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F-4J Phantom II
"Showtime 100" - MiG Killer

by David W. Aungst

 

F-4J Phantom II

 


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Background

 

The date was 10 May 1972. In Vietnam, the first "Linebacker" aerial bombardment campaign had just started, and the day was a bad day for the Vietnamese Peoples Air Force with nearly a dozen aircraft being shot down in aerial engagements. LT. Randy "Duke" Cunningham and his RIO, LT(JG) Willie Driscoll, were participating in an alpha strike against the Haiphong Railyards in Vietnam. Three of the day's aerial victories were scored by "Duke" flying in "ShowTime 100", the F-4J that is the subject of this posting.

 

 

Exactly whom "Duke" shot down on his final kill of the day, the one that made him an ace, has been the subject of conjecture. Early on, sources claimed the pilot was the top Vietnamese ace known as "Col Tomb" in the media. Becoming an ace by shooting down the opposition's leading ace certainly makes this aerial duel one that books are written about. Later research, however, has shed more light on the subject. The attached article by Cookie Sewell outlines that "Col Tomb" was not the victim in Cunningham's historic dogfight. Instead, it was most likely an un-named pilot -- flight leader, squadron commander, or possibly the regimental commander -- of the 923rd Regiment.

Whoever the Vietnamese pilot was, the dogfight was historic, and the victory made "Duke" Cunningham the first US ace of the Vietnam conflict. An unfortunate ending to the story is that "Duke" himself was shot down by a surface to air missile on the egress back to the carrier after becoming an ace. Hence, "ShowTime 100", BuNo 155800, was lost within minutes of achieving her niche in the history books.

 

 

Construction

 

I was under a strict time constraint as this project was actually a prototype model that I was building for a collector's toy company. As such, the model is built out-of-the-box to the point that all the weapons and decals also came right in the box. Besides a short time allotment for building it, they also needed the model to represent what they were ultimately going to produce. A lot of extra details would not have served this purpose.

Unlike previous prototype models I have built for them, this was done with a plastic kit because the metal production kit was not yet available. The kit I used is the retooled F-4J from Hasegawa with engraved scribing. This is actually one of the better of the F-4 Phantom kits from Hasegawa, not that any of them are really bad. It is just that as the molds were refined, they improved various details and aspects.

After a quick one-hour paint job in the cockpit, I locked it inside the fuselage and had a fully assembled airframe within a few hours.

 

 

I did make a minor revision to the tops of the wings in that I ground down the large bumps that Hasegawa molds in the middle of the wing. These are reinforcing plates to strengthen the upper landing gear attachment points for carrier landings. They should be slightly raised, smooth humps in the surface, not the huge defined bumps as molded by Hasegawa. Five minutes with a Dremel flexible shaft tool reduced the size of these bumps to a more acceptable stature. The rest was done with sand paper to smooth off the remaining humps.

While not the exact weapons loading that "Duke" describes in his memories of the fateful mission, I chose to just use the kit-provided weapons. The kit provides a full air-to-air load with four Sparrow missiles and four AIM-9D Sidewinder missiles. They did not look too bad, and they were also cheap (already in the box).

For the record, "Duke" describes his weapons loading as two Sparrows in the rear wells, four Sidewinders, two TERs with Mk.20 "Rockeyes" on the inboard weapons pylons, and a centerline fuel tank. The forward Sparrow wells were empty as were the outboard wing pylons.

 

 

Painting and Markings

 

The model is painted entirely in Testors Model Master enamel paints and metalizers.

The camouflage on the model is the old standard of L.Gull Gray (F.S.36440) over a white bottom with the tops of the flight control surfaces also being white. I painted the white first and masked off the flight controls, and then I painted the Light Gull Gray. I freehand painted the line between the gray and white along the fuselage sides. Whether these colors were flat or gloss changed over time. Since I do not like shiny models, I flat coated the entire model at the completion of the project.

The engine exhaust area is painted in two shades of metalizers. I started with a base coating of Steel, and then applied Magnesium to the panels immediately behind the engine exhausts and to the center panels on the horizontal tails. The engine exhausts, themselves, are painted in Burnt Metal with flat black interiors. After a consultation with the toy company, they relayed that no weathering should be done to the model. Hence, the exhaust area was not blackened.

