Monday, March 5, 2018

A Polystyrene Phoenix, A couple of Havocs, Some Gutsy Aussies, The Price, Strike Eagle, A Couple of Movies, and Some T-Birds for Doug

Another Way to Do It, Or Maybe a Trip in an Alternate WayBack Machine

Let's take a trip, you and me, down Memory Lane, but this time around let's not discuss all those cool kits, how hard it was to find markings and accessories, how aftermarket didn't even exist back then, and all that other stuff us old guys like to talk about. Instead, let's talk about some of the models we built in those days, and how they're still viable today as the basis for a brand new project. (This is the part where you get to say "Huh?", so go ahead and do that. I'll wait a minute for you to get it done.)

OK, now that that's out of the way, allow me to explain, using myself as the example. My first attempts at "serious" plastic modeling took place while I was living in Japan during the early 1960s. The models weren't very good, nor were they particularly memorable even to me, and I was the guy who was making them. The second phase of "serious" took place around 1968 or so, when MicroScale began producing and selling aftermarket decals. There had been other decal companies prior to that, of course; HisAirDec, Stoppel, ABT, and Authenticals all come to mind, jus to name a few, but the offerings of the Krasel brothers were fairly accurate, much thinner, and looked a whole lot better on a model than did the offerings of those other guys. Those MicroScale decals and, in my own world at least, those of Max ABT and Authenticals, stimulated the creation of a veritable rash of psuedo-authentic 1/72nd scale model airplanes, most of which were built to a pretty terrible standard of completion.

Some of those models were favorites, though, and several became prized members of my collection. Most of them are gone now, either taken to bits to provide parts for other projects (Reduced to Produce, as San Antonio modeler Bob Angel is fond of saying) or accidentally destroyed by my children as they discovered those neat little toys sitting innocently on the shelves of my studio, but the memories are there, and so is a fondness for certain of them.

It was in one of those periods of Fond Memories a few years back that the epiphany struck me: Why not reproduce a few of those old-time favorites, but with modern kits, aftermarket, paints, and decals? It seemed like a good idea at the time, so off I went in search of inspiration, which I found in the hulk of an old Frog Hurricane Mk IIc that I'd built in 1968 or 69 as Karel Kuttelwascher's BE581 JX-E, based on information found in the frontispiece of the old Profile Publication on that airplane. I bought a Hasegawa Mk IIc kit in 1/48th scale (my scale of choice these days), discovered that Sky Decals had a Hurricane sheet containing those very markings, and went to work. I even took some red decal stock and cut out patches for battle damage repair and put them on the model where P. Endsleigh Castle's 5-view Profile artwork had shown them to live---common sense makes me doubt they were really on the airplane but they were most assuredly on both that artwork and on my original model, and that was justification enough, by Golly! The model came out pretty well, and you've seen it in these pages. The die was cast, more or less.

A few months later the bug bit again, this time regarding the Fw190D-9 flown by Theo Nibel of 10/JG54 during Operation Bodenplatte. In that instance the original model had been a poorly-done rendition of the airplane using the not-especially-accurate Lindberg D-9 as a canvas, but Tamiya had a pretty nice 1/48th "Dora" in their lineup and the game was on, although in that instance I didn't start with a fresh, unsullied kit, but rather with an older completed one on the shelf that was in need of a facelift. That one, and some of the stages of said facelift, are within these pages as well.

You can, if you're interested, see photographs of both of those models by scrolling down to the very bottom of this page and using the search feature to find them, but those models aren't really the point of this ramble. No; it's all about personal nostalgia, and nothing else. Those two models I cited meant a lot to me way back there in the 60s, which makes the clones of them I built some 35 years later somewhat special as well. As a further bonus, working on them add substantially to my enjoyment of the hobby.

Is this something you ought to try too? I dunno. It worked for me, but that's how I'm wired---I enjoy old stuff and, to an extent, replicating it. You might not care for that sort of thing at all, but you have to admit it's an interesting facet of the hobby. Now; where did I put that old Monogram Wright Cyclone kit...

The Quiet Rebirth

Several years back an amazing polystyrene model airplane producer in the Czech Republic released a series of kits of Kurt Tank's immortal Fw190. It was a substantial family who's kits ran from the A-5 through the A-9 varieties of the design and ultimately included a 190F-8 and D-9 as well. Taken strictly as plastic kits they featured amazing, if somewhat fiddley, detail, but were a tough date for a great many modelers and, at the end of the day, weren't nearly as accurate as they were originally touted to have been. Eduard sold a ton of them in spite of that, though, and a lot of people built them, including myself. They were petite, delicate, and looked great when competently built but, as we mentioned a moment ago, were also somewhat inaccurate when judged as scale models.

Then came their Me109G-6, another beautifully detailed model that was, somewhat unfortunately, heavily hyped by them as the end-all and be-all of Messerschmitt kits. Those kits were really nice and actually lived up to their stellar press announcements, right up to the part where everyone suddenly discovered that the models were out of scale. There we were, set up and knocked down again. Good grief!

There's a happy ending to this story, though, because, in a move almost entirely unprecedented in our hobby, Eduard went back and completely retooled that unfortunate Gustav kit, re-releasing it to considerably less fanfare than they'd done the first time around. That reworked model is now the winner it was originally billed to be, a kit with correct dimensions and only a tiny handful of small corrections to be made, presuming you feel like they're serious enough to even need correcting. Bravo!

Then, just to prove Eduard were truly as good as their reputation says they are, they tooled and are in the process of releasing a brand new family of Fw190s, starting with the A-2, -3, and -4 variants, and boy are they ever something! The accuracy is there, as is detailing well above their already high standards. They've even taken the time to address detail issues on such tiny components as gun barrels, boarding steps, et al, and they've done it with a minimum of back-slapping on their part. Bravo again!

