When Is It Obsolete?
The latest and the greatest. The best one out there. Light years ahead of anything that went before. The new industry standard. And the beat goes on. It's inevitable that new kits, using good research (unfortunately not always a given) and the latest in tool-making technology, will surpass existing kits of any flavor, especially old ones. Progress marches on, and even the short-run guys now have the ability to provide us with kits that eclipse the very best mainstream models of the 80s and, occasionally, the 90s as well. It seems like every new offering that hits the shelves is a thing of wonder, the best ever. We'll even agree with that, mostly.
What we don't agree with, mostly, is the notion that the new wunderkit that just came out has immediately made everything that came before obsolete and not worth having. Let's discuss a couple of cases in point.
Case in Point The First is the Eduard Fw190 family. Scale modelers were very nearly orgasmic when the kit first appeared. It had (and still has) a finesse of detail that has rarely been matched in the several years since its initial release, lots of optional parts, and loads of detail to boot, but it's also got a flawed blown canopy, an inaccurate cowling, inaccurate cowl vents, and a vertical stab that's too thick. It's still a fine kit and looks great on the shelf but it's a finicky build and needs a little TLC if you want it to look right. The somewhat older Hasegawa Fw190 offerings are easier to build and considerably more accurate in most regards, so in this case newer isn't better.
Case in Point The Second is the Tamiya P-47 in any of its iterations. It's highly accurate and is a shake and bake proposition to build; if you can manage to gome up one of these you might want to consider a different hobby. That said, I've got several friends who've got a thing for the "Jug" and build a lot of them in consequence. One of the kits they use is the 1970s-vintage Monogram P-47D in either of its variants. Yes, it's got raised panel lines and yes; the interior is too shallow. Sandpaper and a scribing tool can take care of those panel lines, and the aftermarket is useful in this instance if you want to fix the cockpit (and you really should do that). The Monogram kit is old but gives a fine representation of a P-47 if you know what you're doing which is especially useful, from a financial standpoint if no other, if you happen to be building a lot of them so you can illustrate a variety of markings.
We could go stay on this topic forever, citing Hasegawa vs Tamiya A6Ms, Eduard Spitfires vs Anybody Else's Spitfires, and on and on it goes. Nowadays newer often is better, but we'd like to offer some food for thought in that regard.
There's a new family of 1/48th scale round-winged Messerschmitts on the the imminent horizon courtesy of our friends at Eduard, and the buzz on the street says they're the bomb diggedy. From what we've seen of test shot photos that doesn't seem to be too far from the truth, even if we all were fooled by their Wurger once upon a time, but that doesn't mean that our Zvesda or Hasegawa kits need to hit the clearance tables at the next contest---they're still viable kits and can build into gorgeous replicas if you've got a mind to do that. The Hasegawa A6M family is another case in point. The newer Tamiya offerings of the same aircraft are demonstrably better, but I've got both sitting side by side on the shelf (10+ of the Hasegawa and a couple of the Tamiya) and the Hase kits look just fine to me, thank you very much.
We could go on and on with this concept but we honestly don't need to. Some of the older kits are still pretty darned good and can be spectacular with just a little work. Some are still the Only Game in Town (the Monogram F-100D comes to mind here) in spite of newer kits and are worth the pain incurred when we build them. Some, as is to be expected in this hobby, are junk, always were and always will be; we've seen some masterfully-built junk kits too, although that's a topic for another day.
The point we're trying to make is that you don't have to build the brand spanking new, hi-tech whatever-it-is to be able to construct a well-built and accurate scale model. You can actually get there from here if you want to, which in our world means you can build something that's less than cutting edge and still end up with a fine scale model. At the end of the day the results of your efforts are in your hands; a whiz-bang wunderkit will help tremendously, especially if you're still developing your basic skills, but often times the older kits can be made to work just fine. (And sometimes they can't be, but you'll figure out which ones are worth the effort pretty quickly, we think.) We're modelers, right?
And the beat goes on...
Photo recon has been a key component of air warfare since the beginnings of military aviation. Highly useful during The Great War, the operation was expanded in the 1920s and 1930s. The Second World War saw a tremendous expansion of the mission, which has only grown more important since the conclusion of that conflict. As a small tribute to that importance, we're going to start off today's adventure with a couple of lesser-known shots of one of the key photo ships of WW2; the Lockheed F-5.
Thanks as always to Bobby Rocker for sharing his collection with us.
Japan Was a Humming Place in the 50s
Post-War Japan was a busy place for the USAF. Even though it was somewhat of a backwater when compared to American involvement in Europe, several combat wings were kept in the islands in case of conflict with increasingly aggressive forces on the Asian mainland. The Korean War proved the concept to be a wise one, and the United States has maintained bases there ever since, albeit on a significantly reduced scale.
When most of us think of American activity in post-war Japan we tend to think of fighters, fighter bombers, and light attack aircraft, but transports were, and have remained, a significant part of the story. The photographs you are about to see were taken at Haneda Airport in Japan during the mid and late-1950s, and illustrate a not-particularly-glamorous side of air operations in the Far East. Keep in mind as you view these images that the combat operations of the Korean War, and any other operations both prior and subsequent, could not have taken place without a viable logistics component. They also served...
