Tamiya, during my early modeling days of the early 1970's, had a substantial line of 1/100 modern jets and helicopters, the 1/100 Scale Mini-Jet Series
. As the standard for scales sorted itself out, 1/100 fell to the onslaught of 1/72. However, Tamiya's line was quite impressive for the time, featuring predominately recessed panel lines and the good fit Tamiya would be known for. The scale is about 30% smaller than 1/72, compact yet generally able to retain as much detail as 1/72 offerings. The scale goes well with ship modelers' 1/96 and railroading TT (1/100 through 1/120) scales. It converts easily in both metric and Imperial system. But this scale never really took off to the extent that it was envisaged, probably more due to the fact that 1/72 had by that time taken a stranglehold on the hobby. Subject availability is not very high, though Accurate Miniatures, Revell, Takara, Faller, et al., has some excellent 1/100 kits.
The vaunted United States Air Force, resting on its laurels of outstanding air-to-air performance during the Korean War, was plastered by North Vietnam's minor air force! A complex combination of neglected training for ACM (Air Combat Maneuvering) in favor of focusing on nuclear strike, unreasonable political tactical meddling, negligent USAF senior leadership, and ridiculous technocratic belief that air-to-air gunnery was stone-age, left the powerful Tactical Air Command (TAC) almost powerless against obsolescent MiGs.
The USAF quickly realized that a gun was needed, and while some squadrons managed to get the SUU-23A 20mm Gatling Gun pods mounted on their Phantom, work commenced to mount the gun internally. Too late to engage MiGs before the 1968 bombing halt, the F-4E debuted in 1967 with leading-edge slats that increased maneuverability, radar controls that were optimized for dogfighting, and the nose-mounted M61 Vulcan 20mm Gatling Gun. Referred to as “Double Ugly” among other names*, the new Phantom’s longer nose made it a better-looking jet. When the air war resumed in response to the 1972 North Vietnamese invasion of South Vietnam, the F-4E quickly redressed the score with the NVN Air Force.
The F-4E was the most numerous F-4, and was the basis of the lighter and simpler Luftwaffe F-4F. F-4Es served with Australia, Germany (RF-4E) and Israel, and still flies with Egypt, Germany (F-4F), Greece, Iran, Japan, South Korea, and Turkey.
Tamiya's F-4E comprises a clear canopy and display stand, and 47 white parts on two sprues. Parts are provided to build it gear-up or down. These parts are packed in a single plastic bag with is in a sturdy two-piece box. With the exception of the unslotted tailplane, I do not know of any exterior difference between the F-4E and the Luftwaffe F-4F.
The surface detail is mainly recessed panel lines. Unfortunately, Tamiya blemished the wing with a raised pattern for the USAF Thunderbird scheme, a' la 1950's-era Aurora kits! Fortunately, this abomination was omitted in subsequent moldings, such as the recent Japan Air Self-Defense Force reissues (pictured).
No detail enhances the wheel wells. Crude ejection seats are the only cockpit embellishments. The gear doors are thick and without detail.
Many of the parts are thick, and the sprue attachments are very sturdy. Detailed parts are crisp with no flash nor sinkholes. Mold marks mar the inside of the main gear wells and the hidden side of other parts. Only minor seam lines are along some parts.
The single-piece canopy is very clear and with light relief framing.
This is not today’s Tamiya fall-together fit but the fit is good. Your reviewer has built Tamiya's 1/100 F-4K/M British Phantom II
; no filling was used between the fuselage and wing except behind the nose gear, and where the vertical stabilizer (molded whole on one fuselage half) joins the other fuselage piece. Quite impressive for a model molded in 1972!
Only air-to-air weapons are provided, nothing for ground-pounding. The weapons choice is both interesting and disappointing: six AIM-7 Sparrow radar-guided missiles, and four of the useless infrared Hughes AIM-4 Falcons. No AIM-9 Sidewinders are offered.
decals and painting
The decals appear thicker than most of today’s, but are almost perfectly registered. Tamiya provided options for four USAF aircraft, s/n 66314, s/n 67333, s/n 67340, and the USAF Thunderbird Aerial Demonstration Team. The tactical birds all sport the tail code WD (what fighter pilot wants those
initials?) My experience with two other original Tamiya 30year-old decals has been outstanding; these have a slight yellowing though.
Color schemes are for the Thunderbirds, and the USAF four-color SEA camouflage. However, this Tamiya Mini-Jet was not reissued with USAF markings. Tamiya did sell or trade the molds to other companies in the early 1990s, and the BEN F-4E appears very similar to Tamiya's; it has late-USAF F-4 low-visibility color and markings.
These are delightful little kits. I have yet to build a new 1/144 aeroplane so I cannot compare them, but these are as nice as many pre-CAD 1/72 kits.
*The Phantom gathered a number of nicknames during its career. Some of these names included "Rhino,” "Double Ugly,” the "Flying Anvil,” "Flying Footlocker,” "Flying Brick,” "Lead Sled,” the "Big Iron Sled" and the "Louisville Slugger.” In recognition of its record of downing large numbers of Soviet-built MiGs, it was called the "World’s Leading Distributor of MiG Parts." As a reflection of excellent performance in spite of bulk, it was dubbed "the triumph of thrust over aerodynamics." German Luftwaffe crews called their F-4s the Eisenschwein ("Iron Pig"), Fliegender Ziegelstein ("Flying Brick") and Luftverteidigungsdiesel ("Air Defense Diesel").