I recently bought one of their A-4 ProfiPack offerings, more on a whim than for any other reason, and was so impressed with the kit that I jumped in a built it almost as soon as I got it home. While I'm not going to bore you with a lengthy review or how-I-built-it article, there are a couple of things I wanted to share:

See what I mean about this not being a review? In this very first photograph the model has already been built and is sitting in Corrosion Control being painted. The kit is an easy thing to build, unlike its immediate predecessor, and you can pretty much figure that any part that doesn't fit where it's supposed to is being installed incorrectly! That's not why I'm showing you this model though; that paint job is easily the ugliest one I've ever put on a model airplane and I wanted to share it with you. Fortunately, things will get better...

See what I mean? The model is going to wear a scheme included with this boxing of the kit, a I/JG 54 aircraft flown by Walter Nowotny that's wearing one of that unit's patented oddball winter camouflage paint jobs. The model is beginning to look like something you might want to put on your shelf.

Things start getting a whole lot better, appearance-wise, once that winter camo is in place and the decals are applied. That pitot tube is from a Master barrel set for the Hasegawa Fw190A-3 and is the only bit of non-Eduard on the model; everything else came with the ProfiPack release of the A-4. Once again I'd like for you to notice the high-tech stand I use sometimes while waiting for the decals on the upper wings to cure. Several companies offer sophisticated and often expensive stands to allow you to do this very thing and I have to admit they look really spiffy in photographs, but this approach works just as well and doesn't cost very much either. Sometimes fancy isn't necessarily better...

Here's a tip for those of you interested in such things: Early and mid-War Luftwaffe fighters were often seen with whitewall tailwheels, a process done with dielectric paint. Those whitewalls can be  difficult to replicate on a model but fear not, that's just how it looks. In practice it's an easy thing to do if you've got a set of FW190-specific Eduard masks, because the masking materials they provide so you can paint your tailwheel in a tidy and workmanlike manner can also work as a mask for that whitewall. Let's examine the photo immediately above to see how this looks. Pretty easy, huh?

OK; take a look at the photograph immediately above this caption, and take note that I mis-spelled the word "there". It's harder to fix that than it looks so the caption stays; look on it as honesty in an age when that attribute is at a premium! On a more serious note, this view is one of three that shows how the model came out. It was easy to build, fun to paint, and an enjoyable experience in every respect!

Here's another view. The demarcation of the colors on that paint job can be argued; I chose to do a soft-edge representation rather than a hard mask. Either way I think the airplane came out looking pretty good, in spite of those goofy colors. (Author and long-time friend Rick Morgan calls it "Fugly", which is not a nice adjective, but it's an accurate one.) It's beginning to grow on me and is different if nothing else. You pays your money...

Here's one last shot for your perusal. There's not much to say about it, except that I really like the kit a lot and am finally impressed with the way it came out, although your mileage may vary considerably on that one!

So what's the reason for running two Ost-Front Luftwaffe models in back-to-back issues? The obvious one is because the kit is relatively new to the market and worthy of an article, but there's a far deeper reason. Eduard, whom I believe we'll now have to dub The Little Company That Could, issued a nice-but-not-really Fw190 family a few years back, and then followed it with their disastrous Me109G kit; the models you could produce from both kits were viable and attractive when built, but were also inaccurate to a great degree.

Most manufacturers would have shrugged their shoulders, said something like "Oh well", and moved on, but Eduard didn't see it that way. They completely re-tooled that 109G, and did it without making a huge deal out of it. Their early Focke Wulfs are seemingly great right out of the gat, and as a result we've now got what may be the best family of Fw190s kits ever produced by anyone in any scale, while the trees provided with these early releases indicate that they're going to address all of the short-nosed Wurgers to this new, and significantly higher, standard of accuracy and detail. That's a Very Good Thing for us all even if your personal tastes don't run towards airplanes with black crosses on the wings, because it seems to signify a giant leap forward by the guys at Eduard. We can only hope that anything they do (including their announced Tempest V) will be done to this same extremely high standard. I think they'll do it, and I'm enthusiastically awaiting their future releases.

Way to go, Eduard! Your picture's on the piano!

Cry Havoc!

Or maybe not, but we've got a couple of 417th BG A-20Gs to share with you today:

Getting ready to rumble. In this shot we see a section of 417th BG A-20Gs preparing to launch against Japanese positions from an unspecified base. The image is apparently a frame from a movie but illustrates the daily operations of the 5th's attack groups as few photographs can. The strafers, both A-20s and B-25s, arguably flew the most dangerous missions in the SouthWest Pacific and did it day after day. You could scarcely call them unsung heroes, because everybody knew about them at the time and we're certainly aware of them now. You could call them gutsy...    Rocker Collection

Here's a placid-appearing air-to-air of a formation of 417th G-models en route to mischief. Everything appears serene enough, but there's a better than average chance that at least one or two of the aircraft in this strike package won't return from the target area. Things were tough in the 5th right up til the end of the war.   Rocker Collection

Those Other Guys

We Americans tend to be an ethnocentric bunch. The Pacific War was our war, and we did all the fighting, right? There were other folks there, but they were just helping us out, right? WRONG!!!

