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MENG McDonnell Douglas F-4G Phantom II Wild Weasel (LS-015) 1:48McDonnell Douglas F-4G Phantom II Wild Weasel (LS-015) 1:48 Meng via Creative Models Ltd The Phantom bears a familial resemblance to the F3H Demon due to the origin of the type, which was intended to be a Super Demon with a modular nose for different mission profiles, but in typical military procurement style the world over, the specification was changed completely at the last minute, and resulted in a two-seat, two-engined beast that could carry a substantial war load, a large, effective radar in the bulbous nose, and the workload spread between two crew members to prevent confusion of an overwhelmed pilot in the heat of battle. The type was adopted by the US Navy as the F-4A, and as the F-4C by the Air Force, with a confusing (to me) allocation of letters throughout its career, with more confusion (again for me) when it came to the British airframes, and don’t even mention the engines and other equipment. The F-4C was converted to carry out the Suppression of Enemy Air Defences (SEAD) role, or as it was more colloquially known, Wild Weasel, using the powerful radar and semi-recessed radar-guided Sparrow missiles. They would approach enemy missile installations, then loiter until the enemy were tempted to switch on their targeting radar before launching a missile straight down the beam of the enemy radar, even if the target tried to evade destruction by switching off their broadcast. It is a dangerous job akin to waving your red-painted backside at an angry bull*, with a high probability of having any number of missiles hurled in your direction during the course of your mission. The later G variant was created from the F-4E and served in the Gulf War, eventually retiring from service in 1996. * It’s a common misconception that the colour red riles a bull, it’s not true. The Kit This is a brand-new tooling from Meng, and was greeted with some happy faces when it was announced. It arrives in a deep satin-finished top-opening box with a painting of the type carrying pods and weapons, and showing off its cranked wing and anhedral stabilisers at the rear. Inside are eight sprues in grey styrene plus six separate parts to build the airframe, plus another fourteen in the same colour for the weapons. The clear sprue is deeply recessed to accommodate the sliding moulds that depict the blown canopy profile, plus another three smaller clear sprues for clear lenses for missile sensors on this and other versions of the kit. A small bag includes two Photo-Etch (PE) parts that have two swash-plates that have been etched without attachment lugs, so don’t need any clean-up, plus a turned aluminium pitot for the nose. The package is completed by a set of pre-cut and weeded masks on a piece of clear acetate, plus a large decal sheet and colourful instruction booklet printed on glossy paper with colour profiles in the rear. Detail is excellent, as we’ve come to expect from Meng, and the six separate parts are impressive straight from the box, as they test clipped together without glue and the seams just faded away, most of them running along carefully chosen panel lines, which are finely engraved with lots of variations of recessed and raised detail. Construction begins with the cockpit, which starts life as a blank tub that has detail inserts with decals added to depict the side consoles front and rear. A pair of rudder pedals are inserted into the front cockpit, and the two positions are separated by a bulkhead, with another at the rear, plus a floor insert with pedals in the rear ‘pit. Both crew members get an instrument panel and control column, the panels having numerous decals applied after painting, to add realism to the raised and engraved details already present. At the rear of each cockpit a ladder-like launch rail is fitted and an insert is fixed to the right side of the RIO’s seat, although the other sidewalls don’t have any details added. The completed cockpit is inserted into the nose from beneath, then a boxed-in bay with contents is applied to the aperture in the left side of the nose. Moving aft, the insert under the tail is prepared by adding the slotted stabilisers, slotting their tabs through the PE swash-plates as they are applied, with an additional scrap diagram showing them from overhead. They are allowed to pivot by a semi-cylindrical block that fits into the space between the stabs without glue, so that when the insert is offered up to the fuselage and glued in place, they should remain mobile unless you went too heavy with the glue. The auxiliary intakes and landing gear bays are made up from four and three parts respectively and inserted into the lower fuselage/wing part along with the nose gear bay from the inside, which is made from five parts and fixes inside the raised brackets within. The engine intake path is depicted as a pair of linked halves that