by David W. Aungst
Every modeler has a few projects that they have always want to do but can't quite motivate themselves. This model is one of those projects for me.
I fell in love with the markings of this aircraft from the very first time I saw a picture of the aircraft back in 1991. Of all the "Tiger Meet" marking schemes I have seen this is the classiest in my opinion. But the airbrush work to accomplish the markings was just too complex to consider.
Then, in 1992, I ran across decals for this aircraft produced by Daco and immediately bought two sets (in case I messed up a decal, I wanted a replacement!).
The decals included all the tiger stripes for the entire airframe, printed in a style that gave them the appropriate feathered edges. I could finally consider building the model without the abusive airbrush work. I still hedged on it for six years before finally deciding to "take the plunge" in 1998.
Anyone who has built the Hasegawa 1/48th scale F-16's can attest to the fact that they are very simple kits. They build easily. Having already built an out-of-the-box Hasegawa F-16 before, I decided to incorporate a significant number of after market details and scratch-built enhancements into this project. The following lists all the changes I made to the stock kit.
* Resin ACES II Ejection Seat
* Resin Control and Throttle Grips
* Etched Metal Cockpit Side Walls
* Resin Cockpit Air Conditioning Vents
* Oxygen Hose Constructed of a Spring Slipped Over a Copper Wire
* Etched Metal Rudder Pedals
* Etched Metal Cockpit Sill Details
* Etched Metal HUD
* Resin Canopy Actuator Motor
* Etched Metal Canopy Interior Details
I used Testors Model Master enamel paints exclusively for this project. The aircraft is finished in overall Neutral Gray (F.S.36270) with the forward portions of the airframe painted in Insignia Yellow (F.S.33538). In retrospect, after applying the decals, the yellow needed to be a slightly lighter shade. Perhaps cutting the Insignia Yellow with 25% white would have been better. By doing this, the orange/yellow shadowing on the black stripes would have been more prominent. The model still looks good, and the orange/yellow shadowing of the black stripes is visible. It is just subtler than what I have seen in pictures of the real aircraft.
All the "plastic surgery" mentioned above was a drop in the bucket compared to the chore of applying the decals to this model. The Daco decal set includes 212 separate decals that are the tiger stripes. To the credit of Daco, they provide full size (1/48th scale) drawings to assist the modeler in the placement of the decals. But, this still meant it was necessary to study the diagrams carefully before applying any decals and hope that I did not misplace one of the decals as all the ones around it would be effected. I did actually misplace a few, but not enough to cause too major of a problem.
The biggest headache with the decals (if you can imagine a bigger one) was that they were not reacting to setting solutions. I normally use Solv-a-Set. This is one of the stronger solutions on the market, and it barely touched these Daco decals. Decal silvering was occurring all over the place. At the advise of a friend, I tried another brand called Champ that "eats decals for breakfast", according to my friend. This worked marginally better, but I still got a rather large amount of silvering. I ultimately had to just say "oh well" and finish the model. A close look in the proper lighting shows the silvering, but the busy markings distract you enough to allow this to go pretty well unnoticed.
As complete as the decals are, I did find one omission. The mouths on the tiger heads (on the sides of the parachute housing under the rudder) were missing their teeth. The decals provided a dark spot to represent the darkness of the open tiger's mouth, but the light gray teeth around this spot either were forgotten as a color to print on the decals or just plain missed when designing the decals. I added the teeth to these markings by applying the tiger heads, then masking and painting light gray blobs for their mouths. With this done, when I applied the dark spot decals for the mouths, the light gray formed the teeth around the edges of the mouths.
I used a combination of thinned down enamel paint washes and airbrush shading to weather the airframe. As the aircraft was a "show bird", I tried to keep it light and relatively clean. I completed the weathering with a final dry brushing of silver to pop out the surface details.
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