It's easy for some Americans to forget we weren't alone in the struggle against the Japanese, and a lot of people don't know much of anything about Australian Beaufighter operations in New Guinea during The Bad Old Days either. They were most assuredly there, however, and were holding the line while the 5th was getting organized down in Australia. The Bristol Beaufighter Mk Ic was an early-comer to the party, with 30 Sqdn RAAF operation in the Lae/Huon Gulf area during early 1942 and 31 Sqdn RAAF doing the honors in a series of ongoing strikes during the same time frame against enemy installations on Timor. The "Beau" was a strike fighter in the most basic sense, at least in the early days, and went out against the Japanese armed only with guns and cannon, but they were extremely effective and punched well above their weight. The Mk Ic in this photo was assigned to 30 Sqdn and is shown photographed at Ward's Strip during early '42. Whether or not the Japanese ever called them "Whispering Death" is debatable, but there's no doubt the aircraft and its crews were respected.    Rocker Collection

A Price to Be Paid

Some people have a glamorous view of war. Most of those folks have never been involved in one, and it's sometimes valuable to remember just how awful things can be:

The place is Adak, in the Aleutian Islands, and the time is 1942. That's a 54th FS P-38 burning in the background, a victim of an equipment failure, or the weather, or pilot error, or any one of a dozen other reasons men lost their lives in airplanes during the war. We've said over and over again on this site that it wasn't always the enemy that got you, and this photo proves the point as few can. Don't believe us? Take a closer look, then: That B-24 hulk, and the remains of those two P-39s, tell a story. There were never any easy days during that war no matter what nation they flew for; not for anybody. Let's raise a glass...  Rocker Collection

Thanks once again for the dedication of Bobby Rocker, and all those like him, for finding and preserving photographs such as these so we can view them and learn from them!

Air to Mud Eagle

A product of the Air Force's Enhanced Tactical Fighter program, originally conceived to produce a replacement for the General Dynamics F-111 family of aircraft, the F-15E Strike Eagle entered service with the 405th TTW during 1985 as a long-range interdiction aircraft. Since that time, the type has provided interdiction and strike capability in every conflict in which the United States has been involved, and is still an extremely viable aircraft today. Don Jay has provided us with some fascinating images of F-15Es from the 334th TFS of the 4th TFW (the sole wing operating the Strike Eagle) and we think you'll enjoy the images. Here's what Don has to say about them:

 Here (are some photos of) the 4 Fighter Wing at Seymour Jonson-aka “Shady-J”. The group provides worldwide command and control for two operational F-15E squadrons and is responsible for conducting the Air Force's only F-15E training operation, qualifying crews to serve in worldwide combat-ready positions. As I mentioned previously (in a separate e-mail), the 4th Wing was quite receptive to photographers like me and during the 90's, I was able to document the Strike Eagles many times. Attached are a few from two trips in the late '90s-these document some of the 334 FSq birds. 

87-0193 is an F-15E-44-MC, posing for Don with her nose cone removed. That translucent green primer can be found inside a great deal of the Strike Eagle's structure, so close attention to this detail is required of those modeling the type. The myriad of covers and "Remove Before Flight" tags are of interest as well, and are normally found on these aircraft when sitting on the ramp.   Don Jay

Here's a similar view of 87-0206, but this time with the nose cap in place. The E-model F-15 is generally painted in overall 36118 grey, and apparent variances in that color are caused by paint touch-up or, as in the case of -0206, deflected control surfaces. This aircraft is being readied for flight and provides the modeler with interesting diorama possibilities.   Don Jay

89-0499, an F-15E-48-MC, is a little farther along in the pre-flight evolution; her crew is aboard and a huffer has been brought up preparatory to starting engines. All the covers and warning tags have been removed from the airframe and things are about to get loud!   Don Jay

In contrast to the photo of 0499 immediately above, 89-0500, another Block 48 F-15E, is in the process of being buttoned up. Of particular note are the covers over the ejection seats. All of these aircraft were photographed in a clean condition, but the type is capable of carrying an impressive variety of ordnance and is still extremely viable in the strike and interdiction role some 33 years after its service introduction.   Don Jay

Let's finish up today's Strike Eagle photo essay with this impressive shot of 87-0200, another F-15E-44-MC, loaded up with inert ordnance and on its way to the range. That huge load of bombs is impressive, to say the least, but is now largely unnecessary thanks to the progress made in the field of "smart" air-to-ground weapons.    Don Jay

Don took these photographs back in October of 1999, when the aircraft was still young and relatively new to the Air Force. Since then, the type has been very heavily engaged in the myriad of conflicts in which the United States has become involved over the past two decades and the airframes are beginning to show their years, although the Strike Eagle force is still most assuredly mission capable. It, and all the other members of the F-15 family, are and always have been highly impressive. Many thanks to Don Jay for sharing these gorgeous photographs with us.

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Come Out

OK, ya'll; brew up a pot of coffee and get yourself about a month's supply of popcorn. Bobby Rocker, best know to all of us for the remarkable still images he shares with our readership, has come up with a link to an absolutely staggering number of films regarding military aviation. It's hard to describe what's here in the few words allowed by this blog so follow the link below and enjoy!

Thanks, Bobby!

Long Ago and Far Away

Way back when the USAF had thousands of aircraft in their inventory, there was a trainer. It was a simple aircraft, and a logical off-shoot of the Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star family. There was a time when the Air Training Command was heavily populated with the type, and it saw service as a unit hack, and in a handful of specialized roles, long after the requirement for it had been superceded by more modern aircraft.

Reader and contributor Doug Barbier once flew the mighty T-Bird, operating the T-33A in one of the world's toughest aviation environments with the 57th FIS out of Keflavic, Iceland. There are no photographs of 57th FIS T-Birds in this photo essay, nor did Doug contribute any of the photography you're about to see. He did, however, manage to engage in mock air-to-air combat with certain of the 57th's F-4s, with an outcome somewhat different than most of us might expect. This piece is being published specifically for Doug; petty bribery, if you will, in order to get him to share a couple of those stories with us.

