Friday, November 18, 2016

Even More Neptunes, An Evocative Cat Shot, Another Forty-Niner, A Pair of Classy Rides, The Herky Bird in Her Element, and A Treasure

It Can't Be That Hard, Can It?

To cut straight to the chase, as it were, I've had an opportunity to build quite a bit over the last several months and that opportunity has led to an observation of sorts. It's one of those things you've probably noticed in your own world too but maybe never thought too much about, or maybe you thought about it a lot. Either way, it's one of those Fundamental Philosophy kind of things that we all encounter from time to time (and for once I didn't succumb to the temptation to say "phundamental" instead of the real word "fundamental"---your thanks and gratitude are appreciated even though I'll probably revert to form again at some later date), and here's what we're talking about:

Let's presume your own personal production rate is prolific enough that you crank out a model airplane every month or so, or maybe even more frequently than that. Let's also presume that your modeling interests are sufficiently varied to allow you to build a variety of subjects, making use of kits from a variety of manufacturers in the course of your endeavors. Finally, let's make the assumption that you pay attention to what you're doing and actually take notice of what's in the boxes those kits come in, and then let's think for a minute in the semi-abstract, ignoring things like accuracy, the level of detail, or whatever else may normally consume your attention when you first pop the lid open on that brand new kit. Let's be very literal, ya'll, and only consider those pieces sitting in the box and what you can make from them. (Aha! they said in unison as their comprehension of his latest bout of madness set in!)

Ok; maybe you aren't getting it quite yet---I tend to be somewhat obtuse on my best days and pretty much incomprehensible on my bad ones---so I'll explain.

For starters, let's take the 1/48th scale Tamiya Bf109E and examine the pieces sitting in the box. Think about what you see in there and what you can actually do with the kit and you'll figure out pretty quickly that The Big T have released the model as a couple of different variants (the E-3 and E-4/E-7),  yet the only difference between one kit and another are the decals and the windscreen and canopy set. Those kits are variant specific, period, which can be expensive if you're paying full retail for one of them and aren't entirely certain where you want to go with the model.

Now let's examine the several year old Airfix model of the same airplane. (Yes; the canopy for the E-4 is well and truly gomed up and there are a few other piddly issues as well, but remember we aren't talking accuracy right now.) It includes multiple windscreens and both canopy styles, a tropical filter, an aux tank with rack, ordnance, and different wings to cover the armament differences between the variants. As far as I know all those goodies are in all the different boxings of that kit, allowing you to build pretty much any 109E variant no matter which kit you purchase.

Or, how about the Me109G-10 in 1/32nd scale? Hasegawa has a kit of what we'll call the "normal" G-10 variant with not much in the way of optional parts in the box, and it sells in the mid-70 dollar range in the United States. Revell/Germany recently issued their own kit of the G-10, but in the less commonly found Erla-produced variation, and that kit includes three different tailwheel covers, two different tailwheel legs specific to the G-10, three different types of rudder (actually four if you consider they also provide a standard "small" tail with the model as well), three different tire/wheel assemblies, two oil cooler assemblies, and two canopies. They didn't include wing inserts to cover those Erla-built G-10s that featured the earlier, small wing bulges, but that's about all they missed and the model goes for 26 bucks here in South Texas. Yes, there are corrections required and the aftermarket resin guys do well with the kit, but it's so inexpensive to start with that it really doesn't matter very much in the long run and I can't think of any other manufacturer out there who can offer that much value for under thirty dollars. If you happen to be on a budget and you want a G-10, this kit very nearly has it all. Shazbot!

Tamiya isn't the only offender when we're talking about one variant per box, of course. Take a look at Eduard's revamped Me109G (and now F) families of kits. There are currently a number of releases offered of those airplanes and they're all variant-specific, but there honestly aren't that many differences from one round-nosed 109 to another until you start hitting the late-War variations, so all the different components necessary for any F or G-1 through mid-War G-6 could easily go in one boxing with the later variants in another, and I suspect Eduard could keep their current pricing even with the inclusion of all the "extras" that would entail. In point of fact, those new Eduard 109s are chock full of "extra" parts marked not-for-use, so one kit can build quite a few sub-variants. They just don't advertise it that way, thus encouraging the unsuspecting to buy lots of "different" kits for little reason other than, maybe, the decals.

