That Big Banjo
When last we met, we were discussing that almost-famous workhorse of 1950s American naval aviation, the McDonnell F2H Banshee. The type was a mainstay of the early 50s Navy and saw action in Korea, but its most capable variants were destined to serve only in peacetime, holding the fort until the advent of more capable platforms. It's a really spiffy airplane, and well worth another look.
Much like the F2H-1 and -2, there are no decent kits of the larger -3 and -4 variants. That's a shame, too, because the type had all the color you'd expect of the Navy during that era, even if its performance was somewhat lacking. What follows are several prime examples of why we really ought to have a kit of one of these seminal McDonnell fighters.
That Airplane in the Middle
There was another McDonnell fighter that came between the F2H and the F4H Phantom. The F3H Demon was another one of those successful failures that were so common during the halcyon days of the 1950s. Military aviation was progressing by leaps and bounds, lept sometimes it leapt and bounded just a bit too far. The Demon wound up being an ok fighter, but never a great one, its primary contribution being the design elements it leant to it's younger brother, the F4H Phantom. Today isn't the day for an extensive look at the type, but it's a nice opportunity to run a couple of photos.
Something You Don't See Every Day
Time was when military aviators were concerned about enemy aircraft and highly sophisticated ground defenses. The times began to change during the latter days of the Vietnam War when shoulder-launched SAMs first came into common use. The earlier weapons of that sort almost invariably used infra-red sensors for target acquisition, thus leading to the developement of flare dispensers so that potential targets could have at least a modicum of protection. Here's an example of the sort of countermeasures that were developed.
Evolution of Some Classy Nose Art
For those of you who might not know, friend and frequent contributor Rick Morgan was with VAQ-141 during Desert Storm and killed a couple of SAM sites with well-directed AGM-88 HARM shots. He also took a photograph or too, including these immediate post-war photos of VAW-124's E-2C 161552. They're of particular interest because of the evolution depicted in the nose art, from "Classic" to "Miss B. Havin". The word "classic" is appropriate indeed. Thanks to Rick for these photos.
Special Note from the Replica Staff---this photograph has been deleted. Ed.
And a closeup of the nose art. This artwork is as good as any we've seen on an airplane, of any era. That painter was good! Rick Morgan
It's Not As Bad As They Say It Is
It, of course, being the 1/48th scale Tamiya Fw190A-3. The kit was, if the truth be known, an absolute revelation when it first came out, being pretty darned accurate and, wonder of wonders (at least in the World of Quarter-Scale Wulfs), easy to build. It was, not to put too fine a point on it, the Focke Wulf Gold Standard for a number of years.
Time has passed, more than just a little of it, and times have changed. It's not that the kit has all that many competitors, because it doesn't; the museum-quality Eduard kits don't include any of the short-nosed "Butcher Birds" as of this writing, and the Hasegawa kit isn't enough of an improvement to make it a quantum leap of any sort. The Tamiya Fw190 has aged gracefully, it seems.
Still, the internet is full of complaints about how bad the kit is. Those complaints seem to fall into two camps; the interior is too simple (true, sort-of), and the landing gear is gooned up. That's true too, but the condemnation falls into the "sort-of" category too. Let's take just a minute and talk about it.
That oft-criticised interior consists of a well-detailed bucket, a pretty nice instrument panel, and a seat, along with a couple of detail components. It can look pretty good if it's carefully painted, but it's definitely not up to contemporary standard, which leaves room for (dare we say it): Aftermarket. There are probably other detail sets out there but I'm a big fan of Eduard, and they offer two sets that will work for the Tamiya A-3; a complete set that replaces the interior and adds additional detail to other areas of the airframe, and a Zoom set, which is mostly for the interior. I've gotten to be really cheap of late and prefer to use the Zoom offering, although I've worked with both and would recommend either. That takes care of the interior.
As for those horrible landing gear, they really aren't too bad. The wheels are definitely too small in diameter; everybody says so and for once everybody's right, and it's really easy to get the angle of the main mounts skewed if you don't pay a lot of attention to what you're doing when you install the gear. Replacement wheels are available through the aftermarket and a little bit of Modeling 101 will fix the landing gear problem unless you plan on entering your model in a national-level contest, in which case you probably aren't reading this missive anyway. That pretty much addresses the Major Issues, such as they are.
