Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Another Forty-Niner, The Way It Was. Doing Her Part, Thunderstorm Redux, Current and Controversial, and A Couple of Scooters


Oh, What to Do

There's a thing that's been going around for several years now, a trend if you will, that makes me wonder a little bit about the hobby. It's supported by commerce and the modeling press (which is, after all, ultimately commerce in and of itself unless it's a blog like this one), that not only supports but heavily promulgates the world of How to Do It which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The problem is what happens when said trend becomes what some folks call a "norm". Move that concept into our hobby, and most specifically into the realm of our hobby that's occupied by folks who have only recently discovered the wonders of polystyrene, and sooner or later you create the world of How to Do It. That's where things get a little strange and where I begin to get puzzled by them. 

Let's start this off with a premise regarding what's what and who's who. There have been how-to-do-it articles in modeling magazines for as long as there's been periodicals devoted to the topic. They come with the territory, they're expected, and they're often useful. We used to see the occasional book as well, Chris Ellis' seminal How to Go Plastic Modelling and the follow-up How to Go Advanced Plastic Modelling come to mind in that regard, as do the series of how-to books published by Almark way back when, and by Kalmbach during a slightly later time period. People bought them and learned from them; I did too, but then I learned that there was a far more viable education to be gained by asking questions of the guys in my club who were better at the hobby than I was. Let's call that Perspective.

Nowadays we're flooded with articles and videos telling us what to do when we build our models, or how good or bad something is. There are books covering the broad spectrum of modeling in general, books devoted to some particular aspect of the hobby, and books covering one kit by a single manufacturer and how to build and paint it. There are YouTube videos and web sites that feature videos of one sort or another, and all of those things are just the beginning!

In the old days we had kit reviews. Some were good and some were bad but many of them were valuable indeed because they provided the insight a lot of us didn't have because nobody can know everything, right? They also proved to be invaluable to the new guy or gal because they aided in kit selection. They were basic in the beginning, but then things began to change and nowadays they often include paragraphs of potted history of the airplane or ship or whatever, coupled with a review of the actual kit that tells us how many pieces are in the kit (spoiler alert---I don't care!), what color the plastic is (I really really super don't care!), and how sturdy the box or carton the model comes in might be---I sortof care about that one, but not very much unless the model is going to get to me via parcel post from a faraway county but otherwise---I don't care. What I do care about, and I'll bet a whole bunch of you do as well, is how accurate the kit is, how well-detailed, and how many if any optional parts are in it. Anything else is gravy and, quite frankly, some of that is gravy I don't want on my mashed potatoes at all, thank you very much!

Then there are the reviews/articles/books providing a blow-by-blow of How I Built It by whoever it was who did that. That's a topic that often provides considerable insight into how a particular kit might build up and it can be extremely useful when authored by a competent modeler, but it's also stuff I can usually figure out for myself without paying fifteen or twenty bucks for the privilege. 

It used to be that reviews, of both the in-box and How I Built It variety, were the norm in our hobby, but of late folks have begun producing "unboxing" articles and videos as well. It's entirely possible, and perhaps even probable, that most folks enjoy such things and maybe I'm just being a curmudgeon about the whole deal, but I have to wonder about it because suddenly we're back to how many sprues hold the kit's parts and how many parts there are, what color the plastic is, if there's any resin or photo-etch in the box, how the decals look, and if the instructions are any good, all filtered through a largish dollop of opinion regarding how a kit that is yet to be built might or might not build up. Huh?

Anyway, there actually is a point to to be gleaned from all this: Reviews and how-to-do-its can be useful if they tell you what you need to know about the kit, but they can be bad if they don't. Take the KittyHawk RF-101C as an example of that, an over-complicated model airplane with a gomed-up nose that misses the mark accuracy-wise. Those things are all that I personally needed to know to make a decision to pass that one by. None of the other stuff mattered one bit in my own personal quest for an accurate long-nose Voodoo because the pain incurred just wouldn't be worth the gain to me.

With all of that said, I think it can safely be stated that none of the things mentioned in the paragraphs immediately preceeding this one actually matter one bit because none of those formats are going to go away anytime soon. That takes us to the heart of the matter, which is as follows: I have a modeling budget that I try to live within and I'd rather spend the available funds on the things that actually matter to me on a personal level. Those things are basic accuracy and acceptable detail in the kits I buy, while the books I purchase these days are limited to serious histories and accurate monographs and not much else. Couple that with the fact that all reviewers are most assuredly not created equal and you begin to get the idea. The meat is essential, the gravy not so much.

My story, and so on and so forth...

Sometimes We Forget

But the guys who were there never could. Don't believe me? Well, then; consider this:

That determined-looking young aviator standing in front of "Scatter Brain", a P-40E from the 7th FS/49th FG, is Lawrence Succop. He was a 2nd Lieutenant when this photograph was taken, which means he's not an old man but rather not all that far removed from being a kid in his early 20s. With that as a baseline, take a look at his face, because it's not at all that of a young man. The war in the Southwest Pacific took Youth from him and gave him memories, both good and bad, that would stay with him til the end of his days. That wasn't a fate that was exclusively his either, but rather one that was given, unwanted, to untold others as well. Those were hard days and it was a hard life, but they did what was necessary and we owe them big-time.   Rocker Collection

Here's an overall view of "Scatterbrain" allegedly being readied for yet another mission; we say allegedly because the airplane is sitting out in the open, in the sun and therefore in the heat, with an armed guard standing ten feet from the airplane, while it's being swarmed over by ground crewmen performing unrelated tasks. Those Kelly helmets are of interest though, and were typical of the early days in the SWPAC.   Rocker Collection

Many thanks to Bobby Rocker for sharing these photos with us.

A Time Machine

Every once in a while we receive a photo that speaks to us of an earlier time. This one, from the collection of Mark Aldrich, is one such image:

While there's a lot we don't know about this particular photo, we can tell you it's a B-29A from the 98th BG, quite possibly from the 343rd BS although we aren't entirely certain of that, and the airplane is most likely sitting on the ramp at Yokota AB in Japan in 1951 or 52. The nose art is interesting; for those of you who have never spent time in Japan "Chotto Matte" loosely translates as "Just a Minute". This is a wonderful period photo no matter how you cut it, an evocative image from the past.   Sean Hart via Mark Aldrich Collection

Everybody Helped

The Second World War was a massive event that eventually encompassed every aspect of life in the countries that fought it. Most of the time we think of the guys at the sharp end of things when we think of that conflict, but wartime service was a universal thing in so many ways back then. The American entertainment industry was heavily involved in boosting the morale of those in uniform during those years; here's an example:

Martha Tilton was a popular entertainer of the day with a number of hit records to her credit and, during 1939, was also the lead female singer for Benny Goodman's band. Her "I'll Walk Alone" charted at Number 4 during 1944 and she was a movie star too, but in the middle of it all she made the time to go to the Pacific with the USO. In this photo she's in-theater, standing in front of a 12th FS P-38J (44-23328) and looking good for the photographer from Stars and Stripes. She had a long and successful career before passing away in 2006 and we think that she, and all of those like her, could qualify for the title "Unsung Hero". We know she's certainly one of ours.    Rocker Collecton

And here, thanks to the good folks at YouTube, is that 1944 recording of "I'll Walk Alone". It's worth listening to and imagining how much songs such as this one must have meant to those so very far away.

