Korean War air-to-air combat lessons heavily influenced the concept of Lockheed's F-104 Starfighter. Razor sharp leading edges of its 21-foot wingspan cut ground crews. Airframe performance never reached due to limited engine technology. Yet the "Missile With A Man In It" set world record after world record, and was modified to train USAF astronauts! Object of "The Deal of the Century".
The Starfighter was flown by every NATO member except the UK (and France--if they were technically still in NATO in the early 60s).), and by Japan, Jordan, Pakistan and Taiwan. Italy is just retiring the last of their Super Starfighters after some 40 years of operations.
Taiwan's F-104s claimed numerous kills against Red Chinese fighters. Pakistan's single squadron held the larger Indian AF at bay in their first war, but was overwhelmed by almost a dozen MiG-21 squadrons during the second war. There are unconfirmed rumors of Starfighter vs Starfighter kills in the bizarre Cypriot war between NATO members Turkey and Greece.
The USAF only had 296 of all versions! Not multi-role enough for requirements, the USAF regulated the type mainly to Air Defense Command, its sole F-104 479th Tactical Fighter Wing was rotated through Viet Nam with disappointing results. What WWII's Martin B-26 Marauder was to bombers, this late-1950's fighter was arguably the most sophisticated fighter of its time and definitely one of the period's most controversial warplanes; both were known as "widow makers" for inexperienced pilots, both were known for cutting-edge performance. This is an interesting F-104 data site
Cutting-edge and controversy are hallmarks of this eighth of Tamiya's Mini Jet series. Re-issued in flash-free silver plastic and a canopy, these 34 parts are a dichotomy of quality. Panel lines are recessed but wide, wing leading-edges are razor-thin but thus easily damaged, nicely detailed landing gear and horribly fitting gear doors. Worse is the mockery of tight, well-fitting seams of the terribly mis-sized parts. The fuselage halves are not of equal length, and if the air intakes fit so badly in real life then the drag would probably been to much to even taxi! But they did give me practice filling and shaping, as did the canopy fit! The weapon pylons are paper thin but the Sidewinders look like they were molded in the Bronze Age. Oh, and those panel lines are not all aligned. These flaws would be noticeable in 1/24 scale! The cockpit is just a seat. I added a pilot.
Painting & decals
Tamiya partially redeems this kit with the decals for the Bundesluftwaffe and Japanese Air Self Defense Force. They are thin, crisp, opaque, require little soaking, do not curl, and snuggle without need of setting solution. The Bundesluftwaffe unit code and Balkancruz are printed as a single piece which I appreciated, until I noted they were spaced too far apart, after they were dry, of course. Included are several jet data marks, e.g., ejection seat triangles, weapons plaque, canopy actuation, and rescue arrow. Crisp and clear, but lacking any hint of text! I made do with some small 1/72 items. They went on over a gloss of Future, and sealed with Polly Scale semi-gloss mixture.
I wanted to do a four-color Taiwanese F-104 to face off with my 1/100 PRC MiG-19 but couldn't scrounge the decals. So I started the four-color USAF Viet Nam bird until the allure of a striking Bundesluftwaffe jet with those day-glo wingtip tanks overwhelmed me! The JASDF scheme of white and silver with red Hinomarus is also appealing. Tamiya hasn't updated the paint guide, listing only dark green, blue gray, and 'bright gray'. The kit was thus painted with interpreted Polly Scale and Pactra acrylics over rattle-can auto primer.
This is the sixth of Tamiya's 1/100 series I have built, and the only disappointment. Great molding and detail but horrible sizing and continuity. Be prepared to put in significant work if you want a respectable model.