give you my T-38 A Talon that I used in a group build on a Portuguese modelers
operational life of the Portuguese Talons began in the mid 70's and matched a
serious overhaul in the country's Air Force.
the mid 30´s up until the 70's Portugal was emerged in a political regime not
favored by most democracies along the world, and in spite it's condition of NATO
member, the US lease of the Lages Air Base in The Azores, and the oldest active
military alliance in Europe (with the UK), diplomatic pressure and weapons
embargos weighed upon Portuguese armed forces, turning them practically
ongoing war in the African colonies meant that the military was oversized yes,
but completely washed out. The front line aircraft were the F-84 Thunderjet
(making Portugal the last country in the world to deploy it operationally), the
F-86 Sabre (that were redrawn from service in Africa by US government
imposition), and the Fiat G91, along with some T-6 G Texan and A-26 Invader.
images below to see larger images
After the April 25th
1974 democratic revolution that ended the war leading to the colonies
independence, Portugal began a new stage in its armed forces with radical cuts
on its contingent and budget
By this time the
Portuguese Air Force lacked modern equipment and didn't even had a supersonic
fighter, in opposition to most of European NATO countries who had long ago given
up its Sabres in favor of more advanced aircraft such as the F-104 Starfighter
or the F-5. The latter was severely considered as an option due to the
performance, versatility and low maintenance cost of the airframe.
In order to prepare
the transition to the F-5, the US delivered 6 T-38's for advanced pilot training
in 1976. These aircraft retained the white overall with black anti glare panel
paint scheme used by the USAF. In 1980, 6 more arrived.
By this time the F-5
was dumped in favor of Ex-US Navy A-7 Corsair's because of its anti-ship
capabilities, but the 12 Talons remained with the PoAF being considered surplus
in the US. From then on they were incorporated in training squadron "Esquadra
103" where they lived up the rest of their operational life until 1993 when
replaced by the Dornier Alpha Jet.
In total the T-38
served for about 20 years with the PoAF without losing a single aircraft or
pilot and proudly remained the only mach capable aircraft in service until the
arrival of the first F-16's.
Being a favorite of
mine I always wanted to build a Talon, so when late last year in a local hobby
shop I saw a 1/72 scale kit of the F-5B I jumped at the scene. The kit is
manufactured by a brand called PM and provided me with a major opportunity:
A good subject to try some conversion / scratch building and expand my
If it didn't work out quite well, the loss wouldn't be much of a drama (it
cost me about $4 USD )
Inside the box came
several plastic parts "almost resembling" an F-5 B fuselage. Close
inspection saw several sink holes, ejection pin marks and possibly enough flash
to build another kit. The sprue gates were absurdly thick.
The first step of
research was to identify the main differences between the F-5B and the T-38. The
wings and jet intake configuration struck me as the most prominent ones, apart
from some kind of "housing" on top of the F-5 exhaust pipes absent on
the T-38. In photos 2 and 3 you can see these changes taking place, as well as
the "magnificent panel detail". Since this was going to be a modeling
challenge along bold new paths, I went all the way and started re-scribing panel
lines for the first time. I used various references from photos of the real
thing to several reviews from fellow modelers, some of them on this site.
Don't ask me
for 100% accuracy on this one as it was difficult enough like this but I think
it looks a little better as can bee seen in photo 4. In the same photo you can
see the detailing of the wheel wells and the copious amounts of filler already
sanded as flush as possible.
The cockpit had no
detail at all but the plastic canopy was so thick that it really wasn't
necessary. I just added some things to the seats to make it all busier (head
rests, seat belts, etc.).
Back to the canopy,
after "chopping" some bits off I used toothpaste and Future to give it
the best possible clarity. Still a lot of filler was needed to conform it to the
As said before these
aircraft remained in the USAF White overall with black anti glare panel. For
decals I had the roundels and fin flashes but the serials and stencils were
cannibalized from my "left over's".
For the weathering I
applied the usual panel wash followed by yet another experiment: To tone down
the white I simply grinded some HB pencil, then picked the grind with a
moistened brush and randomly applied it trough the fuselage. With a dampened
kitchen towel I rubbed the residues thus creating a more believable smeared and
dirty aircraft. Everything was sealed up by a coat of matt varnish.
I know the model
looks far from perfect but in spite all the kits faults that limited the final
result (the absolutely terrible canopy being the worst of them all), the
purposes I set out to do were accomplished and I feel I really have improved my
skills, and most of all, I had a lot of fun doing it!
So, have fun
modeling and see you next time!!
images below to see larger images