Wednesday, April 13

Decal Review: F-4 Phantom Decal Sets in 1/48th scale from Eduard

Eduard's recent foray into decals is the subject of Gary's review. Two F-4 Phantom sets from the Vietnam War era & stencils to match. All in great detail and in several choices of Navy & Marine schemes. He looks at all three in his review today...

Decal Review: F-4 Phantom Decal Sets in 1/48th scale from Eduard
F-4B Good Morning Da Nang (D48096)
F-4B Marines (D48095)
F-4B Stencils (D48094)
Product Link on the Eduard Website
Eduard is well known to us all as makers of aftermarket accessories and kits. Eduard has evolved from a small company that focused on photo-etch detail sets to today being a market leader in injection molded kits and detail accessories across the board. I've personally used Eduard resin and photoetch on many builds and more recently they have ventured into 3D decals and even 3D printing.

In the background Eduard have also been designing their own decals, mainly for inclusion in their own model kits. Early on they outsourced the printing of the decals to companies like Cartograph, but since around 2018 they have bought this back in house. I had never really thought about Eduard as a "decal manufacturer" but they certainly have the skills and knowledge to expand their accessory range into that market as well.

In response to the release by Tamiya of their new tooled F-4B in 1:48, Eduard have released a series of standalone decal sheets designed specifically for the Tamiya kit. In this review I take a close look at what you get in three of those sets.

F-4B Good Morning Da Nang
Eduard Decals 
1:48th scale
Kit No #D48096
Price: 19.95 US$
Product Link on the Eduard Website
This comprehensive set, consisting of three decal sheets, is designed specifically to fit the new Tamiya F-4B kit and sports the exact same five Vietnam themed marking options that Eduard included in their previous "Good Morning Da Nang" Limited Edition kit. It makes sense that rather than re-invent the wheel that they would use the artwork and research done for that kit and simply rework it to fit the Tamiya F-4B. The set includes three markings for USN F-4B's and two markings for USMC F-4B's.
The decals are printed by Eduard themselves (they seem to have given up on using third party printers such as Cartograph) and this means they utilise the new Eduard "removal carrier film" which means you will either love them or hate them (I personally have not yet decided which).
This one set provides an excellent range of options including the ever-popular Sundowners (VF-111) and Jolly Rogers (VF-84) that flew the F-4 Phantom and subsequently moved to the F-14 Tomcat.
Fighter Squadron 111 (VF-111), also known as the Sundowners, was originally established as Attack Squadron 156 (VA-156) on 4 June 1955, it was redesignated VF-111 on 20 January 1959, the day after the original VF-111 was disestablished. The squadron was redesignated VF-26 on 1 September 1964, redesignated as VF-111 on 17 September 1964 and disestablished on 31 March 1995.
VF-111 was assigned to Attack Carrier Air Wing 15 (CVW-15) aboard the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) for a deployment to Vietnam from 12 November 1971 to 17 July 1972.
VFA-161, nicknamed the Chargers, was established at NAS Cecil Field as Fighter Squadron VF-161 on 1 September 1960. It moved to NAS Miramar on 19 September 1961, and to Naval Station Yokosuka, Japan. On 1 April 1986, the squadron was redesignated VFA-161. It was disestablished on 1 April 1988.
The squadron made 9 deployments during the Vietnam War. The markings chosen by Eduard for this sheet represent the period when VF-161 was deployed on USS Midway, from 10 April 1972 to 3 March 1973. [source: wikipedia]
VF-84, Fighter Squadron 84 was originally established as VA-86 on 1 July 1955, it was immediately redesignated as VF-84, it was disestablished on 1 October 1995. It was the third US Navy squadron to be designated as VF-84. The squadron was nicknamed the Jolly Rogers and was based at NAS Oceana.
In 1964, VF-84 transitioned to the F-4 Phantom II and flew the F-4B, F-4J and the F-4N until they transitioned to the F-14 Tomcat in early 1976. In 1965 the squadron deployed for seven months on board Independence in the Gulf of Tonkin and flew 1507 combat sorties, logging 2200 flight hours over both North Vietnam and South Vietnam. [source: wikipedia]
VMF-323 was commissioned August 1, 1943 at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. According to oral history, the squadron got its name "Death Rattlers" from three fighter pilots who killed a 6-foot (1.8 m) rattlesnake and hung its skin in the squadron's ready room.
As the United States grew closer to war in South Vietnam, the Death Rattlers deployed to Da Nang Air Base beginning on October 25, 1965. Combat operations started the day after they arrived. The squadron lost its first aircraft a week after they arrived when the squadron's executive officer was shot down by a surface-to-air missile over North Vietnam. It was the only Marine F-4 felled by a SAM during the war. The squadron remained in Vietnam until 1969, flying combat sorties from Da Nang and Chu Lai. [source: wikipedia]
Marine Attack Squadron 542 was initially commissioned as Marine Night Fighter Squadron 542 (VMF(N)-542) on March 6, 1944, at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. Between August 1959 and November 1963, VMF(AW)-542 made two extended deployments to Atsugi, Japan. On November 2, 1963, the Squadron was re-designated Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 542 (VMFA-542) and began training in the F-4B Phantom in place of the F-6 Skyray.
While serving in Vietnam, the Tigers furnished air support to ground forces in some of the largest land operations of the war. Included in these operations were: Utah, Texas, Prairie, Union, Kingfisher, Fremont, Allen Brook, Napoleon/Saline, Lancaster, Scotland, Nevada Eagle and Idaho Canyon. Close air support missions were not only flown on behalf of Marine ground personnel but also for American Army units and at times for South Vietnamese forces and for elements of the South Korean Marine Corps. In addition, the Tigers flew bombing missions in both Laos and North Vietnam. [source: wikipedia]

