Sunday, March 2, 2014
A Waste of Money?
Or, Why in the World Do We Buy All That Aftermarket, a Conundrum in Various Parts. That's right, Aftermarket; all those photo-etch sheets, resin bits, vacuum-formed transparencies, and other doohickeys that we all just can't seem to live without. It's a thriving and often helpful market that caters to the more advanced (read Not an Absolute Novice) scale modeler. The whole concept feeds into a notion that our hobby likes to call AMS, which is short for Advanced Modeler Syndrome but which could just as easily be known as Additional Model Stuff, which could also morph into AHUMS, or Additional and Highly Unnecessary Model Stuff. I fully realize that I'm flying right in the face of conventional scale modeling wisdom here, but stay with me for a moment if you will and I'll explain why I'd advance such a heresy.
Ever since there's been plastic scale modeling there's been an ongoing quest for better, more accurate kits. It's been a constant struggle since, with each passing year, technology has allowed the cutting of finer and more accurate molds (presuming, of course, that the data used to cut said molds was correct in the first place), which in turn resulted in better, more accurate kits. Still, the kit manufacturers could only do so much in the way of what they offered because tooling costs had to be kept reasonable in order to allow the production of kits that you and I could actually afford to buy. There was, still is, and probably always will be room for improvement, and that's where the aftermarket guys come in.
There are three different ways aftermarket serves our hobby. One is that of the correction set which, in theory at least, fixes known problems with a specific kit so those of us who want the thing to actually look like what it's supposed to can get there without having to resort to scratchbuilding. Another is the conversion set which again, in theory if not always in fact, allows us to convert a given variant of whatever-it-is-we're-building into a different (and hopefully accurate) variation of same. The third kind of aftermarket, and the one we suspect most scale modelers use most often, is the simple detail set of either the resin or photo-etch variety. All have their place in our hobby but all have their pitfalls as well.
There are two essential problems that we confront when we use, or want to use, aftermarket. The first is simple accuracy---there are correction/conversion/detail sets out there that are no better than and, in many cases are actually worse than, the kit parts they're trying to correct. The second is modeler's greed caused by advertising---the siren call of those bagged chunks of detailed resin or color printed photo-etch that just sit on your local dealer's shelf calling out "Buy me, I'm cool!". That call is often hard to resist, even though the parts in question may not be all they should be.
Then there are another couple of issues that really sully the water. First, the modeler has to have skill sets that will allow proper use of said aftermarket but skill sets come with experience, and a lot of new modelers buy into the whole aftermarket thing a little earlier than they might really want to given their level of expertise. It's a learning experience and there's no better way to learn than to do, but doing that can sometimes be frustrating for the New Guy or Girl. The second thing is so obvious and basic that it's almost laughable, except that so many folks can't quite figure it out---it's quite often impossible to even see all that extra detail that went into the kit once the aftermarket has been added! You know it's there, and your friends will all shake their heads knowingly saying things like "that's really cool" while they're actually thinking "I can't see a darned thing in there!". It's a "what's the point" kind of deal.
I know people who actually buy every bit of aftermarket they can find for any given kit they may be working on and incorporate it into their model whether they need it or not (and, more importantly, whether it's actually accurate or not). It's a norm and it's automatic. I used to do that too, until I discovered that Aftermarket wasn't always the salvation it was cracked up to be. My first epiphany came when I was building a 1/48th Tamiya Bf109E-4, using an Eduard Zoom set to spruce up my cockpit, and discovered that they'd printed all the colored cockpit panels in what amounted to a shade of Baby Blue instead of the presumed RLM66 dark grey. The second epiphany came when I was working with another Eduard product, their 1/48th scale Bf109E-4 plastic kit, which came with an instrument panel decal that looked every bit as good as the optional photo-etch they'd provided for the same part. The final blow came from the folks over at QuickBoost, who's replacement cowling for Eduard's Fw190 family of kits theoretically simplified construction but didn't address the incorrect (read nonexistent) slope on the top of said cowling. Since the kit component is easy to construct in the first place and the new cowling didn't actually fix the problem, it was a piece of aftermarket that served little purpose.
