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Jay Chladek

1/48 VNAF F-5A

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Okay, throwing my hat into the ring with an F-5A from the Vietnamese Air Force, as used during the Vietnam conflict by the 23rd wing, 522nd Squadron in 1969. For this build I am using the 1/48 scale Kinetic model kit and trying to keep modifications to a minimum. But, I still may add the armor plating to the belly of my jet as the VNAF was known to do back then. But most importantly, I am not using any aftermarket resin and trying to use kit parts as much as possible.

History:

At the completion of the F-5C Skoshi Tiger evaluation, the USAF turned over the F-5Cs they sent to the VNAF. At the same time, the first class of VNAF pilots were completing F-5 training state-side. All the VNAF pilots were combat experienced A-1 Skyraider drivers and many had also dodged getting killed by the Vietcong as well. Additional new build F-5As, Bs and RF-5As were also sent to Vietnam to bolster the ranks. For the Vietnamese, this was their first fast attack jet and they got a lot of use out of the aircraft until the very end of the war.

Kinetic's kit is the best F-5A you can find in 1/48 and the quality shows in the moldings. The kit contains parts for multiple variants, specifically the CF-5 and NF-5 models built by Canada. It takes a bit of work to figure out what bits are supposed to be used for a plane jane F-5A. Work naturally started with the cockpit:

f5ackpit1_zpsqbqrhqkh.jpg

f5ackpit3_zps3awwxrqx.jpg

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If there is one thing I do not like about the kit is the instrument panel. For one thing, Kinetic doesn't provide a decal for the panel and there are no instrument needle details, just round blank faces. It took a bit of photo study and some scrap panel decals to figure out what went where. There is one other problem with the panel as it features a Marconi Avionics HUD, as was fitted to CF-5As in the late 1980s. Most F-5s feature a simplified gunsight arrangement with a much smaller HUD box and glass as original equipment. The F-5Cs sent to Nam had a lead computing gunsight, but I am pretty sure these were replaced with the standard F-5A sight before being turned over the the VNAF as this was just fine for ground attack (still a smaller HUD box than the Marconi unit). Subsequent F-5As had the standard gunsight. It took a bit of work with a set of files to size the HUD box down a bit to something I was comfortable with. I will likely do some other modifications once I fit the cockpit into the fuselage as well.

The detailing on the side consoles was adequate, so after painting them black, I used colored pencils to pick out the switch and button detailing. This isn't my best cockpit, but it will do the job. I'll leave the ejection seat out until after I finish the majority of the paint and decal work.

Edited by Jay Chladek

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Construction is going nicely on this model. The somewhat complicated looking fuselage construction does look a bit tricky, but as long as you take the time to test fit, things seem to be lining up just fine. One departure I did from the instructions though was not to assemble the front and rear sections before gluing them together. Instead after getting the nose assembled, I glued the rear upper fuselage and tail section on right then and there and doing it this way seems to take care of the dreaded seam some other modelers have encountered (or at least minimizes it rather nicely).

f5fuselage4_zpse1q6nspe.jpg

I assembled the intake trunks and primered them in white, but I didn't worry too much about the internal seams since they won't be seen all that much. I also went ahead and painted the insides of each intake before assembly in SEA camo dark tan and dark green respectively to help lessen the workload when it comes time for paint. So far except for the rear upper fuselage and the short bottom piece that extends from the wing root to the nose, I've only got the wings and lower rear fuselage taped on to test fit the assembly. Looks like things are fitting together as they should and I see no unsightly gaps at all.

f5fuselage1_zps7uyb4zkk.jpg

I do see some areas where a light application of filler will be needed, but so far this model is nothing that a little liquid weld glue can't handle. I'm using the very last of the Ambroid Proweld I have to assemble this one. If I run out I have a bottle of Micro Mark's "Same Stuff" ready to back it up and yes, it is IDENTICAL to Ambroid Proweld in chemical makeup and how it works on the model. It even evaporates overnight if you leave the cap off (I lost about half a bottle doing that)!

f5fuselage2_zpsd0ylkf3t.jpg

f5fuselage3_zpsyi0bomtn.jpg

One other tidbit I will leave you with involves the wings and the control surfaces. I did not droop the flaps on my model because flaps only go down if there is somebody in the cockpit to do that. But, when an F-5A (or a T-38) is parked, typically the ailerons have a slight amount of droop to them if the hydraulic system is not pressurized. How pronounced the droop is will depend on how long the jet has been parked. The same thing goes for the leading edge slats (only the F-5 has slats, not the T-38). In F-5A pictures, I've seen anywhere from no slat droop, to a slight slat droop, to almost a full slat droop on Greek F-5s. I haven't glued the slats on my model, but I will probably go for a slight droop after painting the model. Anyway, here is an image of the aileron droop I've added:

ailerondroop1_zpschwniuiv.jpg

So that is where I am at for the time being. This is a pretty fun model so far. The only gaps I have encountered seem to be from the intakes to the fuselage. I may try to shim them with a little 10 thousandths sheet styrene before I glue the intakes on. There needs to still be a panel line there, but at least it won't be a canyon.