And the Beat Goes On (and on, and on), but wouldn't it be nice if the various manufacturers would put all the stuff for the minor variations of a particular aircraft in the same box instead of spreading it out over a bunch of individual kits? The very same Eduard that offers all those different 109 kits released their seminal P-39 with everything for every Airacobra variant and you can quite literally build any P-39 production model ever built, other than the American TP-39 or Soviet-modified two-seat trainers, right out of the box regardless of what the kit is called. Eduard has re-released the model numbers times as different variations, but the only difference between any of them has been the instructions and decals and whether or not the kit was a "ProfiPak" or "Weekend Edition" offering. Once again we'e talking about lots of kits issued but the same stuff, and a lot of it, in the box. In the Old Days we called that "value for money and, speaking of that very thing:

Love them or hate them, the once-revered Monogram used to do exactly that sort of thing back in the early and mid-60s, providing enough extra stuff in their kits to allow us to build an assortment of variations from any particular kit. They weren't always correct in what they offered in those boxes but that's not the point---they took the trouble to do it rather than adding a small extra sprue and forcing us to buy a new kit if we wanted a different variant of a specific airplane. It was a good way to do things back then and I humbly submit that it's a good way to do it now as well, so hats off to the reborn Airfix, Revell of Germany, and the handful of others who go the extra mile to provide the serious scale modeler with value for money in their kits.

Hey kit manufacturers, do you hear that thumping sound? That's Opportunity knocking! How about it?

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Come Out

Two issues ago we ran a feature on early Lockheed P2V Neptunes for your edification and entertainment, but that edition hadn't been up for even 24 hours when we received another photo, this time from Mark Nankivil, that we absolutely positively have to run today!

Can you say "WOW!!!"? VX-6 operated a real assortment of dogs and cats in their role as a test and evaluation squadron with this P2V-7LP providing a prime example of that sort of thing. The ski installation is noteworthy, as are those RATO bottles; you haven't lived if you've never been close to a big airplane performing a RATO launch---can you spell "deafening"? Mark's comment about this photo parallels my own: I sure wish this was in color! Kinda makes you want to go build a model of a P2V, doesn't it?   Greater St Louis Air and Space Museum via Mark Nankivil

We really meant that Safe to Come Out part too, because a casual conversation with old friend and Replica contributor Jim Sullivan turned to that very same Navy patrol bomber the other day, which in turn resulted in a few more P2V and P-2 shots you really need to see, which takes us to

The Son of Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Come Out!

We've known Jim Sullivan since the mid-1970s, and the depth of his collection has never failed to amaze us. Here are a few examples of P2V-related collection depth depth for your perusal:

Two issues ago we showed you a photo of what was perhaps the most famous Neptune of the all; the "Truculent Turtle". Here's another image of her at NAS Oakland on 12 October, 1946. This photo was taken less than a month after her record-breaking flight and really shows off the clean lines of the P2V-1. The Neptune's career lasted well over thirty years and more than proved the validity of the concept; those guys at Lockheed knew how to design an airplane.    Sullivan Collection

BuNo 39090 was another P2V-1 and belonged to VPML-2 when this photo was taken at NAS Alameda in October of 1948. Her overall matte finish and that apparently chopped-off nose definitely put her squarely in that category often called "unique", but we really don't know anything more than that! Drop us a line if you can help solve the mystery! That address is replicainscaleatyahoodotcom!
   Sullivan Collection

This is a little more like it! This VP-8 P2V-2 is shown sitting on the ramp in all her Glossy Sea Blue Glory---the place is Floyd Bennett Field, New York, and the year is 1949. Those lumps and bumps are, or at least can be, fairly standard for the type, and you can see where the gun ports are covered over if you look closely at the nose. The NAV's view of the whole patrol bomber thing was one of offensive action, a philosophy that was reinforced during the Second World War (which in turn gave birth to the P2V family), which explains all those hard points under the wings. There was more to maritime patrol than simply finding the Bad Guys.   Sullivan Collection

