Wild Hare Ass'n 1/32 Phantom FG.1/FGR.2 Super Massive Conversion First Look
|Date of Review||February 2008||Manufacturer||Wild Hare Ass'n|
|Subject||Phantom FG.1/FGR.2 Super Massive Conversion||Scale||1/32|
|Kit Number||WHA32001||Primary Media||Resin|
|Pros||Converts the Tamiya 1/32 F-4C/D or F-4J into the British Phantom FG.1 or FGR.2||Cons||Very limited production|
|Skill Level||Advanced||MSRP (USD)||Out of Production|
In the early 1960s, the Royal Navy had planned on procuring the Hawker Siddeley P.1154 to replace its fleet of Sea Vixen fighters. As with many aggressive development programs, P.1154 was rising in cost and falling behind schedule, leading the Royal Navy to cancel the program. To fill the void, the British government decided to procure the American F-4 Phantom II that was in service with the US Navy and entering service with the USAF. To make the foreign procurement more palatable to Parliament, the British Phantom would be powered by the Rolls Royce Spey.
The carrier-based version, designated as F-4K in the US, entered service with the Royal Navy as Phantom FG.1. Due to other considerations at the time, only one aircraft carrier was suited for Phantom operations – HMS Ark Royal. The aircraft would only equip one operational squadron during its service with the Royal Navy, 892 Sqn. In 1978, Ark Royal, was retired and the Phantoms of 892 Sqn (and the training squadrons) were transferred to the RAF in the air defense role, equipping 111 Sqn at RAF Leuchars, Scotland, replacing their former aircraft – the Lightning. These Phantoms would remain in service until 1990, when they were retired in favor of the Tornado F.3.
Meanwhile, the RAF was also looking for a higher performance replacement for their aging fleet of Hunters. The F-4M was developed by McDonnell Douglas for the RAF requirements and was also powered by the Spey. When delivered to the UK, these aircraft became Phantom FGR.2 and would also displace the aging reconnaissance Canberra. When a parallel aircraft development came online, the SEPECAT Jaguar strike aircraft, Phantoms were freed up from their strike missions to help replace the remaining Lightning interceptors remaining in service. By 1991, these aircraft were in turn retired in favor of the Tornado F.3.
Wild Hare Ass'n is a new product line from Meteor Productions that deals with very limited run conversion products. The first one off the production line was serialed as number two, the 1/32 F-16XL Conversion for the Tamiya Viper kit. That release was an impressive bit of casting to make the resin parts interchangeable with the kit's styrene parts, but that set has nothing on this release.
Cast in gray resin (except for the seamless intake trunks cast in white resin), this conversion is designed to work with the Tamiya 1/32 F-4J Phantom II kits. You can see in the first three photos to the right the resin fuselage in the foreground with Tamiya's styrene fuselage in the background. It is hard for me to fathom how Meteor can produce such high quality castings in such large scale, but you can clearly see that the resin parts are just as thin and detailed as the styrene parts they replace.
At first glance, you might wonder what is really different about this conversion. You can see the large gap in the resin casting around the intakes to accommodate the new seamless intake trunks. This is a very delicate bit of casting which became very apparent to me as I gazed into the eyes of two very eager cats who wanted to play with my new Phantom fuselage. Sorry kids...
Comparing the fuselage and large fuselage/wing bottom castings to their styrene counterparts reveal the various subtle and not-so-subtle bits of reengineering to accommodate the Rolls Royce Spey engines. The areas around the intakes and afterburner nozzles are definitely different. The Speys required larger intakes to feed the airmass into the engines much like the GE engines required larger intakes with the F-16C. This set definitely nails that detail.
As you can see in the remaining parts images that this set provides a new heat-shield underside for the tail section, the white-cast intake trunks, the multi-part afterburner chambers, nozzles, and compressor faces. New slatless stabilators are included for those British Phantoms that were so-equipped. Check your references. Two replacement fin caps are provided - the standard fin cap with the relocated nav light, and the box cap that houses the ECM gear on the later versions of both Phantom types.
Two sets of Martin-Baker H5 ejection seats are included, one pair with seatbelts and harnesses, the other pair without. The Tamiya kit includes the H7 seats that British Phantom were upgraded, starting in the early 1970s.
Two small bags of parts of detail parts round out the resin conversion that include the fuselage-mounted auxiliary air doors, parachute housing door, nose gear torque links, antennas, splitter plate supports, and much more.
You'll also notice the white metal nose gear strut that is also included in this set. It represents the jacked-up configuration that the FG.1 took at catapult launch to get as much lift as possible off that short catapult stroke.
To be honest, I don't know what is more impressive about this conversion, the exquisite resin castings, or the four large and three smaller sheets of decals to render your choice of eleven (11!) schemes:
- FGR.2, XT914, Z, 74 Sqn/56 Sqn
- FGR.2, XT914, Z, 74 Sqn
- FGR.2, XV408, Z, 92 Sqn, RAF Wildenrath, 1991 IAT
- FGR.2, XV426, P, 56 Sqn, RAF Wildenrath, 1991
- FGR.2, XV481, G, 19 Sqn, RAF Wildenrath
- FGR.2, XV462, 17 Sqn, RAF Bruggen, 1974
- FG.1, XV571, 43 Sqn, RAF Leuchars, 70th Anniversary Acft, 1986
- FGR.2, XV495, 41 Sqn, RAF Coningsby
- FG.1, XV582, M, 111 Sqn, RAF Leuchars, 1990
- FG.1, XV590, R, 892 Sqn, HMS Ark Royal, 1978
- FG.1, XV590, R, 892 Sqn, 'Colonial Navy', NAS Oceana
Meteor also produced one additional set of markings as an option. These are the last two large sheets decals in the stack to the right, plus a special overlay set from PYN-Up for the gold RAF overlays here:
Of course these optional markings are for my favorite scheme:
- FGR.2, XV424, 56 Sqn, RAF Whattisham, 'Alcock and Browne' Commemorative Scheme
As you can see for yourself, the printing of all of these decals are very nicely done. The low and high visiblility colors are well captured as are the decal renditions of the chalked-on sharkmouth and Phantom logo on XV481.
I was rather startled by all of the controversy over the the pre-order terms laid out clearly by Meteor Productions. I didn't hesitate to give them my own credit card number and I was happy to see this beauty arrive in the mail. As with the F-16XL set, this was a VERY limited edition release with only 80-something of these planned for production. Given the complexity of the rubber molds, I am impressed they produced that many! If you didn't get one, you've really missed out on this opportunity as I don't think we'll ever see this variant again in 1/32 scale unless Tamiya or Trumpeter decide to do this in styrene. If they do, I'll have a few more subjects to choose from with this awesome decal set.
Definitely recommended (if you can find one)!