The T-33's history with the USAF goes back to the Korean War, when the type was part and parcel of the F-80 units operating in theater, but we aren't going back quite that far today. Instead, we're going to begin in 1975, on the National Guard Bureau's ramp at Andrews. Three of the four aircraft you see before you are in the then-common Aircraft Grey, also known at the time as ADC Grey, but the bird closest to the camera is in glorious, and highly-polished, natural metal. Those of you with long memories (or the ability to use the "search" function at the bottom of this page) may remember we ran a shot of an ANGB B-26B Invader back in the early days of this project in a simiar finish. The Bureau was once known for pristine aircraft; this shot, and that B-26 we just mentioned, were prime examples of that!

   Marty Isham

We have no idea who originally provided us with this photo; it came to us in a trade (probably from John Kerr, but it was a long time ago and we don't remember!). The quality of the shot isn't the best, but my oh my, look at those 5th FIS markings on 57-0616. She was built as a T-33A-5-LO and was simply gorgeous when this photograph was taken; black and yellow markings over natural metal with the squadron's "Spittin' Kittens" moniker on her tip tanks! It never got much prettier than this! The airplane is a survivor too, presently on static display at Minot. (If you're the one who took this photo, or know who did, please contact us so we can provide proper attribution for it!)   Friddell Collection

We've run photographs of the 111th FIS' T-33s before, but that doesn't keep us from doing it again. We were on the 147th FIG's ramp at Ellington ANGB in March of 1980 when we caught 52-9223, a T-33A-1-LO, on a typically rain-soaked ramp. This example of the type managed to achieve something very few aircraft ever do---it was delivered as a new aircraft to the 111th in 1953 and remained with the unit until retirement in May of 1987! It's now on display at Ellington, a unique reminder of days gone by.    Phillip Friddell

1980 was a good year for us in terms of T-33s appearing at the ramps we were photographing. 58-0555, a T-33A-5-LO from the ADWC, was transient at Laughlin ABF during March of that year. She was absolutely pristine, and you could have eaten off that paintwork---the units that still operated the T-33 during the 80s tended to take extra good care of their aircraft, as Triple Nickle shows us. She ended up on public display in Oklahoma City; it's doubtful she looks this good nowadays but at least she didn't end up being melted down into pots and pans!   Phillip Friddell

See what we mean about 1980 being a good year for photographing T-Birds? That same month and year we were on the transient ramp at Bergstrom photographing this beauty. At first glance T-33A-1-LO, 53-5121, is just another T-Bird, albeit one assigned to the 134th DSES, but as we're about to see there's a little more to her than first meets the eye.    Phillip Friddell

Every picture tells a story, and we'd definitely like to know the details about this one! Take a close look at the photo, just past the uppermost leg of the "E" in the U.S. Air Force logo on the nose. Do you see something that interests you? We sure did! That kill marking, plus the "1st Place Unit" device under the S. on the nose, renders this bird interesting in the extreme. Unfortunately, we have no idea what the story might be regarding those markings, nor do we know who achieved the aeria victory memorialized on the flanks of that airplane. If you know, please drop us an e-mail at replicainscaleatyahoodotcom (using the appropriate symbology rather than all letters, of course) and tell us what's going on here!   Phillip Friddell

Let's make one more stop in 1980, this time in March, when we caught 58-0707, another T-33A-5-LO, on the ground at Randolph during an air show. She was with the 46th ADW when we shot her that day, and she was fairly unique in that her airframe was in natural metal, even though her gas bags were in the more commonly seen Aircraft Grey. Did we ever mention we like The Silver Air Force?   Phillip Friddell

March of 1981 started off with a bang, T-33-wise, when we photographed the 111th's 56-1670, yet another T-33A-5-LO, on the ground at Laughlin. She was a beautifully-maintained bird, as were all of the aircraft assigned to Ellington's resident Guard unit, and she was a survivor of sorts as well, being transferred to the Navy as a TV-2 (BuNo 143020) not long after this photo was taken.   Phillip Friddell

May of 1981 found 56-1740, another T-33A-5-LO, on the ramp at Bergstrom where Lee Bracken to this magnificent portrait of her shortly after her arrival there; note the "bone dome" perched on the windscreen frame. The photo came to us sans a unit identification, so we're at somewhat of a loss as to what squadron she was assigned to, although we strongly suspect she was included in a batch of T-Birds that ultimately went to the Navy as TV-2s in the 174x BuNo range. If you know the answer, that address is replicainscaleatyahoodotcome, ok?   Lee Bracken

We shot 57-0708, yet another -5-LO, at Randolph in May of 81. She was assigned to the 49th FIS, and was absolutely pristine in her shiny Aircraft Grey paint job and squadron markings. Of special interest is the ALQ-72 pod hanging under her port wing, a sight infrequently seen on the T-Bird. That's a travel pod hanging off the centerline just aft of the mains, in case you were wondering. There's a new kit of the "late" T-33A out there, you know---hmmm...   Phillip Friddell

The late, and sorely missed, Ron Kowalczyk, spent quite a bit of his time on Selfridge's transient ramp back in the 80s, which is where he shot this T-33A-5-LO (56-1697 identified as being from the 49th FIS, although those aren't their markings) in December of 1981. That white on grey paint job is just spiffy beyond words, isn't it? If you look carefully you can see a travel pod hanging off her lower fuselage just behind the main gear, and we'd be willing to bet it's wearing a squadron emblem at the very least, although that sort of detail isn't visible in this view. Her history was somewhat odd in that she went to MASDC at an earlier date and was then pulled out to serve with the 49th. Her ultimate fate is unknown, but we doubt it was good...    Ron Kowalczyk

The T-33 was apparently a common visitor to Selfridge during August of 1982. Ron shot the 49th's 58-0632 there in August of that year. She ultimately ended up at a museum but was very much on the active roster during '82!   Ron Kowalczyk

The New Jersey's 119th FIS/177th FIG was there too, as demonstrated by the appearance of 57-0715. There must have been some sort of event going on there---maybe an ANG conference?---since there's a line of other T-33s behind this one. If any of you know...   Ron Kowalczyk

