1/72 Revell/Germany F-5B

Freedom Fighter  

by Triet Cam


Indochina War -- 10,000Day War -- Vietnam War anniversary Feb 1 2007


This is the Northrop F-5B Freedom Fighter, the first jet fighter operated by the South Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF) during the war.  The markings are for the 522nd Fighter Squadron, 23rd Tactical Wing, 3rd Air Division in Bien Hoa, Republic of South Vietnam.  They were the first squadron equipped with the F-5 in late 1967 after the Skoshi Tiger evaluation completed by the USAF.  The initial package included 24 F-5 with two trainer F-5B version, and 2 recce RF-5A version. Though the 522nd operated from Bien Hoa, they were often sent to action in Cor I, Da Nang, Quang Tri, Khe Sanh where most of the intense fighting took place.
The Revell 1/72 F-5B is the re-boxing of the old ESCI kit.  The molding is about 20 years old now, but the details are still very crisp.  Surface details consists of finely engraved panel lines, fairly good wheel well details, and open air brake flaps. The assembly is separated into two modules in order to accommodate different versions - the R/F-5A and the F-5B. It is a little tricky to attach the front and rear fuselage together without creating a step at the joint. I would recommend gluing the each side front and rear together first and then the left and right half follow. There were some warping on the wing top over the wheel wells. If the canopy is posed open, you need to add in the middle canopy frame,  the kit did not have it.  In order to do the SEA variant, some features needed modifying - the louvers on the fuselage sides should be removed, the antenna stripes on the rudder also sanded out.  Also, watch the oleo scissor on the front leg should be pointing forward.

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Originally, I was going to close the canopies, but there was a mismatch between the two surfaces - a big step going from the rear canopy to the fuselage. I did not know how to fix this so I posed the canopies opened. The instrument panel consisted of decals for the IP and side consoles. To make them more 3 dimensional, I used the Waldron punch and created some square instrument bezels. O2 hoses were also added it to make the areas more busy. The wing flaps were cut and repositioned downward, as shown in many parked F-5. A feature only the VNAF F-5 had was the addition of armor plates underneath the belly. The armor was there to protect the pilot from small arm fired from below. Instead of using styrene sheets, I used painted decals because the scale thickness was closer than using a .05 inch thick styrene. The ordnance came from the Hasegawa weapon set 1. Even though the F-5B was designated as a trainer, it was not uncommon to carry loads into combat in Vietnam.
Model Master paints were used for the colors, with the tan toned lighter, and the medium green tuned closer to olive. Decals marking were a combinations of home made and spare decals. The checker band was done by first painting the insignia yellow background first, and the black diamond patterns printed on a clear inkjet decals went on last. It's not hard to do, but required careful planning. The VAN insignias were done by  the Alps printer - thanks to my good friend Mr. Roger Jackson.


Photos and text by Triet Cam