Scale 1/72
Manufacturer Italeri
Kit ID 9011
Type Lockheed F-104C 56-0886
Unit 479 TFW
Date Vietnam, 1965
Aftermarket parts used PJ Productions pilot figures, needles for pitot probes
Other detail added None
Model built by Alex Hunger
Date Completed March 2010

I think I had a yen for Tactical Air Command marked Starfighters ever since I saw an old Star Trek episode where one was sent up to intercept the Enterprise which had accidentaly been sent back in time to 1965 in this instance. Fortunately this scheme with the lightning enhanced TAC badge is among those offered in the now venerable Esci boxing which is destined to remain the definitive early Starfighter unless Hasegawa modify their F-104G kits..

The Esci kit, for its age, has the main advantage of inscribed panel lines. The down side is a rubbish ejection seat, an ill fitting canopy, landing gear doors that are not designed to be attached in the propper open position and decal sheets that tend to break up even if recoated.

The fuselage was assembled as per instructions. The air intakes to fuselage joint required quite a bit of filling and sanding. Care also need to be taken with the front of the tail fin and where it attached to the forward fuselage as this area is a little weak. With that done, the wings could be attached, filled a bit and left to dry. I had also opened up the orrifice for the fuselage pylon.

The cockpit was spray painted light grey while the combing was painted matt black a little later. The kit instrument decals, stick and HUD were installed as per instructions. The nasty kit ejection seat was replaced with a white metal unit from Aeroclub that I had painted earlier. A pre painted early 60s pilot from PJ production was also superglued to it. When the fumes cleared, the canopy was attached despite having other ideas. This required some filer and sanding, but remains unsatisfactory as the canopy is actually wider that needed, for which there is no real solution other than grinding of teeth.

In the end, the canopy panels were masked and the fuselage was primed in Hallfords grey while the wings were primed in Hallfords white. The wings required a couple more coats and then received several light coats of Hallfords Nissan gloss white. Once those had properly dried, the wings were masked and the fun of natural metal painting could begin. The entire rear fuselage was airbrushed with the darker Allclad B steel shade. The afterburner side areas were then gently air brushed with a couple of gentle Allclad burnt metal bursts. The afterburned was also primed and brushed with Allclad burnt metal and put aside. The required sections were then masked with Tamiya tape. Contrary to popular belief, the radome is light grey and not white. This was sprayed with Tamiya USAF Light Grey and masked.

At this stage, with all the fiddly areas painted and masked, the landing gear could be installed and left to dry. This is a little tricky, as it doesn't always want to be very straight and will require a bit of gentle bending without breaking for the aircraft to sit on an even keel.

Now everything else could be sprayed with Nissan Silver and left to dry. During this time, I occupied myself with the drop tanks and pod. These all required a lot of filing and sanding. They were put asside after being primed and painted. The panel lines of the pylons were also recarved, but not attached until after the wing decals had been attached. The wheels were also cleaned up and painted. There, I recently started to use Acrylic Tamiya Nato Black, which is more grey than pure black and looks more like real tyres.

All the masking (except that of the canopy) needs a bit of time to remove but the sence of satisfaction increases with each unmasked layer. To be honest, a few touch ups on the paint job were required, but nothing serious. The matt black anti glare panel was painted on and one had something that looked like an aircraft leaving the factory. In order to help the adhesion of the decals, everything was coated in gloss. Wheels and afterburner could now be attached.

The Esci decals on the pink backing sheets were bred with an instinct for self destruction. The ones with a white backing sheet had more of a interest in survival, even though I still coated them gloss varnish just to be on the safe side. Most of the decals for the natural metal TAC 479 TFS aircraft could be used as is. It was best to leave out the over large black and yellow danger decal and replace it with one from the spares box. Further stencils came from the Revell decal sheet and from left over Hasegawa decals. The entire ensemble was again coated in gloss to seal in the decals. Last but not least, the cleaned up and pre painted refueling probe was attached and the gun barrel received a dab of Tamiya Gun Metal.

Now the drop tanks and center line pod were attached. I drilled out the hole in the radome a bit and installed a needle, which would hopefully prove more survivable than the plastic pitot tube. With the masking of the canopy removed, I had a completed Starfighter in a fetching natural metal TAC finish ready for service in Vietnam.

Model and photographs by Alex Hunger