The boys from Niagara Falls were thereas well, as 53-5393, a T-33A-1-LO of the 136th FIS/107th FIG, testifies. This bird is a standout in every respect; just look at those markings!  Modelers might want to note that the 1950s were an era of dedicated ground support equipment for the Air Force's aircraft, and that boarding ladder is unique to the T-33 and its and kissing cousin the F-94. It's also worth noting that all of the aircraft in the Shooting Star family were generally parked with their speed brakes deployed. For what it's worth...   Ron Kowalczyk

Here's a T-Bird photographed during 1982 that wasn't taken by Ron Kowalczyk! The aircraft is from the 84th FITS and has been stripped back to natural metal after service in a different unit. Mark Morgan took this portrait in November of 1982;  you may remember from her time with the 134th DSES as illustrated just a few photos up. She was painted in overall Aircraft Grey then, and someone must have gone to a great deal of trouble to strip that paint. We think it was worth it!   Mark Morgan

The 84th FITS got around quite a bit in 1982, as demonstrated by 58-0533, a T-33-5-LO from that unit. They must have had a thing for natural metal T-33s but we aren't going to complain! She eventually left ADTAC to pursue a career with the Mexican Air Force, after which she was put on display in that country.    Mark Morgan

The Air National Guard had a conference at Kelly AFB during April of 1984, and we were able to get on the transient ramp and photograph most of the attendee aircraft, two of which were T-33s. This is 53-5266, a T-33A-1-LO from the 121st FIS/FIG. She's a Plain Jane as ANG T-Birds go, with very little in the way of markings to make her stand out from the pack. Maybe that's because the 121st was from DC; who knows? She's still pretty, though! She went into storage just a couple of short years later, in 1987.   Phillip Friddell

This is what it looks like when you under-expose K25 by a stop or two, but the photo is worth looking at because it's fairly late in the game, T-33-wise, and she's in natural metal. She's 53-5262, a -1-LO from the 194th FIS, and she's another attendee at that KAFB Air Guard conference. She's not wearing a whole lot of color but that blue fin tip, coupled with the matching radar cover, make her well worth a second look. Her days were numbered too; she went into storage in 1988.   Phillip Friddell

Several of the airplanes you've seen in this essay were survivors of a sort, but this TV-2, derelect at Kelly AFB in June of 1984, wasn't one of them. She's sad looking and was, in all likelihood, destroyed shortly after this photo was taken (although it's possible she was being restored for display at the time since she's obviously spent some previous time in storage in Arizona), but her proud lines are still evident. The Lockheed T-33 was, and remains, a one-of-a-kind aircraft. Lest we forget...   John Kerr

For those modelers who follow this blog, there's a relatively new "late" T-33A kit out there in 1/48th scale, and with any luck this photo essay will inspire a few of you to build one. On a far more personal note we're hoping all those T-Birds will also inspire Doug to tell us what it's like to hassle with an F-4 in an airplane designed in the 1940s---we have reason to believe the result might not be what most of us would expect!

The Relief Tube

Not this time, gang! It's not that we haven't been receiving mail, because we have, but rather because a lot of that correspondence has been from people asking for assistance with their research projects. We're delighted to do that sort of thing when we can and even more delighted when we don't mess things up, but we do listen to our readers and like to hear about it on those occasions when we make a mistake. We're always on the lookout for new photographic material as well, and in either instance you can reach us by e-mail at replicainscaleatyahoodotcom. Just be sure to remove a couple of letters and insert the appropriate . and @ symbols and you're there.

That's it for today. Be good to your neighbor 'til the next time we meet.


Friday, January 19, 2018

Slow Ride (With Apologies to Lonesome Dave and the Boys)

It's inevitable, I suppose, that we have issues with the electrons that drive the pages of the 'net from time to time, and one of the old standbys of the scale modeling web is experiencing that very thing even as this is being typed. It seems that their software has aged to the point where it takes forever (a few seconds, as opposed to a couple of nanoseconds) to access certain of their pages, and the resulting slowdown has bothered more than a few of their readers (including myself, if the truth be known). It's a nuisance for all and an issue (that will, without doubt, soon be fixed) for some, but it's not exactly a new problem. Let us go back to those fabled Days of Yore...

There were no magazines in Japan, in English at least, that were devoted to scale modeling and available in Misawa, either off-base or on, while we were stationed there, so it was a revelation of the highest order to go into the BX at Lackland on our arrival back in the ZI in October of 1965 and find a copy of Scale Modeler magazine sitting on the shelves, just waiting there for me to snatch it up and run back to our quarters to devour it. Said snatching and running operations were immediately performed, and I was soon back in my room sitting on the floor, listening to the Yardbirds on what passed for my stereo system at that time, and scanning every page, quite literally memorizing each and every one. It was a watershed moment.

It (Scale Modeler) was also quite literally all we, or at least I, had in the way of modeling publications until Frank Emmett was finally able to persuade me to join IPMS in early 1968. Other publications followed in due course, including subscriptions to HisAirDec News, Air Combat, and Historical Aviation Album, among others. They were all seminal periodicals in the lives of the scale modelers of the 1960s and, except for the one or two of them that could be purchased off the news stand, they were all inevitably late in arrival at my mailbox.

I'm not talking Late by a minute or two either---that's the affliction that currently bedevils the e-magazine we mentioned up there in the beginning---I'm talking real, good-old-fashioned LATE, by a matter of days or, occasionally, weeks. Frank would have his copy of Whatever-the Publication was, and mine would be MIA, or maybe it would be the other way around, not that the sequence was of any great concern. All that mattered was that the mails were capricious and totally uncaring of who you were or how desperately you wanted your magazine. You would, by golly, get it when The Postal Gods wanted you to have it and not one minute sooner!