BuNo 39343 is what you might call an odd-ball in the world of P2V-dom; a P2V-2 bailed to the Marine Corps for use as an electronic warfare training platform. She was assigned to AES-12 out of Quantico during the 1952-1958 time frame, although there's a good possibility she traded off for the assignment with 39365 at some point. There's really not very much to distinguish the airplane markings-wise once you get past that big MARINES logo on her aft fuselage, but that marking alone makes the photo somewhat of a rarity. The airplane appears to be just another P2V-2 as far as equipment goes, but we could be wrong about that. She's a rare bird any way you slice it!   Sullivan Collection

126523 was warming up on the ramp at Wilmington, NC, when this photo was taken in 1954. She's a P2V-6 and was assigned to VP-21 when this was taken, although she also also spent time with HC-11 at one point in her career. She's pretty standard from a detail standpoint but those exhaust stains are worth noting; they're characteristic of the airplane and really show up on one that's painted in any sort of dark color. Note the aircrewman poking out of the hatch at mid-fuselage---the P2V was a big airplane and often used a crew member to spot the wingtips while taxiing since seeing where they were in relation to everything else could be somewhat problematical from the cockpit, especially on a crowded ramp.   Sullivan Collection

This is what a P2V-6M looks like in standard patrol bomber configuration, with all the turrets installed and armed. Those PatWing guys spent countless hours flying over what must have seemed endless miles of unforgiving ocean while performing their mission, but few of us ever think about that aspect of things. No; P2Vs were never particularly glamorous, but they were an essential component of the NAV during the Cold War. This example, 131559, was with VP-24 when the Navy took her portrait on 18 April, 1954.   National Archives 80-G-638364 via Sullivan Collection

Here's another example of an aircrewman serving as wing-tip spotter while a P2V taxis, in this instance a P2V-2 from ATU-501 heading for the active at St Louis in November of 1958. The Navy was beginning to phase out the use of defensive gun turrets by the time this photo was taken; by the mid-50s most of the world's air forces who could present a threat to the United States in a combat situation had long-since transitioned to jet fighters, making a gun-armed patrol bomber an iffy sort of proposition at best. 39336 is still wearing Glossy Sea Blue paint, but that will change the next time she visits a NARF---if she isn't routed to the boneyard she'll receive a new paint job of Insignia White over Engine Grey. The times they are a-changin'!   Sullivan Collection

Proof positive that the Marines operated at least two P2V-2s in the training role (with AES-12), and a prime example of the fate of most P2V-2s---here's 39365 sitting in storage at Litchfield Park. She was yesterday's airplane by the time this photo was taken in the late 1950s but had served her purpose well. We're guessing that 39336 (shown immediately above) never made it to that NARF we mentioned but instead headed directly for storage, to be followed shortly by scrapping. That's the inevitable fate of most military airplanes and it's necessary, but somewhat sad as well.   Sullivan Collection

The P2V-7 was the last of the line, with many of them surviving until the late 1960s (the last active-duty aircraft was retired in 1970, although the Reserves kept the type a little longer) to become the P-2H in 1962 under SecDef Robert McNamara's aircraft re-designation program. 140971 went into service in 1956 and was therefore among the last Neptunes to wear Glossy Sea Blue. The -7 could still be fitted with a dorsal turret but the type was virtually never seen with one mounted, the cover shown above being far more typical. 971 was serving with VP-1 when this photo was taken and lasted until 1987 when she was finally scrapped out.   Sullivan Collection

Jim was kind enough to provide us with a number of Neptune photos for this essay, but we're going to stay with the Glossy Sea Blue birds for today. We'll finish things up with a few dogs and cats next time around---stay tuned!

