by: Tim Hatton [ ]
I acquired this kit a couple of weeks ago after seeing it publicised on the Italeri website as a new release. The F-104 is one of my favorite aircraft and surprisingly despite that fact, I have never built one. I discovered after ordering it, that the kit was a re-release of a ESCI/AMT kit from the 1980's. Not being too impressed with this fact and if I had known before hand probably would not have bought it. So is this new offering from Italeri just a rehash of a tired old mould?
At the time that the F-104 was falling out of U.S. favour, the Luftwaffe was looking for a foreign-designed multi-role combat aircraft to operate in support of a missile defense system. The Starfighter was presented and reworked to convert it from a fair-weather fighter into an all-weather ground-attack, reconnaissance and interceptor aircraft, as the F-104G. This was chosen over the English Electric P.1, [Lightning], Grumman Super Tiger and Northop N-156. The aircraft found a new market with other NATO countries, and eventually a total of 2,578 of all variants of the F-104 were built in the U.S. and abroad for various nations. Several countries received their aircraft under the U.S.-funded Military Aid Program (MAP). The American engine was retained but built under license in Europe, Canada and Japan. The Lockheed ejector seats were retained initially but were replaced later in some countries by the statistically safer Martin Baker zero-zero ejection seat. 1,122 F-104G's were produced as multi-role fighter bomber. Manufactured by Lockheed, and under license by Canadair and a consortium of European companies which included Messerschmitt/MBB, Dornier, Fiat Fokker and SABCA. The type featured strengthened fuselage and wing structure, increased internal fuel capacity, an enlarged vertical fin, strengthened landing gear with larger tyress and revised flaps for improved combat maneuvering. Upgraded avionics included a new Autonetics NASARR F15A-41B radar with air-to-air and ground mapping modes, the Litton LN-3 inertial navigation system (the first on a production fighter) and an infrared sight. The international service of the F-104 began to wind down in the late 1970s, being replaced in many cases by the F-16, but it remained in service with some air forces for another two decades. The last operational Starfighters served with the Italian AMI, which retired them on 31 October 2004.
Box is end opening, with three colour side profiles on the rear of the box.
3 x light grey sprues. Parts have mainly engraved panels lines although there are some raised panel lines on the minor parts such as under carriage doors, pylons and the centre line fuel tank. These could be easily removed and rescribed.
1 x transparent.
Instruction sheet, which includes paint, decals and stencil application information. Exploded line drawings aid the construction of this kit.
Decals, small sheet, but packed with stuff.
Contains the two fuselage halves split vertically. The fuselage stops at the air brake, the point where on the real thing, the tail detaches so that the engine can be removed. Tail and rear fuselage are also split vertically and is a very positive fit to the rest of the fuselage. There are a couple of small sink marks either side of the fuselage, where the leading edge of the tail meets. Also a couple of very minor sink marks just in front of the main under carriage bay. A small amount of liquid paper or filler should easily sort these blemishes out. On the real thing, the distinctive beam in the main undercarriage bay has an open zig zag patterned trellis. The trellis on the model is moulded solid. The fastidious might want to open up the gaps, but I don't think its a big deal. The part of the fuselage that meets the rear of the air intake is blanked off to prevent that annoying see through into the fuselage that you find with some models. When the two part intake is offered up to the fuselage there is no sign of the blank. The bulge for the cannon is moulded although there is no representation of the cannon itself. Panel lines are beautifully fine. The jet pipe is moulded in one piece and has a fair representation of the flame holder. The exhaust is also one piece and joins onto the jet pipe with little need to tidy up the join. The exhaust has some very fine panel lines.
Also on sprue A is the Orpheus reconnaissance pod, which comes in two parts split horizontally. The reconnaissance pod fits under the fuselage on a pylon between the air intakes. If fitting a small slot must be cut under the fuselage. The pod itself looks good in shape although the camera ports look a little too deep.
