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KIT REVIEW


TanModel # 2201
RF-84F Thunderflash 1:48 Scale

 

One of the most well-known early U.S. jets is the Republic F-84 Thunderjet. The most unique version of the F-84 family was the reconnaissance variant, the RF-84F Thunderflash. New kit manufacturer TanModel from Turkey chose this aircraft as their first 1:48 injection molded plastic kit. TanModel has generated some buzz in the hobby industry in how they employ 3-D laser scanning of the real airplane as the basis of their models. In this review, we'll take a look at TanModel's Thunderflash.

The F-84 lineage dates back to a 1944 USAAF call for proposal for a daytime jet fighter with a top speed requirement of 600+ mph.  Republic Aircraft’s prototype, the XP-84, possessed a distinctive straight wing design and intake in the nose, and it took to the air in 1946.  In its first years, the sharp-looking jet fighter experienced structural inadequacies, aerodynamic instability, skin buckling, and the shortcomings associated with early turbojet engines.  A steep learning curve eventually produced the definitive production variant, the F-84G, by 1951.

A total of 7,524 F-84s were produced, and more than half of which were export versions to various NATO air forces.  In the Korean conflict, Thunderjets were the USAF’s preferred air-to-ground platform.  F-84s were the first American fighter aircraft to use air-to-air refueling.  Several were modified to participate in Tom-Tom and FICON mid-air docking trials with B-29 and B-36 motherships.  It was also the first U.S. fighter rated to deliver a nuclear payload.  The F-84 was the first ride for the Thunderbirds, while the USAFE Skyblazers flew aerobatic demos in Thunderjets for European crowds.

The F-84F variant, the Thunderstreak, was powered by the Wright J65 engine and incorporated a swept wing based on the F-84G.  Still a member of the F-84 Thunder-family, it was nonetheless a major departure from the design and tooling of the earlier Thunderjets.  The F-model itself led to the most derived version of the lineage: the RF-84F Thunderflash.

This dedicated reconnaissance (recce) version had an additional innovation: two intakes mounted in the wing roots. With the nose no longer occupied by the jet intake, up to 15 cameras could be fitted up front. Early computerized controls and other features optimized photographic settings. Some 715 Thunderflashes were built and flew with the USAF until 1957 when it was replaced by the RF-101 Voodoo. Unexpectedly, the RF-84F found a second lease on life, and was reactivated as a recce platform for the Air National Guard in 1961 where they flew on for another decade. Some NATO air forces kept their RF-84Fs flying even longer. The last operational F-84s anywhere were the RF-84Fs of the Greek Air Force that were retired in 1991, bringing a distinguished 45 year-long career to a close.

TanModel’s RF-84F comes in a sturdy box containing seven individually bagged sprues.  You get a total of 186 injection molded parts, 18 of which are clear parts.  It is assembled over 63 steps.  The kit features a detailed 20-part cockpit, a detailed camera bay, intake trunking, separate and positionable flaps, ailerons, and rudder, and underwing stores consisting of four drop tanks (a pair of the large inboard and small outboard drop tanks each).  Camera bay access covers on the top of the nose can be cut away and replaced by other kit parts that represent the hinged access covers in the open position.

Inside the kit, you’ll find a full color instruction booklet.  The instructions depict assembly as 3-D digital illustrations.  A second, smaller booklet and a full-color single page insert contains instructions for the colors, markings, and airframe stencil placement for nine diverse and colorful RF-84Fs from 1956-1969 spanning the Turkish Air Force to the Michigan Air National Guard.

These include the following RF-84F tail numbers and squadrons:

  1. Turkish Air Force 52-7450, 114 Filo, 1st AB, Turk Hava Kuvvertleri, 1956-
    1972.
  2. USAFE 52-7292, 32nd TRS, Spandahlem AB, 1955-58.
  3. West German Luftwaffe, 53-7668, Aufklaerungsgeschwader 51 “Immelman,
    Erding AB, 1959.
  4. Italian Air Force, 52-7394, 132 Grupo 3 Aerobrigata, Villafranca AB, 1968.
  5. French Air Force, 53-7621, ER 33-X, 33/3, “Moselle,” Cognac AB, 1956.
  6. French Air Force, 52-7300, 33-CP, ER 4/33 “Belfort,” Akrotiri AB, 1956
    (special Suez Crisis markings).
  7. Greek Air Force, 52-8736, No. 338 Mira, Larissa AB, Polemi ki Aeroparia,
    1972.
  8. USAF Air National Guard, 52-7367, 171st TRS, Michigan ANG, Detroit
    ANGB, 1968.
  9. Dutch Air Force 52-7233, 306 Recon Sqn, RAF Laarbuch AB (W. Germany),
    1961.

