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Northrop T-38A Talon

Sword Models 1/48 Scale

S u m m a r y

Catalogue Number: SW48004
Scale: 1/48
Contents and Media: 33 injection-molded styrene parts, 19 resin parts
Price: purchased for $42 Australian Dollars from NKR Models
Review Type: FirstLook
Advantages: First and only accurate T-38 kit in this scale, good resin detail parts.
Disadvantages: Only two simple decal options
Recommendation: Highly Recommended

Reviewed by Kursad Albayraktar

Sword's 1/48 scale T-38A Talon may be ordered online from Squadron.com




Northrop’s excellent supersonic trainer, T-38, was the airplane that started the F-5 series. Developed from the design studies for the N-156 lightweight fighter that would eventually become the F-5A, the T-38 made its first flight in 1959, and entered service in 1961.

Still the USAF’s primary trainer, for some reason the T-38 has been almost totally ignored by scale model companies. Almost every single model of the T-38 in the market, with the exception of Collect-Aire’s relatively recent resin kit in the 1/32 scale, have been poor modifications of F-5B kits, more often just F-5B kits with T-38 decals. In the 1/48 scale, the only option was the highly inaccurate Fujimi/Testors offering until the release of the Sword kit, the subject of this review.

After years of waiting for a decent T-38 kit, two companies (Minicraft and Sword) have announced 1/48 kits of the Talon in early 2003. Minicraft seemed to have dropped its plans for an all-new tooling at some point, but Sword’s kit soon showed up in the upcoming releases lists of major retailers. Would it be worth the wait?

Judging by the kit sitting on my bench now, it was.





Sword’s T-38 is still not on sale in North America, but I have been waiting so long for a Talon that I had to order it from halfway around the world, NKR Models of Australia.

Opening the box, I was greeted with the sight of one large and one small injected sprues molded in grey plastic, a clear sprue and a small bag of resin parts. The Talon is a relatively simple aircraft, and Sword chose to depict the aircraft with few well-molded injection parts and many small resin parts for details. The fuselage is split into three major plastic parts: left and right fuselage, and aft fuselage bottom. A resin “plug” provides the airbrake and main wheel well area.

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

The recessed panel lines are crisp and well done. The quality of the lines is very consistent throughout the fuselage. There is rivet detail where appropriate.



As with many short-run manufacturers’ kits, the parts have no location pins, but the main fuselage parts have small tabs to help in assembly, and the wings plug firmly to the fuselage slots. Smaller injected parts like the landing gear well doors, intakes and landing gear struts look fairly nice. The struts could have been better, but they will probably look good enough under a coat of paint.

There are no compressor faces or intake trunking, I doubt these are necessary for the Talon since the intakes are fairly small.

There was minimal flash in my sample. I was pleasantly surprised by the molding quality of the kit, it is much better than any short-run manufacturer’s kits I have seen so far.

There was much speculation about whether the kit canopy would be injected or not, until Sword announced that the canopy would indeed be injected. The three-part canopy is thin and nicely done. My parts were somewhat scuffed in the box, but this is nothing a quick dip into Future can not fix.


Where the Sword T-38 kit really shines, however, is the resin detail parts. 19 resin parts cover the front and rear cockpits, airbrakes, landing gear wells, exhaust nozzles and shroud, and the notoriously complicated canopy raising mechanism of the T-38. The parts are cast using a strong, grey resin reminiscent of the type Cutting Edge and MDC use, with crisp detail. The detail level in the gear wells is definitely not inferior than similar Aires detail sets, and the cockpit tubs, consoles and ejection seats look great. For some reason Sword chose not to cast the belts on the seats, but the belts of F-5/T-38 seats were a relatively simple affair and most modelers could use either masking tape, or aftermarket PE parts for these.


Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:


I did not check the kit parts against a plan for accuracy, but Sword seems to have done their homework for this kit. The peculiar shape of the T-38 nose is captured very well, and the intakes, exhaust shroud and many other details of the Talon are there. There are some minor omissions like the blade antenna under the nose, but the kit looks accurate overall.

After taking the sprue photos, I proceeded with a simple fit test, and checked the fit of the main fuselage parts. Even without locating pins, the three injected and one resin part that make up the fuselage fit very well. I did not have the chance to test-fit the windscreen, but based on the contours of the coaming area, I have some concerns about the fit of this part. Hopefully it will not be anything to worry about.


Sword chose to provide decals for two rather ordinary looking, all-white USAF aircraft. This gives the aftermarket decal manufacturers a good opportunity to release new Talon sheets: With many different color schemes spanning four decades of USAF service as trainers or aggressor aircraft, NASA Talons, Thunderbird Talons, US Navy adversary Talons and four international users (Portugal, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey); there is no shortage for interesting decal options for the T-38.


The decal options seem to be taken from Don Logan’s “Northrop T-38 Talon: A Pictorial History” book. One of the options, USAF serial number 64-13263, is the aircraft in the cover photograph of this excellent book. The other option is 61-0836, an aircraft that was based at Holloman AFB.





Finally we have an accurate model kit of the T-38 Talon in 1/48 scale. The Sword kit is well worth the long wait, and should be a fairly easy build for anybody with one or two short-run kit projects under the belt.

The Sword T-38 is an excellent kit, and I applaud Sword for having the vision to produce a high-quality kit of the T-38, one of the world’s most important jet trainers. As far as I know, this is Sword’s first foray into modern jet aircraft models, and I sincerely hope they will have good sales figures for the Talon that would encourage them to release other much needed subjects in this area.

Highly Recommended.

Review and Images Copyright © 2003 by Kursad Albayraktar
Page Created 23 August, 2003
Last updated 09 November, 2003

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