1/48 Academy P-38 F-5E

Photo Recon. Lightning  

by Peter Kormos



Here is my 1/48 scale P-38 F-5E Photo Recon. Lightning from Academy.

One of my main interests is captured warplanes from WWII era. I find it challenging to build some model planes like these. Besides wearing their original camouflage, these planes have some extra touch ups and markings that make them look odd - and that's what I'm basically looking for in my model subjects.

I started to build this kit in the autumn of 2001 and finished it in 2003. Construction was interrupted by other works, so it wasn't a constant 2-year-long effort to finish this model.

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First, I bought the P-38E and F-5E kits from Academy and wanted to kitbash the two to get one. Later, I checked my reference photos and I saw that I'll only need the F-5E kit. So I decided to build two Lightnings at the same time.

I thought that it's going to be fun and I'd have two kits finished at almost the same time with only little bit of extra work. Unfortunately, I realized that it's not going to work. There's nothing boring than working on the same thing twice, like cleaning 12 individual propeller blades. So I decided to finish the P-38E out of box, and then finish the Photo Lightning with some detailing.

I didn't use any aftermarket resin or photo etched detail sets. Only the main cockpit components (seat, sidewalls, instrument panel), gear bay doors and nose wheel were replaced with resin copies of the Hasegawa parts.

So, the main source of detailing was scratch building. The number of home made goodies - that were built into the kit - are summarized in the following table:

External surfaces: 55 + rivet detail
Main gear bays: 2 x 47
Nose gear bay: 15
Cockpit area: 64
Radio compartment: 32

I built my first Academy Lightning back in 1995, and the original vinyl tyres are still intact and didn't eat the plastic. So, I decided to use the kit provided ones for the main wheels.

There were some serious fit problems at the wing-to-booms joints - where the wings met the little fuselage piece, so it took me quite a while until I got to the stage when I could start painting.

After most of the surface imperfections and fit issues were cured with putty and careful sanding, I applied many Gunze Mr. Surfacer 1000 layers until all the little blemishes disappeared. Of course, between each Surfacer layer, I used wet #500 sanding paper (and putty if needed) to remove the surface imperfections. Finally, when everything seemed to be OK, I polished the surface with #1000, #2000 sanding paper and with a simple sheet paper. Next, rivet lines were added according to the line drawings of Aero Detail 'P-38 Lightning' booklet.

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Natural metal finish was achieved using different shades of Alclad II paints. Black anti-glare panels and yellow undersides were painted with Tamiya and Gunze acrylics. I used burnt umbre and black artist's oils, pastel powder and silver pencil for weathering. Exhaust staining was sprayed on with well diluted Tamiya acrylic black in many fine layers.

45 degree US numbers are from Carpena decal sheet, stencils are from Aeromaster's P-38 decal sheet. Other markings came form spares box.

Note: I've recently came across some photos of this plane on E-bay, and I noted that the underside of the wings had big T9+MK painted (in black) as well. These are missing from my model.

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Photos and text by Peter Kormos