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  • Writer's picture@PlaneThought41

Phabulous Phantoms SitRep - 1/48th Monogram F-4J Phantom II

Updated: Sep 20, 2021

Here is another Phantom kit of Monogram's produced back in the 80s. Still a respectable kit, defined by raised cockpit detail (although not correct for a J), finely raised panel lines, and an affordable price. The fit is in some places less than stellar, however many of us in North America got started modeling these kits and continue to build them today, despite their age.

Quick Notes:

  • J model Phantom however rear cockpit has Airforce type consoles instead of Navy sidewall panels (Rear main instrument panel seem to be correct)

  • Nicely detailed ejection seats (partly molded into the pit)

  • Panel lines for Air Force refueling probe is still on spine and should be removed - Navy refueling door could be scribed on right side of nose

  • Fit of the engine intakes is a problem (across the F-4 series)

  • Underside wing fit with aircraft nose requires careful fitting and possibly some filler work to join smoothly

  • Raised panel lines and detail make sanding seams problematic as detail is removed in the process (or you could sand off the panel lines as I did on this one)

  • Separate speed brakes can be positioned open (although the actuator is molded into the well, so you will have to deal with that)

  • Horizontal stabilizer fit will require trimming as they sit too far off the fuselage

  • Air Force "arrowheads" on stabilizers should be removed for Navy "J"

  • Outboard wing tanks are molded onto pylons

  • Glass fit is OK but not great (can be positioned open or closed)

  • TER are molded onto inboard pylons, basic Air-Air armament (sink marks are often present in the Sparrows) come with the kit as well as bombs and a centre-line tank

My Phantom II was constructed in the markings of the USN's top scoring airframe, "Showtime 100". This was mainly due to Lt Randy Cunningham & LtJG William Driscoll who flew this aircraft on 10MA72 and shot down three MiG17s. This aircraft was shot down that same day by a SAM on its egress run. It is shown at the time VF-96 was posting the MiG kills on the tail of the aircraft.

If you are interested in a more detailed read, I have an excerpt of the Triple Kill mission as described by the pilot Randy Cunningham at the bottom of this page.

End Result:

Better F-4J kits are now available on the 1/48th scale market, however the Monogram Phantom II kits still produce a good result, that definitely looks the part, at a very reasonable cost. I still recommend and build these old classics when I can pick them up at a good price.

Completed build #13 - September 1986 using the 1/48th scale Monogram #5805 kit.

Feel free to ask any questions or comment on the build - Keep on building what you want, how you want and enjoy the build - Cheers

Add-on Bonus :)

...And Kill MiGs - 10MA72 Mission of Showtime 100:

It was an Alpha Strike, against Haiphong railyards just southeast of Hanoi. This time we were part of the strike group, but we weren’t the MIGCAP. I was loaded with two Sparrows, in the rear missile wells, four Sidewinders, two on each of the inboard stations, with TERs full of ROCKEYE bombs under them. I also had a centerline tank. The F-4 doesn’t perform very well with all of that drag, and I couldn’t jettison the TERs because the Sidewinders would have gone with them. As we approached the target, the Attack aircraft went past it. CAG called them and told them that they had gone too far. Well, when that happened, they were forced to roll in from West to east. It looked like a column of ants as they went down the chute, the A-6s first, followed by two groups of A-7s. We orbited overhead, awaiting our turn to roll in. And while we were circling, they were hammering us with AAA. Commander Blackburn, who was right across the circle from me, got hit by 85mm. He never came back, but his RIO got out and spent the remainder of the war as a POW. His wingman was hit by the same barrage and went out single engine. On the way out, two MIG-21s made one pass at him, and then let him go. As we rolled in, Brian was flying fighting wing on me, rather than combat spread. We had decided that he would release his bombs when I let mine go. We rolled over just as they shot two SAMs at us. The SAMs didn’t guide though ...they just came whizzing up past us. I looked down at our target just in time to see it disappear in a cloud of smoke and debris. Some attack plane had hit it and really leveled it. So, we rolled over and picked up another target ...a long red brick storage building...and rolled on it. We dropped our bombs, and as we pulled off the target, I made a mistake. I rolled up and pulled to look back and see what the bombs had done. The North Vietnamese had put up a maximum effort in an attempt to stop the strike. They had launched MIGs out of Kep, Phuc Yen, Yen Bai, and Bai Thuong. As we pulled off the target, two MIG-17s flew right by Brian’s airplane, about 500 feet away. I was about a thousand feet out in front of Brian when he called; “Duke, two MIG-17s at seven o’clock!” I popped my wing back down and looked back just in time to see this 17 pull in behind and start shooting tracers. My first instinct, just like any fighter pilots, was to break into him. Then I thought; “I did that two days ago and the guy rendezvoused on meI” But then I noticed that the guy was really closing on me fast. In the MIG-17 the stick is really hard to move at high airspeeds. This guy was really hauling. All this went through my mind in a split second, and I did break into him. The MIG driver just didn’t have the muscle to move that stick, and he overshot. But his wingman, who was back about 1500 feet pitched up into the vertical, did a vertical displacement roll out to my belly side. Brian called up; “Duke, I’ll take care of the guy at your six!” meaning the wingman. I pulled in behind the guy who had overshot and launched a Sidewinder. When I squeezed the trigger, he was well within minimum range, but by the time the missile got to him he was about 2500 feet out in front of me ...that’s how fast he was going! The missile hit him and blew him up. All this had happened within a few seconds of our pulling off the target.