A Patrol Bomber of a Different Flavor

Since we're on a patrol bomber kick around here it's probably time to illustrate an airplane that wasn't manufactured by the folks at Lockheed. This shot from Bobby Rocker's collection that defines the breed to some extent:

A handful of Second World War aircraft types could be considered to be ubiquitous, turning up everywhere during the course of the conflict and under a wide variety of markings. Consolidated's PBY Catalina was one of those aircraft. Big, slow and lumbering, its range and reliability made it the ideal over-water patrol bomber and, to a great extent, an unsung hero of the war. This photo shows a PBY-5 about to touch down in the harbor at Attu on a rare temperate day as crew members assigned to the PT boat squadron berthed in the foreground pause in their work to look on. You can't make out the markings on that "Dumbo" and you certainly can't see any detail of the sort that would excite the average scale modeler, but the photograph speaks for itself and is remarkable for its ability to put you in the scene. It wasn't always combat---there were a lot of "normal" operations during that struggle as well.   Rocker Collection

Protect and Avenge

Yep; we're talking about one of our all-time favorite SWPAC fighter groups; the 49th, and we're going to offer you yet another photograph from the ever-remarkable Rocker collection:

"Stew Head IV" was a P-40E assigned to the 49th FG's 7th Fighter Squadron and is shown here sitting on the ground at one of the Port Moresby complex of airfields (or possibly Dobodura) during late 1942 or early 1943. She's a pretty normal E-model in almost every respect, but both she and the Warhawk behind her are fitted with the later flared exhaust stacks rather than the tubular ones more conventionally associated with the P-40E. It's not that great an anomaly and was, in point of fact, a fairly normal thing, but it's a point to be watched if you're modeling the airplane. (And if modeling "Stew Head" is your intention, you might also want to note that the 49th rarely repeated names or nose art on both sides of the aircraft. The norm was different art or names on either side---that's worth remembering and no; we don't have a photo of the other side of this airplane to share with you!)   Rocker Collection

Thanks as always to Bobby for his ongoing generosity and for his dedication to finding and preserving images such as these for posterity!

USAFE Hot Rods

Ok, not really, but the photo we're about to share with you does have a theme of sorts:

Anybody who knows us is well aware that we don't have much use for that phenomena known as "social media" and we never (that "never" part could be in all caps, ya'll) look at any of it. It's just not something we're interested in, but this image could change all that! It's from FaceBook, discovered by Rick Morgan, and has all the appearance of an official image of some sort. It's a remarkable shot in many ways and is well worth a look! The F-86D was assigned to the 526th FIS at Ramstein and is a real show-boat of an airplane, while the car is a Mercedes Benz 300SL roadster, one of the earliest of a breed later to be known as super cars. The "Dog" is somewhat unique in that it belongs to the Wing King of the 86th FIW, under which the 526th was assigned---check out the command stripes on the aft fuselage---and she's so highly polished it almost makes your eyes hurt! Have we ever mentioned how much we like the Silver Air Force?    Unknown via FaceBook via R Morgan

Another Immortal

There's not a whole lot to say about Lockheed's amazing C-130/L-100 family of transports that hasn't already been said many, many times before, but we found some more Mystery Meat in the collection a couple of weeks ago and the photos are worth sharing with you today. Let's see what we've got this time!

The C-130 was designed to operate from unimproved airfields, as illustrated by this Rhode Island ANG (143rd TAS) E-model shown taxiing in at an unknown location. The camouflage paint is the "lizard" scheme that was so prevalent during the 1980s and 90s in the USAF, ANG, and AfRes but we have no idea when or where the photo was taken, nor do we know who the photographer might have been. It's a neat shot, whoever took it, and it helps to illustrate the Herc's intended operational environment as few photographs can.   Unknown via Friddell Collection

Then again, this photo just may illustrate things a little better! The aircraft is rather obviously owned and operated by the JASDF but we're not at all familiar with the units assigned to that organization and can't begin to tell you the squadron this bird was assigned to. We also don't know the year the photo was taken, or where, or who took it, although we suspect it was taken at the same time and place as the RI bird immediately above. That e-mail address, or rather a spam-free variation of it, is replicainscaleatyahoodotcom.

We haven't done a whole lot in the way of military transports around here and it may be getting close to time to do something about that situation. What do you think? (You know the address, right?)

