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Chargers Last MiG: 1/48th Academy F-4B Phantom II

In 2012 Academy delivered the first new-tool 1/48th scale Phantom seen in decades, finally besting the Hasegawa as "King". Not surprisingly the Academy 1/48th scale F-4B Phantom II improves on some of the shortcomings of all the other Phantom kits, at the time, with better details everywhere you look, and a vast assortment of weapons.

1/48th Academy F-4B Phantom II

Notable Kit Features:

  • Very nicely detailed cockpit with separate instrument consoles and proper rear starboard sidewall for a "B"

  • Good ejection seats

  • Pilot figures included (2 seated and 1 standing)

  • Internal boarding ladder included

  • Full intake trunks with engine faces

  • Detailed gear and wheel wells

  • Refueling probe detail included (may be open or closed)

  • Optional nose and tail sensors provided

  • Parts fit is generally very good

  • Weapons include: MER,TER, AIM-9 AIM-7, Mk.82s, ECM as well as gun pod

  • Many optional parts included (nose/tail sensors) for alternate configurations

1/48th Academy F-4B Phantom II

Build Inspiration:

The kit decals featured VF-111 Sundowners decals, however I had that squadron represented in a F-14 and wanted to feature a squadron not in my inventory as yet. Looking again to build an aircraft with a story, I selected VF-161 "Chargers" / "Rock River" 102, whos crew (LT Victor Kovalesski & LTJG James Wise) had the distinction of earning the last MiG kill for the USN in the Vietnam war (12 January 1973). Interestingly Kovaleski was also involved in the last US aircraft lost to enemy action in the Vietnam War. Kovaleski's & Ensign F.H. Plautz's aircraft (153068 MiG killer of Holomay & Brown) was hit by 85mm anti-aircraft artillery on a strike mission. Both crew managed to bail out and were later rescued on the 14th of January 1973.

VF-161 "Chargers" US Midway 1972-73 Cruise

Heads-Up Report:

  • Ejection seats need harnesses

  • Air refuel door required a bit of filler when closed

  • Pay attention to the engine exhausts mounting to get then both aligned equally

  • Engine intakes required careful fitting an a bit of filler on the lower join

  • Take your time with the nose join to get everything aligned as best as possible

  • The underside nose panel join required a bit of filler

  • Splitter plates cannot be added after painting (as in the case of the Hasegawa kit, which make for easier painting behind these)

  • Fuselage spine cover door required filler

  • The shape of the front nose air scoops seemed a bit off to me

  • The metal exhaust is a separate part and I considered gluing it post paint

  • Optional parts included for USAF C models so be careful not to use these parts

1/48th Academy F-4B Phantom II

Kit Additions / Modifications:

  • Reshaped the small nose intakes to give them a little more taper

  • I used a piece of styrene sheet to back the forward nosewheel door

  • The MERs seem to be missing some detail so I used Hasegawa versions

  • Slight seam running down center of canopies requires polishing out

  • Used third-party decals from Furball Aero Design - Bravo MiG Killers Part One

1/48th Academy F-4B Phantom II


The base scheme on this USN aircraft is Gull Gray (FS 36440) over White with White control surfaces (except for the rudder). I masked and painted the black on the tail, spine and nose. I used Vallejo Air paints on this build as I was looking for a brand that had more standard colours (E.g. FS/RLM/BS) in the lineup than Tamiya. I like the paint, as it sprays well however, I found it was more easily damaged, say by a fingernail while trying to remove tape. A suggested solution was to add a bit of Pledge (floor finish which I have on hand as a gloss coat) and this did seem to improve the durability. Weathering was done at the time of painting the main colours. I typically lighten the base coat and then slowly darken the paint in a few stages to its true tone while painting only the panel lines and other repaired areas. The key here is to have a reference photo while working and not to overdo it (if you are trying to replicate an aircraft). The metal tones were similarly painted using several shades of metals. The metal tonal variations require more time as I waited for one metal tone to dry and then utilized some masking to achieve the desired effect. Once all the paint had dried, I applied the (Pledge) gloss coat in preparation for the decals and more weathering. Note: If I don't get a great gloss coat on the first pass, I will sand the finish with some superfine sanding blocks and re-spray as necessary (sometimes a sanding polish is all it takes). You want the finish as smooth as possible for the best decal adhesion (and avoid annoying silvering effects). Once the decals were completed, I applied various panel washes and wiped these down to get the desired weathering. After allowing everything to dry for a couple of days, I over-sprayed with a matte coat to seal things in and dull down the finish (except for the metal areas). Finally the arduous task of adding the gear, stores, canopies and antennas and this one was at last ready for The Hangar roll out!

1/48th Academy F-4B Phantom II

The After-Build Report:

The Academy 1/48th scale F-4B Phantom II became the new "King" of F-4s after its release, as far as I was concerned. Not that I was throwing out any other Phantom kits, but just for future purchases. The detail and price point hit a very nice sweet-spot, as the kit cost is comparable to Hasegawa's. Since the Academy release, other new tool F-4s have also come out. The best F-4B kit would now go to Tamiya, however it is more than double the cost of the Academy version (in Canada) so you may have to let your budget dictate which kit is best for you. Both Zoukei-Mura and Meng Model have released new tool F-4 kits (but not the B) which look very promising as well. So many Phantoms & schemes so little space and time!

1/48th Academy F-4B Phantom II

Completed build #266 - December 2023 using the 1/48th scale Maker #12232 kit.

Feel free to comment or ask any questions - Keep on building, gain experience, challenge yourself if you like, but try not to stress yourself out over the build - it is supposed to be an enjoyable hobby after all - Cheers

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