On two previous occasions, Brian had “dragged” MIGs for me, so before we launched on this mission, I had made him a solemn promise that if we saw MIGs today, I would drag one for him. I figured now was his chance. The MIG that had been behind me was still there. I called; “Brian, here’s your chance. I’m gonna drag that guy for you!” I started accelerating down in the turn. I could see the MIG coming. “Brian, get that SOB!” “ ...Brian?” He came up with; “I can’t help you Duke, I‘ve got two on my tail!” So, I used our disengagement maneuver and got away from them. I extended out, picked up about S00 knots and looked out to the right. There was Brian. He had seen me take off and had gotten rid of two MIG 17s and stayed on my wing, right where he was supposed to be. He was really flying one hell of a flight that day! We had all kinds of fuel left, (the centerline tanks were just finishing transferring) so we said; “Let’s go get some more!” We both pitched up in the vertical, came over the top at 15,000 and rolled out of the Immelmann heading back to the fight. We were going pretty fast, so we decided not to jettison the centerlines, since we had had some problems with it hitting the stabilator in high-speed jettisons. I looked down, and there were eight MIG-17s in a defensive wheel! But what was worse ...there were three F-4s in with them. They never should have been in there ...they were down to 350 knots and, well, that’s a good place to die! I called for Brian to cover me and rolled in. The action that followed got us the nomination for the Medal of Honor. I no more than got my nose pointed down, and one Phantom came out of the circle, and I didn’t see him. I almost hit him! I bet we didn’t miss him a hair! I said; “Willie, who’s in 112?” It was Commander Dwight Timm, with Jim Fox in his back seat. I said; “Jeez, look at that!” He was in a port turn.

He had a MIG-I7 about 2,000 feet behind him. He had a MIG-21 about a thousand feet behind the I7, and what he didn’t see ...was a MIG-I7 flying wing on him! We were back at his seven o’clock, behind the trailing MIGs. But the threat was the MIG on his wing, who was about to pull in and start shooting. I had a tone on the Sidewinder, but when I relaxed it, it didn’t change, so if I had fired it...he was in probably would have hit the F-4. I called for him to reverse starboard, to kick the MIG across his tail, so that my Sidewinder would home on the MIG’s tailpipe. He thought I was talking about the trailing MIGs ...he still hadn’t spotted the real threat ...and he kept on going. I called again; “Showtime, (VF—96’s call sign) reverse starboard ...if you don’t, you’re going to die!” Just then, Willie said; “Duke, look at two o’clock high!” I looked up and saw two flashes ...not airplanes, they were too high ...just flashes. I thought; “There can’t be anymore 17s in the world!” Because behind us were four l7s trying to catch up, plus the two out in front of us. And, by the way, Timm was in this arcing turn, and the 17s behind us were catching up! Well, the two above us weren’t l7s ...they were MIG-19s! They rolled in on us ...I reversed ...and they went out to my six o’clock. By that time, the fight had moved over to our ten o’clock, which put me in a deep lag position to the MIG on Timm, but out of range of the MIGs who had been trailing us. Except for one MIG-17, who was just about in range. One of the only things I did right that day was to have about 550 knots right then. The MIG who was in range couldn't close as long as I didn’t turn too tight, and at 550 knots I was opening on him. The problem was, I had to turn to stay behind Timm and his MIG. I told Willie to keep an eye on that MIG, and every time he started to pull lead, to let me know. When he would pull lead and start to shoot, I’d straighten it out and open a little bit on him.

