The Navy flew the F-4B extensively in Southeast Asia and as technology improved, the Navy ordered the F-4J to replace the F-4B. While the F-4J was entering service with the Navy, the F-4B was exhibiting fatigue after a decade of flight ops and 228 of these aircraft were refurbished and updated under the Bee Line program. While the F-4N retained the F-4B radar and engines, the J79-GE-8 engines were updated with 'smokeless' kits. The aircraft was refitted with slotted stabilators, fixed inboard wing flaps, drooping ailerons, and other aerodynamic improvements developed for the F-4J. The F-4N would serve as a gap-filler until the F-14 Tomcat and F/A-18 Hornet came online in sufficient numbers.
One notable user of the F-4N was VF-154. Equipped with the F-4J aboard USS Ranger, VF-154 conducted combat operations in Vietnam through four WestPac cruises before transitioning to the F-4S (the updated F-4J) in 1979. When VF-154 was assigned to the USS Coral Sea, the ship was not rated for F-4S operations forcing the squadron to transition to the F-4N. The Coral Sea spent most of that cruise in the Persian Gulf after Iranians seized the US Embassy and its personnel. By the time VF-154 returned home, the squadron received some of the first TARPS-capable Tomcats off the production line.
Among the kit's features and options:
Fuselage is molded in one part, just like the Tamiya 1/32 kits
Cockpit is nicely detailed
Rear cockpit has correct starboard sidewall
Nice Martin Baker ejection seats
Optional seated crew figures
Optional boarding ladder
Nicely detailed main gear wells
Main wheels and tires molded separately for ease of painting
Positionable speed brakes
Choice of slotted or unslotted stabilators
Choice F-4B or F-4N fin cap and chin sensor
Additional antennas provided for F-4N version
Outer wing panels molded separately and can be folded (wing hinges not included)
Intakes have ducts to the compressor faces
Nice afterburner chambers with turbine faces
Positionable air refueling probe
External stores included for this version:
4 x AIM-9B Sidewinder
4 x AIM-9D Sidewinder (included but not acknowledged in the instructions)
4 x AIM-7D/E Sparrow
12 x Mk.82 Slicks
2 x 370 gallon wing tanks
1 x 600 gallon centerline tank
2 x triple ejector racks (TER)
2 x multiple ejector rack (MER)
There are other weapons and pod options in the box that aren't used with this release.
This kit provides markings for three examples:
F-4N, 152323, VMFA-531, VK/200, USS Coral Sea, 1980, CAG aircraft
F-4B, 153006, VMFA-314, VW/3, Chu Lai AB, 1968
F-4B, 152274, VMFA-314, VW/5, Da Nang AB, 1966
As with the previous releases, this decal sheet includes a nice array of airframe and weapons stencils plus airframe walkways.
Pay attention to the instructions to the OPT flag. This signals you to choose parts based upon your marking options with Option 1 being the F-4N and Options 2 and 3 being the F-4B. Also note towards the end that there are four option flags indicated and these correspond to different loadouts which are all valid for any of the three decals subjects.
This is another nice release from Academy and you'll be glad to know that there is a growing list of aftermarket options for these Academy Phantoms on the market.