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Northrop F-5
Freedom Fighter





S u m m a r y

Catalogue Number and Description: No. 802 - Northrop F-5A Freedom Fighter
Scale: 1/48
Price: USD$13.96 from Squadron.com
Review Type: First Look
Contents and Media: Four sprues of injected plastic, one sheet of decals, two-piece clear plastic canopy.
Advantages: The only F-5A on the market. Nice decal sheet. Good instructions
Disadvantages: Old tooling. This kit is more like a toy.
Recommendation: Outdated tooling and poor/lacking detail. Not recommended


Italeri's 1/48 scale F-5A Freedom Fighter is available online from Squadron.com

Reviewed by José Rodríguez




There are plenty of kits for the Northrop F-5E Tiger out there. Some of them are outstanding. The question is why did I pick the F-5A from Italeri?

Why do you climb a mountain? Because it is there. I was enticed by the option in the decal sheet that lets you build an aircraft belonging to the Spanish Air Army; besides, anybody can build an F-5E right out of the box and end up with a good model. I kind of expected the F-5A to be more challenging, and I like that in a kit.

Right after opening the box I knew that this kit was challenging all right, quite so. Can you say retro?

There are four spruces of very shiny injected plastic and the flash around many of the 62 parts is obvious. When I say shiny, I’m not kidding. I had a hard time photographing these parts because the high luster on the polished plastic bounced my flash light right back to the camera. The quality of the tooling is circa 1960s; thick parts, part numbers embedded on the parts themselves, ejector pin marks, raised panel lines, and flash everywhere.

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

The cockpit has no floor or bulkheads. The instrument panel is flat and the decal sheet provides the instrument gages. There are no details on the sidewalls and the ejections seat looks like it came from a Tonka truck – forget about seat belts and handles. The pilot figure resembles something from Planet of the Apes. The canopy can be open or closed.

The wheel wells have no detail. The nose well is just a hole and the nose landing gear is glued to two locating holes in the inside of the fuselage. Landing gear doors have no detail and are as thick as manhole covers. The landing gear struts have an odd shape, more rectangular than tubular.

The gun ports on the nose are not drilled and the cannon are glued directly to the outside of the fuselage. The fuselage vents are but a feeble attempt at the real thing. There are two holes on the sides of the rear fuselage that are supposed to be engine vents but they are huge and you can see through one side of the fuselage to the other.

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

The exhaust nozzles are blocked by a flat plate right at the point where they enter the fuselage. The inlet nozzles are deep but there is not compressor face, just another flat plate.

The wings are molded in one piece from wingtip to wingtip, top to bottom.

The fit seems to be adequate but the abundance of raised panel lines will require carefully threading when sanding the joins.

The decal sheet is up to today’s standards. It is printed by Zanchetti-Buccinasco, Milan, Italy. They look in excellent register and good detail. Option one is for the USAF 4441st Combat Crew Training Squadron based at Williams AFB in Arizona, 1964. This squadron trained the pilots and maintenance personnel of nations receiving F-5s. The second option is for a Royal Norwegian Air Force aircraft, “Jokers Aerobatic Team”, and option three is for the Ejército del Aire Español, Ala Táctica 21, Morón Air Base. All aircraft are in natural metal finish.

Am I going to build this aircraft? I will probably give it a try using cannibalized parts from an F-5E kit, if I find one on the cheap. I like a challenge but this kit is close to passing that point. If you are the type who can build an award winning model out of cardboard and toothpicks, by all means this is for you, otherwise, buy something else. This kit is more like a toy than a serious kit. As far as I see, I bought myself an expensive decal sheet. I could go to plan B and try to backdate an F-5E into and F-5A. The F5-E uses the more powerful General Electric J85-GE-21A turbojets. Its air intakes had to be increased in area to provide more air to the engines and the fuselage had to be made somewhat wider to accommodate the extra compressor stages. The use of the new Dash 21 engine also required the installation or air intake louver doors in the rear fuselage to prevent compressor starvation at low forward speeds. While it would be easy to erase the extra air intakes, it would be hard to slim down the wider F-5E fuselage. Add to this, among many other things, the new control surfaces on the wings and I’m looking at getting gray hairs. Maybe I will have to wait until the Gods of modeling release the Alpha in a new superb kit, or I could buy lottery tickets and wish for better luck.

I don’t recommend this kit, unless you really like the decals or you like toiling like in the good ol’ days of modeling.

By the way, if you want to know about the history of Northrop’s lightweight fighter, check out this excellent web site, http://www.fitertown.com/f5/history.html.

Review Copyright © 2002 by José Rodríguez
Page Created 27 January, 2002
Last updated 22 July, 2003

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