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