Monday, August 30, 2010

Starfire, More Sandys, Some Unusual T-28s, A Different Sort of B-29, Phantom Milestones, and Does Anybody Remember ABT?

That Other Lockheed Fighter

It's been twice now, at least I think it's been two times, that I've ranted about the fact that nobody seems to be interested in molding a state-of-the-art F-80 for us in 1/48th scale. Since I'm already doing that Quixote Thing and tilting at windmills, it's only fair to add yet another Lockheed bird to the mix; the F-94 Starfire.

Early F-94s saw limited (and largely unsuccessful) combat in Korea, but the type spent most of its career in an unemployed mode, with service aircraft frequently wearing ANG markings. Consider the facts, if you will. The airplane was essentially a modified T-33 with radar, a primitive fire control system, and largely inadequate armament. It also boasted a primordial afterburner, probably the best Lockheed could engineer when it was built but not especially good. The Starfire looked neat, and it was arguably better than the F-89 in some regards, but it was pretty much a dud as an interceptor.

It was, however, highly colorful, and its final variant, the F-94C, was Revell's very first model airplane kit, which has to be worth something. Mark Morgan's been prowling the AMC files again and has come up with these Starfire images for our enjoyment:

Here's the 2nd FIS taxiing out a four-ship of F-94As, date and location unknown. The F-94A was a gun ship and was pretty much a hot-rodded T-33A, but it was available and it worked. Check out the relative size of the aircrew in comparison to the airframe---this is a tiny airplane by modern standards.  AMC via M. Morgan

How about a four-ship from the 68th FIS in flight? The F-94B was still a guns-only bird, but was an improvement on the A-model. A lot of the F-94 units seemed to utilize some sort of fuselage stripe, making the type a natural for modeling. Heller did a B way back in the '80s, and HobbyCraft (I think it was HobbyCraft, anyways) did a sort-of B-model in 1/48th. The Heller kit has stood The Test of Time pretty well; not so the HobbyCraft offering. Phooey!  AMC via M. Morgan

Here's today's Highly Dramatic Official Photo of an F-94B (51-5346) from the 68th FIS. The nose-mounted Browning M2s are visible here, although the B could also be fitted with a pair of underwing gun pods. It was a neat airplane, and I want a decent 1/48th scale kit of it!  AMC via Mark Morgan

Think of the Starfire and you inevitably think of the C-model. The guns were gone by the time Lockheed got around to the F-94C, replaced by a battery of 2.75-in FFARs. There were some really colorful F-94Cs in squadron use, but this photo doesn't show any of them; I strongly suspect this is the Lockheed factory ramp. The photo's pretty neat, though, because it gives us a direct comparison of the C-model to the parent T-33. Note the F-94C's empennage and forward fuselage; both are completely changed from that of the "T-Bird".  Neat photo!  AMC via M. Morgan

Just Can't Get Enough of Those spADs!

So here are two more, taken by regular contributor Don Jay back in his Special Ops days. As for details, Don says: Both of these were taken at Udorn in Spring of 68 just before the 602 SOS moved to NKP. That's a lot of 'nape' ( BLU-1 & BLU-27) that they are carrying. More than likley, they are tasked for a sortie to the PDJ in North Central Laos.:

The overall quality of this image indicates a still frame from a movie, but it provides us with a pretty fair idea of what it was like to operate the A-1 in combat conditions. Chocks are being pulled and this Udorn-based A-1E is getting ready to rumble. Note the primitive operating conditions and the generally filthy finish on the airplane. Those A-1s were used!  Don Jay

Here's a 602nd SOS A-1H worth modeling! Duplicating that weathering would be a pretty tough chore, but would result in quite a model, and the name on the nose puts it over the top. It's time to go ruin somebody's day! Don Jay

Some Unexpected Trojans

Everybody knows that the T-28 was used by several nations (that means "mostly by us but in somebody else's markings") during the Southeast Asia War Games, but these examples of the type may raise a few eyebrows. Here's Don Jay's explanation: Keeping with the theme of exotic and PROPS, here are a couple of shots of the Cambodian AF in the 73/74 timeframe. Many folks don't realise that a small contingent of airmen worked with the Khmer AF almost up to the end in April of 75. The air to air photo was taken by Marc Marchesseault who at the time belonged to Det 1, 56SOW. This photo  (the ground shot. pf) was taken in 73, a flight of 3xAT-28Ds about 50NM N of PhnomPenh or as we called it 'PappaPappa".