Now, bear in mind, this is all happening in the space of a few seconds. I’m still screaming for Timm to break starboard, when I look up ...and there above us I see our MIG-21s! just cruising along, keeping an eye on the fight below. Finally, Timm broke. I had a tone tone ...then a tone again, and I squeezed the trigger. Jim Fox, in Timm’s back seat, looked out and for the first time he saw the MIG, just as my missile hit him. He said the missile traveled the entire length of the MIG, blowing him up. The pilot ejected right next to them.

As soon as my missile hit the MIG-17, the four 21 s above us rolled in. They must have gotten pretty hacked off when I smoked their buddy! As they rolled in, I pulled hard into them, putting them 180 degrees off on me. Timm had dove for the ground and headed for the coast as soon as I got the MIG behind him, and I said; “That’s a good place to go!” Everywhere I looked there were MIGs, and I didn’t see any other F-4s around. So, I headed east myself.

On the way out, I told Willie; “It sure is a shame to quit when we have all this gas, and there are all kinds of MiGs.“ (The whole fight until then had only taken about two minutes, and I had started it with a full bag of gas, so we had plenty of fuel left.) Then I thought about how badly we were out-numbered, and with no one to even fly our wing and figured, Yeah, it is a good time to get out! I didn’t know that the greatest test was yet to come.

As we headed for the coast, I spotted another airplane on the nose, slightly low, and heading for us. As he got a little closer, I identified him as a MIG-I7. Now, right here is where something that had worked in training almost got me killed. In training, while fighting the A-4s, we had a rule that you had to maintain a 200-foot separation. Well, I always pushed that one a little bit when starting the fight in a head-on pass. I would try to come as close to the other guy as I could, just to scare him, or get him hacked off at me ...anything to make him think about something other than the fight for a split second ...enough time for me to gain an advantage. I said; “Watch this, Willie. I’m going to scare the #@*! out of this gomer!" And I headed right for him.


I bored in on the 17 ...head on. Suddenly, his whole nose lit up like a Christmas Tree! I had forgotten that the A-4s didn’t shoot at you, but this guy was really spitting out the 23mm and 37mm! I pulled hard, up in the vertical, figuring that the MIG would keep right on going for home. I looked back and ...there was the MIG ...canopy to canopy with me! He couldn’t

have been more than thirty feet away ...I could see the pilot clearly ...leather helmet, goggles, scarf ...we were both going straight up, but I was out-zooming him. He fell behind, and as I came over the top, he started shooting. I had given him a predictable flight path and he had taken advantage of it. The tracers were missing me, but not by much! I rolled out, and he pulled in right behind me.

Now, I don’t know if it’s ego know, you don’t like to admit that the other guy beat you ...or what, but I said; “That SOB is really lucky!” Anyway, I told Willie; “Alright, we’ll get this guy now!" I pulled down, and I was holding top rudder, trying to knuckle at the nose. As soon as I committed my nose, he pulled right into me! I thought; “Oh, Oh, maybe this guy isn’t just lucky after all!” I waited for his nose to commit, then I pulled up into him ...that’s a rolling scissors. Well, here’s where my training came into play again. In training, I had fought against Dave Frost in the same situation, and I had learned that if he had his nose too high, I could snap down, using the one G of gravity to advantage, and run out to his six o’clock. I would be a mile, mile and a half out of range before he could get turned around. This is just what happened. We separated, turned around, and engaged again. Same thing. Up into a rolling scissors advantage disadvantage advantage disadvantage disadvantage disengaged, came back, engaged again, and went up in the vertical again. This is one of the very few MIGs that ever fought in the vertical. They like to fight in the horizontal. We kept engaging, and I could never get enough of an advantage on him to get a shot ...everything my airplane did, he reacted to instinctively. He was flying damn good airplane! Well, we kept at it, with me outzooming him in the vertical, and him shooting every time I got out in front. I thought; “He’s going to get lucky one of these times!”

The next time we started up in the vertical, an idea came to me ...I don’t know why ...your mind just works overtime in a situation like that ...anyway, as we’re going up, I went to idle and speed brakes ...and he shot out in front of me! I think it really surprised him ...being out in front for the first time. Anyway, we’re both going straight up, and losing speed fast. I was down to 150 knots, and I knew I was going to have to go full burner to hold it. I did, and we both pitched over the top. As he came over, I used rudder to get the airplane to turn to his belly side. He lost lift coming over the top and, I think, departed the airplane a little bit. I thought; “This is no place to be with a MIG-I7 150 knots ...that slow ...he can take it right away from you.“ But he had stayed too long. He was low on fuel, and I think he decided to run. He pitched over the top and started straight down. I went down after him and, though I didn’t think the Sidewinder would guide straight down with all the heat of the ground to look at, I squeezed one off anyway. The missile came off the rail and went to his airplane. There was just a little flash, and I thought; “God, it missed him!” I started to fire my last Sidewinder and suddenly ...a big flash of flame and black smoke erupted from his airplane.

