Northrup developed a concept for a light weight, low cost, high performance fighter in partial response to a proposed Navy requirement for a fighter to operate off of WWII escort carriers. The Navy decommissioned the carriers and no longer needed a fighter to fly off of them. Northrup continued the development of their model N156 as a fighter and a trainer. The Air Force decided it didnít need a light fighter but they and the Navy purchased the trainer version as the T-38. Through the Military Assistance Program, Northrup was able to sell over 600 copies to smaller Air Forces around the world. The Freedom Fighterís first flight was in 1959 and production continued until 1972.
Airfix first released this kit in 1966 and revised the tooling in 1984. Opening the side closing box reveals 47 parts molded in a silvery gray plastic. The canopy is clear and nicely molded in two pieces. There is a decal sheet with markings for one airplane purchased by the Imperial Iranian Air Force in 1963. There is single sided 6 x 12Ē instructions sheet with 4 exploded views showing the assembly steps and providing some general instructions and a brief history of the plane in 3 languages. The only painting instructions are on the back of the box along with the decal placement. Naturally enough, color callouts are from the Humbrol line.
With the 2 piece canopy, you pose the canopy open but, typical for kits of the era, cockpit detail is limited to an ďLĒ shaped pilotís chair and a pilot. The gear bays are too shallow, with the gear down; you probably will want to cement the main gear doors closed to hide the missing cavity. The wings are molded as a single piece with a part of the lower fuselage and the stabilizers are also molded in one piece connected to a piece of the lower fuselage. The fuselage is split vertically with the rudder attached to one side. The rear fuselage is a single piece that matches up to an angled face under the rudder and the stabilizer piece. Underwing stores include a fuel tank, 2 Sidewinders, and a pair of bombs. The bombs look too aerodynamic for ordinary ordinance, they might be practice bombs.
My example has flash around several parts and many parts are showing witness lines from features on the opposite side. Most of the flat parts, like gear doors and speed brakes have large ejector pin marks. Test fits hint that there will be a bit of filling and sanding to get the seams right.
Looks like there are three other F-5A molds out there, Hasegawa, Esci / Italeri and PM. Iíve not seen the Esci and PM offerings. The Hasegawa T-38 (F-5B) is about the same age and the tool is in better condition.
Highs: Decals look crisp and well printed.Lows: Mediocre fits, flash, large ejector pins, shallow detail, only one marking option.Verdict: This version is going to take a lot of care to be a contest winner. Itís a good practice kit or a starter for a youngster.