by: Mitko Nikitov [ ]
Introduction As promised by Zoukei-Mura In the early months of 2017, their F-4S is already a fact. The S-version, or S-type as they describe it on their site is the last official Phantom modification ever made.
The F-4S can easily be remembered by the abbreviation from Slatted, the main difference from its predecessor. It was a modified F-4J, fitted with smokeless engines, re-wired, partially digitalized, strengthened and with slats kits, with overall 50% maneuverability improvement over the previous version.
It first flew in 1977 and was an attempt to bring a new life to the old flying anvil, injecting it with a small dose of steroids so it can keep up with the already flying Tomcat and Eagle. The result was one of the best versions of the Phantom, which extended the plane’s life a bit, but generally not enough.
A lot was learned from this improvement program, and some of the ideas of it served as a base for the upgrades for the today’s still flying Phantoms around the world.
Instructions If you haven’t seen Zouke-Mura’s instructions, you will be fascinated with these. We have quite a thick booklet, probably bigger than what you got with your last TV manual.
It takes 48 steps till completion, each of those abundantly described in Japanese and English, featuring many additional tips, tricks and explanations. If you read carefully, you will be far more educated in terms of the real aircraft and with many new engineering and building sequence ideas after you complete this build.
Compared to Zoukei-Mura’s 1/32nd scale kits, the instruction sheet here miss the colors. Otherwise, everything else is at the same level with warning signs, SWS Design Concepts and most importantly – proper positioning of parts accompanied by degrees and alignment lines.
This goes all around the building steps and guarantees you a perfect looking bird in geometrical terms, in case you follow this through correctly.
All this ends with sprues description and contact information plus prices of each sprue in Japanese yen, in case you want to re-supply yourself for whatever reason.
Contents The sprues of the Phantom are individually packed in plastic bags and neatly arranged in the box with enough space to keep ‘em safe. Everything is made from dark gray plastic material, which is quite flexible. Once you get to sand it, one will find that the qualities are superb, allowing delicate and precision work with it, without any troubles what so ever.
The construction of the plane is pretty much as you have seen on most of the F-4s available on the market. The lower part of the fuselage /the belly/ is one with the lower parts of the wings and we have two separate fuselage halves which shapes the overall shape of the jet.
The horizontal stabilizers are with sharp edges and great detail. They are thin and very realistic looking.
Gear parts are with great engravings and detailing but there is room for superdetailing for those who are interested. Alongside with that, Zoukei-Mura offers metal aftermarket set for the struts and for the wheels.
The clear parts are something that impressed me with the J variant from the get go, and the Japanese company demonstrated the same quality here.
The canopy is clear, without any distortions when you see through it. The gloss effect is somehow avoided, eliminating the glaze and its unrealistic appearance in scale. They are not matt of course, but Zoukei-Mura found the perfect combination somehow.
Engines – basically are made from two halves each with additional sub-assemblies of course. The texturing on those is great and once you get to inspect the engravings, you might start contemplating cutting some panels from the fuselage to show off what will remain hidden inside.
Nozzles are – unfortunately – the same as we got with the J. They are a bit thick and not up to the kit’s level. Not surprisingly, Eduard offers Brassin substitute for them. The nozzles are somehow an outdated tooling IMHO. They do not match the rest of the kit. I do sincerely believe that this was made on purpose, just to leave some room for the aftermarket companies, nothing more. Probably, soon enough we will see nozzles for the S-Phantom too.
The F-4S is based on Zoukei-Mura’s F-4J kit and understandably the parts are more or less equal. There are improvements over the J-version, as well as differences. One example are the missiles. They are refined making them more user friendly. Missiles are often an annoying part of the modern-jet builds and it is important to have details which do not require additional work over them.
Another difference are the slats of course and alongside them the fact that some of the new details are arranged slightly differently on the sprues compared to the J version.
All in all, a slightly polished F-4, re-tooled with minor differences but with big overall results. Just like the real airplane was redone from its previous version.
Marking options Marking options here are limited to only one. This is another parallel with the J-version from the Japanese maker. For whatever reason Zoukei-Mura offered only red 100 from USS Midway in the early 80s. It is an attractive Rhino, with red lightning crossing through a black tail, high-visibility markings and tons of technical stencils all over.
It is a big decal sheet, most of it taken by the endless technical stencils which can be found all around the Phantom. The decals are thin and are made by the top of the line decal company. Instructions for applying that are provided on one big separate sheet, with clear color depictions of the F-4S from all its sides.
Probably, there will be an aftermarket set from Zoukei for this F-4S soon. It is also guaranteed that there will be a lot more than what is already available for S-Phantoms on the market, delivered from the aftermarket decal makers. Many designed for and inspired by this particular kit. However it would’ve been good to have at least two in the set though. It is what we are used to after all.
Conclusion The F-4S is one of the best Phantom versions ever to be built. This kit caught the reality and resembles the same. So far, Academy was the superior Phantom kit (in 1/48th scale), especially with reboxed versions from Eduard, which featured resin improvements and a lot of marking options.
With the Zoukei-Mura’s F-4J introduction, that reign ended. It is true, that Eduard versions are competitive, due to the fact that they are not Academy’s OOTB but rather super-kits, featuring PE and Resin, a lot of decals and are Limited Editions. But that is the only reason they are competitive.
OOTB Zoukei-Mura Phantom is unmatchable and with similar improvements will be the best Phantom in any scale so far. It is more refined, more delicate and more precise on every level. Japanese quality and devotion to the tiniest detail screams at you once you get to open the box.
In 1/48th scale, this kit is comparable only with AMK’s MiG-31, and tops the market in that scale, seemingly for a long time to come.
Summary In short: The Best Phantom in any scale up to this moment. With few touches like PE, aftermarket nozzles and eventually decals, this kit will be far ahead of any competition on both the Phantom and 48th scale market. Even OOTB, the kit will be the king of the Phantoms for quite a while.
Wonderful surface detail. Accurate Phantom shape on every level. Thin and sharp surfaces. Clear parts with superb quality and without glazing effects. Little room for superdetailing, just enough to please the scratch-builders and no more than to give you great OOTB kit. Some improvements over the J variant, which promises bright future for Zoukei’s Phantom line. Great quality decals.
Nozzles do not match the finesse of the rest of the kit’s parts. They are chunky and in desperate need for replacement. Probably can be improved with a lot of craftsmanship, but it is better to search for resin o
One marking option only. Even though very good looking, this option limits in some ways and is not up to the standards we are used to with other brands.
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