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Mike

F-20A Tigershark 1:48

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F-20A Tigershark
1:48 Freedom Model Kits


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In a programme spanning two decades and costing $1.2 billion, Northrop's F-20 was perhaps one of their most expensive failures, mostly due to policy changes and political pressure. They were looking for a replacement to the lightweight and low-cost F-5 Freedom Fighter that would keep costs low while giving much improved performance to keep pace with the Mig-21s that were being exported to Soviet aligned nations at the time. Eschewing the twin engine format of the original, it had a large GE F404 engine installed in a suitably reshaped rear fuselage, while the wings, forward fuselage and empennage stayed very similar to the original. Under the Carter regime it was decided that leading edge technology shouldn't be included to prevent it from falling into Soviet hands, but after the Reagan administration took over, policy soon changed to giving allies modified versions of the F-16 and even the F-15, which rapidly eroded its market. Add to that the total lack of interest in selling the aircraft by the Government, and the customer base dwindled away until in 1986 the project was finally cancelled whilst circling the drain.

As an aircraft? It was well-liked, well-tested and although two of the prototypes crashed killing their pilots, it was found that both were due to the pilots losing consciousness from excessive G-forces, leaving the aircraft's reputation unblemished. With one prototype left intact and another only partially completed, the remainder was shipped off on cancellation to Los Angeles where it hangs in the California Science Centre. It seems to have been yet another Cold War Warrior that got the first three of the four dimensions right, but fell foul of the important fourth – politics.


The Kit
Freedom Models announced their intention to release a kit in 1:48 of this dead-end development of the F-5 some time ago, and they have been fine-tuning their tooling with the assistance of the modelling community until they were satisfied with their work. The box that arrived has a nice satin finish with a dramatic painting on the top, and inside you will find four larger sprues and eight smaller ones all in the same mid grey styrene that is reminiscent of a KittyHawk pressing. Perhaps they use the same factory? There are also two small sprues of flexible black grommets, a clear sprue, a tiny nickel-plated sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) metal, two decal sheets, fan-fold instruction booklet and separate fan-fold colour markings guide. Apart from the rather flimsy bags that protect the sprues, the overall impression is of a quality product, and the detail that is moulded in backs this up. Addition of the removable pylons via the wing-mounted grommets is a nice touch, as is the addition of PE parts, although the sheet is very small. The two decal sheets should provide plenty of grist for a What-Iffer's mill too, having lots of markings from many nations.

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The cockpit tub is a single part, into which a nicely detailed ejection seat is added, although no belts are included. The main instrument panel is well detailed, and there is similar detail on the side consoles, with decals supplied for them all. Rudder pedals sit behind the panel, and the control column slots into the floor, after which it can all be fitted within the nose section of the fuselage. The nose gear bay is a single part, but nicely moulded given the constraints, and when you fit this to the nose, there is a scrap diagram to guide you in its correct orientation. There are a couple of holes needed in the nose if you are fitting some RWR sensors, and then the nose section can be closed up. Oddly, there are some panels on the inside wall of the nose that are shown but not referred to, and these seem to imply that it was the original intention to allow these to be opened to show the bay inside. It looks like this was later canned, as there is just a single T-shaped insert added to the top of the nose with the cannon troughs moulded in, to which some stub barrels are added. The coaming is a drop-in part onto a slot in the top of the nose, and you can then decide whether you want to model the prototype with the long nose or the short – the long one being seen on the first prototype before it was lost.

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The instructions then flit to the engine, which is made up from two halves of the exhaust trunk, plus a depiction of the rear of the engine. With that done, the inner halves of the intake trunking are made up, with a small insert on the backside, and three PE strips inserted into grooves on the splitter plate. These are then inserted into the lower wing halves, which also contain the lower fuselage. A long plate and two grommets are also inserted on the centreline for the pylon that is fitted later. Two more grommets per pylon are added to each wing after drilling 1mm holes where indicated. With two pylons per wing, you'll need eight holes and a corresponding number of grommets, but take care because the two sprues of grommets are of differing thickness, with the shallower ones used on the outside pylons where the wing is thinner. Get this wrong, and the fit of your top & bottom wings will be testing!

