Kitty Hawk F-5E Tweak List
By Thierry Laurent
F-5E Tiger II TWEAKS LIST
- TYPE: Northrop F-5E
- SCALE: 1/32
- COMPANY: Kitty Hawk
- KIT Number: KH32018
- MOLD CREATION DATE: 2018
TWEAKS LIST VERSION 1.2 (publication date: December 2020)
Compiled by Thierry Laurent
The following list is intended to help modelers in improving scale accuracy of an airplane model replica. In no way is it intended to support or be offensive towards a scale model company. It is up to the modeler to decide whether correcting the listed issues is worth the time and money he will have to invest in the quest for accuracy process.
No aftermarket correction or detail set is mentioned in this document as the availability of such items may be very variable. Hence, refer to other LSP sections to find relevant information. Moreover, aftermarket sets do not necessarily correct all listed issues. Please refer accordingly to relevant documentation.
1. GENERAL REVIEW
- The kit is mainly made of 6 light gray styrene and one clear part trees. There is also a photo-etched fret for some cockpit elements, air intakes perforated splitter plates, engine detail parts and some other small items. Last, two alternate exhaust resin parts are given as well as two resin pilots (one seated and one standing).
- The original release has US Navy, USAF, Korea, Iran, Singapore, Brazil and Mexico air forces markings.
- Shapes & dimensions are correct and the details are generally accurate. However, the versions are totally mixed and as such, OOTB, the kit does not depict accurately any version. Most of the contents are actually close to a Swiss F-5E or its US Navy/Marines successor: the F-5N.
- Fit is going from excellent to very bad. Location pins are quite often too large or not correctly shaped on many small parts. So, it is required to check each part to assess if it should not be modified to be positioned correctly. This is not an understatement as, otherwise, this may lead to very noticeable assembly problems.
- The kit has a reasonable number of engraved rivets and screw heads. Panel lines are generally correct but quite shallow and some of them are missing here and there.
- The kit surface has some small blemishes and annoying sink marks here and there. There are also multiple mold lines produced by the use of multi-parts molds. The ones on each side of the top of the fuselage are the most obvious ones. Be prepared for some sanding/polishing work if you want to reproduce a gloss or silver finish plane.
- Some assembly complications are linked to the fact the kit was made with a modular design intended to cover the F-5F and RF-5E Tigereye subsequent versions.
2. FUSELAGE (from Front to Rear)
- The kit gives the early (pointy) and the late (shark nose) options.
- The kit has no weight in the nose. Even if you use a resin cockpit, do not forget adding a little bit of ballast to avoid the tail-sitter syndrome. The kit has a radar antenna but as the parts are very basic it is probably clever to replace them by weight.
- The kit has the RWR antennas molded on both sides of the nose (E45 & E46). Such antennas appeared late in the service life of the Tiger. So, they should be removed for a seventies/beginning of the eighties plane. If you want to reproduce such a version, it is recommended to fill the internal side of the bumps with a drop of CA glue before sanding them.
- The kit has fully detailed gun compartments. Note the Aggressor/Adversary planes never used the 20mm guns. The guns typically stayed (for CoG reasons) but the ammunition boxes and belts were removed.
- The gun compartment doors are unfortunately designed to be left opened. So, closing them will ask for some cutting and sanding work on their edges (including changing the three opened latches of the upper doors E60/63 into closed ones). Take your time as it is alas not that easy to get a correct result.
- The gun vents E52 and E53 parts are opened whereas they are normally closed. Sand the rear triangles inside each part and slightly bend them (where the three sections are separated by a scribed line on the external side) to get fully flat parts. You will still have to send the parts corners as they are slightly larger than the corresponding holes.
- The kit has the IFF antenna (E39). Check closely the airframe you choose as this was not an early feature.
- There are some panel errors on the starboard side of the front fuselage (E70). First, the canopy emergency release access squared hatch should be under the AoA probe oval panel rather than the opposite. Second, the step doors located on the fuselage side, close to the air intakes, should be filled in.
- The AoA vane transmitter part is missing. The old Hasegawa Tiger II kit has that part. Use that one or scratchbuild it.
- The seams between the front and rear fuselage as well as the air intakes do not correspond to panels lines. So, check closely where you must full sand and polish them to be sure they are not visible. It is probably recommended to reinforce that seam internally as the mating faces on both subassemblies are very small.
- There are also multiple mold lines produced by the used of multi-parts molds on each side of the top of the fuselage, over and and under the nose. Take your time to remove them very cautiously. Soft sanding sponges are recommended to avoid damaging the fuselage curves.
- The two fuel tank caps located on the spine are unfortunately located on the starboard side whereas they are actually on the port one. Fill them with CA glue and sand them. Drill two 3mm holes on the other side and add new caps (scratchbuilt, photo-etched or resin ones).
