Northrop has been a leader in innovative technology for decades, and one of the most successful aircraft designed (and built) by Northrop is the F-5 Tiger. Brought to life as a privately-funded venture in 1955, the F-5 Tiger was not an immediate success; it was a lightweight fighter design in an age when bigger was better, and multi-role was not even a concept. It did not help that the US military was not initially interested in the F-5; however, as history has shown, the F-5 became an international success, and continues to be an impressive performer in many air forces around the world.
The plastic kit manufacturer, AFV Club, has released a series of F-5 kits that include the F-5E Tiger II and the two-place F-5F. This review will describe the F-5F.
The initial release of AFV Club Tiger II was the F-5E single-seater in 1/48th scale; this kit has been reviewed several times already, with all reviewers accepting the AFV Club kit as the best F-5 on the market in any scale. Having built the AFV Club F-5E, I agree wholeheartedly with earlier reviews that this kit is excellent. Now, AFV Club has released the two-seat F-5F (#AR48S07) with markings for the Republic of China (Taiwan) Air Force. This review covers this kit. The artwork on the box also shows kit number 48103 (US Navy VFC-111 Aggressor), and number AR48106, an F-5F in U.S. Air Force markings. Why AFV Club lists the R.O.C. kit with an “S” in the kit number, rather than a number is unknown, but the “S” seems to be applicable to RoCAF kits.
The AFV Club F-5F kit consists of eight sprues, and a separate upper rear fuselage. Most sprues are separated in individual plastic bags, and all parts are in excellent shape, in spite of the fact that the box had been crushed on one end. Plastic detailing consists of delicate, engraved panel lines, and small rivets…other kit manufacturers should take a look at what AFV Club is doing with their molds to see what excellence in moldmaking is.
The clear parts are exceptional, and appear like they have already been dipped in “Future” acrylic. The canopies can be positioned open or closed and parts are included to allow this. A small fret of photoetch parts contains parts for the canopies and the intakes.
Aside from the forward fuselage and an upper wing fence, the F-5F is the same kit as the single-seat F-5E, released by AFV Club, so earlier reviews cover most of this kit. Anyone who has already built the single-seater will be completely familiar with how to build this kit, the only difference being another cockpit to complete, and the upper wing fence (don’t forget to open the holes!). As with the F-5E, this kit also includes an open gunbay , located ahead of the cockpit on the leftside, but, again, the reason for this feature is unknown because no parts are included to put inside the gunbay. If this kit is like the F-5E, the gunbay doors will fit fairly well, but not perfectly, so a little putty or superglue will be needed to get things closed-up. The plastic parts fit very precisely, and, aside from the gunbay doors, no putty will be needed for perfect fit. The kit instructions are exceptional; I appreciate the simple, clear illustrations, which are supplemented with English and Chinese instructions. The four-views are especially welcomed, and show the complex wraparound camo schemes from all sides. A minor problem with the instructions is the color list, which contains a list of 20 colors, and cross-references for Gunze, Humbrol, Revell, and Lifecolor paints. AFV Club got a little sloppy with the list cross-references, so be sure to double-check your colors, if you use the AFV Club cross-references.
The kit contains markings for four different aircraft of the RoCAF 46th Aggressor Squadron, based at Taidong AFB. The decals are printed in perfect register, but excessive clear backgrounds will need to be trimmed off. From a previous build, I found AFV Club decals to be very thin, and care must be taken to keep the decal from folding over on itself, during application. For those interested parties, AFV Club also includes two adhesive-backed RoCAF 46th Aggressor Squadron patches, as well as an A4-size copy of the box artwork.
Another home run for AFV Club! This two-seat F-5F is exceptional, and should be a welcome addition to anyone’s stash.
Highs: Excellent plastic...parts fit very precisely and have excellent detail.Lows: Decals may need trimming, due to excessive clear surround.Verdict: Outstanding kit; easily the best F-5F on the market, in any scale.