Lockheed Martin's F-104 Starfighter was the first operational supersonic interceptor produced by the United States, and is the inspiration for at least two dozen plastic models in all three common scales. Over 2,500 were built, and 14 countries flew exported or licensed versions from 1958 until the last aircraft was retired from Italian service in 2004.
With nearly a 1,000 planes in its service, Germany was the most-significant user of the airframe. But it also had the worst experience with crashing and dead pilots (116 pilots in 269 accidents). Nasty nicknames attached themselves to the Starfighter like tin cans tied to a stray dog's tail by cruel boys: Witwemacher
("widow-maker") and Fliegender Sarg
("flying coffin") or even "tent peg." The cause of the high rate of crashes is still debated: lousy weather over much of Germany (pilots were initially trained to fly in the clear, dry air of Texas)? Human error by inexperienced pilots and/or conscript maintenance personnel? Whatever the reason, Germany flew 36% of all Starfighters from 1961-1987, so it's no wonder modelers have been drawn to the German F-104 G and (T)F-104 G (the two-seat trainer version).
To help those of us who love the F-104 G, Danny Coremans has created both a superb reference work on the G variant
and two sets of decals that allow modelers to recreate ANY Starfighter in either Belgian or German configurations. This review is about the 1/32nd scale set for the German F-104G and (T)F-104G trainer.
The decal set includes five sheets of decals covering:
1.) National markings in several variants
2.) Service markings (army and navy versions)
3.) Unit badges including "Zap" temporary markings
4.) Stenciling in (mostly) German to replace the English stenciling in the Italeri kit
5.) Enough numerals to handle all the codes for any plane that flew
6.) A full-color booklet with marking conventions, camouflage colors and unit placards for all Luftwaffe units that flew the Starfighter.
The sheer breadth of the decals in the set is impressive. EVERY Starfighter that flew in German service can be recreated. The stenciling is also superb, since many of the English markings were replaced (duh!) with German ones when the planes were painted for Luftwaffe service.
The national markings are superior to kit decals in the two Italeri F-104Gs I have been building, including two iron crosses with a black hairline around the outside for use on the "white aluminum" RAL 9006 undersides, and "yellowed" white crosses for older planes. There are ample markings to handle a pair of aircraft, with all kinds of variations on the "emergency/Notruf
" placards. The markings for Starfighters were quite varied with some in English, others all German and some mixed versions. There are also plenty of identification codes to cover every marking convention used by the Luftwaffe, including the enormous letter tail codes on later planes.
Besides markings for the regular Luftwaffe, the set also has navy Marineflieger
stencils, a branch of service that often is overlooked by Starfighter enthusiasts. The multi-letter plane codes on the forward sides of the fuselage are no problem, as well as the "2 plus 2" digit markings adopted during the heyday of the F-104G. The information booklet provided me with multiple choices for the (T)F-104G
from MSG2 I am currently building for a feature here.
The decals lay down well, though the national markings are a bit thick. So you will need a wetting agent, preferably a heavy-duty one like Mr. Mark Setter for adhesion and Mr. Mark Softer to make the decal conform to the surface and panel lines. But a word of caution when using Mr. Mark Softer: it's industrial-strength and can cause the decal to become fragile and even decompose if you don't allow full drying before handling or puddle it on the edges. Less is more with Mr. Mark Softer.
The set is pricey at €45, but is simply one of the finer modeling tools I have seen for a single aircraft. Given the nearly 1,000 F-104s in German service, these decals should give modelers everywhere all they need to recreate authentic, accurate Starfighters.