The F4 Phantom has long been a favourite. I can remember them roaring over Kent during their last years of service with the RAF in the 1980’s. The noise was amazing and the smell of kerosene distinct since they were on low level training sorties, the plane since then has always stuck in my mind.
The type first entered service in 1960 with the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force and was in production until 1981 when it was steadily being replaced by the more modern F15’s and F16’s. The F-4 saw service in almost every major military action from the 60’s onwards, were heavily used during the Vietnam conflict and even saw service during the Gulf war in a reconnaissance role. A total of 5195 were built and the production was the second largest of any western jet fighter, beaten only by the F-86 Sabre. The Phantom saw service with eleven other countries including the UK, Germany, Australia, Egypt, Japan, Israel, Iran, Greece, Spain, South Korea and Turkey.
FMS's kit is slightly larger than previous market offerings and based around what is now an industry standard 70mm fan. The model is fully moulded in EPS foam and almost complete, fully painted in a Vietnam camouflage with decals already applied.
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The first thing that's required is to beef up the nose cone, the moulding is very thin and lacks strength. After much head scratching I decided to reinforce the part by sticking self adhesive glass reinforced tape lengthways inside. This was applied all the way around the inside with the tape joins overlapping. This made the nosecone feel far more substantial and resilient to knocks. I had toyed with the idea of laying up some glass cloth and resin but decided it would probably not adhere to the plastic and wouldn’t be anywhere near as flexible as the glass tape would be. Once this was done I glued the nosecone on with a foam friendly contact adhesive.
Next on the build list was a dry fit of the wings. At first glance the fit wasn't too bad and the surfaces married up reasonably well. The only adjustment I needed to make on my example was where the pre-fitted aileron servos are slightly proud of the fuselage side. This needed a little of the foam removing to allow the wing to sit flush with the wing seat. This was the same on both wings. Once the adjustments had been made, I mixed up a small amount of the supplied epoxy to add strength to the joint. The epoxy was applied to the wing root and each wing glued separately. This epoxy took around five minutes to cure and dried quite clear.
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I checked the fin was true and vertical, it was, so, again, epoxy secured the piece. With the build completed all that remains is to install one's chosen receiver and fly. It was here that I found a small problem with the elevator servos.
The first thing to do was to get everything level and working in unison. With this in mind the radio was switched on only to find that the two servos fitted to the elevator seemed to be geared differently. The right hand servo, looking from behind the model, was moving the surface about 1/4” or around 6mm in metric more than the left hand surface and this was in both directions.
Both of the servo horns were the same size so the only thing I could do to alleviate this was to move the pushrod one hole closer to the servo, this cured the problem but was by no means the real answer. Luckily this was the only place there was a difference in the servo outputs so that was all the real adjustment needed apart from levelling up some of the surfaces which comes to be expected anyway.Article continues below…
I chose to fit a Spektrum AR500 receiver although, if needs be, there is acres of room in the radio bay. That's not the same with the battery bay and I found myself restricted to the battery that was supplied with the kit. It seems the battery bay was designed around this pack because I tried a pack of what seemed to be the same physical size to the one supplied only to find it was around 4mm too long, something that would pose a problem to those planning on using other 2200mAh 4s packs. This to me seemed to be a little short sighted as another 10mm in length on the battery bay would accommodate most batteries of the 2200mAh size and allow a little adjustment on the C of G without having to add unwanted extra weight.
With all the possible shed and ground checks done the only thing left to do was to get the F-4 to the field. I decided in the interests of the review I would try to fly the F-4 with its undercarriage on; I was a little dubious as to whether the model would indeed have enough thrust to get airborne using the wheels but my concerns were unfounded as the model, with the taps wide open, was up in 15-20m and the climb-out was impressive enough to back off the throttle a little.
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The model has a good roll rate on the recommended surface movements and the elevator is very strong and effective at speed but this is really where this model needs to be and it was apparent that if you let the speed drop too much through the turns, the model had the tendency to tuck under a little.
The F4 is certainly not a beginners model and an experienced hand is needed to get the best from the flight envelope. It could quite easily catch the inexperienced pilot out as it seems to need a constant hand to keep the model from getting out of shape and, believe me, I had a few moments where I wondered what the model was doing and why it was doing what it did. Trying to get the model to behave at slow speed was hard work and I think it may be because the anheadral tail needs the airflow over it to make it effective. With this in mind the speed was increased to help the handling and this was more effective and helped the model settle down more. It has plenty of power for vertical blasts but needs to be flown out of the vertical manoeuvres to maintain airspeed which as I’ve already pointed out is quite critical.
Surprisingly it is not too difficult to land despite its low speed characteristics, but it does need to be flown in, so leave some battery spare for your landing. Endurance is around five minutes using the supplied 2200 4s pack. The model’s stall is not bad and a mere mush is all that’s there to tell.
With the model back on the ground I decided to remove the undercarriage and try hand launching. The launch must be flat as I found out the hard way when we put a little too much ‘nose up’ on the first launch and the model stood on its tail and looped back to a belly landing. Luckily there was no damage so a second launch saw the model off in a much better flat trajectory.
The model does look superb on a flat out pass and despite its handling peculiarities it ireally looks the part on high speed jet style flying manoeuvres.
But be aware it is no walk in the park to fly and I would say to tame the model would need someone with a fair few hours under their belt that said you will be rewarded with an F4 that looks like an F4 and for that you’ve gotta love it.
Name – F-4 Phantom
Manufactured by – FMS
UK distributor – CML Distribution
RRP – £184.99
Wingspan – 720mm
Flying weight – 850g
Kit Includes – five pre-installed servos (2 elevator, 2 ailerons, 1 nose leg steering) 45-amp brushless motor controller, outrunner brushless motor, 4S 20c 2100 mAh Li-Po battery, 70mm ducted fan (fitted).