by necessity have a couple of ejector-pin marks on the interior surface, which are best dealt with before you have joined them together. Once together and the seams have been dealt with if you think they’ll be seen, the front engine faces with separate bullet are inserted into the rear end and the completed assembly is slotted into the lower fuselage on curved supports and circular turrets to hold them in position. The engines themselves are absent as they won’t be seen, but the exhaust trunking is visible, and it is made up from two halves plus the rear face of the engine and an afterburner ring. There is some nice ribbing moulded into the interior of the halves, and once complete they too are dropped into supports and rectangular turrets in preparation for closing up the fuselage after the wing uppers have been joined to the moulded-in lowers. The dihedral of the outer wing panels is obtained thanks to the angled tab that fits into the lower, and it is also a single thickness part. With the outer panels in place, the inner panels are laid over them and these mount on circular turrets in the lower to ensure they locate accurately on the wing. The upper fuselage is then dropped over the lower, with a variety of pins and turrets plus a pair of rectangular tabs and slots moulded into the root of the upper wing panels, which is a neat design trick. The intakes either side of the cockpit are made up from two inner layers plus the outer skin, and they fix to the fuselage by two pins and turrets moulded into the splitter plates, and by two tabs that should hold the intake skins flush with the rest of the fuselage. A quick test-fit shows that the do, which is always nice. The wings have most of their flying surfaces as separate assemblies, starting with the flaps on the inner trailing edge, and the ailerons on the outer, both of which can be posed flush or dropped by cutting off a different set of tabs as per the additional drawings between the steps showing the two options. The arrestor hook is filled out by adding the other half of the housing, and it installs between the exhaust nozzles, which are each made up on a shallow ring to which four sections of the exhaust petals are added, forming a slightly tapered cylindrical can with good detail. Above the tail, the fin and separate rudder has the base fillet and a small insert glued to it before it is fixed to the top of the fuselage on three pegs, plus an insert under the rudder and a fairing over the very tip of the tail. The inner wing panels have retractable leading-edge slats, and these can be posed deployed or tucked away by inserting spacers under the slats or not, taking care to deal with any visible ejector-pin marks under the slats if they are deployed. Unusually, the inner main bay doors and auxiliary air intake doors are applied to the underside at this stage, the latter having retraction jacks, and remembering that the interior is painted red with the exception of the oleo on the retraction jacks. Similarly, the airbrake panel just behind the main gear bays is painted red inside, while the jack is white and the oleo metallic. The main gear struts have the two-part wheels and captive bay door fitted before they are installed with the retraction jacks and additional outboard bay door, while all of the bay doors are white to match the bays. The nose gear leg has a two-part scissor-link and a cylinder fitted plus two wheels, then it is inserted into the bay and supported by a retraction jack, adding a combined cross-member with door actuator included, which links to the bay door on that side. The bay door on the starboard side is made from two layers to match the fairing under the nose, and has a blade antenna at the rear. The front door hinges forward, and is made from five parts with clear lenses for the landing light and its pass-through window, and a V-shaped actuator that links to the strut. The equipment bay on the port side is covered over by its door if like me you have no idea what is in there, then the fairing under the nose is installed, fitting just about perfectly into the recess on two pegs. The nose cone over the radar is clipped into the front of the nose, with an oval insert on the hinge-point, adding a small square raised panel under the starboard side, locating it using a peg that fits into a socket in the fuselage. You may have noticed that the cockpit wasn’t quite finished earlier, and the pilots don’t yet have anywhere to sit. The seats are made from two halves to create the shell, into which the L-shaped cushion and horse-shoe top cushion are installed, adding a top to the headbox that also incorporates the twin loops that instigate the ejection sequence in an emergency. Once painted they are slipped into the cockpit on the front of their launch rails, and the pilot’s coaming is fitted with a HUD frame and clear lens with reflector so that it can be inserted in front of the pilot and covered by the