- The VHF spine antenna (B31) appeared late in the service life and is not used on all versions. For an early plane such as an USAF Aggressor or a South-Vietnamese fighter-bomber, do not use it, sand its base plate and fill the corresponding hole in the spine.
- Dry fit and check cautiously the intake parts (B32-39 & 33-40) as gluing them without a nasty step is asking for some judicious sanding. It is also required to cautiously fill in all the ejection pin marks on the faces of all the parts.
- The kit suffers from a too classical weird kit syndrome: it has full engines but no full air intakes. Use aftermarket ones, scratchbuild FODs or at least paint all interior areas in flat black.
- The belly air brakes and bays are globally correct. The hydraulic tubes, hoses and details are present in the wells but a little bit flat. Unfortunately, some nasty ejection marks have to be filled on the internal brake face (B25-26). I recommend filling them with small plastic disks (made with a punch & die). This will be cleaner to add than putty and easier to sand than CA glue. Use a small scrapper and a thin tip fiberglass pen to clean cautiously such areas.
- The holes to secure the belly pylon are opened. You will have to fill them if you do no want to add the central tank pylon.
- The kit has the chaff/flare belly dispenser molded has a standard part (B12). Again, this is quite unfortunate as few airframes had it.This feature appeared on Swiss airframes and was kept on F-5Ns. Removing it ask for sanding the belly support plate, sanding the starboard oblong landing gear door external face, filling the holes in the belly and restoring correct panel and rivet lines.
- The support of the arresting hook (B38) has some small molding blemishes to fill.
- The kit gives the two auxiliary intake louvre configurations (B15-16: open and B17-18: closed) on the rear fuselage. Keep in mind the opened ones are only relevant with running engines.
- The design of the tail is a total mess. The kit designer put a seam in the middle of the right side of the tail between C15 & C16. As there is no panel line there, the seam should be totally removed but without damaging the rivet and adjacent panel lines. It is recommended to scribe deeper the rivets before sanding the seam to be able to restore them after filling and sanding that nasty seam. Note some rivets are missing close to the seam and need to be added to fill gaps in the rivet lines. Last, that design choice does not prevent the occurrence of a sink mark on the other side of the tail. Fortunately, with some care it is possible to fill most of it between all the rivet and panel lines. CA glue is the best material to do that properly.
- Note the front of the tail does not join correctly the small front section that for some mysterious reason is molded on the top of the upper fuselage. This design choice is also plain stupid as this prevents the use of an alternate tail with a front extension antenna that would be required to depict some export versions (such as the ones used in many South-American countries). Some judicious sanding is also required here and the seam must disappear as it does not correspond to a panel line.
- Dry fit and sand all faces and edges of the tab molded on the fuselage. It is intended to secure the tail but actually prevents a correct positioning of the tail with a very thin seam. If you do not do that, be prepared to use a lot of putty.
- Again, check closely the antenna configuration of the plane you are choosing. Early Tiger II had not the flat ILS antenna over the top of the fin. The kit also has a seldom seen round antenna located over the starboard side of the rudder. Remove accordingly the unnecessary antennas.
- The rear end of the fuselage has tabs to add the rear RWR antennas (part B42 and 43). For an early plane, they should be removed and the rivet line restored (unless if you want to reproduce the protruding rivets visible on the full scale airframe).
- The kit exhaust tailpipes have a bad seam because of the way they have been designed. Fortunately, the kit has nice resin alternatives. Alas, for some dumb reason, the casting gate is located on the rear edge of the pipe, right over the recessed notch that is visible on the slightly too thick edge. Note the burner section inside the engine end is poorly reproduced. Aftermarket can help but fortunately the small diameter of the exhaust is somewhat hiding that area.
- Drill deeper the four small holes in part B7.
- The wings have the late LERX. To reproduce an early plane, some surgery is required. Actually, you must saw the external section of the LERX from the front tip to the end of the panel line arriving on the LERX front section external edge. Then, you will have to restore the correct airfoil section on both sides.
- The wings have some injection molding issues resulting in a not fully flat surface. Such sink marks may be somewhat attenuated by cautious sanding (take care of the rivet and panel lines). Hopefully, this will not be too obvious if a flat camouflage scheme is chosen.
- Again, the design of the kit results in a very annoying seam to eliminate between the lower and upper section of the wings as it does not exist under the plane wing.
- The internal pylon holes have to be opened in the lower wing parts whereas the external ones are drilled. You will have to fill them if you do not use the external pylons. Take your time to do that cautiously and recreate the connection points while taking care of not damaging the rivet lines. Note the kit has the standard external pylon type.
