F-4S is one of the most advanced versions of the Phantom II aircraft. Also, it is unfortunately the last modification too.
Little introduction: The S variant first flew in 1977. It is an aircraft with improved stronger airframe and undercarriage elements, new electrical wiring, highly improved radar system, smokeless engines, slats and digital weapons control system. All this combined, gave very high percentage of improvement over the J variant, which is considered by many for the ultimate Phantom.
Smokeless engines, alongside with the slats and stiffer airframe were the most important features though. Even though already outdated by F-14 and F-15, in the late 70s and early 80s Phantom was still quite a menace in the skies. With those features included, the service life was extended and a decent dose of steroids was injected into the smokey Joe. Well, with it – not being so smokey anymore.
Zoukei-Mura announced their plans to do the F-4S model in the beginning of 2017, just weeks after their J Phantom hit the shelves. The boxart of the SWS No.5 is a bit different from the F-4J – more aggressive and more modern looking. We have a afterburning monster taking-off of a carrier deck, with nose gear strut extended for high angle of attack.
The aircraft wears the high-visibility insignia of the US NAVY’s VF-161, number 100 from USS Midway. On the boxart we have little logo from Boeing company stating that this is an Official Licensed Product. This is something that I am used to see on Italeri boxes, but it is wonderful, that Zoukei-Mura got an acknowledgement from Boeing Company and made their /formerly Mcdonell Douglas/ F-4 an official product even though with a new brand name.
There is also the dark blue around the box as well as the U.S. Flag accompanying the pictures of the build plane. Unfortunately, we have everything written in Japanese only, but the pictures tells the story pretty well.
Storming through the clouds of steam with the afterburners on is also pretty self-explanatory.
This is a re-tooling of Zoukei Mura’s SWS No.4 F-4J Phantom II. It is not a completely new kit, and there is a reason why – differences mentioned above, (although substantial) were made on the existing J frames and it is practically the same thing that the real company and Zoukei-Mura did. The latter one did it in 48th scale though.
We have the same plastic material – dark grey plastic, with very good flexibility, wonderful sanding qualities and more than superb detailing. Everything is sharp, accurate and phantastic!
The new sprues that Zoukei-Mura added for the F-4S are very similar to the old one and feature little differences. The sprue with the two halves of the fuselage features new parts, but if you are not careful, you won’t be able to tell the difference at first glance. Same goes for the sprue with the upper part of the wings and the lower part, being the belly of the phantom, incorporating the fuselage and the lower wings.
Missile sprue features improved and finer details. Usually the missiles of 48th scale planes are criticized due to the thickness of the tiny stabilizers. Also, the way that things are assembled or are being engineered displeases modelers. Zoukei-Mura improved some details, in order to avoid that and give better experience overall.
The good old ones:
The sprues well known from the J kit are the rest in the box actually. They are surprisingly well done, beating Academy on almost every level. And Academy Phantom was considered the best until recently. With the appearance of the Zoukei-Mura’s J, that was the end of the reign. The only let down are still the nozzles, which I think is not a coincidence. There are Eduard Brassin Nozzles for the J variant, so we might be pretty sure that soon we will get the S-type too! There are also Eduard nozzles for Academy, for those who intend to complain!
The clear parts are superb. The transparency is not 100%, which IMHO makes them better than the usual. Absolutely clear sprues cause an effect of exaggeration which teases the eye and can easily be spotted on shows. With Zoukei-Mura’s style, everything looks quite realistic, even in 48th scale.
We have moulded just enough rivets, beautiful panel lines and every bit of detail needed for the perfect phantom. Zoukei-Mura did their job pretty well, but that is not news. We know that since the J-type release which we witnessed 4 months ago.
You cannot expect any troubles with this kit, nor unusual complications. Everything is done wonderfully!
Differences that Zoukei-Mura described in their newsletter are:
1. Front slat (4 points)
2. Slender fence added to the folding part of the main wings
3. Different shape of the external wing tip
4. Half-moon part over the back seat of the central canopy
5. Back mirror added on the upper surface of the rear canopy
6. Cockpit optical sight and cockpit panels (front and rear)
7. Control stick
8. EL light panels (formation lights) of nose, fuselage, wing edges, vertical tail
9. Fuselage top antenna changed from 3 places to 1
10. Side antenna added upon the air intake
11. Different shape of the ram air intake on the left side of the nose
12. No antenna behind the front gear storage box (installed on the J-type)
13. Different shape of the antenna under the right air intake
14. Reinforcing panels and underside of the central fuselage reproduced
15. Different shape and position of the louver under the nose
16. Different shape of the antenna beside the airbrake, below the main wings
Unfortunately, there is only one option included in this kit, just like we had it with the F-4J. Here, the Phantom represented is number 100 from VF-161, based on USS Midway. It features high-vis insignia and markings, black tail with red lightning crossing through it.
