The F-104 Starfighter is one of those fighters that seemed to ‘Have it all’ but ended up on trash heap of history/ Designed by Clarence ‘Kelly’ Johnson and his Lockheed Skunk Works team after Johnson talked to F-86 Sabre pilots fighting MiG 15’s during the Korean War. Johnson asked them what they needed, and they told him they needed a simple fighter with high performance. The F-86 was outperformed by the simpler MiG 15.
It seemed that the stars have lined up for the Starfighter and it was ready to reach for the stars (I’ll stop with the terrible puns now, Promise). But there was one problem: The F-104 was designed as an fair weather air superiority fighter with a basic radar and (at first) no radar guided weapons. The USAF bought around 300 F-104s for the USAF Air Defense Command and they were less then enthusiastic about the fighter. It turns out you couldn’t expect the Soviet bomber pilots to only fly in fair weather and fly to within range of the AIM-9 Sidewinder heat-seeking missile. After that they were relegated to several Air National Guard units and were eventually replaced by other fighters more suited to their task.
So the Starfighter had some issues, but that didn’t stop Lockheed from trying to sell it to other NATO countries like Canada, Germany and the Netherlands among others. Canada lost about half of it’s F-104 fleet and nicknamed it the Lawn Dart. The Germans also had some unflattering nicknames for their Ground-Attack F-104s, the F-104G: Tent Peg. One of the German F-104 jokes was “How do you get your own F-104G? Just buy a plot of land and wait”. And to make matters worse it was revealed that Lockheed paid millions to European royals, politicians and generals in what was named the Lockheed Scandal to make sure their respective countries would buy the F-104.
Despite the scandal, the less-then expected performance and its numerous accidents it is one of the most beautiful fighter aircraft of its time (in my humble opinion, that is). But is this kit going to suffer from the same fate? I did some research on this kit after buying the kit and was unpleasantly surprised it was an old ESCI/AMT kit from the early eighties. Oh well.. Let’s see how it holds up to modern standards.
The boxart features an Italian F-104G commemorating the 50.000th flying hour of the F-104G in Italian service, and it looks great. After opening the Side-Opening Box we find a total of 3 light grey sprues and a single clear sprue. And they appear to be in fairly good shape. But it can’t hide its age, because the hull sections are on a ‘unframed’ and warped sprue, and that’s not something you see very often nowadays. But the parts themselves hold up to modern standards. With some nice panellines and a bit of raised lines here and there, but mostly on places where they would make sense. But most doors also have raised lines on the outside, so get your rescribing tool ready. Looking at the rear end of the kit, the engine exhaust with flame holder look pretty good. It’s molded in one piece, making it a lot easier to assemble without sacrificing a lot of detail. I’ve seen modern kits with less detail. Other parts of the kit are less impressive, there are little sink marks around the front undercarriage bay, but nothing too terrible. The rest of the parts seem free of (major) defects, although the wings suffer from flow marks. But that doesn’t really matter when you apply the paint. Speaking about the wings, they are a one-piece affair and are thin enough to look convincing, and getting them perfectly to scale in 1/72 would be neigh on impossible anyway.
Other stuff like the stores, in this case you get a set of one-piece sidewinders that can be mounted on the wing(tips) or on the centerline. This is also the place for the Orpheus reconnaissance pod, so you have to make up your mind beforehand. You also get a total of five fuel tanks: two for the wingtips, two under-wing and one centerline fuel tank. Unlike the sidewinders these are two-part affairs, as is the Orpheus pod, so they will need some sanding love when assembled. I’m not familiar with the German and Italian airforces, but the Dutch depiction of this kit flew without the Orpheus, as the 322 Sqn is purely a fighter wing. a special version of the F-104G, the RF-104G was flown by 306 Sqn. If you do want to use the Orpheus pod you’ll have to source 306 Sqn decals from somewhere. I guess Italeri couldn’t cram anymore decals on that packed decal sheet!
Decals and Color options
This kit comes with a few NATO color schemes:
- 🇮🇹 Aeronautica Militare: 3° Stormo, 28° Gruppo Streghe, 50000 Flying Hours, Verona-Villafranca 🇮🇹, 1992
- 🇮🇹 Aeronautica Militare: 3° Stormo, 28° Gruppo Streghe, Gulf War, Erach AB 🇹🇷, January 1991
- 🇮🇹 Aeronautica Militare: 3° Stormo, 132° Gruppo Grappa, Verona-Villafranca 🇮🇹, 1983
- 🇩🇪 Bundeswehr Luftwaffe: JaBoG 31 Boelcke, Norvenich 🇩🇪, 1983
- 🇳🇱 Royal Netherlands Airforce: 322 Sqn, Leeuwarden 🇳🇱, 1966
The box features the text “Super Decal sheet”, and boy: Italeri sure isn’t exaggerating in this case. This is one of the largest sheets for a 1/72 sheet I’ve seen to date. All decals are in perfect register and good colors, so I have no complaints here. In terms of color options you get a varied range of color schemes. The RNLAF is all-grey, the Luftwaffe version has some nice camouflage and for the Italians you get the historically significant versions: the 50.000 flying hours one and the one that served during the 1st Gulf War. Too bad that they didn’t opt to include one of the Dutch aircraft involved in the 1977 Dutch train hijacking. (Aircraft# D-6667, D-8104, D-8110, D-8115, D-8288 and D-8319)
The canopy is in fairly good shape, although a bit on the thick side and it suffers from distortion. If you opt to use the included canopy don’t bother wasting any money on an aftermarket cockpit, as most of it would be barely visible,
This is not the worlds best F-104 kit, but for the reasonable price it is a kit that can be built out of the box without sacrificing too much detail. And that’s surprising, because this kit is old.
- Vehicle: Lockheed-Martin F-104G Starfighter
- Manufacturer: Italeri
- Scale: 1/72
- Kit#: 1296
- Released: 2010
- Price: € 15