F-4J Phantom II (Late v.) Cockpit Set

Published: October 22nd, 2020     
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Aires 1/48th Scale F-4J Phantom II (late v.) cockpit set
Reviewed by: Michael Novosad - IPMS# 36721
Price: $32.00
Product / Stock #: 4762
Product provided by: Aires Hobby Models

Contents Description

The resin/photo etch upgrade set comes packaged in the typical Aires blister pack fixed to a heavy stock paper backer, with industrial strength staples holding everything in place. The set includes the cockpit tub with side consoles and integral rear bulkheads for the pilot and back seater positions, two ejection seats, side walls for both positions, front combing with integral instrument panel, rear seat instrument panel, and separate pilot's control column and some smaller parts. Also included is a small PE fret with seat belts, instrument panel faces, rear view mirrors, rudder pedals and other small details. In addition, a small film is provided that includes the various instrument dial faces. This film is part of a sandwich requiring cutting to shape, with placement between the resin and PE panel faces. All of the individual resin parts require the removal from casting blocks before the parts can be fitted in the model.

The castings and photoetch offer a somewhat higher level of detail than found in the kit. The ejection seats are exceptional and include slightly wrinkled fabric surfaces.

The Zoukei Mura Kit Parts

The ZM kit includes two ejection seats, each made up from six parts, and there are no seat belts/restraints included with the kit. The cockpit tub is made from eight parts, plus two bulkheads with separate seat guide rails, instrument panels, consoles, separate control column, side panel and two emergency canopy release levers. I am certain that I missed some parts, but there are many parts to the assembly. The ZM instructions are very detailed when addressing the assembly, and also offers colors that will be useful when painting the cockpit. Multiple decals are also included for the instrument panels.

Raised detail on the fuselage sides must be removed before the resin cockpit will fit properly between the two halves.

Aires Instructions

The instructions are provided on a fold single sheet, printed on both sides, with assembly steps noted. Steps i and 2 address the fitting of PE parts with the clear canopies. Step 3 covers the three resin and PE parts involved in the pilot's instrument panel. This third step also includes the placement of film between the resin and PE instrument panel face. Step 4 shows the placement of two small PE parts, while step 5 addresses the rear cockpit instrument panel. Step 6 details the placement of the PE on the two ejection seats. Lastly step 7 brings all the previous assemblies together for the finished cockpit, ready to be fitted in the model's fuselage.

The exploded views in the various steps are fairly large and therefore clearly show where all the parts go. Part numbers are included in the various steps. There is a block of fine print with step 6 that reminds the modeler that thinning of the plastic parts and dry fitting of the resin parts is needed. There are no notations for paint colors required.

Preparation and Test-Fitting

Having used Aires resin cockpits in other builds I recognized the need to test fit frequently to determine just how much surplus resin and kit plastic must be removed before the kit and resin parts can be brought together for a proper fit. It is unfortunate that the instructions are not very explicit on how much plastic must be removed. In addition, it would be nice if the manufacturer would have noted the need to utilize specific kit parts to complete the assembly other than just the statement to "thin" surfaces.

With the ZM kit molded-on raised detail on both sides of the fuselage must be removed. The ZM kit also includes a recess on the right-side exterior for the aerial refueling probe, which bulges into the front fuselage interior. Test fitting the resin tub appears to reveal a conflict between the probe and tub. If the modeler wishes to feature the probe in an open position that option is out if the resin cockpit is used.

The next possible conflict is the recessed nose gear well. The detail for the gear well is molded on the underside of the kit cockpit tub. To use the kit gear well the modeler must remove the detail from the plastic parts and fit them in place with the resin. In addition, the two gear well side wall parts from the ZM kit must also be modified. Here the resultant available space to fit everything together becomes questionable. I was unwilling to start cutting the ZM kit parts to install the resin cockpit. If a modeler wishes to model the ZM kit in-flight there may be merit to using this replacement cockpit leaving the gear doors closed. However, with the cost and the detail quality of the resin parts, and the cost of the kit one would want to model the canopy open.

Conclusion

Who would have thought the Zoukei Mura F-4J Phantom would need to have its cockpit replaced? The ZM kit cockpit is quite acceptable on its own merit, however the additional detail provided with the Aires resin replacement set offers a genuinely nice alternative for those modelers wishing to add elevated detail to their model. The set is a bit pricey, so shopping the Internet for a lower cost (or volunteering to review the set) is the order of the day. Generally, there can be a good deal of work to prepare a resin cockpit for placement, as well as the need to modify the plastic to accommodate the resin.

The deal-breaker for me was the amount of work required to fit this replacement cockpit into an already richly detailed kit, plus the need to use parts from the kit front wheel well into a potentially tight fit. The Aires resin set is certainly a very nicely detailed accessory, but the effort required, and replacement value is questionable. Had the nose gear well been cast as part of the cockpit tub or provided as a separate casting this may have resulted in a different conclusion on my part.

I find it difficult to recommend this replacement for the Zoukei Mura F-4J Phantom based on cost of the kit and replacement cockpit, the already acceptable detail of the ZM kit, and the potential of all the plastic and resin parts not fitting together properly in the end.

A word of caution: Page 1 of the instructions has a layout of the various resin parts with the portions of each part that must be removed. Part 9 is the pilot's instrument panel and combing. The stepped portion below the combing is shown as to be removed. Flipping the instructions over assembly step 7 shows the stepped portion remaining in place and is used to fit the part onto the pilot's center console.

I wish to thank Aires and IPMS/USA for the opportunity to review this product.

Reviewer's Comment: Just out of curiosity I took an older Hasegawa F-4J kit to determine what it might take to adapt the Aires cockpit replacement in that model. I certainly did not want to relegate the Aires cockpit to the storage box. The Hasegawa model kit's cockpit and ejection seats are certainly very basic and would certainly benefit from an upgrade. The first advantage I found was the Hasegawa Phantom has a separate nose gear well that when fitted in place, along with the resin cockpit appeared to minimize the risk of a conflict with the resin and plastic. It also looks like some minimal removal of plastic is required to have the resin tub fit. The other advantage is that the Hasegawa kit was a gift from a friend and therefore the cost impact is lessened. Looks challenging, but doable.

The answer is forthcoming. Stay tuned.

  • Contents
    Contents
  • Kit Cockpit Parts
    Kit Cockpit Parts
  • Kit Instrument Panels
    Kit Instrument Panels
  • Kit Fuselage Interior
    Kit Fuselage Interior
  • Tub Underside
    Tub Underside

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