So what's the Bottom Line? Is there a point to all of this? The simple answer is Yes, there is, but it's with a caveat. It's my firm belief that Aftermarket still has an important place in our hobby and I continue to buy it, but I try to take a long hard look at what I'm buying first. If it's not an actual improvement on a kit component, or doesn't improve the appearance of the finished model or isn't accurate, then it really isn't worth having. AMS isn't, in my world at least, a justification for throwing away money.
What Happened to the Blog a Couple of Weeks Ago?
If you're a regular here, and if you were on line at the right time a couple of weeks ago, you may have seen a blog installment briefly appear on your confuser, only to disappear again a few moments later. Here's what happened. I had written an opening editorial, but only that, and was in the process of saving it when I apparently (I don't think I did it but then again I must have) hit the "publish" button instead of the one that says "save". Once I realized what I'd done I went back into the blog to undo the mischief, which resulted in a false indication that something had been published---in truth something had been, but I deleted it almost immediately. My gratitude is extended to the several readers who contacted me to let me know there was a problem; it seems we're beginning to turn into a family of sorts and I appreciate that sort of feedback. Thanks, ya'll!
Some Decals You Might Want
If you've been in the hobby for very long you know Nor Graser, even if you don't think you do. Back in what we might call The Day he was the guy who created the artwork and instructions for our friends over at MicroScale, making it a better than even shot that you've got some of his artwork residing on several models in your collection right now this very minute.
That was then. Nowadays Nor is manufacturing his own line of decals called Thundercals and dedicated to, what else; the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt in WW2. They're done in 1/48th, they're printed by Cartograph, and they're exquisite. Let's take a look.
Accuracy is a high point of all of these decals. Nor is a P-47 scholar of sorts and holds extensive photo files on the type, which means that all of the aircraft covered are well documented in pictures; there are no conjectural schemes presented here. The schemes presented are all colorful and desirable from a modeler's point of view, and their production by Cartograph ensures that they're thin and well-printed. It helps to have your own references for the markings you choose to use, since some of the smaller decals don't have placement instructions (and placement instructions are important because you can actually read those decals---put a glass on them if you don't believe us!)
As a final note, I liked the decals enough to start a P-47 of my own, Kearby's "Fiery Ginger IV" (one of several "Fiery Ginger IV"s and the one he met his death in). It's presently far enough along to have its paint and decals applied and it's turning out quite nicely, thank you---I'm very happy with the results and am now a fan of Thundercals! (One thing you ought to know about "Fiery Ginger IV" that's covered on the decal sheet but bears repeating anyway: The real airplane was a P-47D-4-RA, which means she had the original "square" cowl flaps all the way down both sides of the cowling. The Tamiya kit only provides the later style of cowl flaps so you'll have to do a little bit of scratch-building (not all that hard) or turn to aftermarket for the correct pieces. If you go the aftermarket route you have two choices; QuickBoost and Loon. Of the two, the QuickBoost component is marginally too short when installed on the model and is tricky to fit, while the Loon offering is a simple and accurate drop-fit with no issues. You pays your money...)
We don't know what's next from Thundercals, but we really hope it's more PTO "Jugs". Whatever it is, we anticipate the product to be well worth your while. These sheets certainly are.
A Few More Invaders
Last time around we ran a batch of A-26 shots from reader John Horne, who's Invader collection just may be unmatched in terms of content. Coincidental to that, Doug Barbier sent along a group of A-26 images he'd recently uncovered and that nicely complimented the shots John had provided. We're going to feature those A-26 images today. They were all taken by Robert Lubic, a gunner in the 13th BS's "Miss Chadwick", and provide us with an interesting look into a bygone era.
We've got more A-26s yet to come, so stay with us if you're interested in the type. (And somebody make sure to tell Maddog John Kerr that we're featuring his favorite airplane for the next couple of issues. We promise he'll thank you!)
Under the Radar
Or in this case not really, but we're going to look at a couple of long out-of-print titles you really ought to have in your collection if you happen to be a student of the SWPAC, or if your interests run to the JNAF or IJAAF. The younger members of our audience will be excused for the inevitable comments they'll have regarding these titles but both were seminal in their day and raised the bar considerably in terms of Japanese aircraft camouflage and markings of the Second World War.
