If you are a Phantom Phreak, the one thing you cannot get enough of is stencil data. The Phantom, no matter what service or nationality, seemed to be loaded with stencils. Most Hasegawa kits in 1/48 come with a fairly comprehensive set of stencils, though barely legible, incomplete, and they sometimes can be difficult to blend into the paint. If you have a slatted wing F-4E in your stash, then Afterburner Decals has come to the rescue with this very complete set of stencil data for those Phantoms painted in SEA camouflage and grey undersides.
The first thing I noted when I received the sample was the weight! If you are used to the standard half sheet decal with letter size instructions, prepare yourself. In the bag is a ¾ sheet of decal, split between a ½ sheet and ¼ sheet, plus three full letter-size pages of full color instructions, printed front and back, on heavy paper! The instruction sheets are logically broken down into areas of the aircraft, concentrating on stencil placement within those specific areas. Looking through them, the modeler can fold the sheet back, keeping the instruction handy while they work only on a particular part of the airframe. The decals are also grouped on the decal sheet with their corresponding airframe locations, so finding the correct stencil will be fairly painless. Also to aid in locating the right decal, the instruction sheets actually have an enlarged image of the decal next to the call-out number. So there truly should be no issues picking the right decal!
The markings cover the entire airframe, including the pylons, interior of the landing gear doors, and ejection seats. There is one set of national insignia and “slime” lights provided for those doing later F-4E’s.
As for the decals themselves, they are fine examples of how far printing technology has come. For fun, I put the decals on a flatbed scanner and did an enlargement. Upon examining the resulting scan, you can actually read every letter of the decal, even the smallest stencil! The carrier film is thin and, being printed by Cartograph, I expect no issues using these. In fact, this is not the first time Cartograph has been involved in printing F-4E Phantom stencils.
A few modeling notes. First, this set only covers a SEA camo with grey underside airframe. The stencils on the lower regions are provided in black only, so you won’t be able to do any of the full wrap-around schemes. Also, when doing the camouflage, the modeler will have to be exact. White data is provided for the green areas, while black data is provided for the tan areas. Since these stencils are placed in specific locations, any error in placement of the camo pattern could end up with some white on tan or black on green. I would recommend using some type of masking technique, such as blu-tack snakes or paper masks when spraying the colors. However, as with any project, consult references, especially if doing a combat deployed aircraft. Many times the depots did not always replace every marking, so some may not apply for your particular model. As a final note, many are probably asking, “What about hard wing Phantoms?” Well, not to worry, as a good 80-90 percent of the stencils provided are common to the hard wing (non-slatted) aircraft as well, with the majority of the differences being around the leading edge of the wings. In fact, I am wavering between a slat wing and hard wing build to use these on myself!
Overall, I am extremely impressed, as I should be with any Afterburner release. Not only is this set complete but, for those that have the patience, the stencil data will add a “wow” factor to any F-4E build! My thanks to Afterburner Decals and IPMS USA for the review sample! Have fun decaling!