Revell Germany 1/72 Lockheed F-16C Block 50
Model, Text and Photos by: Mike O'Hare
Revell AG's new 1/72 F-16C is one of the nicest kits to be released in this scale in years. Fondling the sprues, one gets the distinct impression this was someone's labour of love: a sensible breakdown with a plethora of useful options and extras. The breakdown and those options suggest Revell's toolmakers wanted to make it as easy as possible to model different versions. To demonstrate what can be done by mixing and matching the kit's contents, this article covers one of the more unusual subtypes - and most striking - the Greek F-16C Block 50.
Before dealing with the Greek-specific modifications, one must first build the main assemblies. The kit itself virtually falls together. It's not a complete shake and bake; there's just enough challenge needed to make it interesting and gratifying, but nothing hard enough to cause frustration. The only sticking point is the fore/aft split of the upper fuselage, which may give some cause for concern. The secret is to work in sections, test fitting before committing glue to the join. Start at the middle of the spine, aligning the fore and aft halves. You're only concerned with the very middle here, just around the alignment post. The sides of the join towards the wing will probably be slightly out of alignment. This is fine. Once the middle is lined up, add a drop of CA (inside the fuselage, to minimise visibility) and hold until cured. Now, moving outwards, repeat for the inner half of both the left and right sides, then again for the outer portions. Finally, to be on the safe side, I like to reinforce the whole joint with another dose of CA. The fore and aft fuselage halves seem prone to warping, so dealing with the seam in this sectional manner allows you to pull everything into alignment. While it may sound complicated, the whole process only takes a few minutes to complete. It would be possible to use regular liquid cement, or even epoxy to do the same thing, but I prefer CA for its speed. Each section of the join would have to be clamped and left to fully cure for hours if using liquid glue to avoid the tendency to shift. Since we're dealing with the upper fuselage, grind away the locating recess behind the gun gas vent, so that piece can be manipulated from inside the fuselage as well. It's fiddly to attach, so being able to push or prod it into place from behind will make life easier.
Moving to the lower fuselage, care should be taken when attaching the nicely detailed main gear well insert. It's an almost tubular cross section, and any alignment issues will leave the finished model tilted. There is a definite positive location for the part, but it is possible to get it out of alignment if you rush things. The intake also requires a bit of care and attention. It's got the fairly standard construction: two outer sections that surround an inner main gear well/intake trunk, with a separate intake lip for the front. Both Big and Small Mouth intakes are included in the kit, but they use the same nose gear well/intake trunk piece and so putty will be needed to blend things in for a "seamless" intake. The easiest way to tackle this is with a sausage of Milliput on each side - press and shape it into the corners with a paintbrush handle, then smooth out with a wet Q-Tip. It's another simple, rewarding fix, though one could always just make a FOD guard instead.
Stretching it Out:
Greek F-16's have parabrake extensions on their fins. Revell's F-16C kit includes a normal F-16C tail, as well as an F-16A tail with two different parabrake options. A fairly simple cut and splice will give you the extended F-16C tail. Cut the F-16C tail along the lines indicated in the picture then attach one of the spare sets of parabrake parts; it's a simple matter of cutting/scribing along existing panel lines. I found it easiest to perform the surgery before joining the left and right tail halves as this allowed me to align and glue the parabrake parts on a flat surface. As the base of the F-16C's tail is wider than that of the F-16A, a thin, approximately .010, sheet or strip styrene spacer will be required. They also have slightly different contours, so the front of the parabrake will need to be filled and sanded to shape - sheet styrene, gap filling CA and Mr. Surfacer make short work of it. Finally, sand off the ECM bulges and zigzag RAM pattern (depending on which parts used) re-scribe any panel lines lost in the surgery. It is a fairly simple job, and almost takes longer to describe than to actually perform. The second picture shows the completed assembly.