First, let's talk about what these books aren't. They were both considered definitive studies when they were first released, with the JAAF title achieving almost mystical status from the moment of its release, but both are lacking by today's standards. There are a lot of omissions and a fair amount of accurate information that's incomplete because of the amount of information that's available to the contemporary researcher. For a brief time both were considered to be the standard references for their particular topics, but a single visit to the J-Aircraft website will show even the most casual of readers how dated the books have become. That's the bad news.
As for the good news, there's plenty of it. Don Thorpe was interested in Things Japanese long before most western aviation enthusiasts caught the bug, and he was methodical. We actually read where somebody on one of those I-know-everything-there-is-to-know-and-I'm-going-to-tell-you-about-it modeling boards commented that the books were worthless because they didn't include the latest iteration of whatever it was that individual was interested in. That person obviously didn't have a clue, because before The Thorpe Books there was virtually nothing on Japanese aircraft camouflage and markings in the English-speaking world. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Don Thorpe put it all together, the best he could, using the resources that were available to him at the time. Those paper-bound volumes literally contained all there was to know about Japanese colors and markings at the time of their publication, and they set the tone (and the bar) for all that was to follow.
So what's our point? It's a simple and basic one; by researching, writing, and publishing these two volumes, Don Thorpe surpassed all that had come before and set the standard for all that was yet to come regarding the topic. The world has changed significantly since 1977, when the second book in this set first saw publication, and it's true that neither title would be considered a go-to reference nowadays. Their influence cannot be underestimated, however; nor can the contribution to the scholarship of Things Japanese. The photographs published in both tomes have become old hat, but they were mostly exciting and new way back then. The color profiles included in both volumes are crude by today's airbrushed standards, but they set the standard when the books were published.
There are some books you need to have in your collection just because you need to have them. These books fall into that category. They don't show up all that often any more, but if you can find a set you might want to consider getting them. Once you've done that, get yourself a cup of coffee, pull up a chair, and enjoy what was once the Best of the Best. Somewhere in there you might consider tipping your hat to Don Thorpe too. He set the pace for a lot of what we now take for granted, and he set a pretty high standard in the process.
Last time around we ran a photo of a really spiffy F/A-18F courtesy of Kolin Campbell.That Super Hornet was one of several shots Kolin shared with us. Here's another:
The Relief Tube
Of which we aren't doing one this time around. I know, I know...
Thanks for dropping in, and we'll see you again soon. In the meantime, be good to your neighbor. It's the right thing to do.
Sunday, February 2, 2014
A Rebirth of Enthusiasm
Have you ever been stuck in a rut? More specifically, have you ever been stuck in a rut of the modeling persuasion and, more specifically than even that, have you ever been stuck in a modeling rut and not realized that you were? Well, folks, that's where we, or more specifically I, spent most of last year. Two Bf109Es, an Me109F, and a quartet of Fw190s, all from the Eastern Front, managed to add themselves to the collection during the course of 2013---all Luftwaffe aircraft and all representing operations in one specific geographic location. I had a great deal of fun building them and was, for the most part, happy with the way those models came out, but there was a catch; to wit:
It was pretty obvious that my modeling world was narrowing down considerably. It's true that I started that T-6 a while back, but it's been languishing on the shelf, ready to go into Corrosion Control for a paint job, for the past 8 months or so. There's a mostly completed A-4E that's been sitting there a whole lot longer than that (I started it way back when I started this blog!), and that Albatros DV I keep mentioning that only needs a little bit of touch-up and rigging to be complete, but none of those things are sitting on the display shelf at the moment. They're all works in process. What actually did get done, and all that got done, was a bunch of Second World War German stuff. I was in a rut.
Late last year, while in the throes of looking for yet another Eastern Front German aircraft to build, I had an epiphany (today's word) and drug out the fairly recent Hobby Boss FJ-4B kit, which resulted in the articles you've been following for the past couple of issues (you have been following them, right?). It got itself both built and finished (mostly, since I never completely finish anything), and is sitting on display as I type these words. That inspired me to drag down a Hasegawa F-104C kit and start on it, which resulted in a SEA "Zipper" from the 479th TFW being added to the collection---all it needs is to have the canopy painted and attached and a little bit of touch-up and it's done, and that particular project caused me to venture into the out-building Jenny likes to refer to as The Hangar and drag out a Monogram F-4D that I built way back in the 1980s and begin restoration work on it, which in turn caused me to pull out the Academy F-86F kit and begin work on it too. I was, and am, on a roll---all of these things have transpired over the course of the past three weeks! I managed to loft the front wheel out of that rut, to use a term from my motocross days, and move on to Other Things, specifically American jets. (That's where the original Replica in Scale hung its hat, if you recall, which means that the project has come full circle, sort-of.)
