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KIT REVIEW


Revell Lockheed Martin F-104G Starfighter -- 1:72 Scale



The Lockheed F-104 Starfighter was an aircraft in a class of its own, defined by an innovative and sleek design, high speed, and a relatively legendary reputation drawn from its status as a multiple world record holder.  There have been lots of kits of the “Missile With a Man in It” and here, we take a look at the current reissue of Revell’s 1:72 scale 1995-era tooling that features new decals for a pair of Luftwaffe -104Gs.

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The F-104 needs little introduction.  It was one of the early “Century Series” aircraft that applied lessons from the Korean War to early jet fighter design.  The legendary Kelly Johnson and his team created the lightest, most aerodynamically efficient airframe combined with a single powerful engine (in this case, the General Electric J79).  Less than a year elapsed between contract finalization and first flight, with the prototype taking to the air on 4 March 1954 at Edwards AFB.  Its high tail, unusually thin mid-fuselage-mounted trapezoidal wings, and low drag conferred Mach 2+ performance.  Between 1958 and 1977, F-104s set multiple speed, altitude, and time-to-climb records. 

Originally conceived of as a fighter and interceptor, the F-104 was a venerable aircraft.  Yet, its turning performance, propensity for high-alpha stalls, limited missile carriage, and growing mishap record generally were seen as problems.  Following service in the USAF’s Air Defense Command, F-104s went to work in TAC (with deployments during the early days of the Vietnam War) and later in stateside ANG squadrons.  The last F-104 in U.S. service hung up its spurs in 1975 when the Puerto Rico ANG transitioned to the A-7.  However, the F-104 was exported to many NATO nations including Germany.  Italy retired the last operational Starfighter anywhere in 2004 marking a remarkable service life of 50 years.  

The F-104G was arguably the ultimate Starfighter.  Later 104s were made (such as the -J, -N, and -S variants), but they were all derived from the -G in one way or another.  The G model was a multi-role fighter-bomber.  A total of 1,122 F-104Gs were manufactured by Lockheed and under license by Canadair and with a consortium of European companies between Messerschmitt/MBB, Dornier, Fiat, Fokker, and SABCA.  F-104Gs featured strengthened fuselages and wings, increased internal fuel, an enlarged vertical stabilizer, stronger landing gear with bigger tires, and revised flaps for improved maneuvering.  F-104s also featured a new radar with an early combination of air-to-air and air-to-ground modes and a new INS system.

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Revell’s 1:72 scale F-104G kit consists of 75 injection molded parts on two sprues and 11 clear parts on one sprue (the count of 60 parts on the box top appears to be a little off).  The full color instruction booklet guides assembly over 30 steps.  Decals provide markings for two German Luftwaffe F-104Gs:

Strengths: Revell of Germany (and now, it’s just Revell) released the first version of this kit based on this tooling in 1995.  I remember when it was still a hot new item when it came through the hobby shop I was working in.  For a small 1:72 scale kit, it’s indeed nicely detailed.  The kit features what appear to be spot-on shapes and proportions, very nice recessed panel lines, and a good level of detail in this scale (though see below).    
The parts breakdown is straightforward and it will be a relatively simple, hassle-free build.  The cockpit, wheel wells, landing gear, intakes, and afterburner nozzle interior are nicely done.  The instrument panel has raised relief but decals are intended to represent all the instrument panel dial details.  I am usually hesitant to use decals for any instrument panel, but here, I think the decals work since they are finely printed and have a lot of detail.  You get a pair of early generation AIM-9s (I’d argue these are AIM-9Bs but the Sidewinders are not used in this version of the kit), wingtip fuel tanks, and under wing drop tanks.  Construction options are pretty limited, but the speed brakes can be positioned open or closed.  While the panel for the cannon access bay is a separate part, there’s nothing included in the kit to go in there.   

The choice in paint schemes are typical German Starfighters with their characteristic wrap–around green camouflage.  They are both quite similar to one another.  The decals were printed by Cartograf and are exceptional, from their vibrant colors, great print quality, and highly restrained carrier film.  The decal sheet might be physically small, but don’t let that fool you.  There’s a ton of seriously great stencil detail that will add a lot to the final look of the completed model.    

Weaknesses:  This kit has a few weak spots to consider.  The panel for the starboard side nose equipment bay (which contains a big circuit breaker panel and the LOX bottle in the real jet) is affected by a little unusual flash.  Recessed rivets give way to raised rivets which are a product of a leaky mold.  Those raised rivets are in fact flash.  A few passes with a sanding stick and reworking of the affected rivet positions with a pounce wheel should care of the problem, however.  It’s also too bad the windscreen and canopy are single parts and the canopy cannot be positioned open with some cutting.  The clear parts were not bagged separately and therefore placed with the sprues; the canopy in my review copy of the kit was lightly but extensively scratched. 

Look out for a pair of pesky ejection pin markings on the roof of the nose gear well.  And while the overall wheel well and speed brake well detail is okay for 1:72 scale, it’s also a bit basic and could benefit from some extra detailing.  The Martin-Baker ejection seat features some very unrealistic shoulder harnesses and it is missing lap belts entirely.   The face curtain ejection handles are also shaped a bit oddly.  I recommend spending a few bucks for a cast resin aftermarket seat and you will have a major improvement over the kit parts.  I would also say that the surface details of the airplane are a bit simplified, as there is minimal rivet detail and other rivet details that are missing.       

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It’s great to see this new issue of the Revell 1:72 scale F-104G.  It’s a solid little kit that is indeed comparable to the Hasegawa family of -104s in this scale, though I do rank the Hasegawa kit as the more detailed of the two.  If you have reason to seek an alternative to the Hasegawa kit, this is a fine choice with clear value.   

Sincere thanks are owed to everyone at Revell for the review sample.  You can find them on the web at https://www.revell.de/en/home/

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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Just Released!

JET FIGHTERS
OF THE U. S. NAVY AND MARINE CORPS
PART 1: THE FIRST TEN YEARS
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Detail & Scale Special Edition Books

U. S. Navy and Marine Carrier-Based Aircraft of World War II
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Attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan Awakens a Sleeping Giant

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Colors & Markings Series



Colors & Markings of U. S. Navy
F-14 Tomcats,
Part 1: Atlantic
Coast Squadrons
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Colors & Markings of the F-102
Delta Dagger

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Colors & Markings of U. S. Navy
F-14 Tomcats,
Part 2: Pacific
Coast Squadrons

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