F-4B Marines
Eduard Decals 
1:48th scale
Kit No #D48095
Price: 19.95 US$
This decal set includes three decal sheets, covering five aircraft and is sized specifically to fit the new Tamiya F-4B kit. As the name implies the focus is on US Marine Corp squadrons who flew the F-4B Phantom. Whilst the USMC aircraft are not known for being the most colourful, this sheet does include a very eye-catching scheme for VMFA-321 Hells Angels.
Four of the five included schemes are for F-4B aircraft that had been retrofitted with the later "slotted" stabilisers. 
Luckily Tamiya provides both stabilisers (slotted and unslotted) in the kit so make sure you pay attention during construction.
Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 531 (VMFA-531) was a United States Marine Corps fighter squadron, known as the "Grey Ghosts”. The squadron participated in action during World War II and the Vietnam War. They were decommissioned on March 27, 1992.
The subject of this marking option is quite unique as it represents aircraft BuNo 151477 whilst serving aboard the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (R09). VMFA-531 was assigned to Attack Carrier Air Group 17 (CVW-17) aboard the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal (CVA-59) for a deployment to the Mediterranean Sea from 22 September 1972 to 6 July 1973. However, this F-4B 151477, tail code AA-207, had cross-decked to the Ark, but then went unserviceable before the ship put into port in Malta. The presence of a US aircraft aboard a British warship was problematic to the Maltese, so they repainted her tail and put craft paper over her stars & bars during the port call, from 23 February to 6 March 1973.
Marine Fighter Squadron 321 was redesignated Marine Fighter Attack Squadron VMFA-321 in December 1973, when it became the first Marine Air Reserve squadron to receive the F-4 Phantom II aircraft. The designation, which remains today, indicated the dual fighter/attack mission. Aircrew and maintenance personnel began preparing for the new aircraft long before its arrival, and on January 15, 1974, VMFA-321 made its first Phantom flight.
The subject of this marking option is aircraft BuNo 151449, which in 1976, for the nation's 200th birthday, was painted in a distinctive Bicentennial color scheme. Light blue replaced the black dorsal spine and tail fin, with white stars against the blue background. [source: wikipedia]
Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 531 (VMFA-531) was a United States Marine Corps fighter squadron, known as the "Gray Ghosts”. The squadron participated in action during World War II and the Vietnam War. They were decommissioned on March 27, 1992.
This marking option represents an F-4B of VMFA-531 when assigned to Attack Carrier Air Group 17 (CVW-17) aboard the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal (CVA-59) for a deployment to the Mediterranean Sea from 22 September 1972 to 6 July 1973 [source: wikipedia]
Marine Fighter Squadron 122 (VMF-122) was commissioned on March 1, 1942 at Camp Kearny in San Diego, California. Today the squadron is based out of Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, AZ and now flies the F-35B Lightning.
In 1964, VMF(AW)-122 deployed to Naval Air Facility Atsugi for a year and returned to Marine Corps Air Station El Toro in January 1965. While at MCAS El Toro they transitioned to the F-4B Phantom and were redesignated VMFA-122. They deployed to the Republic of Vietnam in August 1967 and operated from Da Nang Air Base. For the next five months, the squadron flew 2540 sorties and delivered 4800 tons of ordnance. In February 1968, while supporting Marines during the Siege of Khe Sanh the squadron flew 629 sorties and dropped 1300 tons of ordnance. [source: wikipedia]
Marine Attack Squadron 513 was first commissioned as VMF-513 on February 15, 1944 at Marine Corps Auxiliary Field Oak Grove, North Carolina, flying the Grumman F6F Hellcat. Known as the "Flying Nightmares", the squadron has a proud history. It was decommissioned on 12 July 2013 and its tradition has carried on with Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 502 (VMFAT-502)
On August 1, 1963, the squadron was re-designated VMFA-513 and by the end of the year, the Nightmares were exclusively flying F-4's, the third Phantom II squadron in the Marine Corps. They trained in the F-4B at MCAS El Toro through October 1964, when they deployed once again to NAS Atsugi, Japan. In June 1965, the Nightmares replaced VMFA-531 at Da Nang Air Base, South Vietnam for five months of combat and, for a while, were the only Marine jet fighters in-country. In August 1965, VMFA-513 supported the 7th Marine Regiment in Operation Starlite – the first major American operation of the war. The squadron flew the F-4B "Phantom" until June 30, 1970, when it was re-commissioned in a cadre status, awaiting delivery of the first Marine AV-8A Harrier on April 16, 1971 [source: wikipedia]