The exhaust is trapped between the two rear fuselage halves, and the outer intake trunking is added on each side, then mated to the lower wing/fuselage section along with the separate vertical fin. The exhaust is also added, and is a little thick on the outer lip, which when compared to photographs should be wafer thin. Perhaps an aftermarket F404 exhaust from an F-18 could be adapted to fit if this bothers you. The cores of the wings are now completed, but flaps and slats need to be added to the leading and trailing edges, all of which are individual parts, so can be posed according to your wishes by leaving the hinge tabs or cutting them off. The tail-planes are also single parts, and you'll need to drill out the some 1.2mm holes to accept their stubs. A pair of missile rails are added to the wingtips, and these were sometimes fitted at a slightly downward angle to the wing as shown in the scrap diagram, so check your references. Now you can fix the front and rear halves of your Tigershark together, at which point it starts to look like an aircraft.

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The landing gear are next on the agenda, and nicely detailed they are too. The nose gear leg is in three parts with a separate yoke-half to allow you to add the single-part wheel, and an optional extended oleo that changes the sit of the aircraft to a nose-up position. The main nose door can be posed open or closed by removing the hinges, while the smaller door must remain open while the gear is down. The main gear legs are single parts with the slim brake discs moulded in as the rear hub, to which some small PE linkages are added before the two-part wheels are added and they are glued in place at the wingtip end of their bays, which are moulded into both the lower and upper wing halves due to their shallow nature. A retraction jack is situated inboard on each leg, and the outer bay doors are captive to the leg, resting against them in positions described in a scrap diagram. The inner bay doors can be posed open with the addition of retraction jacks, or closed by leaving them on the sprues and using two different door parts. The rest of the work under the fuselage includes a profusion of aerials and sensors, the belly mounted air brakes and the arrestor hook with its aft fairing. A small scrap diagram shows how the airbrakes are fitted in the open or closed position.

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The canopy is crystal clear, and the windscreen fits to the edges of the coaming with the addition of a tiny piece of PE that is best added using clear gloss rather than glue, while the opening mechanism of the canopy is built from a different set of parts for open or closed, and it then attached to the rear of the canopy, with a set of PE rear-view mirrors fix to the front horseshoe. As a nice extra, there is a two-part crew ladder provided that could be used to give the aircraft a more candid look in your cabinet.

At this point your built may well stop if you're planning on portraying one of the prototypes bereft of weapons, but if you want to depict the weapons test aircraft or go down the hypothetical in-service aircraft route, there are plenty of choices supplied in the box on the small sprues. As well as additional fuel tanks, there are a variety of weapons, as well as the appropriate pylons for ach, all of which press-fit into the wings, care of the grommets within. In the box are the following:

Weapons:

2 x AIM-9L Sidewinder
2 x AIM-9M Sidewinder
4 x AIM-120C AMRAAM
2 x AIM-7 Sparrow

Launch rails:

LAU-115/B/A pylon
LAU-115C/A pylon
LAU-127 dual launch rail
LAU-127 single launch rail

A table shows which weapons and tanks fit to which pylons, but you'll need to check your references to get an idea of what constituted a realistic carry for the prototypes, or what was likely to be carried in action for the What-If route. The weapons themselves are nicely detailed with slide-moulding used to good effect on the exhausts and launch rails, and separate fins adding to the detail. The fins are a little thick, but that's to be expected with injection moulded parts at this scale.


Markings
There are two decal sheets as previously mentioned, but the smaller of the two is devoted entirely to different roundels/flags to assist the Whiffer, with countries such as Great Britain, Australia, Canada, Turkey, South Korea, Taiwan, Latvia, Spain, Japan, Singapore, USA, and Germany featuring, some of which are in lowviz as well as hiviz styles.

The main sheet holds the decals for the prototypes, with a large proportion taken up by the cheat-lines used on the most colourful scheme used at the Paris Airshow in 1983. From the box you can build one of the following:

  • First Prototype at Paris Airshow, 1983 – Red/white with black pinstripe demarcations.
  • First & second prototypes 1983-1985 – FS36375 grey over light grey with grey anti-dazzle panel.
  • First, second & third prototypes 1984-1986 – All over dark blue (FS16076).