The contents of the box are rounded out by a printed display base made out of a flexible rubber sheet – essentially, it’s a large mouse pad.  Also, two red stickers that read “Remove Before Flight” seal the back of the box. It’s a delightful touch.

Strengths:  The first 1:48 scale kit produced by TanModel is a very impressive model kit.  It is an outstanding first effort, and is on par with the quality of Kinetic kits or their peers.  With their first quarter-scale kit, they have, in fact, jumped in the deep end of the pool with the best of today’s model kit manufactures.  The surface quality of the plastic is not as perfectly smooth as a Tamiya or Hasegawa kit as it has a slightly perceptible grain.  If the modeler is doing a natural metal finish, they might be wise to smooth and polish the surface to eliminate this surface texture. 

The many small touches in the parts breakdown and packaging convey the care and attention that TanModel gave to its production.  They’ve got the modeler in mind.  It is also an undeniably well-engineered kit with a straightforward parts breakdown and assembly process.  I particularly liked the instruction booklet, which was easy to follow in its full-color and 3-D digital renderings.

TanModel’s use of 3-D laser scanning of the actual aircraft has produced, by my evaluation, a rather perfectly shaped and sized RF-84F.  This approach has no doubt also contributed to this kit’s excellent level of detail.  Recessed rivet and screw detail is just gorgeous, and appears to be perfectly accurate – a 3-D scanner sees all, and TanModel appears to have successfully translated their digital data captures into this plastic kit.

For an injection-molded kit, the cockpit packs a lot of detail that will be fun to assemble and paint.  The camera bay is likewise detailed, and to me, is an undeniable highlight of the kit.  The same level of high-fidelity detail can be seen in the main landing gear bays, landing gear, speedbrake wells, engine turbine face, underwing pylons, sway braces, and drop tanks.  An optional single-piece windscreen and canopy is also provided.  The windscreen fairs into the top of the nose far from where the transparency meets metal on the real airplane, making for ease in gluing, painting, and if needed, filling of any seams.

While this kit looks great on the sprues, its basic fit good is just as good.  I test fit the fuselage halves and wings, and found excellent alignment and a virtually airtight fit.  This is especially true about the wings, as they slide in tightly into a deep recessed groove on the side of the fuselage.  The wing roots have no seam to speak of and there’s no question as to whether or not you got the angle of the wing to the fuselage correct, either.

The decals are printed by Dutch Decal.  Carrier film is practically invisible, which is good since some of the decals have quite a bit of carrier film surrounding them.  The color schemes are very well chosen, and modelers have an excellent set of choices of colorful and eye-catching schemes – from vibrant natural metal jets to muted Southeast Asia camouflage schemes covering a wide variety of NATO Thunderflash operators. 

Weaknesses:  This kit does have a few minor shortcomings.  Some of the rivet details and panel lines near the top and bottom of the fuselage halves of my sample become indistinct the closer they get to the edge of the part, especially on the nose camera bay covers and a few spots on the spine behind the cockpit.  These are easily re-scribed with a pass or two of a panel line scriber.  

The sprues have relatively large pour gates.  These are the connections between individual parts to the sprues.  In my preparation of parts for test fitting, these took a little more time to clean up than most kits - maybe an average of five to ten seconds more work per “plastic nubbin” once a part was cut from the sprue.  There are also a good number of large ejection pin markings found on the sidewalls of the camera bay and cockpit, sidewalls and ceiling of the nose gear wheel well, intake trunking, and exhaust pipe. Fortunately, these are all in relatively accessible places and should be easy eliminate.

On my sample kit’s decal sheet, I found the yellow on the rescue arrows and the small West German flag decals to be slightly out of register.  The French national insignia also has some incorrect colors.  A small decal sheet correction insert is included, and has the correct colors of the flag and roundels for the French jets.  The ostensibly corrected West German flag decals are still slightly out of register.  Also, the blue on the US national insignia appears to be a medium blue and it should be a dark insignia blue                             

TanModel’s 1:48 scale RF-84F Thunderflash is an undeniable winner.  This is an excellent model kit, looks like a lot of fun to build, and can definitely be a contest winner just out of the box.  The kit provides a wide variety of high-quality details on the inside and outside of the airplane, multiple construction options, and decals for some of the most attractive color schemes ever seen on this classy recce jet.

TanModel has some pretty ambitious plans.  Projects in the works include 1:32 scale family of F-5 and T-38 kits, a 1:32 family of F-4 Phantom IIs, a 1:32 family of F-111s (including the F-111B!), and a 1:48 new tool SR-71A Blackbird.  As with many scale modelers out there, we cannot wait to see what’s next from TanModel!

I sincerely thank Baris Tansoy and TanModel for the review sample.  You can find out more about them and their upcoming projects on the web at: http://www.tanmodel.com/ and on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/tanmodel/?ref=br_rs.

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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