|Lower view. The bulged lights can clearly be seen, while the main landing gear door bulges are just visible. Also note the "seamless" intake, as described above and the Pathfinder/LANTIRN modifications, described below.||Upper view. Note the IFF antennae in front of the canopy, as well as the asymmetric ASPIS bulge on the tail. Also visible are the intake lights, just peeking out from under the LERX.|
There are a number of lumps and bumps particular to the HAF's Block 50 F-16's to be added. The ASPIS antenna on the tail was scratchbuilt from a section of styrene rod based on reference pictures. It's an asymmetrical installation, only on the starboard side of the tail; Turkish F-16's have similar antennae on both sides. I also added the bulged intake lights to simulate the Hammerhead antennae. The kit parts are meant to represent the Rapport system fitted on early Dutch F-16s, so they are tooled to fit on the Small Mouth intake. A bit of sanding and flexing is required to coax them onto the Big Mouth of the Block 50. The model also had the "bird slicer" IFF nose insert attached. While on the subject of antennae, I replaced the kit's "beer can" RWR's with ones made out of styrene rod; the kit parts look a bit small to my eye, and are fiddly to attach. I also built up gear door bulges with Milliput - the kit doesn't include the bulged doors of later F-16's, so I modified the kit parts with a small lump of epoxy putty each, though this detail is barely noticeable on the finished model. Incidentally, to model one of Greece's Block 30 Vipers, use the smooth nose insert instead, and add a spotlight on the starboard side of the nose, made out of clear styrene rod or a model railroad lens.
Construction progresses as normal for the rest of the build. The beautifully detailed cockpit clicks nicely into the upper fuselage, the finished fuselage halves click nicely together, the exhaust and tail slot nicely into place. A minimum of filler is required throughout, really only needed to correct faults from sloppy or hurried building.
The Joys of Painting:
The next hurdle was paint. Greek F-16's are painted in a "Ghost" scheme similar to early F-16N's. There are several on-line references for the scheme, but finding matches for the colours was easier said than done. The basic scheme is FS 35189, 36307 and 36251 with a neutral grey radome. Model Master does 36307 in the form of Light Sea Grey and 36251 in the form of Aggressor Grey, but the ONLY source I could find for 35189 was Xtracolor. While they're excellent paints, they aren't available locally and I wasn't keen on waiting to order one little tin of paint. After a bit of digging, I found that 35189 was reasonably close to the upper surface blue-grey used on USN aircraft before 1942, which is reasonably close to the Model Master II shade "Navy Blue Grey". A bit of tweaking and lightening was required, but I'm happy with the results.
The camouflage itself was done with paper masks. I enlarged an illustration of the camo scheme to the size of the model, then cut out each colour and taped it down. This gives a nice, tight, soft demarcation line. It's worth noting that Greece's Block 30 F-16's have the leading edges of their tail and stabs painted 35237, as depicted in most illustrations of the camouflage scheme. The Block 50's don't, so careful examination of reference pics was required. As I wanted to build one of the few Greek aircraft with noticeable squadron identifications, I masked and painted the stripe on the tail. Various details were then picked out with different shades -the gear wells are painted white, the intake lip a yellowish grey, the exhaust petals sprayed Alclad on the outside, white tinted with tan to simulate the ceramic coating on the inside.
Things that go Boom in the Night:
GBU-24 showing careful painting
Loaded for the range
The ordnance is from a variety of sources. The kit includes AMRAAMs, Sidewinders, HARMs and GBU-16s, as well as drop tanks and an ECM pod. Unfortunately, it doesn't include LANTIRN pods. Greek military hardware is usually kept pretty tightly under wraps, and this is particularly true for ordnance. The only images I could find of Greek F-16's were from air displays or combat meets - most had dummy Sidewinders or AMRAAMs on the wingtips and maybe an ACMI pod under the wings. I couldn't find ANYTHING on air to ground ordnance. As such, in the end I had to sift through Congressional Foreign Military Sales reports to find out what they MIGHT use. In the end, Mavericks seemed the most likely candidate, but I also decided that GBU-24's were not an entirely unlikely option, and would look better under the wings. After I'd decided what ordnance to use, it was time to build and paint it. The AMRAAMs are from the kit. Revell's radomes looked too stubby to me, so I chucked the missile bodies in a drill and re-contoured them with a file. I have since discovered that inert AIM-120s have different (and stubbier) radomes; the kits are correct for inert rounds, while my re-worked versions depict live missiles. Of course, since I painted them like inert munitions, they're still wrong. Whoops. The AIM-9's are from Hasegawa's Weapons Set V, as I felt they looked better than the kit parts. Revell's Sidewinders certainly aren't bad, but by this point I'd decided to go all out. The GBU-24's are also from Hasegawa (Weapons Set #6), and were one of the most tedious aspects of the model. The real things are built up from dozens of individual components, so to simulate this, each "component" was dutifully painted a slightly different version of green drab. Fun. The seeker head was masked off and painted blue, to indicate an inert bomb. Drop tanks are per the kit, and have a nice mix of raised and recessed panel lines. There's a tricky to fill seam on the back of the wing tanks though. As mentioned, the kit lacks LANTIRN pods, so these too came from Hasegawa (Weapons Set #7). As Greece uses a downgraded version of the pods (Pathfinder), Hasegawa's pods were altered to more accurately depict the Greek units. Again, references come in handy here, though there's a good deal of information on-line. I couldn't find any information on jamming pods that might be carried, so opted for the simplicity of a centreline drop tank instead.
