Phantom is one of the most wanted models ever. That includes all scales. Of course, due to its size, the most popular one is 48th scale. And the market is full with options. However, only one of these can be considered the best possible tooling of the legendary plane. Not so long ago, that was Hasegawa, with their huge line of Phantoms that is still re-released to this day. Then came Academy, with their multi-colored plastic and slightly refined perspective of the F-4. But the true king of Phantoms came with Zoukei-Mura’s F-4J release, which happened a little over a year ago.
Since then, Zoukei-Mura expanded their line, adding the slatted F-4S and then the F-4C, the USAF version of the Phantom. They are all considered to be the most accurate and best engineered Phantoms on the market, comparable only with Eduard’s re-packs of Academy F-4s. However Eduard’s kits are somewhat Academy on steroids, featuring resin and photo-etch, amazing decals and are Limited Editions. And even without those goodies, ZM is still the best on the market.
F-4D is an upgraded F-4C, and a logical follow-up of the Zoukei-Mura’s line of Phantoms. It was an updated F-4C and meant to be used more like an interceptor, keeping the C-variant for air-to-ground work. The D-variant was equipped with updated avionics, making it the first aircraft to use laser-guided munitions and most importantly – as an interceptor – the capability to use AIM-4 Falcon missile.
More than 800 were built and some of those were converted into Wild Weasel variants. Besides being used by the US, F-4D was sold to Iran and South Korea. Although it is not clear due to the complex political environment of the region, it is highly probable that Iran still uses updated F-4D variants to this day.
Zoukei-Mura’s boxes are designed in a way that brings the essence of the subject and the whole thing looks like a present that you already know the content of. The F-4D box is – as with the previous Phantoms – made like it is partially wrapped in an American flag.
On the top, we have Super Wing Series SWS N.7 and F-4D Phantom written, where the D is in yellow, pointing out the specific version of the bird. There is a Boeing logo, stating that this is a licensed product, something that major companies insist on.
On the sides, we have description in Japanese, plus few pictures of the built Zoukei-Mura F-4D, this time an aircraft with specific black belly, quite differently looking from the rest of the Phantom line from ZM. The camouflage is similar to the F-4C, but the bottom makes it look like a completely new plane.
The box is thick, made from high-quality materials. Inside we have all the sprues packed in separate plastic bag and on the bottom there is an envelope with the instructions, color-schemes, small catalogue and the decals.
Unlike their 32nd scale kits, the 48th Phantom line instructions are purely black and white. The colors though, are Zoukei-Mura’s only miss here. The instructions are perfectly executed, with thorough description of everything, plus hints and options, written all around the schematics.
The sheet itself is sophisticated and requires devotion and understanding while a modeler uses it. It is far from simplistic and rather childish instructions provided by companies like Kinetic for example.
Once you get to work through it, you will quickly start learning a lot about the F-4, which will elevate your level of knowledge and make your model look better in the end. Especially important is to mention that every tiny bit of color required is pointed out and clearly too.
The booklet features all the proper geometry of the bird and that is something that I mentioned in all my other Zoukei-Mura Phantom reviews. It deserves a praise, since Phantom geometry is rather complex and if you don’t follow it, your model will deviate from the reality with a lot. Specifics here are superb, down to a degree of every angle that you will need to keep. That includes all the surfaces and the engines too.
The kit was initially rumored to be a completely new tooling. That is highly unlikely in today’s competitive World and it comes as no surprise, that only parts of the kit are new. This is the mix of the sprues that we have seen in the previous version of the Phantoms released from Zoukei-Mura. Since the kit is fresh on the market, this is normal and far from disappointing. The initial tooling was as close to perfection as anybody has got before, so what we get with the D-variant is more than satisfactory.
The standard dark gray plastic, full with details, panel lines and rivets and most importantly – very pleasant to be worked with. We have engines, sophisticated cockpit and wheel wells, movable surfaces and very good looking missiles. Actually, not much to be said here, just enjoy the pictures. You will instantly understand what I am talking about.
The clear parts are similar to the ones that we got with the other versions. The canopy is clear, with minimal bending of the light when looked through. The sprue features one piece canopy and separate sections, depending on your preference. Single piece canopy is wonderful solution in case you want to make your airplane in flight. Quite often, due to miss-alignment, separate sections does not fit, and that can ruin the final appearance. With a little effort and great deal of finesse, Zoukei-Mura solved that potential issue.
Separate parts allow for a Phantom in a parked mode, where all the canopy and the seats can be displayed with their full potential. Here, the transparency won’t matter that much, but still we have one very good clear sprue, that hardly has any competition in the modeling world.
A sheet printed by Cartograf is included. It lacks all the colorful and screaming-like insignia typical for the era. That allowed for Zoukei-Mura to add two options for this airplane. Unfortunately, the previous three came with only one per piece, which was disappointing for many modelers. However, Phantom Aftermarket decals are available everywhere so that wasn’t such a big issue.
Here, we have two this time, which is a step forward. I personally hope, that Zoukei-Mura will expand in the future on that matter. Both of those versions look similar, with the most distinctive feature – the color of the belly. One is standard light gull gray, while the other is back-ish, giving the Phantom very mean look.
Both are from the early 70s, but this kit allows for much more. The D-variant was introduced in late 60s, and it was in use for decades. So with proper research, you can expand your line of options enormously.
Again – for the first time here, we have two options for different Phantoms and both are provided by Cartograf’s decals, which guarantees flawlessness. Wise decision from Zoukei-Mura and one that will put a smile on many of their fans’ faces.
That was an expected release from Zoukei-Mura. It is a logical step in the direction of Phantom-line expansion and it will cover some interesting areas, like Iranian and South Korean air forces. The only down-side of the kit are the marking options and the lack of abundance in that area. But there is an improvement over the previous versions, since here we have 2 options instead of one like before. On the other side, there is no other let downs with this kit. It is still the best possible option in 48th scale and actually, the best Phantom in any scale to this date.
Zoukei-Mura are working on F-4E and that is confirmed already, so we should expect to see that too and hopefully, the reconnaissance versions which are longed by many. With those, Zoukei-Mura will eliminate once and for all any possible competition from Academy or Hasegawa, providing us with a superb kit that well deserves the price tag it bears.
It is a mandatory purchase for all Phantom lovers and for those who want to enjoy the true 21st century tooling with all its bells and whistles. This kit is nothing less than a benchmark for the scale, and for the subject itself. Once again, Zoukei-Mura prove that they are among the top 3 heavy-hitters on the market of scale models and a company that we should watch closely and with deep respect.
Domo Arigato Zoukei-Mura!
Full Video Review is available on DN Models’ YouTube Channel