Of course the errant document would eventually surface, often bearing the rips, tears, and other battle scars associated with a belated trip through the postal system. (That sort of battle damage was almost a given if the publication in question came from the UK, but I digress...) It was maddening, especially if your friends were enjoying the pleasures of and talking about the latest issue of whatever it was while you were still waiting for its belated arrival.

The magic of the computer age changed all of that and eliminated the wait for the most part. Sure, there could still be issues. Anything that came to us back in the Pleistocene days of The Dial-Up was subject to substantial delinquency, of course, and editorial tardiness often played, and continues to play, a significant delaying part as well, but as a general rule we can look at our favorite electronic publication, be it e-zine or blog, the second the originator hits the "publish" key.

Think about that for a while and then consider this: While that Australian site is currently suffering the slings and arrows of digital misfortune, that's not the norm over there. Aging software is aging software, but it's an issue that can be dealt with. The slow loading times currently being experienced over there, which may well be fixed by the time this gets published, are somewhat inconvenient but they're also relative. It's presently taking several seconds for most pages to load at that site, while I once had an IPMS magazine take a month and a half to make its way from Great Britain to South Texas. That's seconds versus months, in case you didn't catch what was just said.

We live in a world of instant gratification nowadays, and we're all used to getting what we want when we want it. Delay is unconscionable, unfashionable, and not permitted, but it still occurs from time to time. Yes; a delay of weeks, or even months, can be irritating (and I'll offer this very site you're on at the moment as the poster child for that phenomenon), but a few seconds of tardy delivery? Yes, it's annoying, but it's also somewhat less than the end of the world as we know it. All things will pass, and this one will too. It ain't nothin' but a thang, ya'll!

That's my story, etc; etc...

Tamiya's New Me109G; An Engineering Marvel

And that's not hyperbole either, folks! The new 1/48th scale Tamiya Me109G-6 is one amazing piece of polystyrene engineering and, taken strictly as a plastic kit, may well be the best designed model airplane I've ever been privileged to build, period.

That said, let's come to an understanding about what I meant up there. This kit's engineering is innovative and it works. Everything on the model fits, and no filler is required anywhere in the course of normal assembly, although there are a couple of access covers on the model that have to be filled in for the G-6 variant ala the now-aging Hasegawa kits. There's an implication there of other variants that could be released in the future, although there's no guarantee that will actually happen, Tamiya being who they are, which ought to be both an open invitation for Tamiya to make money if they want to and a potential gold mine for the aftermarket guys should they choose not to do that. The potential is there either way.

The kit is pretty complete, too. In addition to all the pieces necessary to allow the finished model to be displayed with either opened or closed nose panels, Tamiya have provided optional tail wheel treatments, optional air filters, optional radio masts, optional direction finding antenna bases, two different wind screens, and  optional ventral panels, both with and with out cartridge case ejection ports. They've even provided the drain tube visible in the front of the oil cooler housing!

The instrument panel is catered to by decals, and they work like a charm. The seat straps and harnesses are decals as well, and perhaps unfortunately, but that's easy enough to fix with a set of Eduard Zoom components. The modeler will have to add the windshield hand-holds but the basic cockpit is entirely usable right out of the box.

The kit also provides a set of underwing MG151 gondolas, a gas bag, and both canopy armor styles found on the Me109G-6. The only obvious omission, and it's an odd one, is the lack of clear covers for the wingtip navigation lights. Tamiya wants you to paint them and that's easy enough to do, but that treatment isn't accurate for the airplane. It's more than a little bit puzzling that the modeler has to deal with that sort of thing given the level of accuracy on the rest of the kit.

That optional opened cowling and associated engine and gun deck are amazing too. The engineering is superb, and you can switch back and forth between a maintenance configuration and a clean airplane that's buttoned up for flight if you want to do that. I didn't, so the airplane you'll eventually see before you is "clean", if you can actually apply that term to any late Me109 variant, but the option is there for those who do.

That's the good news, but there may be some bad news as well. Let's set the stage by saying that I built this model at the request of King's Hobby Shop in Austin and I wasn't reviewing it, just building it. I didn't measure anything on the model, nor did I compare anything to a set of drawings before I started. What I did do was take the largely-completed model and sit it nose to nose with a previously built Hasegawa G-6, and what I found in that comparison was disturbing in the extreme because the noses don't come close to matching each other in profile. You would think they should, but they don't.

That somewhat awful discovery led me to pull out my references on the 109 and start looking at every photograph I could find that showed a "clean" side view of the nose, which seemed to confirm the difference. Keep in mind that I didn't measure anything before I started building, and I'm not saying the nose on that brand-new kit is wrong. I am saying that it doesn't match the nose on the Hasegawa kit, nor does it match the nose on a Zvezda 109 I built a while back. (I've yet to build an Eduard 109G of any flavor so I can't comment on that kit.) Who's got the correct nose? I don't know. What I do know is that the noses in those three kits are different in profile and the Hasegawa and Zvezda noses look more accurate when I compare them to photographs of the real thing, although that's an extremely subjective way of examining them. Somebody who's smarter than I am needs to do some research and measuring, I think...

On the other hand, the built up Tamiya kit looks just fine sitting by itself, and it also looks good sitting in a collection of other 109s. That's the bottom line for a lot of folks, and the completed model certainly looks the part. With all that in mind, here's a quick overview of how the model looked under construction, with photos this time around courtesy of my rapidly failing I-Phone:

The kit offers some extremely innovative engineering, and the instructions need to be followed to the letter as a result. This probably isn't a good model for the novice or the clumsy, but anyone else should be able to produce an outstanding replica from the kit, and it's sturdy when it's completed.