Decalling was done from a variety of sources. Most of the stencils are from the decals included with Revell Germany's F-16AM boxing of the kit, though a few are from DACO's Belgian F-16 markings sheet. The ordnance decals all came from Revell, with the exception of the LANTIRN stencils, included in Hasegawa's weapons set. National insignia and numbers were from Mike Grant's excellent ALPS printed decal line. Since his decals were originally produced for Block 30 aircraft, he kindly altered the numbers to depict one of the B.50's for me - try doing THAT with screen-printed decals! The decal film Mike prints on is some of the finest I've ever used, and completely vanishes into the paint when dry. Fantastic stuff. They are a bit delicate though, so require careful handling. Since this model was built, both Zotz and Icarus have released sheets with Hellenic Air Force F-16s, including a couple of options with great tail art.
Weathering and Final Assembly
View of the radome showing AOA and pitot probes.
With decalling done, it's finally time to move on to weathering and final assembly. The delicate landing gear is attached and aligned. It's built from several pieces and can be a pain to attach due to the nature of the assembly. My only advice is to study the instructions and test fit to figure out how it all gets attached. It is quite sturdy when all is said and done, but can be broken if you're not careful (ahem ). The missiles and pylons were all attached, the model matte coated and the canopy masks yanked off. Now is the best time to add the radome. Before doing this though, I drilled two holes through its sides and attached AOA probes made from straight pins, a detail Revell missed.
Weathering was done with a variety of methods. Greek aircraft tend to take a beating due to their operational status and the harsh Mediterranean sun. I highlighted some panel lines with pastels, over-sprayed others with slightly darkened versions of the base colours, and brushed satin and gloss paints over others still, to simulate weathering and touch-ups. The gun panel was masked off and a fairly heavy cordite stain added, to suggest frequent use. The various lights were picked out before adding the final touches: pitots and static dischargers. Revell's nose pitot is very nicely moulded and fits the radome well, so there's no problems leaving it until the (near) end. It was picked out with different greys for visual interest and to replicate the numerous metals seen on the real item. I also replaced the re-fuelling light on the leading edge of the tail with a section of straight pin. The kit's static dischargers were lopped off (I'm proud to say, I only lost one while building it) and replaced with toothbrush bristles, trimmed to length and painted black. The bristles have a bit of flexibility to take gentle knocks, though they still require careful handling. Two small blobs of Crystal Clear in the rear tail light recesses and the model is finished.
As pleased as I am with the finished product, I have to admit that it's more to do with the quality of the kit than my own skill. It's one of those models that's just a pleasure to build, which is a lucky thing, since there's countless options out there for F-16's. Dozens of interesting and exotic camouflage schemes, scores of spectacular anniversary and demo schemes. Just Belgian tail art alone could keep a modeller busy building Vipers for life! What's best of all about the kit is how generous Revell have been with the modeller, in terms of ordnance and pylons, and the various bits and bobs to accurately model F-16's of different nations. It truly is a fantastic kit that just blows the competition out of the water.
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