installation.

The "Down" Side

  • None

Recommended

 

 

Un-Slotted Horizontal Tails (48010, $15.00)

  Update Set 48010
Set Pieces
After the F-4C/D conversions, this was my second biggest disappointment. Not that these tails are really all that bad, but they definitely missed the mark for me. Let me explain.  

I will first start with a Phantom anatomy lesson. Slotted and un-slotted horizontal tails differ in size by only the size of the slots. That is, take an un-slotted tail and bolt an inverted slat onto its leading edge and you have a slotted tail. I confirmed this point by physically measuring two Phantoms (an RF-4C and F-4G) at the Air Force Museum a few years ago.

Across all the Hasegawa Phantom releases, there are two differnt sizes of horizontal tails. The earlier releases with raised scribing (slotted or un-slotted) have an undersized tail that is a bit smaller than it should be. The length of the trailing edge of the horizontal tail on a real Phantom is 99 inches. The raised scribing Phantom kits scale out to 96.5 inches. The difference in scale is about 1/16th of an inch. This may not sound like much, but it is noticable.

When Hasegawa retooled and engraved various portions of the Phantom kits, they changed the tail size so that it was closer to correct at 98 inches. Unfortunately, they never engraved the un-slotted tails, so any kits (even new releases) of versions that need un-slotted tails get the slightly undersized, raised scribing tails.

Now, enter the after-market companies to try to fix the problem. KMC was first with a "fix". They took the already undersized, un-slotted, raised scribing tails and engraved them. Following the anatomy lesson above, they would have been better to start with an engraved, slotted tail and just cut off the slotts, sanding the leading edge back to an airfoil. This second approach is what AirDOC has done.

The problem is that AirDOC did not just stop there. They also removed the arrowhead shaped reinforcing plate from the top, middles of the tails. They are very few Air Force style Phantoms that lack this reinforcing plate. Thus, the usefulness of this update set is limited to only aircraft that do not have the reinforcing plate on them. These exist, but they are in the vast minority of airframes.

The best use of these tails is on early F-4B and F-4J airframes, before they were retro-fitted with slotted tails. Most all F-4C/D tails had the arrowhead reinforcing plate applied from the very beginning. Thus, these tails really are not F-4C/D tails. I can only hope that AirDOC releases another set with the arrowhead plates. If they do, I hope also that they realize that the arrowheads were on the bottom of the tail as often as not and provide tails with arrowheads on both sides. Until then...

The set provides the following pieces.

  • two horizontal tails

The "Up" Side

  • The tails are closer to the correct size than the old KMC pieces.

The "Down" Side

  • Having no arrowhead reinforcing plates limits their usefulness.
     
  • No instructions. Anyone that can not figure this set out should not be modeling in the first place, but having an instruction sheet could outline some of the limitations of the pieces as I have stated in this posting.

Recommended -- If you have need of tails without the reinforcing plates, go for it. For my own uses, I will not buy many more copies of this set and instead will keep cutting off slots from engraved, slotted tails. I will also continue to hope for AirDOC to release a followup set.

 

Conclusion

 

There you have it. My detail set order was a mixed bag after I got the time to really study the AirDOC sets. Mostly my issues are picky trivia, but the F-4C/D conversions were a real letdown. I hope AirDOC can rework some things and come up with followup releases that are better worked out.

 


Review Text and Images Copyright 2004 by David W. Aungst
Page Created 30 November, 2004
Last updated 30 November, 2004

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