The FS code stated seems quite elusive outside the Gunze range, and is stated as Engine Grey, with a different FS code FS16081. Xtracolor 128 uses the same name and FS code however, if enamels are your thing.

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The decals are printed on pale blue backing paper to a good standard with registration, colour density and sharpness up to standard, and the stencils legible under magnification. While banding is included for the weapons, there are no stencils, which will be difficult to source by other means.

Conclusion
If you aren't interested you'll probably have sloped off chunnering about how they should have done a "insert favourite neglected subject in any scale here", but you're still reading, which is good. While hardly an important dead-end, the Tigershark was a good-looking aircraft, and will make an interesting end-point for any collection of the various F-5 derivatives.

It is nicely tooled with raised and engraved rivets making an appearance, and enough detail included to satisfy most modellers. A set of crew belts on the PE sheet would have been welcome however.

Highly recommended.

Review samples courtesy of
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Looks like a nice kit of a sleek aircraft. Just for info, the first prototype had an F-5 style nose and canopy, which is the far aircraft shown on the box art. Subsequent aircraft had a lengthened bulged canopy and different shaped nose, which appears to be the version included in the kit. So despite the decals, it would be difficult to build as the first prototype.

regards,

Jason

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Is it possible that it could have been retro-fitted sometime during its career? :hmmm:

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Very nice looking kit. It makes me want to build 1:48 again. :)

Cheers,

Bill

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Note you can't accurately depict the first prototype, 82-0062, with the canopy supplied. It only ever had the F-5E style one.

HTH

Andy

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Looks like a nice kit of a sleek aircraft. Just for info, the first prototype had an F-5 style nose and canopy, which is the far aircraft shown on the box art. Subsequent aircraft had a lengthened bulged canopy and different shaped nose, which appears to be the version included in the kit. So despite the decals, it would be difficult to build as the first prototype.

Is it possible that it could have been retro-fitted sometime during its career? :hmmm:

Note you can't accurately depict the first prototype, 82-0062, with the canopy supplied. It only ever had the F-5E style one.

That's that question sorted then :)

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Though the radome on the box art does look a bit strange, considering the fact that the F-20 had the F-5 "shark-nose", overall, the kit looks very promising.

I wonder how it compares to that from Monogram? :hmmm:

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Not my scale, but it makes me want to start work on my Hasegawa 72nd scale kit :)

+1

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Thank you Mike. Always good to have independent reviews like this one. Are you going to build it?

We took advice from many people on this site and I hope we show that we have listened. It's only our second foray into model kits.

I appreciate that belts may have been a welcome addition, perhaps the next kit we will include them?

There are so many aftermarket companies and I believe one may be looking at providing the correct canopy for the first prototype, 82-0062 in due course. Why wasn't it provided? Well someone holds the answer to that and it isn't me I am afraid. The canopy issue did come up at development pre tooling.

We took on board the constructive comments from the X-47B and changed our decal supplier and injection molding company. We also invested heavily into the holding technique and plastic. This way we are able to provide the modeller with nice panel lines (crisp and consistent throughout the kit), nice rivets both positive and negative.

I hope we have shown that we do listen but, of course, it's also right to say that costs are still our major issue here and we can only make some changes by prioritising them.

Thanks again.

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Weapons:

2 x AIM-9L Sidewinder

2 x AIM-9M Sidewinder

Actually, it should be

2 x AIM-9L/M

2 x AIM-9J/N/P

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AIM-120C has clipped fins. Those are AIM-120A/B.

Why is there a crack in the windscreen?

The 275 tanks look a tad skinny with the wrong taper at the nose and awful 'panel lines'. I don't recall the large reinforcement bands either. It's _highly_ doubtful that 150 tanks would be loaded on the jet because the F404 was considerably more thirsty. Those are relics from the F-5A which some Aggressor E/Fs occasionally carried because they emptied out quicker and had higher G ratings on an underthrusted aircraft.

Too bad they didn't include more A2G stores, the F-20A was heavily marketed in areas (Saudi and Malaysia to name two) where a combination of BAI and Maritime Surveillance were important roles for their predecessor, the F-5E (Saudi Tigers were some of the best equipped in the world at that time, with LGB and Maverick capability).

