Updated: January 27, 2012
F-16 is arguably one of the most popular fighter jets in the world. It has gained fame through war and cinema. From Lebanon via Afghanistan to Balkans, F-16 was used in anger more than any other Western combat jet. At the same time, in the silver screen halls worldwide, teens cheered to Iron Eagle 1 through 7,555 as their movie peers flew the aircraft into combat zones with nothing but a handsome pair of sunglasses, a walkman and possibly a G-suit. Oh, the good ole 80s.
Now, I specifically wrote General Dynamics - and some of you may try to correct me by saying that it is Lockheed Martin that owns the company now. True, but back then, it was still General Dynamics. So don't be too angry about it, will you. Anyhow, this plane made so much noise, it became a legend, more so than King Arthur. It was used in the hands of the Israelis to shoot down 44 Syrian aircraft without a single loss, it even bombed a nuclear reactor, it fought in Afghanistan and both Gulf Wars, and it engaged Serbian fighters in Bosnia and Kosovo. Busy little bee, Fighting Falcon.
With as much drama and color as the actual aircraft, my Italeri 1/72 model was born and assembled. I had it bought in 1992, partially assembled in 1993 and then it gathered dust till 2000 or so. Not a good thing, you assume correctly, as the decals lost their transparency and became moldy. Painted parts also had fine particles of dirt settle in as a permanent second layer, further ruining things. To make matters worse, I had some acetone spilled onto the cockpit piece, which reacted with the plastic, made it misty and permanently damaged it. Someone else might have thrown away the model, but I just could not do it. So without much further ado, with all its flaws and combat damage, here's my Falcon.
Rather than painting my model in American colors and decorating it with the USAF decals, I went for a somewhat less usual Belgian markings and the NATO color scheme. I'm not quite sure which Block my plane is, but it came with both single-seater and two-seater assembly options, LANTIRN pods and ATARS, so it must be fairly new.
Like most Italeri models, F-16 came with few movable parts, so to speak, including a pilot-less cockpit with a closed bubble. Air brakes could not be deployed, and unlike my MiG-23 Flogger model, I could not do that without ruining the plastic. Parts matched well. The landing gear was precise and sturdy.
Age wear can clearly be seen on the decals and the cockpit. I tried minimizing the damage as much as I could, but little could be done to permanent molecular mutations in the plastic and paint. That said, I tried compensating with a careful attention to little details, like the nose radome and the side antenna, as well as the massive array of weaponry.
Indeed, as always, one of the more fun parts in the assembly was the arsenal of missiles and bombs. My F-16 ended up with two 600-gal drop tanks, four cluster bombs, painted liberally in a fictional scheme, and two wingtip-mounted AIM-9L Sidewinders with thin black and silver striping. Don't miss the M61 Vulcan gun and the fume grille. I think the fuel tanks look really cool with the read markings. The inboard tri-pylon carrying a single bomb is ugly, but that's not my fault.
The original configuration in the model blueprint was to mount two bombs on the rack side by side, but I decided against it. Instead, I used the third pylon for the bomb load, although this is rarely done in practice, because anything above 400-500lb limits the planes maneuverability to just 5.5g. Normally, the outer wing pylons are used to carry Sidewinders, while AMRAAM missiles are mounted on the wingtip rails. But this specific plane supposedly existed before AIM-120 was an operational weapon.
I painted the bombs freely, with blue and copper markings that mean little. However, I was fairly precise, given their thickness of about 1mm. To manage this, I used thin strips of duct tape to mark the paint lines, and then peeled them off after it was done. The overall end effect is not bad, especially considering all other mistakes and damages.
I also painted the canopy division line in bronze, and I believe that's how it ought to be, or at least that's what I though all those years ago. Yes, I painted the canopy in 1993, so it's been almost two decades since. Reasonable, all considered. If you disregard the dust and dirt, it's not a bad model.
Here's a nice shot from behind. The array of weapons looks quite nice. The Sidewinder missiles look aggressive and the long and sleek and yet fat drop tanks add character to the fighter's classic silhouette.
And here's comparison to F-15, its bigger counterpart:
All in all, not bad, but could be much better. This plane probably deserves no more than 7/10. Originally, I was planning to redo the model at least once more, but then I stopped doing it altogether and moved to other art hobbies. Then, I might do it again some day. After all, my F-15 took several trials before it became really good looking. Well, that would be all. Party on.