Air-to-air Khmer! This bird is sans gun pods and carrying 6 hard-points instead. Those sticky-outey things on the rudder are static wicks, not antennae. This is one of the very few real airplanes I've seen that has the panel lines delineated the way most modelers do them, which proves we should never say never! Don Jay

And another Khmer AT-28D. Note the difference in national insignias between the two aircraft. Both are pretty beat up, indicating the hard lives they led in Khmer service.  Don Jay

Before we leave the T-28, it's worth noting that we've covered yet another aircraft that's poorly represented by existing kits. There's a 1/72nd scale Fennec by Heller which can be modified into an AT-28D with a fairly heavy amount of work, and the old Monogram kit which is far enough out of scale (1/51st, or something equally silly) to be useless, even though there are some nice resin detail sets available for it. Maybe the guys that make the kits could hold off on modeling Messerschmitts and Mitsubishis for a while and give us a good Trojan.....

Doin' What You'd Least Expect

It's a little known fact that Randolph AFB was once home to a TB-29 unit, and even less known that the municipal airport in New Braunfels, Texas, was a bounce field for same. I'd never seen a photo of one of the Randolph birds prior to a couple of days ago, which makes this shot quite a treat:

Here's a Randolph-based Superfortress from the 3510th CCTW on a mission over South Texas. That ATC emblem really looks out of place on a B-29, doesn't it?  AMC via M. Morgan

Gettin' All Graduated

It's back-to-school time again, which brings us to our next entry in The Ongoing RIS Fun-Fest. Yep, you guessed it, it's time to go to the Phantom Certificates! Both the Air Force and the Navy have a tradition of issuing special patches and certificates to mark certain milestones in a pilot, crewmember, or even an aircraft's career. Mark Nankivil came by a few F-4 certificates and shared them with us---enjoy!

Your basic F-4 membership certificate, slanted towards air-to-air prowess.

300 missions. My son grew up calling the F-4 "the bent-winged bugsucker" after hearing it from a USAF maintenance officer friend of mine. Of such are the memories of a lifetime made...

And 400 missions. Quite an accomplishment. Darned near impossible in SEA.

And here's one for the Navy and Marine Corps guys. 1,000 traps would be quite an accomplishment.

Neat stuff!

Old French Stickies

So, how about some decals? Nowadays we never had it so good, in spite of all the lamenting and whining we read on the Internet about inaccurate decals, or unavailable decals, or we want 'em but we don't have 'em decals. The simple fact of the matter is that we've truly never had it so good, ever; there are decals in every scale and covering pretty much every subject. There's something for everybody, by golly, and it's all pretty much high quality stuff.

It wasn't, to steal a phrase, always so. Way way back in the 60s we had maybe a dozen companies catering to the plastic model airplane hobby, and a lot of their stuff wasn't all that great. One of the good ones was a French company named ABT and, back before MicroScale came on the scene in 1968, they were pretty much at the top of the food chain. Modern modelers would probably laugh at their stuff, but it was Great way back then. Here are a couple of sheets to show why:

Sheet #7 covered RAF Hurricanes in 1/72nd. Nobody else, and I mean nobody else, was doing this sort of thing when this sheet was new. The guys at ABT were truly pioneers.

Sheet #25 was for the JAAF and RTAF, pretty esoteric stuff back in the 60s!

ABT did mostly 1/72nd scale, but they did branch out into 1/32nd, doing one of Galland's Bf109Fs and Hartmann's "K". As far as I know they never did anything in 1/48th, but then again 72nd ruled the hobby back in the 60s!

Yep, they were thick, and they yellowed, and it took full-strength Solva-Set to get them to conform and stay put (and sometimes even that didn't help!), but they were as good as it got until those guys from California revolutionized the decal business in '68. All us old guys owe that little French company a huge vote of thanks for what they did. The hobby wouldn't have been the same without them.

And that's what I know. Be good to your neighbor and we'll talk again soon.

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