As a result, the Tigershark was tested with LAU-117 + AGM-65B Maverick, LAU-3 rocket pods and X5 Mk.82 on a MER plus X2 275 gallon tanks. In the ASST/ASUW mission, it could carry either three 275s or two tanks and a centerline Harpoon. At the time, the F-16A.15 OCU and F-16C.25 could do none of these things, had no AShM at all and had a lousy radar (APG-66 -or- APG-68V(2)) besides.

It would be fair to say that, had the F-20 reached service, it would have been last to get the AMRAAM because of political support for the F-16 (Big Texas in the Whitehouse and Senate) and probably Sparrow capability, the latter because it was like putting an anchor on the jet and we were not in the habit of exporting radar BVR with our FMS birds. But strike systems would have flourished, including LDPs and guided munitions and better ECM plus recce gear.

I have always considered that the two personalities which put paid to the F-5G/F-20A development coffin were Reagan with the Arms Export Control treaty which gave China what she wanted as denied F-20 export or local manufacture by Taiwan and the Ayatollah Khomeini whose little prayer meeting turned hockey match made it impossible to play Saudi and Iran off each other with F-15s and F-14s needing a 'fill fighter' (Hi/Lo) to bring parity.

Thanks to Freedom Models and Brit Modeller for the first good review.

What The Kit Needs:

1. M39 Gun Bays.

2. Better F404 Nozzle (Yeesh).

3. Masks for the F-20 R&W scheme.

4. The Canopy.

5. A set of line drawings highlighting period F-20A Camouflage Schemes for the various user nations included on the decal sheet.

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Cor blimey! Just stumbled onto this thread thanks to google.

I have the 1:72 kit from years ago (maker unknown - Matchbox?) and this scale is ticking all the boxes.

A comment regarding the decal sheet though... The Australian emblem shows only one direction that the "giant jumping rat" is bouncing, meaning that only one side of the fuselage can be applied correctly. They always hop towards the front of the aircraft. The New Zealand air force was being "courted" by the Northrop PR team waaay back when the prototypes were flying, so seeing them on the decal sheet too would have been nice.

Righto, off to the eShop!

EDIT: Oh you naughty boys! A 2-seat version in the pipeline too!

Edited by hairystick

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Cor blimey! Just stumbled onto this thread thanks to google.

I have the 1:72 kit from years ago (maker unknown - Matchbox?) and this scale is ticking all the boxes.

A comment regarding the decal sheet though... The Australian emblem shows only one direction that the "giant jumping rat" is bouncing, meaning that only one side of the fuselage can be applied correctly. They always hop towards the front of the aircraft. The New Zealand air force was being "courted" by the Northrop PR team waaay back when the prototypes were flying, so seeing them on the decal sheet too would have been nice.

Righto, off to the eShop!

EDIT: Oh you naughty boys! A 2-seat version in the pipeline too!

I think the two seat version is already out.

http://www.umpretail.com/collections/freedom-model-kits/products/freedom-model-kits-1-48-f-20b-n-tigershark

I bet that plastic card is twitching?!

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Mine arrived a couple of weeks ago.

I plan to do the one I saw at Farnborough 84 - off to LA at the end of the month, hopefully I will have time to see the one in the science museum.

5 days , so much to see - so little time.

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Any word on the f-5e style canopy from aftermarket?

Not that I've been able to find Mike. I keep hoping though....

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Well, an update on progress. I started this kit on the 1st of January and it is now up together and I'm about to commence painting.

 

I have to say first of all, that the accuracy of construction is exemplary! This is the level of fit and accuracy that other manufacturers should be striving to reach and it isn't that hard with accurate CAD design work!

Everything is falling together beautifully. Very minimal flash (really rare to encounter), intelligent placement of ejectors so there hasn't been the need to fill ANY! I have used filler on the model BUT the quantity is the size of a pin head.

I can tell this kit has been well thought out from the modeler's perspective and engineered accordingly. Little things like how the ejection seat is built (no need for after market really - apart from the already mentioned PE seatbelts/harness).

 

Freedom Models, take your hat off and take a bow!:clap2:

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Bought a "what if" pack of this kit which includes air-to-ground weapons... Really nice indeed!

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