Scale 1/72
Manufacturer Revell
Kit ID RV05766
Type Lockheed F-104G Starfighter 61-3244
Unit 69th TFTS, 58th TFTW
Date c. 1975
Aftermarket parts used Aeroclub ejection seat, Verlinden resin detail set, CMK resin detail set
Other detail added Hasegawa TF-104G decals, Esci F-104C decals
Model built by Alex Hunger
Date Completed February 2010

The USAF had enthusiastically received the early F-104As and F-104Cs in the ADC, but more as hot rods or toys for hot shot pilots than as an actual weapons systems. The real work was left to the heavier aircraft of the century series.

The completely reengineered F-104G was a more serious tool, specially among NATO allies who planned to use it as a low level nuclear strike aircraft, but did not find a place in the USAF inventory until it came in through the back door.

The European skies were often burdened with poor weather and congestion. In comparison, the South Western US skies were blessed with clear blue weather and vast empty stretches. The Germans elected to transfer huge numbers of their Starfighters to Luke AFB in Arizona. There, they were stripped to the bare metal and received standard US serial numbers and markings. The change of uniform was needed to avoid sovereignty and liability issues in the continental US. The unit was almost completely integrated with the US defence command, though they had civilian maintenance crews and it would be difficult to argeue that the missile with a man in it was going to present much of a deterent in an era of teen series fighters by the time the late 70s and early 80s came around..

The crisp Revell F-104G kit with engraved panel lines is easily the state of the art as far as the single seaters Starfighters are concerned. Amusingly, many parts, such as the rear fuselage are interchangeable with the Hasegawa two seater. The Revell kit, which I found in a 50th anniversary Luftwaffe set is however presented with German markings.

I was able to purchase both resin detail sets as a package deal at a model show from a bargain bin. The attraction lay in the engine block, the radar and the 2 fuselage electronic bays. The landing gear bays were moderately better than the standart kit parts, but not to such a level justifying the purchase of this component allone. The cockpit components and air brakes as well as the etched metal parts were of even less interest to me. The resin front landing gear door also remained unused as the existing kit parts we're definately good enough.

For this detailed model, I first selected the fuselage parts and cut out the electronic and engine panels that were to be open. The pre painted resin engine was slotted into the assembled the rear fuselage in a very straight forward manner and masked.

The front fuselage assembly was only marginaly more complex. This was due to the requirement of sanding some of the insides of the resin bits and then juggling cockpit components, electronic bays and landing gear bays within the half shells. Nevertheless, it all fit together more than satisfactorily. That said and done, front and rear fuselage could be joined with the wings and main landing gear.

The hull was then primed in Hallfords grey, while the wings were done in Hallfords matt white. Any last blemishes were resurfaced and then the wings were sprayed in gloss white. Once dry, they were masked in order to be able to concentrate on the rest of the fuselage. The interior was done largely in grey and black and received the standard kit decals for the instrument panels. The front canopy was then also attached and masked. The burnt areas on the rear fuselge was more fun. It received several coats of different shades of Allclad II, icluding burnt afterburner etc. This was then masked so that the rest of the fuselage could be sprayed in Hallfords Nissan silver.

When all the paint had dried, the maslking was removed and the aircraft received a coat of gloss varnish. The pre painted wheels, front landing gear, landing gear doors, tailplane and pylons were all attached.

The kit only had German decals as I previously mentioned, but fortunately, the already used decal sets from the Hasegawa TF-104G and Esci F-104C kits had enough spare bits to decorate most of the aircraft. The rest could be sourced from the spared box.

That left the last of the superdetail bits and the wing tip fuel tanks to be installed, that had been omitted in order to avoid damage and ease decalling. The radar unit was superglued to the front bulkhead and painted black after some missing small plasticard struts had been added. The bulkhead and struts were touched up in Zinc Chromate. The electronic bays were also touched up with Zinc Chromate, grey and black were necessary. At this point it became clear that the cockpit was a bit too shallow or the Aeroclub seat a bit too tall. Some trimming at both ends alleviated the problem to some degree, but it wasn't perfect. Since the canopy didn't have to close, it isn't going to get my blood pressure up too much. The covers and canopy were then the last to be installed. The radome was also painted, received a needle pitot tube and was placed next to the aircraft for the final photographs.

All in all, this was a manageable and fun project that filled a little covered gap in the USAF inventory even if the crews tended to speak with a teutonic accent.

Model and photographs by Alex Hunger