F-4B Stencils
Eduard Decals 
1:48th scale
Kit No #D48094
Price: 12.95 US$
Last but not least is a dedicated F-4B hi-viz stencil set. Designed again for the Tamiya kit, this set includes the copious amount of stencils fitted to US Navy aircraft, like the Phantom, during the hi-vis years. 
Tamiya do provide a generous quantity of stencils in the kit decal sheet but even they recognise that some F-4 modellers will want to recreate each and every stencil which is why the have produced their own separate "Detail-Up" Stencil Sheet (12692) to supplement the kit decals.
The Eduard set appears to be very complete, covering all parts of the airframe, including the pylons and gear doors which often get passed over. High resolution printing allows important details to be visible (even with the naked eye). The text is often readable (under magnification) and Eduard have done their homework in terms of accuracy.

CONCLUSION - Eduard 1:48 Tamiya F-4B Decal Sets (D48094, D48095, D48096)
A very welcome addition to the Eduard line-up, these standalone decal sets are of excellent quality and come backed by the well known Eduard research. I know that the new "removable carrier film" now found on all Eduard decals (kit or standalone) will put some modellers off but if you are comfortable with this then these sheets offer some unique and colourful markings to use on your Tamiya F-4B kit(s).

Priced around the US$20 mark for the main marking sheets and US$13 for the stencils I think these represent pretty good value for money.

Gary Wickham

Check out the Eduard Website for more information on all of their releases...
You can see more of Gary's model making on his website