Quite typical for the era and pretty attractive for modeling. Zoukei-Mura offers aftermarket decals for their J variant, and quite soon I am betting on S-type decals too. As you can guess, F-4S, even being the last mod is abundant in color variations and probably, you will be able to find something interesting and different than the one inside the box.
Companies usually give us many painting variations, varying from 2-3 to 7-8, even more sometimes. The decision of being so specific is something that will raise some eyebrows but it is what it is.
Extra Parts and Add-ons:
Once the J-type went for sale, Zoukei-Mura announced several aftermarket sets on their website. Those featured weighted wheels, which are quite nice and I believe – a must for a proper phantom. They are suitable for J and S, as well as for C and D. The other two upcoming F-4s from Zoukei.
Then we have a PE set for J/S cockpit, which I am not a fan of, since the parts in the kit looks good enough for me and besides, PE sets for cockpits often gives 2D appearance with odd appearance in color. This is only me here, many will enjoy this set a lot. Besides it looks awfully lot like Eduard PE set, who are known to be the best in business so many will find that attractive.
Alongside with that there is a color set from Vallejo paints, with bonus airbrush cleaner. The paints are chosen for the J/S variants and this is good option here, if you know how to deal with Vallejo acrylics. The colors are something which a lot of modelers struggle when it comes down to F-4, especially for the belly area. So if you know your way around Vallejo/MIG/AK paints, I would say go for it.
The last thing I want to mention is not an add-on or accessory set. It is a book from Zoukei-Mura, featuring three builds of F-4s, built from three modelers chosen by Zoukei-Mura. There are reference images, building processes and many more, overall being a guide on how-to complete your Phantom in the best way possible.
It is called a Concept Note, for those who haven’t dealt with Zoukei-Mura kits. It is important especially for those who does not have contact with the real F-4 nearby them. It will give you great ideas and additional knowledge for the airplane, as well as tips and tricks from master modelers who already built Zoukei-Mura Phantastic F-4.
DN Model’s modest contribution:
Canopy and wheels masking set is available at DN Model’s website, designed for this kit. It might not be much, at least not like the aftermarket Resin and PE parts we are about to witness in the near future, but masks are what we do at DN Models, and we decided to give our best to accompany this kit with one very useful product for the modelers Worldwide.
Zoukei-Mura kits in 32nd scale that I own and reviewed here featured masks but for whatever reason ZM left the phantom without them. This isn’t a coincidence in my opinion, and as with the nozzles there is an idea behind all that. Thankfully, that gave us the option to design a set of our own and be a part of the Zoukei-Mura’s Phantom Project.
I want to start with Cons of this kit. They are two. First one are the nozzles. They are far from what Zoukei-Mura showed as quality in this kit. As I mentioned before I believe this is on purpose. After all, aftermarket companies deserve little room for work, which eventually was the case with the masks /thank you for that, ZM!/. I believe that Zoukei-Mura could’ve added perfect ones but they left it out due to the reason stated above.
Second con in my opinion is the single painting option. I know that there will be many aftermarket decals and Zoukei-Mura will probably add something from their own into that. But still. Comparing the kit with Eduard’s super kits /repacked Academy/, where there are 5-6 or more options, it seems kinda sparse here. But since the overall look is good, I think I can live with it.
Now onto the Pros of the kit. There are so many, that I don’t even know where to begin with. I gotta admit – I am a fan of 1/32 planes. But this is a brilliant kit, far better than Tamiya’s 32nd scale Phantom. The detail is superb, every surface is thin and the edges are even sharp. There are no doubt about it, this is the Ultimate Phantom in every scale for the moment. Probably for quite some time in the future too.
It is basically the same quality as the J version, with refined missiles, which makes it slightly advanced. But overall, far better than Hasegawa and slamming the door for the recent Academy kit too.
There is no doubt – if you are a fan of the Phantom, this is the kit for you. Its not too big, nor too small in that scale. I believe Zoukei realized that when started contemplating their Phantom kit. There is competition on the market, but they made an attempt to beat it and succeeded on every level.
There is only one kit I’ve seen that is comparable with that and it is AMK’s MiG-31. On the 48th scale scene there isn’t anything else that is with such high level and such accuracy. Nor quality of the materials.
Phantastic Slatted beast!