Contains the flying surfaces. Both main wings and the horizontal tail are one piece. There are a few visible flow marks on the main wings, but no flaws detected by touch. There is a slot moulded into the underside of each wing to accommodate the pylons. The trailing edges are pretty thin and acceptable although not knife edge of the real thing. Also included on this sprue is the front undercarriage bay, bay doors for both front and rear undercarriages, air brakes, rails for the sidewinders and pylons for the fuel tanks. The fine detail on the air brakes, undercarriage doors and bays are very nicely done. There is a little flash around the air brake attachment points that will need to be carefully removed. Two Sidewinders are included with this release. The fins on the Sidewinders will benefit from some thinning. There is also the opportunity to arm the F-104 with the distinctive catamaran launcher, which carried two Sidewinders under the fuselage. The Sidewinders can also be placed on the wing tip launch rails if you chose. Main undercarriage doors come as two separate pieces, one for each bay If you want to display the undercarriage down, you need to separate each door in two, a relatively simple matter as there is a a recessed line in the plastic to aid cutting. There are two front undercarriage doors on this sprue, but only one is used. The forward part of the door has a strange shape that bares no resemblance to the opening. Again the recessed panel lines are very subtle and nicely done.
Is dominated by the fuel tanks. There are three different sorts.
2 x wing tip tanks.
2 x under wing tanks.
1 x centre line tank.
Fuel tanks to my eyes look a little narrow in cross section.
Also on this sprue are the air intakes, each one is made up from two parts. The lip of the intake is thin. The panel lines on these and the fuel tanks like the rest of the mouldings are delicately done. Main and nose undercarriage legs are also on this sprue, both are one piece. There is a slight seam line on the undercarriage legs, which should clean of easily. Wheels are nicely moulded and there is a mould line around the circumference of the tyre, a quick swipe with wet and dry should sort it out. There is also a separate arrestor hook.
The one piece windscreen/canopy. I am afraid I cannot comment on these items as they were not included in the box.
Comprises of a tub, with side console, rudder pedals and locating point for the control stick. There are no low relief details for instruments or switches. The instrument panel again has no representation of instrument or switches. The instruments are supplied as decals, both for the instrument panel and side consoles. The decals are a bit simplistic so some PE details such as the Zoom set from Eduard would spruce up the cockpit. There are two ejector seats. The seat for the Dutch aircraft is one piece, with moulded straps. The seat for the Italian and German machines is a little more elaborate and made up of four pieces. Again the Zoom set would improve their looks.
As you can see from the images the fit is generally very good and I doubt you will need nothing more than liquid glue to join all the main components. A good candidate for a weekend project.
There are a lot contained on the small sheet. Colour looks good, but there is a registration problem with the small Italian insignia. The green area are poorly centered. A pity, but the quality of the stencils is good, and there are lots and lots off them. The black warning notices are easily legible although the red lettering is less distinct. Unfortunetly some of the smaller stencils are grouped as one decal and the carrier film is a bit excessive. Also included are two different anti glare patches for the nose. The Dutch and Luftwaffe one is black and the Italian is olive green. There is a separate section in the instructions which deals with the application of the stencils.
Four options in all, two Italian, one German and a Dutch aircraft. A great choice of markings if you have overall metal finish phobia, although the under parts of the Italian and German aircraft are aluminum. If you want to avoid aluminum altogether go for the Dutch jet.
Option A: F-RFF-104G, Gruppo “ Streghe”, 3 Storm, “50,000Flying Hours”, Verona-Villafranca. 1992.
Alternative 1: Verona-Villafranca.
Alternative 2: Gulf War – Operation “Ace Guard”, Erach AB, Turkey, Jan-Feb, 1991.
Option B: F-RF-104G, 132Gruppo “Grappa”, 3 Stormo, Verona-Villafranca, 1983 – 1991.
Option C: F-104G, Jagdbombergeschwader 51 [Boelke}, Norvenich AB, Germany, 1983.
Option D: F-104G, Koninklijke Luchtmacht, 322 Squadron, Leeuwarden, Holland, 1966.
The Italian and Luftwaffe aircraft have dark grey and dark green upper surfaces , aluminum under surfaces and white radome. The Luftwaffe sports splinter camouflage and has fluorescent orange painted on the wing tip tanks. No reference for this particular colour although I know Humbrol do this colour in enamel paint.. The Dutch aircraft is light grey overall, with white radome. Colour call outs are for Model Master and Model Master acrylics. Italeri give the FS numbers for the dark grey and green of the Italian and German machines and the overall grey of the Dutch machine.
My original disappointment at finding out that this was a re-release of a model from the 1980's very quickly disappeared as I examined this kit. To be honest I think it is a little gem. The panel lines, shape and ease of fit makes this a recommended kit.