Many thanks to Mark Morgan for these images of a time and place most of us never think about.
Why Can't We Get a Decent Kit
That particular whine/moan could apply to any number of American military aircraft we'd like to see decent kits of, but it applies in spades to North American Aviation's A3J/RA-5C family of attack and photo-recon aircraft. The Vigilante (referred to in the Fleet simply as the "Vigi") was one of those really neat, exceptionally interesting jets that fell through the cracks as far as the world's plastic kit manufacturers were concerned. The airplane first saw light in the Fleet as a straight-up attack bomber, the A3J, and was kitted twice in that guise, once by Monogram in 1959 (the kit we all remember because it had a spring-loaded weapon that could be ejected out the rear of the model in a rough simulation of the real aircraft's somewhat flawed weapons delivery methodology) and by Revell in 1961. Both kits were box scale and neither was particularly good in terms of replicating the real airplane, although the Monogram kit was a lot of fun to play with thanks to that projectile it squirted so energetically out of its posterior!
Time passed and Hasegawa released a simple but largely accurate 1/72nd scale kit of the "Vigi", an RA-5C, in the late 60s, but it was a booger-bear to get together and not many ever saw the light of day as completed models. Airfix followed with their own model of the 5-Charlie variant in the early 70s and it was, to a small extent at least, an improvement on the Hasegawa offering, but very few of its parts fit together easily either and and it was still in 1/72nd scale when the actual airplane cried out for something a little bit larger. We weren't getting anywhere in any screamin' hurry.
Those of us whose hearts beat faster at the thought of accurate 1/48th scale models were finally blessed with a kit of the Vigilante a few years ago when Trumpeter released a model of the RA-5C. Long awaited and eagerly sought, it turned out to be somewhat less of a true replica than a basis for a good model if the builder was ready to put a lot of work into the project. That Trumpeter RA-5C brings us right up to date, unfortunately, because there hasn't been anything better in the world of the type since its release and, dang the luck; it just isn't very good. A a lot of people really wanted a decent "Vigi" kit, but they didn't get it. Why do they want that, you might reasonably ask yourself? Well, folks; if you aren't already an RA-5C aficionado, then take a look at the photos you see below. Do you want a decent kit now? We sure do!
Now if we could only get some savvy kit manufacturer to get interested in the type! (Did I ever tell you about the "Vigi" that flew inverted over Haiphong during the late Southeast Asia War Games?)
Does Anybody Remember The Navion?
The Second World War had just reached its bloody conclusion and the United States was suddenly transformed from the arsenal of democracy to a country with way too many military airplanes. The end of the war left America's defense industry with enormous capacity and nothing to use it on, which in turn led several of the country's premier aircraft manufacturers to venture off into other directions. Some were as seemingly unrelated to aviation as Grumman's foray into the travel trailer business with their Gulfstream line (an attempt to keep skilled sheetmetal workers employed), while others ventured into the area that they knew best; building airplanes. In one case, that venture resulted in the design and manufacture of one of the classics of post-War aviation, the Navion.
We were stumbling around (sometimes we fumble around too, but today was a stumbling kind of day) looking for an appropriate candidate for our Happy Snaps department when we found not one but two images we thought appropriate for the project. Both are from Rick Morgan---let's take a look:
The Relief Tube
A couple of issues ago we ran a B-25 piece in which we illustrated a truck that we thought might have been used for turret maintenance. It turns out we were close, but there was no cigar in sight! Let's let Jim Wogstad tell us about it:
I was just re-reading one of last years articles and happened to notice a tiny itsy bitsy error. The photo actually shows an E-5 Turret Trainer Truck. If you owned a copy of the "Bomb Book", you would have known that! The USAAF mounted all sorts of turrets on them. One mod even sported a Sperry ball turret on a special extended frame. Interesting, no? Jim
Jim sent along a photo to illustrate the point, but it's in a format that's apparently unloved by the software that powers this blog so you don't get to see it today---phooey! There's a tiny private joke in Jim's correction---he's been working on what we're convinced will be the ultimate reference to American aviation ordnance and related items. Let's all encourage Jim to get that darned book into print soon so we can get a look at the turret trainer truck and all the other nifty stuff that resides in his collection too!
We don't often publish kudos here, since we presume that most of our readership likes what we're doing or they wouldn't be looking in on us, but every once in a while we get an especially kind comment on the publication. This is one of those:
Hi Phil, Everyone loves the Sabre, heh? You bet! Among my most treasured possessions is the Replica In Scale special F-86 issue with the orange cover and dozens of Sabre profiles all done by hand!! A watershed issue and your rightful claim for glory. Glad to know that you're still keeping on. Kind regards from Belgium, Quang
Thanks for your kindness, Twangster! We're glad you enjoyed that Sabre issue and delighted that you're still with us as a reader!
And, as brief as it is, that's our Relief Tube for today. It coulda/probably shoulda been longer (Lord knows we've got the material to populate it with) but we're already far later than we should have been in getting this issue published, so we're going to go with this. Please continue to write to us ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) if you're so inclined; we don't publish everything these days but we do read everything that's sent to us (unless it's spam) and reply to a great deal of it. What you think, and your corrections to what we think, is important, so keep those cards and letters coming!
That's it for this time, so we'll see you all another day.
Be good to your neighbor,