Thanks as always to Bobby Rocker for tracking down and sharing this photograph with us and to YouTube for making so much of our past available to us with the click of a mouse. 

Filling in the Spaces

Last issue Mark Nankivil shared a couple of images of "Operation Thunderstorm" P-61s with us. Today we're going to take a look at a photo of another Northrop product assigned the that project, the F-15 Reporter.

"Operation Thunderstorm" operated a variety of aircraft during the relatively short time of its existence. Here we have one of the less commonly-known birds they operated; F-15A 45-59318 (probably!). The photo was taken at Clinton County AAFB, although we don't know the date. What we do know is how badly those airplanes got knocked around in the severe weather they were investigating---take a look at the nose cap on that Reporter if you don't believe us! Wind, hail, torrential rain, lightning and worse; those guys flew in all of it for their job, which ultimately proved to be of benefit to everyone who flies. They were quite an outfit!   Nankivil Collection

It's Raising Quite a Ruckus

"It", in this instance, being the sortof brand new Meng Fokker Dr.1. It's a kit with a past, you see, and a kit with a heritage. It's also a kit with some perceived issues.

Those of us who model the aircraft of the Great War were pretty excited when Wingnut Wings announced they'd be doing a Fokker Triplane a couple of years ago. There was already a kit of the type in Wingnut's chosen 1/32nd scale, of course, although the existing Roden model had acquired a bad rap for being fussy the day it was released (spoiler Alert: That Roden kit is a perfectly viable replica of the Triplane and is consumately buildable, although some modeling skills are required). but a new offering to WNW standards---wow! It made a whole bunch of folks stand up and holler MERCY!

There was the usual adulation of the just-announced Annointed One from the usual sources, and the usual folks began their usual critique of something that didn't exist yet, but it was still a joyous moment for a lot of us. It was great, it was wonderful, and we were all elated! We had a new, state-of-the-art Fokker Triplane on the way from WNW! Life was wonderful! What could possibly go wrong?

Well, for starters in that What Could Go Wrong department, Wingnut could've folded the tent and gone out of business, which is exactly what they did. Dark clouds began to form on a great many horizons that day because The King was dead and so was our tripe! Then, out of the blue of the Far Eastern sky came salvation! Meng, a company already known for producing some pretty nice kits of various subjects, had apparently been under contract to produce that Dr.1 kit for Wingnut Wings all along and was in possession of the tooling! They were going to release it, under their own name, and plastic modeling as we know it would be saved! Let joy reign unconfirmed, as Yogi Berra once said! 

So we got the kit, and there seems to be little doubt it started life as a Wingnut offering. It's a very nice kit, all in all, but it's honestly not quite up to the standard we have come to expect from the boys Down Under.

So here's what we've got, and here's where I personally am with mine, along with a couple of comments. First off, and in keeping with some remarks recently made on this very blog by myself, here's a review of the kit: It's made out of polystyrene with a small fret of photo etch thrown in, it's rather obviously of WNW parentage, it doesn't have all that many parts in it but you can build either an F.1 or a Dr.1 from what comes in the box, the instructions are marginal at best, and the decals are perfectly usable but not even clost to being up to Wingnut Wings standards. Oh, and it looks like a Dr.1 so I'm taking a giant leap of faith and presuming it's reasonably accurate and pretty much to scale.

On a more practical note and perhaps the point to be taken, this is not a Wingnut Wings model; it's a model made from tooling that originated with WNW. That means the superb quality control we're so used to seeing with those kits from New Zealand is missing from this project. Mostly that results in flash in unwanted places such as the already paper-thin trailing edges of the scalloped ailerons, and in fit that's a little off in places by Wingnut Wings standards. Does that mean it's a bad kit? No it doesn't, or at least it doesn't in my world. The worst things about it, to my mind anyway, are the decals and the instructions, neither of which are even close to the standards set by Wingnut. The actual kit is a little bit of a disappointment when compared to its predecessors but by any other standard it's honestly not that bad, and you can build any Fokker Dr.1 or F.1, excepting the few that were modified with captured Allied engines and props, from what's in the box---we mention that because we'd almost guarantee that even the fabled WNW would have done two separate boxings to accomodate the variants. 

Here's my own personal bottom line, then. I think it's a pretty good kit and I'm glad to have it. It's not the quantum leap ahead that it would have been if Wingnut had survived and produced it because their almost legendary QC would have ensured there would have been no flash and that the tooling would have been 100% finished before production articles were sold from it. The instructions are a terrible disappointment; they'll get you to an assembled model but you'll need references of your own to do it correctly, and the decals are place-holders and not much more than that. Other than those things, it's a good kit. It's just not a "real" Wingnut Wings kit and it's probably not right to judge it as one regardless of where the tooling came from. Things could be worse!

A Tinker Toy or Two

Certain airplanes are favorites around here, and almost any A-4 Skyhawk falls under that non-too-exclusive umbrella. Here are a couple of photos of them to end our day with.

Here's the Family Edition of the A-4 Clan, a TA-4F (154311) from VX-5 photographed by John Parchman during a cross-country layover at Kelly on 15 May, 1987. The F-models were relative hot rods when compared to their TA-4J older cousins thanks to an uprated engine and often showed up in the NAV's specialized squadrons in consequence. The red star on her vertical stab is very obviously in full color but in all other respects she's a TPS bird; we're normally not big fans of that finish on the A-4 but it looks pretty good here. Note her crazy-quilt appearance where she's been repaired or had paint touch-ups---TPS is effective as a camouflage system but it's one that's difficult to keep presentable for any length of time.   John Parchman

Here's a "Scooter" of the classic variety; an A-4C, 148458, of Marine Attack Squadron 133 photographed in July of 1974 when there were still a few Charlies hanging around. She's wearing the classic "Easter Egg" scheme of Light Gull Grey over White and is configured for a long cross country with three gas bags hung underneath. She's still carrying her 20mm armament and is decidedly shop-worn (check out the Insignia Red areas beneath her leading edge slats), providing us with a fine example of a C-model in service.   Friddell Collection

Finally, here's the last variant of the A-4 line, at least as far as American Skyhawks are concerned. 160263 was an A-4M assigned to VMA-223 when we photographed her at NAS Corpus Christi on 14 April, 1984, and was looking good in her relatively-new TPS paint job. The Mike was perhaps the most purposeful appearing of all the "Scooters" and certainly the most capable of the tribe but we honestly prefer the earlier variants. Your mileage, however, may well vary on that one!   Phillip Friddell

Happy Snaps

Let's take a slightly different approach to today's Happy Snap and show you a couple of Warbirds, as opposed to our more normal active military types.

Here you are; a restored F8F-1 Bearcat (BuNo 90454) formating on an F6F-5 Hellcat BuNo 79683) as photographed by Jim Sullivan over Hickory, North Carolina, during May of 1995. Successful air-to-air photography isn't an easy thing to accomplish and Jim had this one nailed! Thanks very much for sharing it with us, Jim!

And that's it for today. All we have left is one lonely little minute, as Bob Hite of Canned Heat once said, so stay safe and be good to your neighbor. We'll meet again soon!


Monday, August 24, 2020

Here's How You Do It, Bad to the Bone, Operation Thunderstorm, And Some Fruitflies


Dazzled By Brilliance?

We got our Triplane. The folks at Meng, who may or may not have produced other kits for Wingnut Wings, may or may not own some or all of the tooling, may or may not be faithful to the WNW's Dream and may or may not produce other kits of Great War airplanes in 1/32nd scale, have released this much anticipated kit of kits to the masses. See-What's-in-the-Box reviews have been hitting the electronic modeling press for a while now and there should be any number of How I Built It reviews out there by now as well. The kit is real, and it's available for purchase at this very minute. You can have your  own if you want one, which brings to mind a couple of thoughts.

First, one of those kits found its way out here to the wilds of rural Texas and is sitting by the work bench at this very moment. I've been able to examine it fairly closely, although I have to admit I haven't measured anything and probably won't. (That sort of thing can get you into trouble sometimes; just ask the highly respected folks who reviewed the initial release of the Eduard Me109-G family and claimed it to be dimensionally spot-on when it really wasn't if you don't believe me!)  No measurement equals no claims from me of dimensional accuracy, period, but in all honesty everything looks pretty good and the kit's fidelity to detail is excellent. Not breathtaking, not ground-breaking, and not the best ever seen in the entire history of plastic model airplanes, but definitely excellent. 

Not that it's a perfect kit by any means. So far it's been criticized for having a little bit of flash here and there and a set, because there are three of them after all, of slightly bowed wings that will require straightening prior to assembly. (That's all, he said?! Those are the only issues the kit has? Why tell me why are you complaining!) On the other hand, the complaints we've heard regarding the instructions are valid so you'll be wanting some decent reference materials at hand before starting the interior, if nothing else. The decals might or might not be ok but the "face" provided for Werner Voss' F.1 Triplane is incorrect and we don't much care for the instrument faces provided; Cartograf quality those decals ain't but they'll be mostly adequate for a lot of folks and can easily be replaced if that's desired. 

On the other hand, the kit provides a choice of ailerons, cowlings, and windscreens so you can build either an F.1, an early production Tripe, or a later one, out of what's already in the box. You actually have a choice because all the possible variants are catered for in that one kit, while most manufacturers (a grouping that could easily have included WNW themselves) would have released them as separate variants in order to increase their revenue stream. The kit decals make an attempt at covering the bases too. It's a great approach and we applaud it---way to go, Meng! Of course the kit doesn't include the option to up-engine the airplane with a captured Clerget rotary and maybe an English prop too, a practice that was followed on a limited basis by certain individual pilots within the Imperial Air Service, but there are aftermarket Clergets and propellers are available if you just can't live without doing that, and we think it would be going way too far to expect any kit manufacturer to cover that particular base anyway. 

So now we know it's a good kit and we think it's probably an accurate one as well, and as nicely detailed as we would expect from the boys from New Zealand. The instructions aren't as good as those that came in any Wingnut offering and the decals are barely adequate but hey; Meng tried, and they did a pretty darned good job of it too! They also released a kit that a great many of us wanted but thought we'd never see after the demise, maybe, of Wingnut Wings. (Let the rumor-mongering continue because it's already begun!)

On the other hand there's another 1/32nd scale Fokker Triplane kit out there as well, and it ain't half-bad. Yes, I'm talking about Roden's offering and yes, I actually meant to commit the heresy of saying it's a good kit, because it is. It's not as detailed as the new Meng kit, but once we get past the "valley" they put in the middle of the horizontal stab because they faithfully followed a set of drawings that erroneously included that particular non-existent feature, it's very nearly as good. Just remember that it's an older model and its not as well detailed as any WNW offering and therefore not as good as the new Meng Tripe either, but it's still a good kit and perfectly viable when married to a little aftermarket and some modest skill. 

Why do we mention the Roden kit at all, you may ask. The answer to that one is simple: There's a whole world of 1/32nd scale kits out there that Wingnut Wings had nothing whatsoever to do with and most of them are pretty darned good. Roden, for example, produce a number of very nice kits that do, admittedly, require a slightly higher skill level of the modeler than do the offerings from WNW, but the boys over at Copper State are issuing kits that are every bit as good as anything the folks down in the Southern Hemisphere ever produced and their instruction sheets and decals are top-notch as well. There are options to Wingnut Wings, albeit options that aren't nearly as prolific subject-wise, at least for the time being, but the point to be taken is that options are there if you want to explore them. 

That particular Adventure in Tangents aside, here's what I think we might learn from this adventure. First; nothing lasts forever, which means we might all want to try to obtain the kits we want to build while they're actually available at non-collector prices. Secondly; any kit that gets itself linked to anything WNW did will invariably be compared to that manufacturer, and perhaps/probably not entirely favorably. Finally, there are other manufactuers of large-scale Great War airplanes out there. There aren't many of them and their product lines are limited when we compare them with Wingnut, but they're there. 

My own personal Bottom Line is this: I have the Meng kit and will build it in the very near future, but I'm also going to build my Roden Tripe because it's a good kit as well, maybe not quite as good as that new Meng offering but good nonetheless, and I'm capable of making up for any perceived kit shortfalls if I choose to do that. Most serious scale modelers are capable of that sort of thing as well, while those who aren't will eventually acquire the necessary skills as they progress on their journey through the world of plastic scale airplanes. It's always helpful to start out with the best kit we can obtain but after it's all said and done it's the modeler, and his or her abilities and skills, that make the difference. The plastic is a starting place that we should probably call Opportunity because it all comes down to what we make of it at the end of the day. You might say it's all in our hands.

My story, etc etc...

A Fine Example of What We Just Said

Remember back about thirty seconds or so ago when we mentioned that it's mostly the modeler and not the kit? Here's a fine example of that sort of thing courtesy of Jim Sullivan, an AD-4Whiskey from VMC-1:

Those of our readership who have achieved a cerain seniority on Life may well recall the 1/48th scale polystyrene efforts of ESCI back in the 1980s and 90s. They offered the serious modeler a line of much needed and in many cases somewhat unique kit subjects, several of which were what we'll term "modestly flawed" and none of which could have been in any way described as an easy date. They weren't, and still aren't, a good choice for those with lesser skills but they can really be something for the modeler with a little bit of experience.

This particular variant of the Douglas AD Skyraider has never been produced by any other manufacturer, at least not in 1/48th, which means you're going to be using an ESCI kit (or its AMT sibling---it's all the same plastic no matter how you cut it) if you want to build one for your collection. Jim Sullivan wanted one and he had the AMT kit on hand, a collaboration which produced the results you see before you.

Here's The Real Thing; AD-4W BuNo126840 from VMC-1 taken in Korea on 15 May, 1953. That airplane hasn't been abused but it isn't exactly brand new and shiny either, and Jim's model captures the spirit of the thing pretty well, we think.   Sullivan Collection

And that, friends and neighbors, takes us to an old Rolling Stones tune, It's the Singer, Not the Song (Aftermath, December 1965). The kit isn't particularly easy but Jim has the skills and the need for a -4W in his collection, which leads to this sort of thing.  'Nuff said...

The Clock Was Ticking

But there was still plenty of time left on it when this photo was taken back in late 1966 or early 1967, and that particular Phantom was actively participating in the war in Southeast Asia.

Denny Smith was a C-130 driver who spent some time in-theater during the mid-60s, which is when he photographed 63-7590, an F-4C of the 480th TFS/366th TFW taxiing in from a strike on the Bad Guys. Friend and former F-4 driver Doug Barbier had this to say about the photo: That one really is a time machine, taxiing back in after a mission and after dropping the drag chute and going through de-arm. The paint and markings of those early "paint it in a hurry from this drawing, don't bother to prime it, use whatever we have on hand and make sure it's back on the schedule tomorrow morning" jets will drive you nuts. The T.O.s to paint them didn't show up until a long time after the fact and I have more than a suspicion that they were simply written to match what was commonly done in the field. Look at that early stab with no reenforcement plate and non-slotted leading edge too! Aftermarket, anyone?

 Unfortunately, the clock really was ticking on 7590; she was shot down two years later while flying with the 12th TFW. Both crew ejected safely, but it was a fate suffered by far too many airplanes during the conflict.   Denny Smith

The Right Airplane for the Job

Northrop's legendary P-61 Black Widow was one of those airplanes that made a career out of its mystique, size, and utility. It was big and it wasn't particularly fast or maneuverable, but that size meant it could carry significant armament and the heavy and bulky airborne radar of its day, which in turn meant it was well suited for use in its primary role as a night fighter. By the end of the Second World War its viability in that role was beginning to wane somewhat, although it remained in service with the 5th Air Force until 1950, but that's not what we're interested in today. It's size and soundness of structure made it a useful platform for other missions as well, and we'd like to show you a couple of photos of the airplane in one of its more significant, if less well-known, roles, that of weather ship. The mission was a direct result of a 1945 collaboration between the NACA, the Weather Bureau, the Army Air Forces, and the Navy. Headquartered out of the AAF's All Weather Flying Center in Clinton, Ohio, the type was tasked with flying through thunderstorms in an effort to gain meaningful knowledge that would relate to operating in all weathers.

The weather has always been a challenge for the aviation world to overcome, and the immediate post-War years began to see serious study of the various phemomena and conditions that could cause a threat to the aviator. The Thunderstorm Project's aircraft included a variety of types, one of which was Northrop's P-61---the Black Widow had been specifically selected due to its proven ability to cope with bad weather and severe turbulence. 43-8298 was a P-61B-20-NO assigned to the program and carrying the All Weather Flying Center's colorful red and yellow markings. The P-61 was a tough bird but the aircraft assigned to the Center took a beating all the same.   Mark Nankivil Collection

43-8327 was an early P-61C-1-NO and bore a variation of the markings found on 43-8298. At least nine Black Widows were active in the program from 1946 until 1949, and it seems that all of them differed somewhat in appearance as well; note the presentation of the serial number of 8327 under the port wing, for example. Instrumentation changed as well, and did so somewhat frequently as different aspects of the mission were addressed.   Mark Nankivil Collection

Finally, here's 43-8356, a different P-61C-1-NO, showing off yet another variation in markings. These airplanes suffered greatly while performing their mission, although no aircraft were lost during the course of the program.   Mark Nankivil Collection

Those of us who fly, even if only as commercial passengers, owe the crews of these aircraft an enormous debt for the job they performed so many years ago. Their courage and fortitude vastly improved our understanding of both thunderstorms and aviation weather in general, and paved the way for safer flying for everyone. It was difficult and dangerous work, and the crews of those P-61s excelled at it. At the risk of over-using a saying we quote fairly often around here: Let's raise a glass...

Gone But Not Forgotten

The LTV A-7 Corsair II family of attack aircraft have to rank among the most successful of the designs dedicated to the air-to-ground mission in the United States armed services. A result of the 1963 VAL competition to provide the Navy with a replacement for the long-lived Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, the first operational variant, the A-7A, began to reach the Fleet by 1966. The program eventually saw the type in use with both the Navy and the Air Force, as well as with several foreign operators. Today we're going to take a brief look at one specific variant, the A-7E, in use during a brief window in time; four aircraft spanning the years 1981 and 82.

Here's a fine place to start since VA-147 was the first Navy squadron to accept the A-7A into service, back in June of 1967, and was among the first to take it into combat. The squadron was active with the type during the Vietnam Conflict, and converted to the A-7E during 1969. This post-War Echo, 157479, was photographed on the ramp at NAS Chase Field on 06 June, 1981. Obviously well-used, 479 was the real thing, visiting a Tracom base after a recent cruise on the USS Constellation.   Phillip Friddell

May of 1981 saw a unique pair of "Fruitflies" from VA-193 on the ground at Ellington ANGB in Galveston. 159273 was nicknamed "Golden Dragon", a reference to 193's squadron nickname, and belonged to the unit's CO. She was a Clean Machine when I photographed her on the 22nd of May.   Phillip Friddell

Also found at Ellington that day was the squadron XO's aircraft, nicknamed "Executive Dragon". The Corsair II was a pugnacious-appearing little airplane as is well demonstrated by this photo.   Phillip Friddell

Finally, we have 156828 from VA-97 sitting on the ground at NAS Corpus Christi on 12 June, 1982. All four of these aicraft, photographed barely two years apart, were still wearing the Navy's classic Light Gull Grey over White scheme which would give way to the new TPS paintwork shortly after these images were taken. They were still pretty at the turn of the 80s, though!

The Corsair II lasted until 1991 in Navy service, with the last operational aircraft being retired after their return from Operation Desert Storm. The Air Force variant lasted a little longer, serving in the ANG until 1993, while several foreign users continued with the type until Portugal's retirement of their A-7Ps in 2007. 

From an operational standpoint the A-7 could carry an impressive load of ordnance for a considerable distance, but it suffered from low speed and limited ability to carry modern avionics. At the end of the day the airplane did its job and it did it well, but all things eventually must pass. It was quite a platform in its youth and it served well for over forty years, a testimony to its basic design. It was quite an airplane.

Happy Snaps

Yep; it's that time again! Here's an F/A-18A from the "Connie's" VFA-113 for your consideration today:

There are different reasons to like photographs of things. This image, taken by Rick Morgan over the Indian Ocean on 26 July, 1985, illustrates one of the more important ones. At first glance the image is a little frustrating since we can't make out the BuNo, nor can we really get a good look at the squadron markings on the vertical stab, but the composition---Lord-a-mighty; the composition! This, boys and girls, is how it's done! That's an A+++, Morgo, and thanks for sharing it with us!   Rick Morgan

And So It's Time to Go

Yep; it's that time. There's no Relief Tube today because nobody corrected us about anything, even though we almost certainly made some mistakes in the last issue. We're always interested in hearing from you, of course, and we'd love to see your photography if you've got anything you'd like to share with us. Comments, photos, or just Hi How Ya Doin', you can reach us for any of those things at replicainscaleatyahoodotcom although, as we always try to remind folks: You need to substitute the @ sign and a dot (.) in the appropriate places if you want the address to work. It's a pain in the wazoo to have to explain that, and we can thank those unscrupulous Picture Pirates for having to deal with it, but it's the way things are. (I know; whine whine whine...)

Anyway, that's it for today. Be good to your neighbor, stay safe in this year of the Covid, and we'll meet again soon!


Monday, August 10, 2020

Not Really a Mystery, New Guinea Mitchells, A Havoc, Some Spiffy Decals, A Gift From Norm, and some DaNang Druts,

You Just Have to Try

Anyone who reads these pages on a regular basis knows the site is big on the 5th Air Force in the SWPAC during the Second World War. Our pages have been filled with Pacific B-17s, P-39s, P-40s, P-38s, A-20s, and on and on and on. It's an interest that gets a lot of attention around here. That interest bleeds over into the world of scale modeling as well with---you guessed it---lots of P-39s, P-40s, etc etc, being built.

One of our personal favorites in terms of modeling subjects is Bell's star-crossed P-39 Airacobra, a beautiful airplane to behold, albeit one cursed with relatively poor performance as employed in the SouthWest Pacific against the Japanese in the role of air-to-air combat aircraft and no; we aren't going to discuss the type's somewhat remarkable performance against Mr. Hitler's Luftwaffe on the Eastern Front or the fact that it held rough parity against the Japanese even during the Bad Old Days of the early war in the Pacific. Those are a whole different ball game and a first-class muddier of waters. We aren't, in point of fact, going to discuss the P-39/P-400's combat career at all, at least not today! What we are going to do is discuss one particular aspect of one particular kit and apply what we learn to our personal outlook and philosophy regarding the hobby. 

Let's start with a statement of fact: There are presently three mainstream kits of the Airacobra in 1/48th scale. Monogram started the ball rolling during the late 1960s with a kit that is still viable, if somewhat crude by today's Whiz-Bang Look At That standards, followed by Eduard's excellent offering from the  1990s and, finally, the "ultimate" Hasegawa kit that was produced around the turn of the present century. That Hasegawa kit is generally conceded to be the best of the available offerings, P-39-wise, but I have a personal fondness for the older Eduard kit and the point of today's diatribe lies within the polystyrene hull of that offering so it's going to be the only kit we discuss today.

Here's the deal, Lucille: The Eduard kit is sufficiently accurate but with a couple of caveats:

  • Detail is said to be lacking by contemporary standards, which is largely true.
  • The wing and wing trailing edges are described as being too thick, which is also true.
  • The cockpit doors, which are molded separately from the fuselage, fit poorly and can't be installed in the closed position, which is absolutely positively false.
  • The canopy doesn't fit properly, which is also false.
The thing is, a completed Eduard P-39 looks like a P-39, with the proper sit and featuring the pretty but in-your-face appearance of the real thing. I happen to like the kit a lot. That's one of those "your mileage may vary" sorts of things but there you go, besides which everything that's listed as a kit fault can be dealt with. You can easily address the allegedly dated details and the wing can be thinned down if you really want to go to that much trouble---I personally never do that, but you're certainly welcome to! 

What I absolutely do fix each and every time I build that kit are the canopy fit and the cockpit doors. Both subjects have been covered previously here, but every so often the internet crowd fall back to that old "the canopy and doors don't fit on the Eduard  Airacobra" song and dance which makes the discussion relevant again. Consider this:

The canopy doesn't fit right because the fuselage wants to be a little too wide in the area of the cockpit. If you build the kit and squeeze the fuselage sides in at the point where the aft cockpit bulkhead (the one just behind the seat) comes out of said fuselage and hit that junction point between said bulkhead and the fuselage with a little Tamiya Extra Thin or similar, and hold it together until the resulting joint has cured, the canopy problem will go away. Gone forever.

The greater problem, and the one that continually fuels that aforementioned internet crowd, is the fit of the doors. They're just fine if you want to model them open but horrible if you want to depict one or both of them in the closed position because those doors just can't be made to fit. That's what they say (the internet crowd, that is) but fortunately for us it's not true at all. 

The Eduard P-39/P-400 family is, in point of fact, very delicately and precisely tooled. The kit is a good one and all you have to do to make those doors fit properly is to lightly sand their perimeter with a fine grade of abrasive paper; we're talking something in the 1000-2000 grit range here. Just be careful when you clean up the sprue attach points and lightly employ that sandpaper around the perimeter of the part, taking special care to keep the door hinges intact shapewise (that means STRAIGHT!). Go slowly, fit as you go, and those doors can be made to fit perfectly. The notion that you can't successfully model them in the closed position is a polystyrene old-wive's tale, pure and simple, but that's not the point of this missive.

Let's take those P-39 doors as an example and a road to a greater truth, using my personal experience with the kit as the driver. I like the P-39 and have quite an interest in the type as used in New Guinea during those bad old days of 1942, and I prefer the Eduard kit of same for reasons we won't go into today. (Yes I just said that a minute ago, I know I did, but I'm feeling even more garrulous than normal today. Just humor me!) I've built several of them and have modeled them with one door open, both doors open, and no doors open, and those doors all fit on each one of the several models I've built of the airplane, as do the canopies. That's not because I'm any sort of superior scale modeler because I'm most assuredly not that. I wanted to build some Airacobras for the collection and I wanted them to look like they're supposed to so I took some time and figured out how to do it. I worked the problem and that, my friends, is the point of today's ramble. 

Let's hold this truth to be self-evident: If you want to do any given modeling thing, regardless of what it is, you probably can. Just think it through, figure out the best way to execute whatever action you determine, and DO IT. If you're new to the hobby try that sort of thing out on an inexpensive kit first because there is most assuredly a learning curve involved. Keep the mindset that it's a plastic model airplane kit and the fate of nations doesn't hinge on how well you build the thing; think it through and do it. Yes; you'll fail sometimes and you may even trash a couple of kits along the way but you'll also learn and you'll grow as a modeler. Remember this; if you don't try to stretch your boundaries and grow  you won't ever become truly proficient at the hobby, and in consequence you'll never ever get the doors on your Eduard P-39 to fit properly. You'll have problems with a lot of other things too. It's a universal truth: There ain't nothin' to it but to do it!

That's my story and I'm by-golly sticking with it!

It Never Was a Puzzle

There's a list of things that sometimes confuse and confound scale modelers, and one of them is that washed-out straw-colored coating sometimes seen on the face of pre-War US Navy aircraft propellers. You know the drill as well as I do; somebody will publish such a photo on an internet forum and the answers to what it actually is will come pouring in. Unfortunately, those answers are generally wrong so let's straighten this tiny mystery out once and for all!

We've all seen this image a thousand times before, but we're going to see it again today because of those prop blades. Notice the washed-out straw color that covers them? That's the result of a chromate conversion process, colloquially know as "Alodine", that aids in preventing or reducing corrosion on aluminum and it's neither a paint nor a lubricant that's gone astray. It's been used in the aviation industry for many decades and, in a somewhat less toxic variation than the original, is still around. It can be applied by dipping a part in a solution vat or by hand. This well-known and often-published photo of a Grumman F3F-3 at NAS Corpus Christi illustrates the point perfectly.   Possibly from the Life Archives but we aren't sure!

Here's a more contemporary illustration of the process, seen on the gas bag under this 419th TFTS CF-5D of the Canadian Armed Forces photographed on the transient ramp at Randolph in May of 1984. Alodine is most often used prior to priming or painting an aluminum surface so it's a little unusual to see that tank in it's "raw" state on an operational aircraft, but check out the way it looks and compare it to the photograph of those prop blades immediately above. Everything old is new again, eh?   Phillip Friddell

A Day Without B-25s is Like a Day Without Sunshine!

We think so, anyway, so here's a photo of an early B-25s sitting on the ground in New Guinea for your consideration. It is, is, as is so often the case around here, from the collection of Bobby Rocker, but you probably already knew that!

Almost ready to rumble, this 498th BS/345th BG B-25D nick-named "Little Nel" sits on what passes for a hardstand at 7-Mile. The photograph leaves a bit to be desired but it's of considerable value to us because it provides a good view of the tail structure where the plexiglas cap once lived. It was fairly standard practice for the B-25 groups in General George's Fifth Bomber Command to place a stinger gun back there, and this shot illustrates what the area that surrounds such an installation looks like. The internal structure would absolutely disappear on a model but that surrounding area would stick out like a neon sign, causing us to holler THANK YOU, BOBBY! for sharing this photo with us!   Rocker Collection

And While We're At It

Here's "Hawkins" (formerly "Runt's Roost") and "Here's Howe", B-25Ds of the 90th BS/3rd BG, returning from Wewak on 17 August 1943:

This photo is certainly evocative but it doesn't tell the story very well. The scene is almost placid, with all those Mitchells just cruising along in loose formation, almost as though they were out for an afternoon training hop. The excitement and, in all likelihood, the sheer terror of the mission just past can't be reflected in a photo like this one. For the guys in those airplanes it was in all probablity a very good day to be alive! Modelers take note of the different national insignia presentation on this pair of aircraft!   Gerry Kersey Collection

Then There's That Other One

The 3rd BG was well-known as an operator of the Douglas A-20 Havoc. We show a lot of B-25s on this site, with a great many of them being from the 3rd, but A-20s are a relatively scarce commodity here which leads us to an attempt at making amends:

Here's a magnificant view of A-20G 43-9422 "Bub's Brother" of the 13th BS/3rd BG posing for Bill Swain's camera in theater sometime during 1944. That airplane is probably in excellent mechanical condition but the paintwork is another story entirely; All Beat to Snot is a term that comes to mind in that regard. Take a look at those guys in the cockpit peering out at the photographer while you're at it---if that was a beat-up old jalopy they could pass for a couple of college kids out looking for fun, except they're not in an old jalopy and the fun they get to have in that airplane is heavily tainted by a dark side that can't be ignored. Let's raise a glass...   Bill Swain via Gerry Kersey Collection

Not What You Normally See Around Here

This project focusses very specifically on American military aviation, although we sometimes run photographs of models that don't fit that parameter. Here's one such example:

Sometimes you see an airplane that you just have to model, and this not-quite-finished Accurate Miniatures Yak-1B in 1/48th scale is an example of that very thing. Your humble (?) editor is presently off on a tangent building aircraft used by the former USSR during their Great Patriotic War against Nazi Germany; a lot of those airplanes are colorful beyond belief and the history is certainly there, providing ample reason to build up a collection of VVS fighters and bombers from that tragic period in our planet's past.

With that as a premise it's only natural to presume that a Yak-1 would have to join the collection at some point in time and in oddly enough one was actually in the planning stages when that particular mental exercise got moved up several notches while browsing Exito Decals' web site, where I discovered a sheet titled Yak Attack. One of the three airplanes featured on that decal sheet was so over the top and so well documented as to make it the Yak-1b of choice for the collection; an aircraft of the 31st GIAP/6th GIAD, 4th Ukrainian Front ca spring or summer of 1944. This model, which still requires weathering and an antenna suite to be called complete, is the end result of my acquisition of the sheet. Is this a colorful airplane or what?

I might also mention that these decals are among the best waterslide markings I've ever used. They went on flawlessly over the model's finish of Akan paint (yet another absolutely superior product!) without any glitches whatsoever. They conformed beautifully, even that dragon that's busily engaged in consuming the airplane's horizontal stabilizer, they laid down perfectly without any issues whatsoever, and they definitely make the model "pop". The documentation supporting the decals is superb as well and could be the poster child for how to do that sort of thing. We don't normally review much around here but we just can't say enough good about these decals. Like the model or don't like it at all, that's your choice, but those decals---holy cow! 


We Rarely Hear About Those Guys

Our readers know Norman Camou primarily through the aviation-oriented YouTube footage he finds and shares with us. There's no YouTube today, however. Instead, Norm has discovered a document we suspect anyone interested in the war in the Pacific will find fascinating. It's a study of the Netherland East Indies Army aviation arm in Australia and India during the Second World War. It fills in a significant gap in our knowledge of the participants in that theater and is well worth your time. The book is in PDF format and is free; all you have to do is click on the link below and download it. 

Many thanks to Norman for finding and sharing this work with us!

But wait! There's more! (Sorry, ya'll; I just had to do that!) 

Norm sends along quite a bit of material and here's a bonus he found on YouTube that we think you'll enjoy. It's and interview with a couple of SBD radio operators (known as "gunners" to most aviation enthusiasts). It provides an insight we rarely have into the crews of the mighty SBD. Take a look!

Thanks again, Norm, and keep it up!

Making the Best of Things

There was a time, back in the mid-1960s, when the Marine Corps' electronic warfare mission was performed by the venerable Douglas EF-10B Skyknight, an airplane that had begun its service career in an age of underpowered jet engines. That circumstance led to extremely poor performance in most service situations and was bad enough during peacetime deployments and the type's use during the Korean War. The hot air of Vietnam, coupled with the aircraft's gross combat weight, resulted in  performance that was marginal at best, leading in turn to its Marine Corps nickname of "Drut" which is, for those of our readership who might not know, the way the word "turd" appears when it's spelled backwards. 'Nuff said, eh?

Anyway, it's been a few issues since we've featured anything from Jim Sullivan's collection so it must surely be time to do it again! Let's take a look at a couple of "Druts" in Southeast Asia!

The Marine's VMCJ-1 were the sole operators of the EF-10B in theater, using them in combat during an iterim period prior to their replacement by the vastly improved Grumman EA-6A. This image shows us one of their airplanes, 125793, as it taxis in post-mission during August of 1966. the airplane is so clean as to be called spotless by operational standards. She was lost in-theater in an operational accident, with both crewmembers killed, on 17 July, 1968.    Fritz Gemeinhardt via Jim Sullivan

This image is a little soft but is well worth publishing as it depicts a somewhat shopworn EF-10B, 127051, on the busy DaNang ramp, also in August of 1966. Modelers may want to note the staining aft of the engine exhausts, which is substantial on this airframe and typical of the type when that area wasn't frequently cleaned. Keep reading because there's more to see on this bird!   Fritz Gemeinhardt via Jim Sullivan

Here's the other side of RM-3, taken on the same day as the other two photographs in this set. Remember that part where we mentioned the staining aft of the engine exhausts? Well, that's not the only place a "Drut" can get dirty! Note the staining under the intakes, the generally worn appearance of the airframe and, in particular, the staining forward of the 20mm muzzles, caused by firing the guns. Shooting at things wasn't the normal mission for the EF-10B during the SEA fracas; that more along the lines of providing threat warning and ECM support for Navy, Marine, and Air Force missions against North Vietnam's air defense radar network. In theory nothing in that mission would involve using guns. In theory, that is! Finally, those mission tallies behind the aircraft modex tell a story; there's no doubt that 127051 saw the elephant and did it more than once!   Fritz Gemeinhardt via Jim Sullivan

Jim Sullivan has been supporting this project, and all the others I've been involved in over the years, pretty much from the very beginning. Thanks, Jim, for all you do for this project!

Under the Radar

We don't often spotlight new books in this section, preferring instead to dedicate the space to older works our readers may have missed the first time around, but every once in a while something comes out that's just so special as to require mention. This is one of those books.

World Watchers, A Pictorial History of Electronc Countermeasure Squadron One; Romano, Angelo, Ginter Books 2020, 304pp, illustrated. 

This could be a truly brief review if we wanted to do things that way. This book is one of the very best unit histories we've ever seen, period, and the serious student of American naval aviation can't afford to be without it. It's honestly that good! 

That said, the volume begins with the unit's PBY Second World War predecessors and carries through all of the squadron's assignments, designations, and operations right up until the current year. Primarily a pictorial history (it even says so right on the cover), it is absolutely chock full of photographs, color illustrations, charts and indices covering every period (and designation) of the unit's history. The book is extremely well written and includes a great many anecdotal entries from former squadron members. It is well written and a joy to read.

References such as this one depend heavily on the contributions of knowledgeable and authoritative researchers and this book lists a veritable who's who of contemporary naval aviation photographers and historians in its credits. It's a book written by a heavy-hitter and supported by some of the best in their field. Finally, the production quality of the piece is well up to the standards normally maintained by this publisher, which is saying a lot.

In short, the author knocked this one right out of the park and we're looking forward to his next effort. Highly recommended.

The Relief Tube

There's not much to say here except that I've been exceptionally busy over the past couple of months and the schedule I'd made for myself---a new installment every 3 weeks or so---went right out the window in consequence. Nothing new there, right? Anyway, apologies to everyone for that, and thanks to those of you who emailed in to see if we were ok. Everything is fine here and I hope and pray it's that way for all of you as well. Stay safe, be good to your neighbor, and we'll meet again soon!


Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Requiem for a Friend, The Triplane That Is, Gone But Not Forgotten, A Cobra, and Was It Really That Long Ago

The King is Dead?

In recent days the scale modeling portion of the internet has been awash with rumors, reports, and a whole lot of outright speculation regarding the apparent demise of Wingnut Wings. In point of fact some scale modeling sites have been quite literally going nuts over the whole thing, with comments ranging from "so what" to "it's the end of Great War scale modeling". Many comments have been constructive, in a sad sort of way, while a few have been outright nasty and a few others have bordered on absolute lunacy. Those comments run the gamut, there's no doubt.

The one thing that seems clear and actually true is that WNW have shut down. It might be temporary or it might be permanent but as I type this they're gone with staff laid off and, one might presume, doors tightly shuttered. I can't add anything to what's already been reported on all those electronic magazines and boards other than to comment that I was heavily involved in the procurement of aerospace tooling and fixtures for a great deal of my time in the industry and that it's normal for whomever pays for tooling to own said tooling unless some sort of circumstance precludes it, so I'll hazard one guess (and one guess only) and say that Sir Peter Jackson owns the tooling for all of those exquisite kits. I would, in fact, be amazed if he didn't own it, at least for the time being, but that's still a guess on my part and nothing more.

Of greater interest are those marvelous Great War kits that Wingnut have given us over the past ten or so years. Those models have been brilliantly engineered and superbly rendered, and have truly earned every accolade they've acquired over the decade or so of the company's existence. In my world there aren't enough superlatives to describe them. I didn't buy each and every one, although for the most part I've purchased the kits that have spoken to me, and I've even built several. I'm a fan, pure and simple.

On the other hand, I'm also a realist. As much as I've enjoyed, and continue to enjoy, those kits, there are other manufacturers out there who produce 1/32nd scale First World War subjects. Roden (yes; Roden!) is one, and their kits aren't half bad. They require more work than the offerings of that New Zealand-based company and their decals have a reputation for being extremely difficult to work with, but the actual kits themselves are perfectly buildable and look great when finished, even though they do lack the finesse and fine detail of Wingnut's offerings. Then there's Copper State, who's Nieuport 17s are absolutely gorgeous, rivaling the best work of WNW. Unfortunately their entire 1/32nd lineup, at least as of today, consists of just those Nieuports, but with any luck that's only a temporary situation.

We also can't give up the notion that someone will purchase Wingnut's tooling, or maybe the company will reopen at a later date. Either scenario is possible, even if that possibility appears distinctly remote at this juncture. Stranger things have happened.

Worst case, Wingnut's kits will remain available on the secondary market, albeit at greatly inflated prices, while Roden and Copper State will continue to produce their own kits of the aircraft of The Great War. It's easy to be maudlin about the whole thing and fall into a state of grieving for Wingnut's  passing and on a strictly personal level I do indeed grieve the loss of their company, but I'm also extremely grateful for the time they were with us. I've enjoyed the kits and am proud of the way they look on the shelf. I'm truly happy that my time as a scale modeler included that brief span of time when they were alive and well, and thrilling us with unexpected new release after release. It was a special time, and they were a special company.

With all of that said, tomorrow is a new day. Maybe those marvelous kits will be back, either in the guise of a reborn Wingnut Wings or maybe under someone else's logo. Maybe they're gone forever. The point is we had them for a while. As a company they did wonderful things and they raised the bar substantially by so doing. We all gained from their existence in our polystyrene world, and our hobby was a better place while they were with us.

The King is dead. For now...

We Were So Close

Yes we were. The guys over at WNW had said they would never do a Fokker Triplane because there was already a very good kit (Roden) out there. They were right about that one; the Roden Tripes (a Dr.I and an F.I, in case you've forgotten) were, and are, very good indeed. They're a little fussy to build, as are all of Roden's offerings, and in consequence probably not good kits for the beginner in spite of the Dr.I's almost total lack of rigging, but they're definitely on the high side of ok. Wingnut's kit, which is apparently tooled and pretty much ready to go, would have been a better detailed and far more builder-friendly kit, of course, but it would seem that we won't see it anytime soon, if at all.

Those two Ukrainian kits are pretty much it these days for Fokker Triplanes in 1/32nd scale (and yes; I know Andrea makes one too, but it's not in the same league as the others), but there's another Tripe out there that's well worth your time---it's just in a different scale:

And here it is: Eduard's 1/48th scale Dr.I, in Lothar von Richthofen's Jasta 11 markings and half-finished as usual, but boy what a kit! It's several years old now and has seen the usual Eduard boxings: Profipack, Weekend Edition, Dual Combo, and as a star component of at least two special offerings, Der Rote Flieger and Du Doch Nicht, so it's also easy to find. It's a superb little kit, rendered semi-difficult only by the extraordinarily petite detail parts that grace its contents, and it's probably not the Triplane for the absolute novice, but it goes together like a fine pre-digital watch and it's every inch a Dr.I once it's completed.

You may, of course, ask why we would discuss this kit when the Great War modeling world at large is drooling for the Wingnuts kit they may never get, but it's only fair to mention that there are a whole bunch of excellent offerings out there in 1/48th scale too and they're well worth your time. They're just a little smaller, that's all!

Then again, if I were a betting man, which I'm not, I'd be willing to wager that WNW Tripe will show up someday. Maybe not tomorrow or next week, and maybe not under the Wingnut Wings logo, but I'll bet we see it eventually. Fingers crossed, etc, etc...

The Bad Thing on the Block

That particular appelation could apply to any number of military airplanes but in today's context we're referring to Grumman's F-14 Tomcat. It was a marvel when first introduced, first and foremost by being a polymorph that actually worked, and secondly by proving itself to be a fleet defence interceptor, or may just a fighter, par excellance. It wasn't perfect, of course; nothing ever is. It was in truth a little underpowered, at least in its early versions, the AIM-54 Phoenix it was designed to carry was far from an optimal weapon when viewed in a real world sort of context, and it took a lot of maintenance to keep it operational. It was also a world-beater for several decades of its lifespan in Navy service and it looked good. Here are a few examples to remind you of what once was. Note that these images depict the F-14A during what many consider to be its finest decade, spanning the years from 1979 to 1989, but none of the schemes are the classic Light Gull Grey over White.

160671 was with VF-51 when photographed on the ramp at Randolph on 12 May, 1979. While not an Easter Egg in the truest sense of that word, since she's in overall Light Gull Grey, her full-color CAG markings make her stand out from the crowd. She spent a brief period of time on display in a museum but was eventually reclaimed by the Navy for reasons unknown to us and sent to AMARC for storage. She was pretty when she was young...   Phillip Friddell

04 April, 1982, saw VF-101's 161134 on the towbar at NAS Corpus Christi. She's relatively plain for this era, in overall Light Gull Grey with subdued squadron markings, but she's still every inch a fighter. One of a number of Tomcats modified for the TARPS pod, she's now on public display in Florida.   Phillip Friddell

VF-154 was operating 161612 when she was photographed at Corpus on 14 April, 1984. She's got some color to her but not much; overall Gull Grey isn't the most flattering of paint schemes, but she's still a looker in spite of it. She ended up in storage, a sad but necessary end to a fine career.   Phillip Friddell

There's just something about Felix on a Tomcat; that classic Navy squadron emblem just belongs there. In this case, the emblem is on Fighting Thirty-One's 161868, also photographed at Corpus but a few years later, on 07 May, 1989. This is one of the two paint schemes that says F-14 to us.   Phillip Friddell

And here's the other: An F-14A from VF-84 photographed taxiing out to launch at Bergstrom on 14 October, 1989. The shot was an accident; I was by the taxiway waiting for something else, but the opportunity was just too darned good to pass up!   Phillip Friddell

There was a time when I bemoaned the retirement of this classic airplane, but that came into perspective and focus one afternoon when I began mentally compairing the Tomcat to Boeing's immortal F4B-4. After all, they had similar careers; both built as fighters (yes, I know the F-14 was technically an interceptor, but stay with me here), both were the best there was when in their prime, and both, as time passed them by, were ultimately relegated to the bombing mission prior to their retirement. They were really something when they were young, though, and we definitely miss those days.

Those Other Cobras

Anyone who's been paying attention to these pages must surely have noticed that most of the photos we publish from the Pacific War are related to the 5th Air Force. There's a reason for that: The Fifth is a primary interest of mine. That said it was, unfortunately, a really big war with a lot of participants. Here's an example of one that wasn't from General Kenney's Air Force, courtesy of Bobby Rocker:

A sharkmouthed Bell P-400 Airacobra of the 67th FS, 347th FG, sits poised for another mission on Henderson Field some time in late 1942. We're showing this particular photograph today to illustrate a potential point of confusion for those confronted with P-39/P-400 photography from The Bad Old Days in the SWPAC. Note the sharkmouth: The 8th FG of the 5th AF used it too, while assigned to the Port Moresby area of New Guinea, and their version of that classic artwork was very much like the one used by the 67th FS on Guadalcanal. A practiced eye can usually tell the difference between the units but not always. Danger; Will Robinson! DANGER!   Rocker Collection

Thanks as always to Bobby for continually sourcing these images and sharing them with us.

It Seems Like It Was Yesterday

But Operation Desert Storm took place back in 1991, some 29 years ago! My own personal tie to the operation was a long-standing friendship with Prowler ECMO Rick Morgan, whom I'd known since he was in flight school in Texas. Last issue's publication of a TA-4 photo from Allen Epps triggered Rick to send in this photograph of his crew during taken aboard the Theodore Roosevelt while he was assigned to VAQ-141:

Rick provided us with the call signs for his crew, so that's how we'll identify them here, from left to right: Kurly, Tums, Boris (Rick Morgan), and our newest contributor Pugsley (Allen Epps) as they prepare for their first daylight war mission. We aren't going to publish the names of Kurly and Tums at this time because we don't have their permission to do that.   Rick Morgan

They don't look that old, and their faces don't reflect the years of training or the strain of combat, but these guys are The Real Deal; a highly skilled crew engaged in electronic warfare combat operations with the Grumman EA-6B Prowler. While serving in the Gulf they flew daily support missions for Alpha Strikes, they jammed communications and, on at least one occasion, they killed a SAM site. They're typical of the guys who stand up, and have always stood up, when their country needs them, and we're lucky they, and all their brothers and sisters, are there for us. Let's raise a glass!

Happy Snaps

How about another air-to-air from Allen Epps to end this issue?

Over San Clemente Island with a pair of CT-33’s. We would run into the ship and “shoot” the CT-33’s as missile simulators then follow them as a third missile with an appropriate electronic signature.  Epps

Thanks, Pugs!

We're always looking for photography of American military aviation, by the way. If you'd like to contribute your images to this project, please drop us a line at replicainscaleatyahoodotcom using the appropriate symbology for the at and dot. We can't pay you but we'll make you famous, sortof, if you'd like to contribute your photos. How about it?

The Relief Tube

You may have noticed that we're actually publishing fairly frequently these days (a big YAY for that one), albeit with reduced content. We've been meaning to reduce the length of these things for quite a while because it's easier to do shorter issues than to put together the long ones that cause us to publish just a handful of entries per year. That's a particularly good thing to us and maybe for you as well, especially so since most of us are restricted to quarters at the present time. We'll try to get something out every couple or three weeks from now on, or at least until this Covid mess subsides and we all return to some semblance of normality. (Or maybe you could just keep to some sort of SCHEDULE, Phillip!)

In the meantime, stay safe, be careful, and be good to your neighbor. We'll meet again soon!