There's something else to be considered here too. A couple of months ago Doug Barbier was chiding me about mostly building shake-and-bake Japanese kits of recent manufacture instead of the tougher, but often more interesting, kits of the 80s and 90s---specifically the classic Monogram "Century Series" kits. He was right; those Hasegawa and Eduard Luftwaffe birds were easy dates in the truest meaning of the word. I could've built them in my sleep. The Fury was a lot tougher than those kits, and Some Modeling Skills were definitely required. The F-104 was a slam-dunk, of course, but the F-86 is causing me to clean out the cobwebs and remember how we used to do things back in The Good Old Days when there was more to modeling than careful assembly, and the restoration of that Phantom has become a minor challenge all its own. And you know what? I'm having some serious fun with all this! I had to drag decals out of the spares box for the FJ and deal with a very slight mod of the basic kit, and it was fun. It's been forever since I've built anything that was representative of USAF involvement in The Late SouthEast Asia War Games, so I had to mix the two greens since we live out in the country a great many miles from the nearest hobby shop and I wanted to paint the airplane in colors I didn't have on hand---so mix the two greens I did, and it was fun. I'm correcting small things, adding details where needed, and polishing the airframe on that F-86 so I can make it all shiny and silver, and that's fun too.
Fun. Isn't that why most of us got into this hobby? That's the reason I started doing it, way back when I was five or so years old; because it was fun. Fun's why I've stayed with it all these years, and fun's why I still do it, except that I wasn't having nearly as much of it as I used to (remember that part way up at the beginning about being in a rut?). A simple change of focus made things all better for me, and made the hobby fun again. I'm really digging on those jets, ya'll!
So what's really going on here? Did I simply change out my hobby fixations and move from one area to another? No; I don't think so, because I've also been arguing with the AmTech Hs123 which is, if you recall, the old Esci offering reborn. It's on hold at the moment because I'm building American jets instead of German fighters and fighter-bombers but I'll get back to it some day, just like I'll get back to doing some more airplanes from The Great War. I think the point to be taken is that we should all move around a little within the hobby and do things that aren't necessarily a primary interest for us. Look on it as a hobby within a hobby, if you will. It worked for me, so there's no reason it shouldn't work for you too---it's definitely worth a shot and I'll bet it ups the Fun Factor for you just like it did for me.
You can thank me later.
None of It's Safe
"It", of course, being military aviation. As enthusiasts and modelers we all tend to look at the glamorous side of things but rarely, if ever, give a thought to the more mundane side of the picture. A lot of us tend to read about, and build models of, fighters and fighter bombers, bombers, and other related examples of airborne death and destruction, but it's a rare modeler indeed who spends much time messing around with the far more mundane military transport.
With that as a premise, we're going to rely on the good graces of historian Mark Morgan and share some official USAF images of transports with you today. You'll notice a trend to those photos right away, but we've never been shy about stating the (extremely) obvious so we're going to let the cat out of the bag and tell you that all of them depict what happens when things go wrong in aviation. It's worth remembering that the guys who fly and crew the transports and tankers have a job that's every bit as risky as that performed by the ostensibly more glamorous fighter jocks. Let's take a look.
Easy to Overlook
It's often been mentioned, both by ourselves and by others, that we're living in a Golden Age as far as our hobby is concerned. There's no doubt that adage is true, but all the new uber-kits we've seen over the past few years should really be taken with a grain of salt---while it's true that some of them are absolutely amazing in terms of buildability and and detail, that doesn't mean that the older kits available to us should be ignored. Take, for instance, the Academy F-86F, the very same one I mentioned up there in our opening editorial.
Academy isn't the first company that generally comes to mind when experienced modelers think of accurate and easy-to-build model airplane kits, but that's a reputation that isn't entirely correct. While a great many of their offerings leave a little bit to be desired, it can honestly be said that some of their kits are as good as anything out there, requiring a minimum of work to produce an outstanding model airplane. Don't believe me? Well, then; take a look at this:
As with any model, the kit has a couple of minor issues that really ought to be corrected, and you can only get a hard-winged bird from it---it's molded with a decent representation of the 6-3 wing, while most of the available aftermarket decals are available for slat-winged Sabres, but there are ways around that. Stay tuned...