- The front/rear flaps and ailerons are separate parts. This is very nice. However, the aileron hinges do not fit. As such, it is absolutely impossible to assemble them correctly. Thin very cautiously all the hinge teeth and sand at least half of the thickness of the external ones molded on the wing. Take your time to do that correctly as the result will be very visible.
- Take your time to assess the best wing/fuselage assembly order. KH proposes to build the wings fully and to add them on the assembled fuselage. This is a bad idea as this results in a seam close to impossible to remove properly through the ceiling of each landing gear bay as well as a seam between the upper wing and the fuselage sides. It is better to glue the wings with the upper fuselage part first. Then add the landing gear wells and finally the belly. If you are very cautious and do a lot of dry assembly checks, you can get a quite clean result. This alternate approach should result in far less putty use, sanding and cleaning time. This is not a perfect approach either but alas the design of the kit does not give many assembly alternatives.
- The kit has three nice drop tanks but a quite weird combination of weapons.
- It has useless Rockeye cluster bombs and Sparrow AtoA missiles whereas such missiles were only cleared on the F-5G/F-20. Note that an exam of the kit indicated that KH possibly considered the Tigershark as an option when you look at the way parts have been designed. This may explain that. Nonetheless, such parts are useless for a Tiger II.
- The slick bombs are OK but there are no other typical AtoG warload such as Maverick missiles or rocket pods.
- The kit has AIM-9B and L. However, they are weird hybrids as they share the same rear section whereas the two generations of missiles had clear rear fin area differences. It would have been better to offer an ACMI/TACTS/LATR telemetry pod or a Sidewinder E or J/P option besides the Lima one.
- The cockpit is a nice combination of plastic and photo-etched parts. However, some elements are missing or not fully accurate. The rear section of the cockpit is very detailed and does not ask for many additional elements (essentially some wires).
- The E31 tub part is unfortunately 3.5mm too shallow at the level of the seat bulkhead. Either replace the tub or rebuild it. Note the cockpit resin sets intended for the Hasegawa kit can be easily adapted to the KH kit and if they are not available and you do not want to go into some heavy surgery, using parts of the Hasegawa kit tub is a far better option.
- The instruments consoles are simplified and the instruments on the starboard side are not correctly set-up. Note that if you reproduce an airframe without the chaff/Flare launcher, it should not have the control panel at the rear end of the port console (close to the seat back level). Similalry, the F-5E had originally a map case at the rear end of the starboard console and it is not anymore present on the F-5N. So double check the configuration.
- The E30 front IP is correct but a little bit flat and only looks accurate for a pre-RWR version. Be prepared for modification according to the version you will finally choose as they were many small IP variations. Keep in mind the original Navy Adversary F-5E planes had no radar and consequently no central scope on the IP. Moreover, the F-5N had a double VHF-UHF central panel whereas the E had a single and larger UHF radio control panel and it also got an inertial navigation display where the radar scope was located.Check accordingly the airframe origin and era to assess which IP features you must add. Finally, some planes (like the late Navy Adversary ones) had a compass located under the top of the windshield arch.
- The insulation parts E26 & E27 on the tub sides are too short (at least 1.5mm) because the tub is too shallow.
- The Northrop improved seat is nice and very detailed but has only the later headset and a strange combination of stiff cushions. The belts are given as photoetched parts. If you want to make an early seat or want to solve easily the cushion issue, replace the seat with an aftermarket one.
- The canopy actuating system is very detailed and do not really need improvements.
- The canopy rear end on the port side has an ECS vent that was only present on some late F-5E. Fill it cautiously for an early airframe.
6. LANDING GEAR
- The front landing gear well is small, deep and narrow as the full scale one. So, the amount of detail given by KH is acceptable. Unfortunately, the design of the landing gear leg (C20 & C21) is questionable as it asks for adding the leg very early in the assembly order (step 3). It is recommended to grind a notch in the top of the leg to receive a rod that will be glued between the two sides (E59 and E62). The actuating rods (C9 & C14) can be added but not glued. That way, you can position it temporarily between the sides up to the addition of the front leg at the end of the assembly. Finally, do not glue C47 before adding the front LG leg.
- The front landing sideway gear door has a large vent that is not present on the early Tiger II airframes. If required, fill and sand cautiously to restore a flat surface on both sides or use the part from an Hasegawa kit.
- The main landing gear bays are correct but all pipes and hoses are missing. Pre-assemble the main landing gear actuating parts that go on A25 and A24 but do not add them before completing the main airframe parts as they are rather fragile.
- The wheels and tires are very nice with finely engraved company markings and fine brake parts. The only drawback is the lack on details on the tire perimeter (slick tires). This is the only reason that can justify the use of aftermarket items.
- The main landing gear legs are rather accurate and just need the braking lines.
