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Monogram's 1/72 scale F-16C
A Tale of Two Falcons

by Rafe Morrisey

 

General Dynamics F-16C

 


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Introduction

 

At the beginning of the year I took my first foray into the realm of professional model making by accepting a commission to build a Monogram 1/72 scale F-16C.

Since I wanted to do a good job and had wanted an F-16 in my own collection I decided to build two kits at the same time using the first to identify problems and determine solutions that could be applied to the customerís model. I will dispense with the usual historical overview of the aircraft and simply refer you to the multitude of other articles on this site and others that cover the development of the airplane in great detail.

With respect to the Monogram kit, let me say that the kit represents great value for the money combining numerous options to build a well-detailed model of most variants of the F-16 with a very complete selection of under-wing stores.

At the same time, the model contains some peculiar design elements and inconsistent quality control that make for some extremely frustrating moments during construction. Ultimately, the model builds into a fine replica of the prototype and will make a worthy addition to the display shelf.



 

Construction

 

Cockpit

As with most airplane models, construction began with the cockpit. Since I was working under a deadline, I elected to use the kit cockpit and it turned out to be very nice indeed. Actually, the hardest part was determining which parts to use since there are no fewer than three instrument panels on the sprues. Iím not an F-16 expert but it looks like to me that the builder could make almost any production model of the Falcon including some export variants from the parts contained in this kit. Both standard and wide-mouth intake configurations are provided along with different tails, engine nozzles and the aforementioned cockpit options.

The only enhancement I elected to make was to carve out the CRT screens and replace them with bits of green plastic confetti. This is a technique I picked up here on Hyperscale and it greatly improved the appearance of the cockpit. The remaining parts were painted and dry brushed to bring out the excellent molded detail. I encountered the first of the design quirks I mentioned at this stage, however. The ejection seat is an extremely tight fit and the throttle assembly hangs over the seat preventing installation after painting. Since the seat fit so tight I inserted it without glue and left it tipped forward to aid in masking the cockpit.

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:


 

Airframe

I proceeded to assemble the rest of the airframe and encountered some issues in fitting the intake pieces. Modern aircraft have very complex forms and they present major design hurdles for model makers. In this case the fit of the intake underneath the fuselage was not great and it was very difficult to fill and sand the seam between the top of the intake and the bottom of the fuselage. I applied 3M Acryl Blue putty as neatly as possible and used q-tips dipped in nail polish remover to wipe away most of the putty from the surfaces around the seam. This minimized the sanding that was required. I also used tissue paper coated with diluted white glue to form FOD covers over the intakes. These were removed when dry for painting and installation at the end.

It was at this stage that I faced probably the most frustrating design element (dare I say flaw) of the kit. Rather than mold the exhaust cone for the engine as a separate piece, the kit designer elected to mold it to a section of the rear fuselage. This made it impossible to paint and weather the exhaust cone later in the assembly sequence. Instead, I had to paint and finish the exhaust cone and then mask it. The fit of the rear fuselage/exhaust assembly was not great requiring a good deal of filling and sanding near the finished exhaust cone. This is one area I wish had been engineered differently but in the end it worked out all right.

 

 

Landing Gear

The kit landing gear is very detailed but the parts are extremely small. A lot of tedious scraping was needed to remove mold-parting lines and manipulating the gear assembly with my big fingers was tricky. It looks convincing once installed, though. The kit wheels are very nice but quality control was an issue since the main wheels in one of the kits had severe sink marks rendering them useless. Each kit comes with two types of wheels, however, so I used the alternate set for my Falcon.



 

Painting, Markings and Weathering

 

Painting

I used this model as an opportunity to try pre-shading since I would not have a lot of time for weathering the customerís model due to the deadline I had been given. I sprayed a dark gray color along the panel lines over a light gray primer. I like to mix my own colors so I then mixed and applied the necessary tactical grays beginning by filling in the center of the panels and working outwards. I finished with a light over spray over the panel lines to tone them down to a realistic level. I was quite pleased with the ultimate effect. You will notice that the top color is different between the two models. This is because the customer had specified Nellis AFB markings for his aircraft.

I found a TwoBobs ďTaxi Cab VipersĒ sheet on sale and knew it must be fate. The markings on the TwoBobs sheet were quite dark, however, requiring a dark base color in order to show up. I checked the reference pictures on the instruction sheet and some photos reflected a darker color than Iíve seen in most photos, so I did what I had to do.

On my F-16, I used a lighter gray for the top color in keeping with most of my other reference photos.

 

 

Decals

As mentioned above, the TwoBobs ďTaxi Cab VipersĒ sheet was used for the customerís F-16. At first I was very concerned about how it would turn out since TwoBobs uses multiple layers for complex designs to ensure accurate registration. The small school badge was comprised of four separate layers including a decal no bigger than a pencil point. My fears were unfounded, however, as the decals performed flawlessly. I allowed ample time for each layer to dry and used Micro Set and a touch of Solvaset here and there. The decals even conformed over several antenna bulges on the nose and base of the tail that thought would cause big problems. I also made a custom decal for the nose reflecting the customerís name as the crew chief per his request. One of my good friends, Mike Teel, helped me design the decal in Photoshop.

For the airplane I was to keep I decided to try the kit decals since I live in the Washington, DC area and the sheet included markings for one of our ANG units. Again quality control seems to vary between kits as the clear film on one of the decal sheets had yellowed. Using the good sheet, I pressed on and was very pleased with how they performed. Though much thicker than the aftermarket sheet, the kit decals conformed to all the bumps and bulges. I did have one mini disaster in that the Solvaset reacted with one of the kit decals causing it to leach out a green stain. I think this is because the markings were metallic and the acid in the solvent caused the brass particles in the ink to corrode producing the green color. I was able to remove the affected decals and replace them with ones from the other kit sheet. I only used Micro Sol on the substitutes and had no other problems.


 

Weathering

On both models I applied a diluted wash of Payneís Gray oil paint thinned with Testorís enamel thinner to the gear bays and landing gear following a gloss coat.

On my model I also applied a light wash of Raw Umber oil paint in the panel lines over the pre-shaded paint finish. I applied a pastel sludge wash to the various vents and control surfaces removing the excess with a damp Q-tip.

Pastels were also lightly applied to the drop tanks of my model to represent grime from fuel spills. Everything was sealed in with an over spray of Testorís Acryl clear flat.

 

 

Base and Figures

The customer had requested a base for his model so I pulled out an old copy of Air and Space Magazine with a picture of airplanes sitting on the runway at Edwards AFB. Assuming the landscape at Nellis would look fairly similar, I did my best to match the tarmac and ground colors. Matt board was used to replicate the tarmac. I t has the right texture and came in a nice tan color. I over sprayed it with light mixtures of tan and light gray in a random pattern to match the photos and added cracks and expansion joints with different artists pencils. The groundwork consisted of tile grout that was painted a desert tan after drying. I added some dark washes and dry brushing and then applied a few random foliage bits from Woodland Scenics.

 

 

The figures and accessories in the shots of my F-16 came from a Hasegawa ground support set.

 

 

Photography

 

Images were taken with a Sony DSC-85 digital camera. I used a piece of cloud pattern poster board from Office Depot for the backdrop. The camera was set in manual mode with the maximum f-stop setting of f.8, film speed of ISO 200 and preset focal distance of 20 centimeters. The photos were cropped and lightened as necessary in Photoshop.

My thanks go out to Ian Robertson for helping me learn to use my camera.

 

 

Additional Images

 

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:


Images and Text Copyright © 2004 by Rafe Morrisey
Page Created 03 September, 2004
Last Updated 04 September, 2004

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