We LIKE the P-39
That's right; we have to admit to a considerable fondness for that beautiful but flawed little Bell fighter. Part of it is because "flawed" is a relative concept that traces back to an American (and British) combat career that was less than stellar to say the least. The exact same fighter, flying in a different operational environment by aircrew who understood the aircraft's limitations and worked around them, proved to be the mount of choice by a great many Soviet pilots, in who's hands it became an ace-maker. In other words, it ain't what you do, it's how you do it. That notion takes us to the study of a few P-39 photographs, supplied to us by Bobby Rocker. We're taking a somewhat different approach than we normally do this time around in that we'll be concentrating on the pilots and ground crew as well as the machines. Let's take a look.
They Weren't All From the 3rd
Korean War A-26s, that is. The 452nd BG, a former Second World War B-17 outfit that was reconstituted as a reserve light bombardment group during 1947, in the midst of the budding US Air Force's Wing Base Plan, could have been the Poster Child for that notion. Originally a unit on paper only, the group began receiving aircraft (the Douglas A-26 Invader) in mid-1949, in California. With the outbreak of the Korean conflict the 452nd initially transferred to Itazuke AB in Japan and then to Miho AB, their station until a mid-1951 transfer moved them to K-9 (Pusan East) in the RoK. Always a USAF Reserve unit, they stood down in 1952, transferring their aircraft to the 17th BW prior to transition back to the ZI. Their brief tour of active duty saw them in the thick of things with a sortie count of some 15,000 combat missions, nearly half of which were flown at night.
Several months ago we received an e-mail from one of our Australian readers, John Horne, asking if we might be interested in some unpublished Korean War-vintage A-26 photography. The images you're about to view are from John's collection---we're grateful to him and for his kindness in sharing them with us.
Many thanks to John Horne for these remarkable images!
While we don't do it often, it's not entirely unusual for us to make requests for specific material from time to time, and this is one of those instances. We've had a request for photography of Korean-War era 10th TRS A-26s which we can't fill---we have absolutely nothing in our files for that unit during their stay on the peninsula. If any of you have that sort of thing in your collection and would like to share them with us we'd sure like to see them. The address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
Under the Radar
Ok, ok; we know what you're going to tell us. The book was recently published and is on a mainstream topic. It isn't obscure, and everybody's seen it, so why run it here in our obscure or lesser-known books department? The answer to that one is simple: Although it's a mainstream sort of book and is one that every enthusiast of USAF history should own, we've seen it on relatively few bookshelves and therefore presume that only a few of you bought it when it was new.
While we don't normally consider "picture" books to be essential references, this one is different. For starters, Warren Thompson is an acknowledged authority on the topic covered, as is David McLaren. Almost all of the photography featured in the book is in color and well-complimented by the text, and a great deal of it is of the "rare" variety since it was taken by aircrew. As a bonus, several appendices are included and they're complete and highly usable as references in their own right. The book is, to use an overworked hack term, a goldmine of information, both photographic and textual, and the volume should be an essential component of any aviation library that leans towards the Korean War.
We haven't seen the book for sale in a retail outlet for a number of years but presume that the magic of the Internet will turn up one should you wish to add it to your collection. That's a quest well worth undertaking; the only negative we have regarding this volume is that it points out once again how badly the scale modeling community needs a decent kit of the F-86A, E, and early F (and preferably in 1/48th scale)! Recommended.
Mostly we run photos of older aircraft around here, since that's where our primary interest lies, but every once in a while we receive one of those photos that we just can't say "no" to. This photo is one of those.
The Relief Tube
I'm more than certain there's enough information in the "In" basket to allow us a healthy Relief Tube for this issue, but I'm equally certain that it'll be another week before publication if we wait while I go digging for the stuff and we're late already, aren't we?! Yep; I thought you'd see things our way so, until next time, be good to your neighbor! We'll meet again soon.