He didn’t seem to go out of control, but he flew straight down in the ground. He didn’t get out. I had just pitched off, when I looked up, and here came another MIG-l7 at our two o’clock. I said to Willie; “Here comes number six!” I started to break into him, when Matt Connelly, who was one of our flight, and had himself gotten two that day, called; “Duke, look at your seven o’clock!” I saw Matt, with his nose on us, as he fired a missile. I thought; “Matt! Jeez, you’re shooting at us!" It was a Sparrow that he had fired, and it went right over our tail! I looked back at our seven and there were four MIG-l7’s! Matt had fired the Sparrow in a desperation attempt to get them off our tail. It worked too...they just broke in every a fleur-de-lis. I said; “That’s it baby! We got five...that’s all I want! We’re getting out of here!”

We rolled and headed for the coast, with Matt on our wing. But we still weren’t out of the woods. On the way out, we had a SAM fired at us. We got all the indications that it was tracking us, so we broke, got rid of it, and pitched up. There, right in front of us, was another MIG-21. I was going to shoot, but he was well within minimum range, so I couldn’t. I flew right by him ...I really had a windscreen full of MIG-21. I think if I had had a gun that day, I would have had three more kills, because there was a I7, another 17, and this 21 that were right there for the shooting ...if I had had a gun. I pitched off, broke and headed out again. We got out over about Nam Dinh, and I heard another SAM call. I looked out the starboard side just in time to see this SAM coming for us. Before I could move the airplane, it went off. It was about 400 feet away when it exploded, and we had had closer misses than that, so I wasn’t too concerned. I went to the gauges and everything looked normal, so we continued on out. Less than a minute later, the airplane yawed violently to the left. I steadied up, looked at the gauges again, and saw that the PC-1 hydraulic system was indicating zero, and the PC-2 and utility systems were fluctuating. I remembered a story I had heard about “Duke” Hernandez, another Navy F-4 pilot, who had rolled his airplane to safety under a similar circumstance. Sure enough, when PC-2 went to zero, the nose of the F-4 went straight up, just as the story had indicated. I pushed full right rudder, forcing the nose to yaw right and down. We rolled to the right, and as the nose passed through the horizon, I pushed in the speed brakes and went to full burner to start a climbing roll. Each time the nose reached the top of the up-swing, I brought it down to prevent a stall. I couldn’t let it get too low, or I would have been unable to get it back up with rudder alone. We rolled the Phantom fifteen miles in this manner, starting at 27,000 feet and ending up at 17,000.

We had just cleared the coast when the Utility system went to zero. If this had happened a few seconds earlier, we would have had to eject over North Vietnam, and probably would have spent the rest of the war in the Hanoi Hilton. We went into a spin and I told Willie to wait a couple of more turns, hoping that I could pull it out and get us a little further out into the Gulf of Tonkin. I deployed the drag chute, but nothing I could do would stop the spin. I had told Willie earlier that he could eject anytime he wanted. It was obvious that we were going to have to punch out sooner or later, and there was the possibility that the airplane could blow up at any time. But he had decided to stay with it as long as I did. We both felt we would rather take the chance of the airplane blowing up, rather than get caught by the North Vietnamese, especially after shooting down three of their airplanes including their leading ace, that day. Our call for ejection is “WILL EJECT, EJECT, EJECT”. I no more than got WILL E ...out, when Willie punched out. Our ejection went smoothly, and we were picked up from the Gulf of Tonkin by Marine Helos from the USS OKINAWA!

When we returned to the Connie, we had quite a reception. Everyone knew we had gotten three MIGs to become Aces, but the statement that moved us the most was made by one of the enlisted troops. He walked up to me and said; “Mr. Cunningham, we are glad you shot down three MIGs today and became aces, but we’re even happier that you’re back with us!” That statement really brought home to me the importance of the team effort that allowed us to shoot down those MIGs. Every one of the men on the Connie deserves credit for our victories. Their efforts made them possible.

Lt. Randy Cunningham

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