Shades of Hasegawa! The kit has several access covers tooled into the plastic that aren't conventionally found on the Me109G-6 and Tamiya has you fill and sand them away. In my world that's a huge hint that other 109s are in the pipeline, but then Tamiya has never been big at playing the variants game, so maybe that's not going to happen. Either way, it's easier to fill them in if you don't need them than to scribe them in if you do, so kudos to Tamiya for their approach!

Here's how that engineering works in practice. The engine builds up around that armature we mentioned, and the gun deck and part of the cockpit key off of it as well. Everything fits like a glove, too!

There are panels to fill under the wings as well as on the fuselage. The design of this thing is modular in the extreme and literally cries out for variations to be kitted. The level of detail provided is excellent as well, and assembly is easy as long as you're careful and follow the instructions!

Here's a fine example of superior design. The radiator flaps are delicate and somewhat of an issue on most kits of the round-nosed 109s, but not on this one. The parts you see in the photo above pretty much guarantee those flaps will be correctly aligned and solidly mounted once the model is complete.

The wheel wells are easy to assemble and really look the part. Everything on this model is easy to work with and the kit is a lot of fun to build, although we still have to stress that it might not be the best place for a novice to start their scale modeling career, and the ham-fisted will have issues as well. It's an easy kit but some skills are required!

Here's how all the stuff that hangs off the trailing edge of the wing looks immediately prior to assembly---note that the wing tips and ailerons have already been installed. (And yes; it would've made more sense if the photo showed them on the aft side of the wing where they belong, but that would be the logical thing to do and therefore quite contrary to the way I normally do these things!)

In this photo we've jumped way ahead in the assembly. All those nose panels are just sitting there; there's no real reason to glue them in place even if you don't have any intention of displaying the model with the cowlings opened up. Everything fits on this model!

This view gives a better idea of how the nose panels interface. Check out those radiator flaps too; it's almost impossible to mess up the way they're mounted, and they're solid once they're in place.

The gun bay cover and windscreen are in place in this shot. They've been snapped into place with no adhesive whatsoever, and there are no seams to deal with because everything fits and falls on a panel line that existed on the real airplane. Beauty!

This is what I mean by "just sitting there". There are no seams to fill. Zero. Zilch.

Check out those nav lights, or more specifically check out the way Tamiya want you to deal with them. On the real airplane they're colored bulbs behind clear covers, but on the kit they're solidly molded into the wingtips, and Tamiya want you to paint them. That's what was done here, but only because I was working with a deadline to complete the model. They really need to be corrected, and it seems odd that the manufacturer took this approach to them given the level of detail they've provided for everything else!

The kit allows you to open up the nose panels for display if you'd like, and they're interchangeable so you can do that as often as you'd like. I didn't want to do it at all, but I painted the opened assemblies anyway, just to get an idea of how they'd look and so they'd be mostly ready if I ever did decide to utilize that feature. One thing you might want to do if you choose to swap back and forth on your own model is to make an effort to get the camouflage to match on both the opened and closed cowling components. That didn't make any difference to me since my model was built with everything buttoned up but it needs to be done if you're going to be swapping those cowlings back and forth. Just sayin'...

Here's where we can all take a close look, give a big sigh, and wonder what happened! The model on the left is Hasegawa's venerable 109G-6 kit, and the new Tamiya one is on the right. Ignore the difference in "sit", because we aren't concerned about that. We also aren't concerned with those little scoops on the nose or their alignment, so don't fret over them either. We are very much concerned with the contours of the nose on the two kits, however, because they apparently differ quite a bit. Tamiya's nose seems to be chunkier, for want of a better word, and it looks really odd in comparison to Hasegawa's interpretation of that area. I'm not sure which is correct, although I can tell you that the nose of the Hasegawa kit, as well as the highly regarded Zvezda offering of the G-6, are considerably slimmer, than is the one on the Tamiya newcomer. (I didn't compare any of the models I have with an Eduard G-6 because I've never built one and don't have the revised kit in my collection anyway, but two out of three available "good" kits provide a decent starting point for the comparison, I think.) One of these kits would appear to be inaccurate and I've got an opinion regarding which one it is, but I'd like to hear your thoughts on the matter! That address, provided in a manner that's hopefully spam-proof, is replicainscaleatyahoodotcom.

An Addendum: After this issue published I went back to re-read everything and make certain that I'd done an adequate job of proof-reading. That side of things seems to be ok, but the more I looked at the photograph immediately above this one the less I liked it. The missing spinner on the Tamiya model and the nose-high attitude of both seemed to hold the potential for confusion, so I went back and took the photo again, but this time with both aircraft wearing their spinners and both propped up in the same tail-high attitude. The comparison of the two seems to make more sense this way, and it still shows the same thing: The Tamiya nose is chunkier than Hasegawa's, and Hasegawa's seems to better match the photographs that show their subject in profile view. I still haven't measured anything or compared the fuselages to a drawing, so the science is flawed at best, but something's going on here. John Beaman; are you out there?

The Japanese always take it on the nosey for the alleged poor quality of their decals, but I think they're just fine and perfectly usable, even though most of the markings on this model came from a primordial AeroMaster offering because I didn't want to do any of the schemes provided in the kit. The key to that particular highway is the use of Tamiya's own proprietary setting solution, or maybe Mr Mark. If you use what they recommend you'll get a good end result. If you don't, you probably won't. That's simple enough, right?

You've probably notice that I keep telling you how simple it is to locate and attach all the stuff that hangs down off the wings on this kit, and this photo reiterates the point. Yes; you can break those hangey-downies if you try, but in the course of normal handling they should be safe.

I probably ought to do a little more weathering but here's how the could-be-finished-if-I-let-it-be model looks right now. I think it captures the look of the beast fairly well, although I'm still not convinced that nose is entirely correct.

And here's what it looks like from the other side.