Sunday, December 8, 2013
A Fond Look Back and A Brave New World
Here we are, Gang; yet another year very nearly gone. From a hobby perspective it was a great year, one of many and, oddly enough, maybe one of the very last of the great polystyrene plastic kit years. Yep, it's probably true. The advent of stereo lithography, aka 3D printing, has advanced to the point where people are making firearms and parts for real airplanes with the technology right now this minute, and there's a guy over on one of the AFV modeling sites who's already been making conversion sets and detail parts with it. His stuff looks pretty darned good too, easily as good as the plastic kits he's been making his parts for. We are, quite literally, quivering on the dawn of a new age of scale modeling, and the time probably isn't too far off when a "kit" will consist of a CD rather than a box full of plastic, a time when the truly exceptional modelers will be the ones who can successfully write programs, both for their own home-grown aftermarket parts and for short run kits (maybe extremely short---how about a run of one or two kits, just for yourself and nobody else?).
Think about it for a minute. Most of the cost of a plastic model currently goes into the tooling, with the actual molding and packaging of said model costing next-to-nothing in comparison. That's why we may never see a mainstream kit of the North American B-45, while at least one or two Zero or Spitfire kits are released each and every year (and we're not even going to mention the Luftwaffe subjects that manage to get kitted endlessly, in lieu of something else). It's all a matter of economics; even the companies who design and produce kits for what I'm going to call the specialist market ultimately have to make a profit in order to stay in business.
In comparison, nearly all the cost of that newly-emerging technology lies in the cost of the printer, and the available printers are getting both better and less expensive by the day. It's only a matter of time before hobby shops, of both the surviving local variety and the increasingly more common on-line ones, begin to catalog 3D printers as part of their normal offerings and begin to stock racks full of programs contained on CD rather than the currently normal plastic kits or aftermarket sets.
Sounds far-fetched? Maybe so, but it would pay to remember that Frog began marketing the first plastic model kits in the late 1930s as an alternative to the more traditional solid wood kits then being offered. Polystyrene kits came along after the second world war and have had a long and healthy run spanning nearly six decades (check out the copyright dates on the old Lindberg LST or Hawk Curtiss racer for an eye-opening example of just how long that run has lasted). Does anybody out there remember exactly why the hobby industry moved from wood to plastic? That's right---it was because plastic kits allowed even a novice builder a shot at something decent to put on the shelf, and at a nominal cost. As a result, scale modeling became Everyman's Hobby. That hobby for Everyman morphed into a hobby for the hardcore enthusiast with the passage of time, and that brings us to today.
There are still kids out there who build models but their numbers aren't nearly as great as once they were, while the kids who made the current hobby what it is today are becoming fewer with every passing year; plastic modeling is a classic Baby Boomer's hobby, pure and simple, and the time will eventually come when it's just too expensive for manufacturers to tool up for new kits, while existing tooling will inevitably wear out. Combine that with the serious scale modeler's natural desire for the best and most accurate model available and the time is ripe for change, probably first in the realm of conversion sets and then, ultimately, as complete kits. It's inevitable, and it probably won't be a Bad Thing. The advent of such "data kit"s certainly won't kill the hobby; a good modeler will still be a good modeler and a bad modeler will still be a bad one. All that's going to change is the way the parts are created, and where. Somebody still has to build the thing, and paint and decal it---even if you could dial in pre-printed markings for your kit you'd still have to use modeling skills to complete your replica. If you don't believe that, just compare today's kits and methods with those available to the modeler in 1933, or 43, or 53.
There's a bottom line here and it's one that's inevitable; plastic kits as we currently know them will probably be around for a long time, but at the end of the day it will be the digitally-produced kits that dominate the hobby, along with digital aftermarket. The now-"traditional" plastic kit will become something built by purists and dinosaurs, and that's alright with me. It's a big world out there and there's room for everybody in it. On a personal level I have no doubt I'll try one of the new-technology kits as soon as it becomes available, but I'm equally certain that I'll continue to build the "old" stuff too, simply because I like doing things that way. At the end of the day it's all a matter of choice and personal preference.
Don't expect to see the change come tomorrow, or next week, or even next year, but it's closer than you think to being a reality and, at the end of the day, it's probably going to end up being a Very Good Thing for our hobby.
Farther Along With That Fury
In a veritable maelstrom (your word for today) of activity, I've been charging right along with that FJ-4B you first saw in our last issue. Here's where we are today:
Phil, Great discussion. Some answers and extra stuff: Detail under canopy can be found at: http://tailhooktopics.blogspot.com/2012/12/fj-4-detail-under-canopy.html , Horizontal tail span: http://tailspintopics.blogspot.com/2009/10/fj-fury.html . Left-hand (only) guns removed and vents in gun access panel were the result of the addition of an emergency generator: http://tailspintopics.blogspot.com/2012/03/modelers-guide-to-sabre-fury.html .
Note that all (?) rudders were gray initially for the change to the gray/white scheme. The FJ-4s weren't around long enough to get the change to white(?). The rudder was not originally to be painted white but this requirement was formally introduced in December 1961. However, some rudders were white before that, particularly on aircraft that might be assigned to deliver a nuclear weapon, to minimize the thermal effect of a nuclear explosion on the thin-skinned control surface. Interesting point on barricade (not barrier) fences. My guess is that it was determined that they weren't required on airplanes operating from angled deck carriers. Did I miss a mention of the retrofit of the Martin-Baker seat? From http://thanlont.blogspot.com/2011/02/transition-to-martin-baker-ejection.html "The FJ-4s appear to have begun to be switched over in early 1961 at the first or second major overhaul after late 1960. The first reported ejection using the Martin-Baker seat was in September 1961. If you don't have a photo of the specific aircraft being modeled, the best bet is the original seat. The earliest example that I found of a MB seat in the FJ-4 is VA-144's 3rd deployment, November 1961 to May 1962. However, there is a picture of a reserve FJ-4B dated July 1963 with the original seat." (Your picture with the vent question answered above shows the Martin-Baker seat.)
There are several lessons to be learned from Tommy's comments, the primary one of which is that I could have saved myself a whole lot of trouble by going to his site for information before I began the model. 20/20 Hindsight, as it were! (I guess I've just modeled one of those rare FJ-4Bs that had all the guns removed! Yeah; right...)
Anyway, this project is well on the road to completion in spite of that gun faux pas (presuming I don't ruin it when I do that touch-up on the fuselage spine!). Stay tuned and, in theory, our next issue will show you a completed model. In theory...
The 345th BG, aka the Air Apaches, were one of the premier medium bomb groups of the Southwest Pacific. Their exploits became legendary throughout the course of a nasty, brutal war that took place in the harshest and most unforgiving of environments and they not only survived but thrived, this in spite of heavy losses in combat against a highly motivated, professional and, at least for the first couple of years, experienced enemy. Often short of parts, always short of sleep, and battling not only the Japanese but the heat, humidity, tropical weather systems, insects, mud, dust, and snakes of their operational area, they carried out their mission in a manner that arguably made them the best of the best; the premier medium bomb group in General George's Air Force. It was no accident that the 345th was given the honor of escorting the Japanese surrender delegation to Ie Shima during the closing days of the war. They were something special in an Air Force where everyone was exceptional.
We've shared images from Johnathan Watson's collection with you previously and are going to publish a few more today; let's go back to the 1943-44 time period in New Guinea and take a look at some Air Apaches from the 499th BS. A couple of the aircraft we've depicted may be familiar to you and a couple may not, but the photographs shown are all originals and we don't think any of them have ever been published before. We hope you enjoy them.
That's our look at the 499th BS/345th BG today, and we hope you've enjoyed it. Many thanks to Johnathan Watson for his willingness to share his collection with us.
A Little-Known Northrop
Everybody is familiar with Northrop's P-61 Black Widow; the aircraft has been relatively well-represented in the world of scale modeling in 1/72nd (Frog and Airfix) as well as in 1/48th (Aurora, Monogram, and Great Wall), and there's aftermarket and even a few decal sheets available in both scales. The P-61's first cousin, the F-15 Reporter, is far less known. Originating with the P-61 airframe, the F-15 was modified with a purpose-designed fuselage optimized for the photo-recon mission, and highly-modified engine nacelles, which mods gave the airplane an entirely different appearance in profile. Thanks to Bobby Rocker we have an opportunity to view one of those unique aircraft today.
Bobby Rocker's collection is both large and unique, and we're extremely grateful to be able to share images from it. Thanks, Bobby!
Under the Radar
In this edition of Under the Radar, we look not at a specific title but at a family of publications that you may not be aware of.