windscreen. The windscreen and the rest of the canopy parts are created with a realistic ‘blown’ profile by using a sliding mould, so the outer surface has a fine seamline along the line of flight, which you can either ignore or sand away and polish back to clarity for additional realism. The centre-section of the canopy has a styrene part added to the front that the canopy is hung on, then the two canopy openers are joined to their styrene frames, and the rear canopy has a 0.8mm hole drilled in the front frame so that the rear-view periscope can be inserted. If you don’t fancy drilling clear parts due to their brittle nature, you can always cut off the pin and fit the periscope as a butt-fit. The canopies can be fixed closed or open by adding actuator jacks at the rear, which is given a little extra realism by making the crew access ladder from three parts and hooking it to the port side of the front cockpit. The last task is probably best left until the very end, and it involves a choice of styrene or metal pitot applied to the tip of the nose cone. The styrene pitot is a single part that fixes directly into the radome, but if using the metal probe, there is a conical styrene adapter that fits into the hole in the radome, into which the metal pitot slides, using CA to fix it in place. The quantity of weapons included in the box is generous, and for some reason they are shown being made up before the rest of the model is finished, possibly in the hope you won’t get bored and leave them in the box. There are three fuel tanks included, two for under the wings and one under the centreline, the two types having different styles of pylon. There are two large pylons under the inner wing, and these are augmented with strakes and defensive countermeasures dispensers to the rear on both sides, plus anti-sway braces to accept a choice of either a single AGM-78 with separate rear fins and adapter rail, or a pair of AGM-65s that have separate fins, mounting pads and clear seeker head, fixed to the twin rail and single adapter rail. Additionally, there are a pair of AGM-88s with separate fins, adapter rails and handed pylon with anti-sway braces, a pair of AIM-7Ms with a separate avionics trunk and perpendicular fins, and a choice of AN/ALQ-119 or AN/ALQ-131 pods that fix on the small pylon under the nose, or are ousted by an AIM-7M. There isn’t a traditional diagram giving the locations for the stores, instead there are two diagrams showing the underside of the aircraft with various arrows and alternatives that are a little confusing to this easily confused modeller. All the weapons, tanks and pods have painting and decaling instructions after the main painting pages that should make the process relatively tedium free. Markings There are three decal options on the sheet, and there is enough variation in era to appeal to many modellers out of the gate. From the box you can build one of the following: 561st Fighter Sqn., 57th Wing, USAF, Dhahran Air Base, Saudi Arabia, January 1996 piloted by LTC Mark Turberville & EWO LTC Jim Uken 23rd Tacttical Fighter Sqn., USAF, Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, March 1991 piloted bvy Col R Peksens, EWO uknown 81st Tactical Fighter Sqn., 52nd Tactical Fighter Wing, USAF, Spangdahelm Air Base, Germany, July 1987 piloted by LTC Cotner & EWO Capt. Legget Decals are by Cartograf, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin gloss carrier film cut close to the printed areas. There are a lot of stencils included for the airframe as well as the weapons, but knowing how covered with stencils the Phantom was, it’s possible that there may be some absent. The back page of the instructions shows the location for all of the masks that are included in the box, which have been pre-cut on a backing sheet of clear acetate and weeded so that they stand out. The canopy sections with compound curves are handled by using frame hugging masks, while the highly curved areas should be in-filled with either liquid mask or additional tape from your own stock. In addition, you get a set of hub/tyre masks for the wheels, allowing you to cut the demarcation perfectly with little effort, plus masks for the landing light and the see-through panel in the bay door it is mounted on. The inside cover contains a printed table of colour references that include the colour names in four languages including English and Japanese, plus a Cyrillic and another Far Eastern language that I’m not familiar with. Conclusion While I’m no expert on the Phantom, which you may have noticed by my lack of substitution of F for ph everywhere, I do have a few in the stash, and this is by far the most impressive to date. The detail is phenomenal, and the styrene engineering techniques on show are just as impressive. It is so tempting to break open the liquid glue here and now, but I have other builds to finish first. Extremely highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of