Edited by Jay Chladek

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Awesome start Jay. Will this bird have the yellow/black checkerboard on the fuselage? I built up a Skoshi Tiger for a customer several years back using the Fujimi kit as a start. Ended up getting it back a couple years ago and have thought about a repaint into VNAF colors. I'd have to strip off the scratch built refueling probe though.

What ordinance do you plan to hang?

Don

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If I do it up as a VNAF F-5A, I will do the checkerboard area. However, I am trading FB posts with a Vietnamese artist/modeler in Australia and he has shown me a couple pictures of VNAF F-5s painted in a totally different SEA camo pattern (it was SEA too, not Asia Minor desert scheme like one of the ex-Iranian jets handed over to the VNAF before the 1973 cease fire). One of the images had the jet equipped with Sidewinders and the tail number had a "63-" prefix, meaning it was an original Skoshi Tiger F-5C before it was handed over to the VNAF and if he can supply me additional shots from other angles of that camo pattern, I may end up doing that paintjob instead, even though it lacked the checkerboard.

I haven't found a concrete reason for the different paintjob, but my working theory is since the F-5Cs of Skoshi Tiger flew quite a number of hours before the VNAF got ahold of them, they likely would have needed some heavy depot maintenance by the late 1960s and early 70s. So that would give the reason for a full repaint and perhaps the VNAF went with a totally different camo pattern to help distinguish them from F-5As since the F-5Cs had lead computing gunsights and could be wired more easily for Sidewinder capability, making them more ideally suited for CAP duties until the F-5Es came online. But the Cs were still used with the As for ground attack sorties as well.

One thing I was told is by the early 1970s, the VNAF were apparently ordered to not spend so much time painting their aircraft and that is when the yellow and black checkerboards went bye bye. It could also be that since the U.S. was pulling completely out of Vietnam by 1973, there was no longer a need to visually distinguish between VNAF and USAF jets in theater as it looks like the spine stripes were put on also for ID purposes in addition to squadron distinction. I know for a time the F-5A fleet went with white three letter codes to determine which squadron an aircraft was from, but that didn't happen with the F-5Es (which only operated for a little less than a year before Saigon fell).

Personally, I would love to keep the checkerboard since it gives the jets a nice bit of color. So I may still do it as an F-5A. But, this different camo scheme is very tempting and I would love to have an F-5C in my fleet.

As for ordnance, if I do it as a C it will probably have winders on the wings and gas bags. If it is an A, I'll probably go either the iron bomb or rocket pod route since those are provided in the kit. I would like to go with napalm canisters, but I don't have any in my stash in 1/48.

Edited by Jay Chladek

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Your F-5 is looking nice so far. I spent 3 years at Tan Son Nhut between 1965 and 1972, so I saw a lot of VNAF aircraft of all varieties.

Darwin

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I think I've found enough photos to do this alternative SEA camo scheme now. I did some major scouring online and my Aussie friend came though with some other stuff. I just need to finish assembling the fuselage and wings so I can start work on the really fun stuff... the paint. :)

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Minor bump. I hope to have some images up of my progress by the weekend. I have to get this bird finished by next Wednesday for a Vietnam theme contest. The reason for the delay had to do with the canopy is I accidentally cracked the first one. Thankfully I got one in the mail from Kinetic relatively quick. Seam cleanup on the main body is just about done and I hope to be able to go right into paint pretty quick.

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Okay, things are steadily moving on with my F-5. I should be ready to primer and paint tomorrow. No guarantee I will be ready for Wednesday evening, but I am having fun with this.

I got the wingtip tanks and the pylons on. The tanks were a little tricky as it has been well documented that Kinetic's F-5A kit only has two left side tanks. So it took some modification to turn one into a right wing tank. If I had opted to go with a CAP bird based at DaNang with the Sidewinder rails installed, it wouldn't have been an issue. But ground attack was the bread and butter of these jets. So on went the tanks and pylons.

f5pylons1_zpsge1odvge.jpg

The outer wing pylons have been an issue of controversy since with the way they are molded, there is no way to display the leading edge flaps drooped. It freaked me out as to what was wrong until I realized that the outer pylons have a spring loaded door section on the leading edge, which drops when the flaps do to help maintain clean aerodynamics there. So Kinetic molded the pylons right, but didn't represent the flipper door scribes. A few passes with a file helped to "drop" the door section a little for a typical flap at rest position and I'll just draw on the door scribes with pencil during the paint stage.

f5pylons2_zps6ot4ivta.jpg

On the underside of the jet, I used some thin .01 styrene to represent the 90 lbs. of lead armor plate that was fitted to the Skoshi Tiger F-5Cs and remaining original VNAF F-5As (17 single seater jets in all) when ownership of the planes was transferred from the USAF to the VNAF. Later loaned MAP jets from the "Enhance" program in 1972-73 did not have the armor patches. The armor plating was used in defense of ground fire and the jets used in Nam were the only F-5s to ever mount it.

f5pylons3_zpsrbfwgkfg.jpg

Overall, I like how this is turning out.

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Looking great so far Jay. Was totally unaware about the armor plating the VNAF and Skoshi Tiger birds carried. Can't wait to see all painted up.

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