 

 

The markings on the model are for VF-96 "Fighting Falcons", off the USS Constellation. The markings are as correct as I could get them for the mission of 10 May 1972 when LT. Randy "Duke" Cunningham and his RIO, LT(JG) Willie Driscoll, flew into the history books as the first US aces of the Vietnam conflict.

Recent research I stumbled across on HyperScale's "Plane Talking" forum related that the authoritative set of markings worn by "ShowTime 100" on the 10 May mission were recorded in the painting by Mark Waki. Notable revisions from earlier markings were that the MiG silhouette on the forward vertical tail was removed and two kill flags were painted onto the forward engine intake splitter. This set of markings only existed for a few hours before the 10 May mission. As the aircraft was lost on the mission, this information is based mostly on the recollections of "Duke" on how the aircraft looked.

Click here to see a side profile created by Mark Waki showing the markings of "ShowTime 100" on 10 May 1972 and explaining the changes to the markings just prior to the mission.

I amended the Hasegawa kit decals to make these changes on the model. The kit decals include markings for "Duke's" assigned aircraft (NG#107, BuNo 155792) following the 10 May mission, the aircraft that actually had his name on the canopy rails. From this alternate set of kit markings, I obtained the solid black triangle for the forward vertical tail and the two kill flags for the intake splitter plate.

The application of decals to this model took quite a bit of time. Using only the Hasegawa provided decals, there are still 235 decals that need to be applied. That is 44 major decals (like the national insignia and unit markings) and 191 data decals. The top of each wing alone required 36 data decals. Fortunately, the Hasegawa decals responded quite well to Solv-a-set as a setting solution and had almost no silvering.

For weathering, as I mentioned earlier, the toy company had instructed me to not do any. I used my typical style of thinned down enamel paint washes and only highlighted the edges of the control surfaces. I also applied a light blackwash to highlight the detailing of the landing gear. I left the rest of the model otherwise clean and un-weathered.

 

 

Conclusion

 

I always wanted to build "ShowTime 100". It was a strange coincidence that the toy company wanted it and named 10 May 2002 as the due date for the project. I doubt that they have any clue concerning the importance of the date for that aircraft. But I knew it, and knowing that I was going to complete the model for the 30th anniversary of the historic MiG killing mission made it that much more interesting to build.

Overall, I am happy with the outcome of the project. The tight deadline forced me to gloss over some areas to which I would have liked to have paid more attention. I also would have preferred applying some weathering to the model, but I had to provide what the customer asked for.

 

 

I would like to take a moment to post a special thank you to Mike Long, Darren Roberts, Harald Verweij, and Pete Wenman. When I placed a request on the HyperScale message board looking for one-piece Hasegawa F-4 canopies for this project and a couple future projects, these gentlemen came to my rescue and sent me the spare canopies that they were not going to use. While not all of the canopies have arrived yet, I trust they will. All of them did it at no cost to me, in spite of my offering to pay. Thanks, guys. You are part of what makes this hobby great.

 

 

Addendum - MiG to Rhino Comparison

 

Here are a couple more pictures. While the MiG is not in the actual camouflage that the MiG was which "Duke" shot down for his fifth kill, it is in Vietnamese markings and provides a good comparison for the relative sizes of the two aircraft.

 

 

The MiG 17 model is built by one of my model club friends, Walt Hughes, who let me borrow the model for a bit so I could take these comparison shots.

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

 

Additional Images and Project Summary

 

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

Project Statistics

Completion Date:

7 May, 2002

Total Building Time:

28.3

Research:

0.0

Construction:

7.6

Painting (includes creation and printing of custom decals):

10.7

Decals / Markings (includes creating and printing custom decals):

10.0

Extra Detailing / Conversion:

0.0

Model, Description and Images Copyright 2002 by David Aungst
MiG Model by Walt Hughes
Page Created 10 May, 2002
Last Updated 04 June, 2007

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