Thunderflash. Bang. Wallop. What a picture!
Scale Aircraft Modelling|January 2021
Aurelio Reale models the RF-84F in Italian Air Force colours
Aurelio Reale

Republic RF-84F Thunderflash

Kit No: 2201-1

Scale: 1/48

Type: Injection Moulded Plastic with canopy mask set

Manufacturer: Tanmodel www.tanmodel.com

The Lens of History

Designed as a development of the F-84F Thunderstreak fighter-bomber, the RF-84F Thunderflash was a dedicated photoreconnaissance aircraft. Outwardly it was very different to its nose-intaked forbear. New wing intakes allowed a dedicated camera nose to be added, with defensive armament moved to the lower intake leading edges. This similarity in configuration to Republic’s later F-105 led to it being nicknamed ‘Thud’s Mother’. It also incorporated advanced features to ease the pilot’s workload such as computerized controls to adjust camera settings for light, speed, and altitude, a periscope to give better view of the target, and a voice recorder to let the pilot save his observations. Used in quantity by the USAF, the Thunderflash also served with several NATO and European air forces for many years. Greece only retired its last examples in 1991.

In the Aeronautica Militare, Thunderflashes equipped units of the 3rd Aerobrigata (Wing). Initially called the 3rd Fighter Wing, in March 1954 they moved from Bari to the Villafranca Air Base at Verona airport in the north of the country. In June 1955 the unit began to receive straight-winged F-84G Thunderjets and then, in December, the first Thunderflashes. By the end of the year it had been re-christened as the 3rd Reconnaissance Wing. The 78 aircraft in service were used until 1970 when they were replaced by RF-104G Starfighters.

Through the Viewfinder

Up until a few years ago, to make the camera nosed cousin of the Thunderjet, the modeller had to find the old 1981 release from Heller, the 1994 re-release, or Fonderie Miniatures’ updated reboxing from 2005. The kit had a few issues and was becoming harder to find, so in 2015 Turkish company Tanmodel came to the rescue with a new tool Thunderflash. And very nice it is too, made by 3D scanning the real aircraft and then refined using CAD. Containing around three hundred parts, the kit offers recessed panel lines with lots of options for open panels revealing avionics and photographic equipment, a nicely detailed cockpit with raised instrument detail (although no seat belts are provided), poseable ailerons, rudder, flaps, and air brakes. Full intake trunking and separate tyres are also included, but being a photo-recon aircraft underwing stores are limited to a choice of rather large, but characteristic, fuel tanks.

Focussing on Construction

I began the build with my usual test fit of all the main components, which showed a well-designed model with no real problems, the wing to fuselage join being especially good.

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