But we digress. (I do that a lot, in case you haven't noticed.) Let's take a look at the model.
One final note. The Tamiya kit does have a couple of minor issues with panel lines. The Third Group instruction sheet for these decals addresses that and provides line drawings of what needs to be changed. That constitutes a Class Act in my world and I thought you should know about it.
The Relief Tube
Of which we don't have very much this time around. Tommy Thomason wrote to ask that I remind you all that the McDonnell F2H-1 Banshee was actually longer than the prototype F2H-2. That in turn reminds me to remind you all to check out Tommy's excellent blog site at http://tommythomason.com/ or his companion site at tailspintopics.blogspot.com. Tommy does excellent work and his site is a must-read if you're interested in American naval aviation. Trust me on this one. (And read this week's Relief Tube, please!)
Additions to This Installment's Relief Tube
One of the things I really enjoy about this project is the feedback I get from our audience. Only a few hours had passed between the time I posted this installment of the blog and I'd already heard from both Rick Morgan and Tommy Thomason offering comments and corrections. I figured you'd be interested so here, a whole week early, are those comments. First, from Rick:
Phil: F2Hs are such a fascinating subject- the ATG-1 shot is from VF-52 on Lexington about 1956. They had a typical Group (if you can ever call and ATG ‘Typical’, because they were not) for that period, a day fighter unit (VF-111 F9F-8), night fighters (VF-52), jet attack (VA-151 F7U-3), and prop attack (VA-196 AD-6) as well as the cats and dog dets: VAW-11 AD-5W, VFP-61 F2H-2P, VAAW-35 AD-5N and VAH-6 AJ-2s. I suspect the F7Us and AJs spent a lot of time on the beach during cruise though.
Aviators I’ve talked to from that period thought the F2H was a great airplane to fly; steady, long-ranged (longer than the F9F at least) and a good boat plane. RADM (and F6F ace) “Whitey” Feightner, who was CO of VF-11 with F2H-4s was a big proponent of the type although it was still a whole generation behind its shore-based contemporaries, like the MiG-17 night fighter.
As for the Demon, it probably ended up as the best of a bad lot of aircraft, certainly better than the F4D or F2H-3/4 as a carrier-based night fighter but still a generation behind land-based aircraft. As you state it DID lead to the world-beating F4H; I’ve always maintained that the F-4 is the result of a mating between the F3H and F-101.
The VAW-124 nose art story was a good one. They tried the first version, “Classic” and pretty quickly decided it wasn’t that good, so they painted it out and found a squadron member that knew how to handle an airbrush, which is how “Miss B Havin” came about. They ended up winning the CVW-8 nose art contest after the war with it and somehow managed to hide it through fly-off to Norfolk after every other squadron followed CAG instructions to remove the art prior to the first port call (Haifa) in late May. (OBTW: I was with VAQ-141, not 140 during DS) (Now corrected. pf)
Rick also sent along a couple of photos that we'll look at next time.
Tommy had a comment as well, which corrects a major clanger I dropped in the second Banshee piece:
"Tommy Thomason wrote to ask that I remind you all that the McDonnell F2H-1 Banshee was actually longer than the subsequent F2H-2."
NOOOO - See original email below. The F2H-1 was longer than the XF2H, not longer than the F2H-2. The -1 and -2 were the same length. (Now corrected. pf) Attached is the old Tailhook Topics article on converting the -2 to the -3/4. This is now OBE in 1/72. In 1/48, you need to add a bit more stretch to the Hawk Banshee, which is an XF2H in length (see above). F2H-2to-4.jpg (132KB)
Thanks for keeping me honest, guys!
And now back to our regularly-scheduled program:
Whoever sent me that spiffy T-Bird from a couple of issues ago still hasn't come forward to claim credit for the photography and I really wish he'd do that. If he, or you (I'm not any too sure how to phrase that) is out there, please get in touch with me so I can credit the photos properly. Please?
In the same vein, I'm always looking for original photography for this site. By now you've probably figured out where the emphasis lies around here, so feel free to get in touch with me at email@example.com if you have anything you'd like to contribute. It's the right thing to do.
And that's what I know, so be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon.