"Vivacious Vipers" – The F-16 in international service,Zotz decals ZTZ480065 - 1/48th scale & ZTZ72006 - 1/72nd scale. 

This very comprehensive and very colourful decal sheet contains decals for F-16s from Bahrain, Denmark, Egypt, Greece, Pakistan, Portugal and Turkey. The decal set consists of three large sheets and two small sheets with a few corrected decals. The decals are very nicely printed and they are all in register. However, you will have to put one decal on top of another to make up some of the markings. This will of course make the decals a bit thicker but this will hardly be seen after a layer of satin coat. The colours are very good, and the colours underneath will not show through.The three sheets with instructions are very thorough, both when it comes to colours and interesting information regarding modifications and load-outs. The supplied information is correct apart from two small typos (see further down).  

The contents are as follows: 

Bahrain 

  • F-16C Block 40D #103 (serial 90-0029). 
  • F-16D Block 40D #154 (serial 90-0038). 

Both aircraft are painted in an overall light blue-grey colour (a mix of FS36622 and FS32237). The only difference between the two aircraft – apart from the number of seats – is the tail number. These two aircraft are not impressively colourful but still quite exotic. Zotz provides us with the information that the aircraft have been upgraded to carry the LANTIRN pods, AIM-7 Sparrow and AIM-120 AMRAAM, but I have only seen them carry the AIM-9 Sidewinder on pictures. Being Block 40 aircraft they have the wide main intake and ’beer cans’ on the wing leading edges. 

Egypt 

  • F-16C Block 40R #9969 (serial 93-0503), 262nd Fighter Brigade. 

This aircraft is shown in the standard three-colour F-16 scheme; although this time with dark gull grey FS 36231 as the darkest colour. It is obvious in pictures of this aircraft that the contrast between the three grey colours is very low. Despite the grey colours and the low contrast it is a very colourful aircraft due to the large orange identification markings on the wings, the tail fin and the fuselage. Being Block 40 aircraft they have the wide main intake and ’beer cans’ on the wing leading edges. 

Greece 

  • F-16C Block 30H #111 (serial 88-0111). 
  • F-16C Block 30K #127 (serial 88-0127). 
  • F-16C Block 50P #045 (serial 93-1045), 347 Mira. 
  • F-16C Block 52+ #501 (serial 99-1501), 340 Mira. 
  • F-16D Block 30J #149 (serial 88-0149). 
  • F-16D Block 52+ #601 (serial 99-1535), 340 Mira. 

All six aircraft are painted in the Greek ’ghost’ scheme consisting of FS36251, FS36307 and FS35237. Only #111 carries special markings in the shape of a dark grey bird on a medium grey lightning on the tail fin.The Block 30 and 50 aircraft have the wide air intake whilst the Block 52 aircraft have the narrow air intake. The all have the ‘beer cans’ on the wing leading edges, and the Block 50 and 52 aircraft also have the AIFF antennae in front of the cockpit – the same type as on the Mid-Life Update F-16s. Greek F-16C/D Block 50s are often seen with either the LANTIRN pods or the AGM-88 HARM missiles. Note that #501 and #601 have conformal fuel tanks on the upper fuselage. 

Turkey 

  • F-16C Block 30E 87-0021, 143 Filo. 
  • F-16C Block 30E 88-0031, 142 Filo. 
  • F-16D Block 40D 89-0045 (called F-16C in the instructions), 162 Filo. 
  • F-16D Block 40F 90-0022 (called F-16C in the instructions), 161 Filo. 
  • F-16C Block 40H 91-0011, 141 Filo. F-16C Block 40H 91-0017, 182 Filo. 
  • F-16C Block 40P 93-0001, 181 Filo. F-16C Block 50 94-0078, 191 Filo. 
  • F-16C Block 50 94-0088, 152 Filo. F-16D Block 50 94-1560, 151 Filo. 
  • F-16D Block 50 94-1563, NATO Tigermeet 2002. 

All 11 aircraft wear the standard colour scheme of FS36375, FS36270 and FS36118. The all have some sort of unit markings, either as a coloured band on the fin tip, or as a squadron badge on the fin. Some aircraft have both though. All 11 aircraft have the wide air intake and the ‘beer cans’ on the wing leading edges, and the Block 50 also have the AIFF antennae in front of the cockpit, however, this is not the same type as on the Mid-Life Update and Greek F-16s. All Block 30 and 40 aircraft have the brake chute container on the tail fin as well as a number of antennae on this container and on the air intake. 

Pakistan 

  • F-16A Block 15 #84705 (serial 81-0903), 9th Sqn. 
  • F-16A Block 15 #84717 (serial 81-0915), 14th Sqn. 
  • F-16A Block 15 #85723 (serial 81-0921), 9th Sqn. 

These three aircraft are painted in the Pakistani two-colour scheme of FS36270 and FS36118. Although not very colourful it still is a striking colour scheme. The national markings are grey – a green and white fin flash would have been welcome by the way. #84705 carries a tail band with the title ‘Griffins’ as well as a griffin on the tail fin, all in dark grey. Two of the aircraft have shot down Afghan aircraft, e.g. Su-22 Fitters, and #85723 thus carries kill markings. 

Portugal 

  • F-16A Block 15 ADF #15101 (serial 93-0465), 201 Esc. 
  • F-16A Block 15 ADF #15117 (serial 93-0481), 201 Esc. 

Portuguese F-16s are a little special compared to other European F-16s in that they have some of the Air Defence Fighter (ADF) modifications of the late USAF F-16A/B ADFs. The most noticeable modification is the tail fin base with its large oval bulge on either side. As pointed out in the instructions the Portuguese F-16s do not have the AIFF antennae as seen on the USAF ADF models. 

Denmark 

  • F-16A Block 5 #E-180 (serial 78-0180), ESK723. 

Without doubt the most colourful F-16 on this decal sheet, this F-16 was used to celebrate the NATO 50th Anniversay. The aircraft has large blue and gold areas and a drawing of Holger Danske on the tail fin. E-180 has worn this colour scheme since 1999, although with various minor modifications to the original paint job. This sheets gives you the colour scheme as it originally looked. See a later version of this scheme here. The three grey colours in the colour scheme are FS26373, FS26270 and FS26132 – both the lightest and the darkest colours are unique to the Danish F-16s. E-180 is a Block 5 aircraft brought up to Block 10 standard. This means you will have to remove the tail fin flood light mounted on the leading edge, as well as reducing the size of the horizontal tail planes considerably. There are a number of other minor modifications too.

All added up this makes a very comprehensive, colourful and interesting decal sheet. Highly recommended!!! 

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F-104G

62-12345, coded 4413

427 Wg, 8 Sqn, RoCAF.

Hasegawa 1/48th scale  

This F-104G was built using the standard Hasegawa F-104G kit in combination with the beautiful Black Box F-104G/J cockpit set (#48006). The kit was built straight from the box apart from the aforementioned cockpit, which unfortunately did not fit perfectly. This might have been my own mistake though. The cockpit section seemed to be too wide at the front, and this resulted in the fuselage having a small bulge where the front starboard cockpit corner meets the fuselage. I was not sure whether the fuselage seam would hold with this kind of pressure coming from the inside so I drilled two small holes in the front fuselage bulkhead and secured it with a piece of wire. Also, the bulge was removed with a bit of sanding. Black Box does not tell you to remove the floor of the cockpit so I did not do this, although I have later found out that this is, strictly speaking, incorrect. The ejection seat will cover most of this area anyway so it is no big deal.

Apart from the area below the windscreen the rest of the kit went together without any problems. I did, however, modify the Martin Baker ejection seat slightly so that it would represent the type used in the Danish F-104s. The Black Box Martin Baker seat has the D-shaped headrest as found in e.g. some German and Italian airframes. Since this aircraft was going to be a RoCAF F-104G formerly in Danish service it would most likely have been fitted with the trapeze shaped headrest. The cockpit was painted dark gull grey FS 36231 with panels and instruments painted black. Various details were picked out in white, red, yellow etc.

From an early stage I decided not to use the Black Box underwing fuel tanks and pylons on this kit. The fins on the tanks are incorrect and bent out of shape so they will need to be replaced anyway. With the airframe being complete it was time to paint the model.My initial plan with this model was to build a German F-104G but due to the fact that I did not have the right colours in store when it was time to paint the model, I decided to finish it as a Taiwanese aircraft. After all, I already had plans to build one of the former Danish F-104s in service with the RoCAF so it was just a question of which model to paint in that specific scheme.

The F-104Gs received from Denmark were all in the 44xx range so I started looking for pictures of these. I did find a couple of pictures on the internet, all showing the light and dark ghost grey ‘cloud’ scheme. To my surprise I noticed that at least two of these former Danish F-104Gs were carrying the Red Dog AIM-9 launcher underneath the belly. This is the type included in the Hasegawa F-104 kits (but not the correct type for most F-104Gs). This saved me some scratch building and at the same time allowed me to arm my model with Sidewinders.

The two colours used for this scheme, light ghost grey FS 36375 and dark ghost grey FS 36320, happened to be in my stock of Xtracolor so that it what I used. Actually, after something like 10 years storage the darker colour had turned grainy and useless so I had to find a replacement. That is when I remembered one of the German RAL colours to be identical to FS 36320 – and I had this colour in stock, also from Xtracolor (RAL 7001). With both colours sprayed on freehand it was just a matter of masking off the radome and the anti-glare panel and paint them light grey and dark green respectively.

Painted model

I had three sources of decals for the Taiwanese F-104s; Hasegawa kit #09365, Albatros decals #ALC-48006 and Eagle Strike decals #48239. Of those three it seems that Hasegawa is the most correct source as they provide you with dark blue codes instead of black codes as on the other two sheets. By combining the various Hasegawa decals I managed to find all the necessary decals apart from the squadron badge on the tail fin. This was found on the Albatros sheet.

The hardest part during application of decals was to cut out the individual numbers necessary for my model – especially the small codes and serial numbers. I did not trim off the carrier film on most of the decals as I hoped it would help the decals to blend into the surface. In fact, these decals are not as thick as Hasegawa’s usual decals, and they also seem slightly less glossy. The latter sometimes result in the dreaded silver effect underneath the decals but with a little care this isn’t a problem here. Should this happen, a needle and some Johnson’s Kleer will do the trick. After a day’s work the decals have all been applied, and the model can be set aside and allowed to fully dry.When the decals had been allowed to dry for several days any residue was wiped off with a damp cloth. Then it was time to give the model a coat of Johnson’s Kleer to seal the decals and the paint job.

I found that on this model my pre-shading had been so effective that I did not have to give the panel lines the usual oil colour wash. The weathering was thus limited to applying exhaust and gun gas staining on the upper port fuselage and behind the gun muzzle respectively. This was done before I applied a flat coat of Testor Model Master flat varnish – just in case I overdid the staining and would have to wipe it off again. The paint chipping was done after the flat coat had dried. I tried to keep the paint chipping to a minimum.The various sub-assemblies, fuselage, horizontal tail planes, wing tip tank, undercarriage and weaponry, were now finished and ready to be joined.  

Almost finished

After painting my model I have come across Steven Weng's great pictures. They can be found here

 

...More to follow... 

Afghan Mi-8 Hip

After having seen several real Afghan Mi-8/-17 Hips there was no doubt in my mind that I had to build one of those. I would have preferred the 1/48th scale but I could only find one kit and I was unsure how good it was. All I knew was that it was expensive, so I decided to spend my money on something I knew was good – the Trumpeter 1/35th scale kit. 

Upon opening the box it occurred to me how big this helicopter would become once fully assembled. The main rotor diameter alone will make it hard to find a place to put it. Anyway, I haven’t gotten that far yet so there is no need to start worrying about that already. 

The kit is moulded in light grey plastic, and the level of details is very good. There is, however, room for improvement depending on how much you want to show off. The kit features a cockpit with nicely moulded details, seats with etched brass seat belts and instrument panels of the ‘sandwich’ type, i.e. with clear film backing and a piece of clear plastic to put in front. The cargo cabin is rather bare though, and it would benefit from having some details added.  

The exterior is nicely detailed as well. There is even an option for opening the engine bay doors which will reveal two nice engines. If the doors are posed open the engines could benefit from having some wiring added. 

Before I started building this kit I ran through my photos of the Afghan Hips. It was apparent that I had to change a few things in the kit, mostly on the inside. First of all, the seat belts had to be replaced by some sort of harness with a solid back. This harness had been left on the shoulder of the seats by the pilots. I made this harness from some copper sheet and strips of paper, all cut and glued together according to my pictures. The result was satisfying I think. The seats were also modified with an armour plate at the back as well as an actuator behind the back near the floor. finally the seats were painted; medium grey for the seat frame, leather brown for the cushions and the harness was painted dark grey-green. Details and weathering was carried out after having applied a coat of Johnsons. Apart from a couple of small boxes – one electronic and one first aid kit – I did not add further details to the cockpit. The cargo compartment, however, was a different story.

Detailed pilot's seat

I started out by building the flight engineer’s seat from copper sheet, copper wire and plastic rod. The seat is mounted on the cabin bulkhead to the left of the door way to the cockpit. The bulkhead itself was detailed with plastic sheet, suitable spare parts from various armour kits (yes, I have been to the dark side but I have now returned for good!). Some of the pictures I have found show some wires hanging from the ceiling, so that is what I made in my kit. The connectors were simply made of plastic rod. The fire extinguisher is from an M113 kit. The passenger seats are also parts left over from my M113 kits, but these were modified to suit my needs. Some pictures also show a large yellow tank in the port side of the cabin. I made this from two old jars I used to get contact lenses in, glued together with copper sheet wrapped around them. The end was fashioned from several layers of plastic sheet and putty. I took the easy route on the aft end as I decided to put a tarpaulin over it. This was made from a piece of cloth dipped in thinned white glue and shaped to fit the contours. I also made some modifications to the two large cargo cabin doors although I do not plan to portray them in the open position. 

Unpainted Hip interior

The cargo compartment was also sprayed medium grey after having been pre-shaded. This look rather good but I am not sure it can be seen when the model is closed. Various details were picked out in black and aluminium, while the passenger seats were painted khaki. Everything was weathered before closing up the fuselage. Do not forget that these helicopters fly in a very dusty environment. 

Painted cockpit area

Painted cockpit area 

Of course the particular airframe I wanted to depict was slightly different than the kit. Instead of the louvers aft of the exhaust this one had grills. I simply cut out the panel with the louvers and added my own scratch-built panel made from plastic sheet and aluminium mesh.  While in that area I also added two small exhausts right above the tail boom. These were made from aluminium tubing. Later on, while examining my reference pictures, I found out that the Hip I am going to build does not have the exhaust on the starboard side. The aluminium tube was very easy to remove but the hole was a bit difficult to fill due to the complex shape of the fuselage. However, the hole was filled with scrap plastic and super glue, and the area was shaped and sanded to look as if there has never been a hole there. I am not sure that anything can be seen in the main gear box area but just to make sure I added a few details there as well (a flat plate looks too simple to me). All in all it was easy work but the effect is great I think. 

Modified main gear box area

Before joining the two fuselage halves there are some mould lines that need to be removed. They run in a couple of places (mostly horizontally) from the cockpit back to the panels with the louvers (the ones mentioned above). Most of the lines could simply be sanded off but a few areas needed some Mr. Surfacer 500. 

Since the port side passenger seat would be the most difficult one to install after joining the fuselage halves I inserted the interior assembly into the port side fuselage half, after which I mounted the passenger and crew chief seats. Installation of the starboard side passenger seats was carried out after the two fuselage halves had been glued together.  

Painted fwd cabin bulkhead

Complete cabin area 

Be very careful when joining up the two fuselage halves. There are a lot of parts that need to be carefully aligned; the top of the main gear box, the cockpit/aft compartment floor and bulkhead, the cockpit and the aft compartment roofs. To ensure an acceptable fit on the lower fuselage seam I glued some pieces of plastic card sheet on the inside, constantly making sure they did not interfere with the floor or bulkhead. 

I masked off the cargo cabin windows and super glued them to the fuselage halves (this could be done because the windows were already masked off). The large yellow fuel tank was inserted as the last thing before mounting the two clamshell cargo doors. 

With the cargo cabin closed it was time to mount the engines and engine covers. Even if you do not want to display the engine covers in the open position you will have to mount install the engines. Without those it is not possible to install the inlets and exhausts. However, all the detail parts for the engines are not needed when the engine covers are closed so save the work and put the parts in the spares box instead. With the engines fitted I closed up the engine bays with the covers. The fit of the covers is not perfect but acceptable. A little filler was needed after the glue had fully dried. I had glued the front engine bay bulkhead in the vertical position but I found out at this stage that it actually had to be angled backwards a little. 

Having finished off the engine area I drilled out some of the rivet holes that were lost in my filling and sanding processes. As can be seen in the in-progress pictures I have sprayed several colours in various areas of the airframe. I did this whenever I had some excess paint in my airbrush to make imperfections stand out more clearly.  

One thing that bothered me for a long time before getting to that stage of the build was attaching the front nose piece which is made of clear plastic. First of all, the many dry-fitting sessions revealed a less than perfect fit – mostly due to the fuselage having been a bit squashed at the top and bottom, making it a bit too wide in the middle of the fuselage sides (I think this was my own fault). Second, the clear part was rather thin giving only a limited area to apply glue to. The fuselage parts were about 1.5 times thicker than the clear parts so a piece of plastic strip to help fit the clear part seemed to be too much work compared to the effect. I basically had four choices of glue: White glue, Testor styrene glue, super glue and 5 minute epoxy glue. Due to the stress that would occur on the parts and joints I did not use white glue. I didn’t use the styrene glue either because of the very limited surface on the clear part to apply this to. Also, the drying time of these two types of glue was a factor taken into consideration. This left me with the super glue and the 5 minute epoxy. Knowing that the super glue would leave the well-known fog on the clear part I was not too keen on using that. The strength and drying time of the super glue was a great plus though. Not sure whether the 5 minute epoxy would damage the clear part in any way I tried adding just a tiny dot of it on the lower inside of the large part (this area would be covered anyway when finished). I ended up using the 5 minute epoxy due to its strength and drying time. Afterwards I am glad I used something fast-drying as I ended up holding the parts together while the glue dried. I ended up with a strong joint but not a perfect one. Getting a smooth joint demanded some filling and sanding though. At least it turned out a lot better than I had feared.  

After the filling and sanding of the nose area all the rivet detail is lost. Using a small drill the rivet detail was easily restored. I restored lost rivet detail on the rest of the airframe at the same time.

...More to follow...