OK, then; it's built and on the shelf, so what have we learned? Here's what I think I know:

This may be the best-designed model airplane I've ever built. Everything fits, it just clicks together. If you come across something that doesn't do that, then you've probably done something wrong. Be careful when you remove the parts from their trees and trim them, follow the instructions, and you'll be amazed at the results.

The removable cowl panels are an interesting touch and produce a great model for little effort if that's what you want to do, and that design work that has me so amazed ensures that you can switch back and forth between the two configurations at will. I wasn't interested in the feature so you only see the model one way on these pages, but nothing on the fuselage forward of the cockpit is glued into place on my model so I can have a change of heart any time I want to with no angst whatsoever. Everything fits tightly up there too; you can't tell that all those parts come off the airframe on command!

The way the kit's parts are designed pretty much guarantees Tamiya can produce other variants if they choose, and that design leaves things wide open for the better aftermarket guys to produce parts to facilitate those variants if Tamiya doesn't do it themselves. It also provides an opportunity for someone like Daco to do the ultimate round-nose 109 conversion set, if anyone is interested in that sort of thing. This model's design simply screams OPPORTUNITY.

It's a great kit, but it probably isn't a great kit for everybody. If you can't follow instructions, are naturally clumsy, or are a newby, this may not be the kit for you. It couldn't be a simpler model to build but some skills are required---it's a kit; remember?

The contours of the nose are a potential heart breaker if there's actually a problem there. My evaluation, such as it is, is extremely subjective and based off a simple visual comparison of the kit with one from a different, albeit highly-regarded, manufacturer. Those noses truly are different, which means somebody's right and therefore somebody has to be wrong. As previously mentioned, I didn't build the model as a review sample so I didn't measure anything before construction began, nor did I compare anything to plans; I just built the model. With the nose opened up, which is how I suspect the model was intended to be displayed, everything looks just fine. It's a different story if everything is closed up and the model is sitting nose to nose with one from a different manufacturer. Who got it right? I don't know, but I do think there's a problem there; if Tamiya got it right, then everybody else got it wrong.

That said, and even considering the possible issue with the nose, I had more fun building this kit than I've had in quite some time, and the finished model looks good on the shelf. I could also be full of beans about that nose---I've been wrong before! My bottom line is that I really enjoyed the kit. Your mileage, of course, may vary...

Air Apaches

A few days ago we received an e-mail from an old friend who stated, among other things, that we must like North American Aviation's legendary B-25 Mitchell around here. That's true, without a doubt; the B-25 is easily our favorite American bomber of the Pacific War period, and we'd like to share a couple of images we recently received from Bobby Rocker to show you why we feel that way:

The 345th BG were arguably the most readily identifiable B-25 unit of the war, and this photo shows why. The airplane is an extremely well-worn D-model that's sitting on the ground being readied for another mission, and those bomb stencils under the cockpit tell a story of their own, as do the worn propeller leading edges and generally well-used appearance of the airplane. The USAAF corcarde on the nose wheel cover is particularly tasty and there seems to be a name up under the windscreen, although we can't quite make it out. "Bats outa Hell?" You bet!      National Archives via Rocker Collection

When Bobby sent along this image of a formation of 498th BS/345th BS Mitchells on their way to mischief he commented that the photograph had seen better days---actually, that's not exactly what he said, but you get the point. Quality of the photo notwithstanding, this air-to-air provides us with a graphic view of a section of the 345th's D-models in flight, and it's one of those shots that you can look at for a few moments and quite literally hear the drone of the engines and feel the aircraft moving around beneath you as it ingresses the target area. There were giants in those days, and a whole bunch of them flew with the 345th. Let's raise a glass...    National Archives via Rocker Collection

Thanks as always to Bob Rocker for his generosity and devotion to the preservation of the photography of this terrible time in our history!

Under The Radar

We rarely look at new books in this section, but if you happen to be interested in the Pacific War this is one you need for your collection:

South Pacific Air War Volume 1, The Fall of Rabaul, December 1941-March 1942, Michael Claringbould and Peter Ingman, Avonmore Books, 2017, 251 pp, illustrated.

Those of us who study the war in the Pacific have lamented the lack of information available on those ragged, terrible early days of the conflict. Michael Claringbould went a long way towards easing that situation with his seminal collaboration Eagles of the Southern Sky that detailed the early War activities of the legendary Tainan Ku. This new work, done in collaboration with Peter Ingman, details Australia's loss of Rabaul to the Japanese early in the conflict, and does so in considerable detail. The book is well written, exhaustive, and fleshed out with a selection of photography that contains a great many photographs that are new, at least to us. The photographs are complimented by excellent profile drawings.

A special treat is the detailing of operations by Mitsubishi A5M4 "Claude" fighters during the campaign from the Chitose and 4th Ku, although all of the various types employed during that struggle are covered with equal effort. (There are photographs of those "Claudes" at Rabaul! Can you hear us cheering?)

The book is excellent in every regard and is an essential if you happen to be a student of the Pacific War. It's also the first of a series of volumes, and its quality ensure that we're anxiously awaiting publication of any and all companion works!

Many thanks to Frank Emmett for this absolutely superb Christmas present!

The Relief Tube

There's not much going on this time around since we spent quite a bit of our effort on that Tamiya Me109G-6 review and wanted to publish while it was still relevant as a new kit, and you all know how our publishing schedule can be around here; the longer we work on the site the more delinquent this issue will become! With that in mind we're calling it a day for now, but we'd like to leave you with another short film Norman Camou found on YouTube. It details air operations over Southern Japan during 1945 and serves as a grim reminder of the reality behind those plastic models we build. (It also contains some remarkable J2M Raiden footage!)

Thanks as always, Norm, and keep 'em coming!

We're already working on our next issue, but this is it for now. Be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon!