Thursday, March 4, 2010

I Didn't Know That. Did You Know That? I Didn't Know That!

When Falling Into It Is a Good Thing, or How I Learned Something Today

Sometimes you're doing something you think you pretty much know everything about and then you discover that you didn't really know that much at all. (Grammar? What grammar?) Then again, sometimes you just take things for granted, which is more to the point of this particular missive.

Take, for example, the Multiple and Triple Ejector Racks that used to hang off of American tactical aircraft way back in the 60s. We all know what they are, but how much do we really know about them? Well, folks; I, for one, pretty much knew squat! OK, maybe I did know a little bit more than squat, but not a whole lot more. There I was, though (or maybe there I am, since I haven't done it yet), getting ready to put a MER rack on my slowly-completing A-4C, and I got curious. Yesterday I ran another shot off the FDR; a VA-12 bird that I said had an attached TER. The thing that got me going was the timeline, because the photo was taken in 1961 when Frank Garcia was assigned to the Roosevelt's V2 Division, and I wasn't all that certain when the TER got to the Fleet. Did I mess up? Was the thing under that Scooter really the rack for the Mk76 practice bomb, and not a TER at all? Good Grief!

You need to know that I'm not a big one for research on the internet, because a lot of time you're getting opinion rather than fact or, even worse than that, restated and distorted "facts" that may or may not bear any great resemblance to The Truth. I'm a paper guy, and a primary source guy. There are exceptions, of course, but mostly you'd best be careful if you're going to take your information off The World Wide Web. Sometimes you get really lucky, though. Today was one of those times.

One of the folks most instrumental in the development of the MER and TER (originally the Multiple Carriage Bomb Rack, or MCBR; the other acronyms came a little later in the story) was retired Marine Lt. General William Fitch. He posted an outstanding first-person developmental history of the racks at and it's well worth a read. It's the most thorough thing I've ever seen on this particular piece of necessary equippage and takes the reader from the early realization that the two wing-mounted Aero 20 pylons and single Aero 7 centerline pylon then found on the A-4 were totally inadequate for meaningful hauling-around of weapons since each station was limited to the carriage of a single store. That realization, plus an epiphany in the form of the Banger Board rack used with Mk76 and Mk105 practice bombs, led General Fitch (then assigned to weapons developement with VX-5) to the notion that the same sort of rack could work for real ordnance too. That led to the design and development of the MCBR.  Extensive testing proved that the idea, and the hardware, worked like a charm, and a weapons delivery system was born.

There's an interesting sidebar to the story too. The original MCBR (as produced by Douglas) relied on gravity for weapons release. BuWeps decided that a more positive release mechanism was desireable and came up with the ejector rack configuration we're all so familiar with. Somewhat later, in response to a requirement for the then-new McDonnell FH-1, the MER was cut in two (and I mean literally cut in two!) thus creating the TER.

But it's not a TER that's hanging under the VA-12 Scooter that I ran yesterday. Nossir, it's a Banger Board, pure and simple. I messed up! (In the Old Days we would've put that in our corrections column, which we called "The Relief Tube", but I think somebody else has taken that name and made it their own since we used it---it's been a couple of years, remember? So, no "Relief Tube" entry, but a correction nontheless!) Both the MER and the TER were available to the Fleet by the time the Southeast Asia War Games started up in earnest, but they weren't there in 1961! And, of course, Hasegawa's venerable 1/48th weapons sets are bereft of any sign of a Banger Board. Phooey! (But it's only Phooey if you want to build an early-60s Scoot. The Charlie that's mouldering on my workbench even as I write this will be completed as a full-fledged member of The Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club so it's not an issue in my world, even though I'd like to have one Just Because.)

Ridin' Along in My Automobile (With apologies to Chuck)

Every once in a while one of the Major Model Manufacturers (a mouthful; that!) have themselves a Brilliant Idea and does something so astounding that it crosses disciplines within the hobby and gives us all a chance to build something really cool. Nothing's new under the sun, of course, and this seriously neat idea I'm about to pontificate over was originally born back in the mid-1970s when Bandai released their late (and sometimes lamented) 1/48th scale armor series. Said series (yet another mouthful; today must be the day for that) included a couple of vehicles that could also be used on airfield dioramas, an idea that was maybe just the least bit premature, at least in South Texas. Still, if your tastes ran to 1/48th scale dioramas you suddenly had vehicles to go with your airplanes. They weren't aviation-specific vehicles to be sure, but Something was most assuredly better than Nothing for the handful of people who actually cared about such things.

Jump ahead to Right Now. Tamiya started doing 1/48th scale armor a few years ago, but they also included some soft-skins in the mix and, wonder of wonders, a couple of vehicles that were airfield accessories too! Holy Cow! Then, as if the Tamiya kits weren't enough, Hasegawa jumped aboard with a small line of their own. Add to those offerings the kits manufactured in The Wonderful World of Resin Limited Runs and all of a sudden life became very good indeed, at least if you wanted to do a diorama in quarter scale.

The quality of the kits that are available varies a bit, of course, and this isn't a review of anything so don't go looking for fault-finding 'cause there ain't none of that today, except to say that the Tamiya Kurogane, or whatever that lumpy-looking Japanese field car is, seems a little big (my AFV friends tell me that Hasegawa's kit of same is somewhat better, but I wouldn't know because I haven't built one yet). The Tamiya Citroen looks pretty good to my eye, and even better when parked up against the early-War Luftwaffe fighter of your choice, and the Tamiya Kubelwagen and ProModeler fuel cart look really nice when paired with that Me109K-4 (the Hasegawa kit with minor improvements and yes, I know the antenna has been broken loose---let's call it a photographic mishap and move on!) and a couple of resin figures.

The point of this ramble, and there actually is one this time, is that a vehicle such as a car or truck, or even a fuel cart, provide for a nice bit of scale comparison with the airplane. The Lumpy Japanese Field Car and the Citroen both live on the appropriate shelves in my Airplane Room, mixed in with airplanes of the appropriate nationality. It's a neat touch and the occasional non-modeling visitor to said room has a point of reference as to the relative size of things. I like it!

The Tamiya Type 95 Kurogane field car with a load of flight gear cribbed from the FineMolds 1/48th scale Ki-10 kit. It really adds a nice touch to my JAAF shelf and was easy to build. Most of the construction time (a total of 6 hours, give or take) was spent on painting and weathering. This kit has less detail than the Hasegawa offering, but what's there is more than adequate for most dioramas, and certainly appropriate for my purposes. I'm still not sure it's the right size but, like I said, it serves the purpose well.

Tamiya's Citroen 11CV. It normally lives beside a couple of Bf109Es and really emphasizes the relative size of an airplane, even a small one, when compared to that of a moderate-sized automobile. The Citroen is an extremely well-engineered kit and just falls together; it's a shake 'n bake model of the 1/72nd scale Monogram Bearcat variety and total construction time, including paint and a couple of decals, ran to two hours or so.

Tamiya's Kubelwagen and ProModeler's aircraft fuel cart in a modest diorama with a Hasegawa Me109K-4 and a couple of resin figures. The 109 has Eduard belts (of course!), a scratch-built starter crank, and an aluminum foil and Evergreen strip wing cover. I thought about being all uppity and putting on a brass nameplate that said something profound like "One Last Time" or similar, but in German. Modesty, or maybe a rare bout of Good Taste, prevailed and I didn't do it. My ego does truly know no bounds, but there are limits...

Another shot of the diorama showing the Kubelwagen, and that broken antenna, to advantage. The starter crank was made from Evergreen shapes, and the hand tools that you can barely see (on the ground and on top of the fuel drum) are photo-etched pieces from an Eduard figure set. Decals on the Messerschmitt are from Eagle Editions, paint is ModelMaster. The airplane looks ok by itself, but I think it's better when on a base with a couple of vehicles and some figures for scale reference. And yes, I'm going to fix the antenna!

Finally, here's the Citroen 11CV and the Kurogane parked side-by-side. If the vehicles are properly scaled (and there seems to be a dearth of information available on that Japanese field car) then the Kurogane is one enormous automobile! This is the part where you can ask why I didn't build the Hasegawa kit of same and compare the two, but it's a question I can't answer; I built the Kurogane for a specific purpose and it was the only kit I had at the time. We could, of course, have ourselves a Kurogane shoot-out some day, but you probably don't want to hold your breath waiting for it to happen.

Is He Done Yet?

Yep, we're all finished for today. Thanks to all of you who have taken the time to write ( ) to let me know how I'm doing---keep me honest, ya'll! Be good to your neighbor and we'll talk again soon.


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