1/144 Academy F-4E Phantom modified to a F-4J variant

Gallery Article by S K Loh on May 10 2018



On 10 May 1972, F-4J BuNo 155749, assigned to VF-96 on board USS Constellation was on an escort mission during the height of the Vietnam War when they engaged the VPAF MiGs. It was flown by LT Steve C Shoemaker with RIO Lt(jg) Keith Crenshaw. It's callsign was "Showtime 111". The Phantoms from VF-96 had a field day that day, particularly F-4J Bu No 155800 flown by Lt Cunningham "Showtime 100" that numerous kits of this bird were produced and built by hobbyists.

I chose this lesser known F-4J with VF-96 marking as last year I happened to build a F-4S Phantom II bearing BuNo 155749 operating with VF-301 Devil's Disciples NAS Miriamar in 1984 with its unique Ferris camo scheme. 

It was when I read up on the Vietnam War that I came to know that BuNo 155749 was credited with a VPAF MiG 17 kill on that day.

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These days 1/144 kits are scarce. I have only the Academy F-4E Phantom (relatively easily available from my LHS here) as my base kit to build and modify. The modifications were done using scratch-built parts to depict a F-4J Phantom variant. Besides incorporating the various external sensors and the radome change I had to scratch-built4 x AIM9 Sidewinders and another 2 x AIM 7 Sparrows as the kit comes with a standard 2 x AIM 7 Sparrows.

I replaced the supplied wing drop tanks with scratch-built centerline drop tank, consistent with the weapons and store configuration of VF-96 then. The main time consuming effort is the reshaping and thinning down and polishing the canopy, rebuilding the seats and adding the crew as they are pretty tiny.

Decals were DIY homemade. The Light Gull Gray color shade was premixed using Tamiy/Mr Hobby acrylic colours and airbrushed on. I the brushed on two coats of thinned down Future to seal the decals and made them clushed with the paintwork. I then airbrushed on 3 coats of thinned down Future/Tamiya Flat Base mix to tone down the sheen. Having a gloss finish for this scale will make the completed build so unreal. I believe the real plane would have lost its sheen operating under harsh conditionS on board the Carriers to some degree. 

I learnt that BuNo 155749 had quite an illustrious service life serving in many Navy/Marine units till its final fate in NAS Point Mugu when it crashed on 20 Apr 2002. I found some info on BuNo 155749 in transition being upgraded to F-42 while serving with VFMA-235 USMC. This will be one to-build item if not the next. I hope to find more info and pictures of BuNo 155749 in various schemes and units with AC codes to expand on the list. Perhaps some of you ARCers may have them. 

In the meantime, enjoy the photos.

S K Loh

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Photos and text by S K Loh