Sometimes there exists a resource that's known to relatively few of the people who would be interested in it, and this series of publications is numbered among such resources. Commissioned by the Department of the Air Force, written by professional historians and published primarily as hard-bound reference books, the volumes in this series are most assuredly not for everyone---they are, without exception, serious, footnoted written histories. They generally have few illustrations and offer none of the color profiles so beloved of scale modelers, but their scope of coverage and detail is beyond reproach and offers an insight into the Vietnam War that few other books can convey. The reading is often dry and is invariably concise, but each monograph ("monograph" being somewhat of a misnomer since each volume typically runs from 300 to 600 pages) provides a unique reference for its particular subject.
You won't find these books at the trendy local coffee shop/nee bookstore, nor will you find them in hobby shops. They're often available directly from the Government Printing Office, but we've also found them in used book stores and once, but only once, in an aviation salvage yard (where we paid fifty cents each for a half-dozen titles in the series!). We recommend them without reservation but there is a caveat to that recommendation: If you're an historian, either amateur or professional, and you're interested in Air Force involvement in Southeast Asia, you can't be without these books. They're an essential reference. If you're primarily a scale modeler and are more interested in photographs, color profiles, or graphic "there I was" stories, these volumes are probably not for you. That said, those of you with particular interest in the air war over Vietnam will want the series for your library.
It's been a while since we've had an honest-to-Goodness air-to-air Happy Snap in these pages, so it's time to set things right!
The Relief Tube
We've already covered one of today's entries by publishing Tommy Thomason's FJ-4B comments and corrections up there in our lead article, so let's jump straight to a clarification of that Michigan ANG hearse we illustrated last issue:
Phil, (that photo) brings back a ton of memories... Remembering 1982 WT, 31 years ago, the six pack learned from it's first 1980 WT appearance that a team vehicle was a very cool thing! So when we learned that we would in the 1982 WT F-4 category, we started to find a team car. Can't say who thought of the hearse, but it was decided and a plan was made to paint it in the ADC gray colors with the six pack markings along with the 82 WT logos. Many modifications had to be made to the standard 1971 Cadillac hearse, making cup holders and a few secret compartments. SMSgt Bill Brennan, 191 FIS/ODC, drove the hearse down to Tyndall. We also drove a tractor and a (ex Army) 40 ft semi trailer that I signed for out of DRMO at Selfridge in late 1980 and converted in a mobile maintenance control and repair shop(s). LTC John Doty said that we would need such a set up after the November 1979 NORAD computer SNAFU of a false missile attack warning tape triggering a flush of all aircraft. Can't remember who drove the trailer down, but it had extra parts and equipment in it if we needed it. The trailer was much of a non-player during WT, however the hearse put in a max effort. It was the main player in daily party events. When it was not full of people, it always seemed to be parked in front of Tyndall Officers Club. More than a few zaps were placed on it by other units. To say that Colonel Dave Arendts was proud of his hearse would be an understatement!! At the moment I can't remember what happened to the hearse after 82 WT. Don't know if it went with to WT 84. Somehow a history of the 191 FIG at William Tell needs to be complied before we lose it all.
Many thanks to Bill Livesay for sharing his memories with us and for explaining that photo. Now then; do any of you have photos of it after it was zapped? If you do, we'd love to see them! That address is email@example.com .
Finally, from Ned Barnett:
Phil, you may remember me as the author of your in-depth article on the F-100 way back in the day (I think I was editor of the IPMS/USA article at that time, give or take a year or two). Anyway, thanks to the email list I’m on regarding 1/72nd scale modeling of US military aircraft, I just learned about your blog, and about how to reach you. Someone on that list suggested that you might be considering putting all your RIS issues on a CD – to me, that would be a godsend, as mine were wiped out in a basement flood back in ’86, and from then to now, I've never seen a better modeling magazine.
Thanks, Ned! The print edition of RIS was very much a labor of love for us and your comments make us feel pretty darned good! As for a CD-edition of those old magazines, it's something we'd like to do but is unfortunately very much on the back burner at the moment. If it ever happens we'll make certain you get a copy but it's likely to be a while. (Do any of our readers have extra copies of the magazine that they'd like to donate to a good cause?)
And that's it for this, our final edition of 2013. If you celebrate the season may you have the very best of holidays. If you don't, may your skies be filled with sunshine and your road be an easy one. Be good to your neighbor, and we'll meet again real soon.