Israel turned to the F-4E Phantom II after France embargoed further sales of Mirage IIIs following the Six Day War. Israel's crushing victory over its Arab enemies resulted in threats by Saudi Arabia and other oil producers that further sales of armaments to Israel would mean a loss of oil shipments. The Mirage had been a spectacular interceptor for the Israel Defense Force (IDF), and was both more lethal in cannon combat and could out-maneuver the Phantom in dog fights. Not surprisingly, many of Israel's leading aces flew the Mirage III.
The Phantom II, however, proved to be more rugged, endured punishment better, and could carry enormous payloads of ordnance, including cluster bombs and M117s for interdicting air bases, as well as air-to-air missiles like the Sparrow and heat-seeking Sidewinder. Nicknamed Kurnass
(Hebrew for "sledgehammer"), the plane became a stalwart of the Israeli IDF/AF and served through the 70s, 80s and 90s. Around the turn of this century, the remaining 112 Phantoms underwent a sophisticated updating that resulted in the "Kurnass 2000."
Double Ugly Books
has released a two-volume set about the F-4E Phantom II's service in the IDF/AF, and anyone who plans on modeling one of these aircraft should find the money to buy at least one of the two volumes, and preferably both. Volume One has already been reviewed in Aeroscale here
, and deals with the first sorties of the plane, right through the Yom Kipur War and through the 1980s. Unlike many modeling books, Volume One has a compelling story about the men and machines who carved out a new chapter in IDF/AF's already "wild & wooly" exploits. Volume Two is more of a "walkaround" and detailed look at the planes both inside and out, especially the recce versions, right up through their retirement in 2004 when the F-15 and F-16 replaced them.
what you get
The hardcover book is a large A4 format with the same 160 pages as Volume One, and includes over 100 color profiles, over 350 photos (most in color and many never published before), along with 26 B&W line drawings in 1/48th scale.
Anyone familiar with Volume One will notice leafing through the second book how many more spectacular color photos were available to the authors than with the older planes profiled in the first book. Because the subject matter is more recent, the photos in Volume Two tend to be clearer and usually always in bright, gorgeous color. The result is a wealth of material for modelers. In addition, the book has more walk-around and interior photos than the first volume for super-detailers.
The format includes twelve chapters and seven appendixes:
Chapter 1: F-4E Kurnass 2000
Chapter 2: RF-4E Kurnass Tsilum - Reconnaissance
Chapter 3: F-4E(S) - Operation Peace Jack
Chapter 4: Squadron 69 "The Hammers"
Chapter 5: Squadron 106 "The Scorpions"
Chapter 6: Squadron 107 "The Knights of the Orange Tail"
Chapter 7: Squadron 119 "The Bats"
Chapter 8: Squadron 201 "The One"
Chapter 9: Manat - Test and Evaluation Squadron
Chapter 10: Kurnass 2000 Walkaround
Chapter 11: Rf-4E Walkaround
Chapter 12: F-4E(S) Walkaround
Appendix 1: HIAC-1 Description
Appendix 2: Kurnass 2000
Appendix 3: RF-4E Phantom II
Appendix 4: F-4E(S) Shablul
Appendix 5: Camouflage Schemes
Appendix 6: Cockpit Layout - Late Production Block F-4E
Appendix 7: Kurnass Serial Lists
Four squadrons flew Phantoms, and each has a chapter to itself that gives a nice overview of the unit and its history. While lacking the "you are there" drama of Volume One, these overviews round out the somewhat haphazard story in the first book (which admittedly was about some pretty intense action about hot wars). Coupled with the narrative are pages of color photos of the planes on the tarmac, in action and occasionally, crashed.
My one quibble with the second volume is the extensive amount of material on the RF-4E and F-4E(S) reconnaissance versions. I'm always glad to see variants detailed in any reference work, but I would imagine that the overwhelming majority of modelers will be looking to build one of the "fighting" Kurnass variants, and not one for taking photos. As crucial as recce photos are for conducting modern aerial tactical warfare, most of us tend to prefer a plane with a nasty punch. The very detailed and clear cockpit interiors, for example, are superb.
And those who prefer action to reconnaissance will not be disappointed, either. There is plenty of material on the load-outs of the plane and its roles in both ground attack and air-to-air combat.
The chance to see the inside and out of the plane you'll be building makes this book a "must have." Even if you're not a super-detailer and intend to build a kit out-of-the-box, the many detailed paint schemes (both color drawings and photos) will ensure having the right markings and coloring for your build. While the Kurnass normally had the standard four-color paint scheme familiar to most of us, it also sported the standard USAF Asian scheme (nicknamed Karpada or "toad"), and a two-tone gray variant for the reconnaissance variant.
The appendices are especially valuable in that regard, as they include camo schemes, a rich selection of 1/48th scale line drawings, as well as information about post-1989 Phantoms, including serial numbers.
This kind of detail makes these books the standard reference work for modelers and plane nuts alike.
It's rare to find even one modeling book that is as good as this set. Not only is there a treasure of information about the planes, but the narrative linking the material together is compelling. More than anything else, these two volumes are THE source for modelers who want to build accurate Israeli Phantoms in any period of service.
And if I was asked which of the two books I would recommend the highest, I can only say that the information contained in BOTH books is crucial for anyone who wants to have a firm grasp on the Israeli Phantom.
Thanks to Double Ugly Books for providing the review copy of Volume Two. Be sure to mention you saw the book reviewed here on Aeroscale when ordering your copy.