Book Review
Israeli Phantoms: 1989-Today
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by: Bill Cross [ BILL_C ]


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.

the review

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.
Highs: Large collection of clear color photos, walk-arounds and technical details.
Lows: None really.
Verdict: A "must have" for anyone modeling Israeli Phantoms, and a perfect companion to Volume One.
  Scale: 1:1
  Mfg. ID: ISBN 978-3-935687-82-9
  Suggested Retail: 35 Euros
  PUBLISHED: Nov 11, 2014

Our Thanks to Double Ugly Books!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Bill Cross (bill_c)

Self-proclaimed rivet counter who gleefully builds tanks, planes and has three subs in the stash.

Copyright 2021 text by Bill Cross [ BILL_C ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


Thanks, Darren, for getting this one "live."
NOV 10, 2014 - 11:49 PM
And I hope the lack of comments doesn't mean this review has gone unnoticed. This is THE source, folks, if you're building a Kurnass, and very worthwhile even if you just like planes.
NOV 13, 2014 - 08:46 PM
Don't gage a product's exposure by the lack there of, or many posting in the related modeling forum it was reviewed on. Forum postings have no real relevance as to how much interest or I recently had our SHM (Sierra Hotel Models) 48th F-16 ACES II Seats and F/A-18C-D Intakes reviewed on Hypercale and there was barely mention of them in the forums, but the surge in orders over the past two weeks speaks volumes in itself. However, I've also had a set of my 32nd F-4 Intakes reviewed here and the response was a lot less than more recent products reviewed else ware. Gauging from how slow this forums moves on current or new threads posted, I just think there's a lot less traffic and interest in modern aircraft here. As for your IDF F-4 books, if one has all the Isra books on the IDF F-4/RF-4, what does this (or these) new book have over the Isra F-4 books? It seems I would have to get both volumes, but are these available in the US and how much per copy? I am interested in this book (and the previous one) as we can always use more F-4 references, but I do have a lot of refs on the IDF Phantoms. Mike V
NOV 15, 2014 - 01:23 AM
Hi Bill As I'm sure you'll know only too well from all your years on Kitmaker, you should never equate lack of Forum responses with absence of interest. Our readership is sharply divided between Content browsers and active Forum members so, while this thread may have only attracted 80-something views, the Review's in the 400s (and I've added 1 by checking! ) All the best Rowan
NOV 15, 2014 - 02:32 AM
Bill, just an excellent review of a outstanding set of books. I really need to buy both.
NOV 15, 2014 - 04:11 AM
Hi, Mike, I have not had a chance to review the IsraDecal book on the Kurnass. It looks very good; I'm not sure if it's available other than direct from the publisher. Given that the volume is currently marked down from $49 to $39, it's very attractive for sure. I don't have any information on shipping costs, though it looks as though shipping is included if ordered from the publisher. Both of the Double Ugly books are available from Roll Models for $44 each. If your order totals more than $199, shipping is free. I never have a problem getting $199 worth of goodies, so John and his crew have been a valuable resource for me over the years. Buy with confidence! To your question about whether the IsraDecal book in one volume trumps the Double Ugly books in two volumes. The DU books are a complete overview of the Kurnass. And since the IsraDecal book is about half the number of pages of the other two combined, there simply can't be as much material. The color photos in the DU books make them stand out IMO, while the samples shown on the IsraDecal site seem less colorful. But I could be wrong. If you already have the IsraDecal book, then I would not suggest going out and dropping another $90 on the DU ones, unless you are a Kurnass fanatic (it crossed my mind, but I thought better of it, especially when my wife suggested I sleep on the couch for a few weeks). Either option should work well for the more casual modeler. Still, I lean towards the DU books because they are: Gorgeous Complete Tell a compelling story Regarding "pull" from reviews: I have written nearly 250 reviews on various Kitmaker sites, and continue to see them "pull" for the manufacturers who supply review copies. I was the one who wrote the Sierra Hotel review (click here). As a matter of fact, I am waiting for updated "splitter plates" to be sent to me, as well as some photos from your excellent instructions for carving up the Tamiya fuselage (one of the things that make your intakes stand out). Once I get those items, I will revise the review. I hope that will bump up sales, as I am planning on using these intakes in a Kurnass build currently on my workbench. I have used another set of intakes in this F-4J USMC Phantom build, and can say yours are superior (something we're not supposed to say in Kitmaker reviews). Rowan, you are correct: I have reviewed a number of books on sites and they usually don't attract a lot of commentary. Just hoping to still the pot a little and get more eyeballs for these books. Joel, thanks for the comment. I don't think you'll be disappointed with the set.
NOV 17, 2014 - 12:32 AM
Bump. These folks publish outstanding titles.
JAN 28, 2015 - 03:58 AM
I keep on telling myself that I have to start building some IAF aircraft, but the sad fact is I can't even build all the USA aircraft I have in my small stash which never seems to shrink. But who knows, the next build just might be from the IAF. Still, another book on one of my favorite jet; the F-4 Phantom certainly would be a welcome addition to my small aviation library. Joel
JAN 28, 2015 - 04:29 AM
Joel, these books are a fantastic addition to any modeler's library. Volume One is also a helluva good story about the switch from the Mirage III to the F-4E. Volume Two is more about the refitted Kurnass 2000, but has the "walkaround" photos you'd expect to find.
FEB 04, 2015 - 12:15 AM

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