7. OTHER REMARKS
- Check closely the clear parts before using them as the guy who made the KH instructions mixed many of them. Dry fit to double check but it looks GP7 is actually GP5, GP9 is GP1, GP1 is GP7 and the forgotten GP9 is going on each fuselage side (ahead of the engine auxiliary intake).
- Wings, elevators and rudder trailing edge can be thinned a little bit for a more accurate look.
- The kit does not have the access ladder that is added in the two-seater and also available in the old Hasegawa kit.
- OOTB, the kit does not depict reasonably any airframe as it is a mix and match of early and late features. However, with more than 1400 produced Tigers and a service life of close to fifty years, it is difficult to cover all possible variations. Some production batches had very distinct features. Hence, check closely the plane you want to replicate to correct the relevant features. Notwithstanding the war load options, here is a list of possible options to take care of:
- Radome type
- RWR antennas on the sides of the nose and rear end of fuselage
- Radar or ballast
- Lack of gun ammunition (e.g. Adversary or Aggressor planes)
- Different IP types (With or without radar, RWR, HUD, MFD, GPS, etc.)
- Northrop seat with early or late seat improved headset or retrofitted Martin Baker seat types in some export versions.
- ECS vent on the canopy rear
- Front landing gear sideway door with or without vent
- Optional refueling probe (not in the kit)
- Spine ILS blade antenna
- Early or late wing LERX
- Chaff/flare launcher fairing on the belly
- Outboard pylon type
- Tail extended with ADF fin fillet antenna (not in the kit)
- VOR/ILS antenna on the tail tip
- Round antenna on the tail starboard side, above the rudder
- Other antennas such as GPS, Skyspot, IFF, etc.
For more information regarding the kit schemes and the required modifications, please refer to the LSP forum F-5 SIG thread in the LSP discussion forum.
Finally, do not forget the Hasegawa kit can be found for cheap prices and may be the source of some interesting parts such as:
- a correct depth cockpit tub with more accurate side consoles,
- a better early IP (USAF),
- a Northrop early head set seat,
- an AoA vane,
- an early front landing gear sideway door,
- an early canopy (without the ECS slot),
- an external access ladder,
- and other decals (such as USAF Aggressor schemes).
The following sources were used to build this list.
- Donnet, Christophe, Northrop F-5E/F Tiger II, Lock On N°26, Verlinden Pulications, 1994.
- Kinzey, Bert, F-5E & F Tiger II, Detail & scale, vol. 5, Aero Publishers, 1982.
Scale plans and TM extracts:
- N.a., Northrop F-5E/F Tiger II, Famous Airplanes of the World, n°12, Koku fan, 1979.
- N.a., F-5E/F Tiger II, F-20 Tigershark, Famous Airplanes of the World, n°96, Koku fan, 2002.
- Johnsen, Frederick, Northrop F-5E/F-20/T-38, Warbird Tech series, Vol.44, 2006.
Colour pictures photo files:
- Shaw, Robbie, F-5 Warplane for the world, Airlife Limited, 1990.
Other reference books:
- N.a., F-5/T-38, Model Art N°935, Air Model Special, N°12, 2016.
- Casella, Leandro; Dias da Cunha, Rudnei, Northrop F-5 in Brazil, Author’s edition, 2011.
- Drendell, Lou, F-5 in Action, Squadron Signal publications, 1980.
- Drendell, Lou, F-5 Freedom Fighter Tiger II Talon Illustrated, Aviation Art. Inc. 2019.
- Evans, Andy, Northrop Grumman F-5 Tiger Freedom Fighter, Tiger II and Tigereye plus T-38 Talon and F-20, Modellers Data File Scaled Down 5, SAM publications, 2017.
- Evans, Andy, Top Gun US Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps Aggressors, Modellers Data File Scaled Down 1, SAM publications, 2014.
- Hall, George, Nellis The Home of the ‘Red Flag’, Superbase 1, Osprey Publishing, 1988.
- Kinzey, Bert, Leader, Ray, USAF Agressor Squadrons, Colors and Markings Vol. 11, Detail & Scale publications, Airlife Publishing, 1988.
- Paloque, Gérard, Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter & Tiger II 1954-2012, Histoire & Collections, 2013.
- Scutts, Jerry, Northrop F-5/F-20, Modern Combat Aircraft 25, Ian Allan Ltd, 1985.
- Callaway, Tim (Ed.), Northrop F5 Freedom Fighter, Aviation Classics, Issue 19, Mortons, 2013.
- Morse, Stan (Ed.), World Air Power Journal, Vol. 25, Aerospace Publishing, 1996.
- Various walkarounds on Internet sites.
- LSP discussion SIG thread and Chuck Sawyer’s build on LSP.
© Thierry Laurent 2020
This article was published on Saturday, December 05 2020; Last modified on Saturday, December 05 2020