F-5E Tiger II


Kit Manufacturer




Out of Box (OOB) or Modified

Rating (1-10 10=best)

F-5E Tiger II




Underwing stores


After US Air Force pilots reported their experiences in Korea, manufacturers started working on more maneuverable, lighter aircraft. Northrop had been working on one for a while, known by the name of the "Fang." This did not lead to a contract, but the design was changed for a lightweight fighter. This aircraft was used as a basic configuration for the T-38 Talon trainer, F-5A and F-5B fighter aircraft. While the USAF wasn't interested, they were persuaded to give these initial aircraft a test in combat in Vietnam - the "Skoshi Tiger" tests. The aircraft were modified with a refuelling probe, flown across the Pacific, then turned around and went on their first attack mission. These proved to be a huge success, with high reliability and availability, and convinced other nations (under a Mutual Assistance Program for US allies) to take delivery of F-5A and B (two seat) aircraft.

Further development in aerodynamics and engines led to the F-5E and F (the C designation going to those aircraft used in the Skoshi Tiger tests.) These were procured in small numbers by the US Air Force and Navy for their "Top Gun" / Air Combat Maneuvering schools, as performance - and size - wise they were a close match for the very numerous MiG-21. Being cheaper and easier to maintain than the F-15 and F-16 type aircraft, many US allies also purchased these upgraded aircraft, as well - something that would not happen with the later F-20 Tigershark.

In box review

I've always liked the F-5 family of aircraft. They, to me, are one of the best expressions of what a fighter should be, and have a graceful, sometimes "coiled cobra" look to them. This kit was recently reissued, and it's the only 1/48 F-5E out there. This kit will provide markings and instructions for one Top Gun and one Nellis USAF Adversary aircraft - a popular subject, and there are more available with aftermarket decals. There are also decals available (not in the kit) for other nationalities using the F-5 - a plus if you want to use the laser-guided bombs and gun pods (!) supplied in the kit. (Aggressor aircraft need maneuverability, something greatly decreased by hanging things under the wings. Not to mention the shown loadout is too heavy - and illogical - for the aircraft.)

The kit provides a standing pilot figure, boarding ladders, and two noses - the regular "pointed" one and the "Tigereye" recon variant (!) (I believe there is more modification to this variant, and it would not be used on an Adversary aircraft.) If you want to model one of the aircraft with a flat, "Tigershark" nose, Cutting Edge makes a resin conversion. Again, unless you want to use an aftermarket sheet, ignore the underwing stores. For an aggressor aircraft, you'll also want to turn one AIM-9 into a "dummy" missile (blue body) and ignore the other - stretch some sprue into an ACMI "needle" pod for the other wingtip.

The build

8/2012 - I actually start building!

I started building two of these at once. And have another and an F-5F on the way - I'm going to be building a lot of these. Lacking an airbrush and compressor (no more cans - really, no more,) I tackled two silver aircraft. One, from another boxing, in the silver presentation scheme. Another will be a silver Aggressor, using Twobobs decals.

The build is - simple. The cockpit is four pieces total (five if you count the gunsight,) and building it takes the first step. This really could be improved by a resin cockpit - or, going and building the AFV Club F-5, which, being far newer, has far more detail. Still, I'm more interested in the schemes, and the Monogram kit, especially on eBay, is far cheaper.

Once painted and built - I did both kits at once - you trim up the nose guns and fit them in, fit the cockpit in, and glue the bottom of the fuselage to the top. Yes, this starts looking like an airplane at step two, part of why I like the kit, I have to admit! I used clamps from the dollar store (two inch) to clamp the wings together. The molds aren't the most accurate - the raised lines are fairly soft, and when (not if) you have to sand, you will lose them. Prepare to do some putty work - it seems one side will line up nicely, and the other won't.

The biggest problem with the kit is the see-through nature. Once finished, unless something is done, you'll look in the intakes and see right out the exhaust. You can get resin engines if you like. I ended up pasting some cardboard - fairly simple - to the inside of the intakes. I'd prefer some sort of "engine-y detail," and the hi-tech kit release apparently has some photoetch to help. I'm not, at this point, up to all the aftermarket offerings. I'd suggest, though, creating at least a small tube and capping the end of that, then gluing it to the exhausts inside, so they don't just "end." Either that or get or make covers for them - which can add some different color, and are simply made out of tissue, glue and paint. (Or resin, if you can find them.)

Overall, the build flew together. I did, admittedly, rush a little. One needed a bit more putty, and I should, frankly, have rescribed the lines - but didn't have a straightedge or a nice guide (or scriber, and I don't trust myself with an XActo #11 doing that.) Doing silver - and note these are not natural metal but painted silver - requries a bit better sanding than I did, as well - need to get finer sandpaper to do this with. The intakes were put in - I brushpainted (sort of well.... again, could be better) white inside, and glued them in. They really seem to need sliding up from the bottom of the LEX, thanks to the shape, not just slipping in from the front - so don't trim.


Scheme 1: Presentation F-5E

Ahh, the old colorful national markings, so nice compared to the grey on grey of modern aircraft. And so... big lookign on this! The blue stripe (3 pieces per side) is... frankly, a pain, and it doesn't react to setting solution well in the least. None of them did - they're happy to curl and wrinkle, but nto settle. For monogram decals... just use hot water.

Painted with Tamiya TS-10 silver. Nose and white areas brush painted - it really needs a coat of semi-gloss to blend everything in and protect the decals, plus even out the finish. The main canopy is just sitting on the rails, waiting for a replacement.

A greyish wash will help bring out the detail on the landing gear instead of these white blocks.

Didn't notice the wing warp 'til late - warm water and a clamp will fix that.