Well Traveled and Well Worth a Look

It's an odd concept when you first consider it, but a great many photographs assume a life of their own as they become public and travel from the original photographer to enthusiasts and historians. We offer this image as a case in point:

This photograph isn't of particularly high quality but it's definitely one to turn your head if your interests run to the early Pacific War. It's a well-traveled shot, first arriving here without caption via the kindness of Gerry Kersey. Shortly afterwards the image showed up again thanks to Bobby Rocker and annotated by noted Pacific War historian and artist Jack Fellows. There's nothing we can add to the caption that isn't already covered by Jack's comments, so we'll let the image speak for itself. Enjoy!   F Patnaude via Gerry Kersey/3rd Attack and Jack Fellows/Bobby Rocker

Happy Snaps

It's been at least a couple of issues since we've run any sort of Happy Snap so it must surely be time to do it again! We're big fans of Rick Morgan's photography around here and coincidentally have a great deal of it in our files, which somewhat coincidentally takes us to today's image:

Rick was a Prowler guy for a great deal of his time in the NAV, which provided seemingly endless opportunities to photograph tactical jets in the air. In this shot we see VFA-87's 163105 waiting its turn to take a little gas off the coast of Egypt in January of 1991. We're always impressed by photos such as this one because they make it all look so easy---it would be a safe assumption to state that everyone flying the airplanes in this photograph would assure you that it really wasn't! Formations like the one you see here, along with the ability to pass gas in any sort of weather and regardless of the time of day, are the result of endless hours of training and time in the air. Rick wrote a book called Tip of the Spear a few years ago chronicling tactical naval aviation in the post-Vietnam era. These guys, and their brothers and sisters out there flying every day, typify the tip of that spear. Sierra Hotel!   Rick Morgan

The Relief Tube

It's that time again, but with a caveat. Some of the comments you're about to read are fairly old and weren't picked up by us for publication when they first arrived here---as everyone surely knows by now, we don't run a forum of any sort in conjunction with the blog, so it's pretty important that we run comments when we receive them. We apologize for the delinquency although, us being us, we can't promise it won't happen again! Please bear with us, etc, etc...

Way back in August we ran a photo of a 405th BS B-25J with the comment that it was taken in the Philippines---Bobby Rocker caught that one for us and sent the following correction:

This is a 405TH BS B-25 at Nadzab in early 1944---a B-25 can't make it to the Philippines from Nadzab as you describe in the caption. The B-25's couldn't attack the Philippines until around September 1944 when the 5th and 13th AF moved to more forward bases.  Best regards,

 Bobby Rocker

Thanks for keeping me honest, Bobby, and apologies for taking so long to put this in print!

Next up is a comment from a reader known to us only as Big Red Lancer and concerning one of the F3H Demon shots we ran some time back:

That photo of F3H AB-105 with the chief... There were NO cranials at that time. All we had was Mickey Mouse ears and goggles. No float coats, just our green jerseys... and no Flight Deck pay... 

It was a different time...   Many thanks for the comment, Lancer!

Next up is a correction from Duane regarding a P-40E photo we ran back in our 7 August issue:

The P-40 is an E model. Parson Posten refers to John Posten, formerly of the 17th Pursuit Squadron in the Philippines.

Thanks, Duane!

Norman Camou is a reader who sends us links to really neat stuff from time to time. He found this YouTube link and sent it to us a month or so ago, but we pretty obviously sat on it for a while. We think it's great and expect you'll enjoy it too:

In theory the link will work just fine, but you can always do that copy and paste thing if it doesn't!
Thanks for sending this one, Norman---it's really, really good!

Finally, here's another one of those after-we-published corrections for you! When we captioned the shot of that "Dog" sitting beside the 300SL we mis-identified it, basing our information on a mis-captioned photo we ran in the print issue of this project Way Back When. Doug Barbier caught it (although I'm guessing it was also correctly identified when Rick originally sent it and I somehow misplaced the information). Here's what Doug had to say regarding the airplane:

Phil, I suspect that someone has already mentioned this, but that Wing King USAFE Sabre Dog actually belongs to the 526th FIS, based at Ramstein AB, GE (which also explains the Mercedes) and was the 86 FIW Boss bird between 1958-1959. Also in that vein..... the 32nd FIS was based at Soesterburg AB, Holland (also assigned to the 86th Wg), while no interceptors were based at Weathersfield - although plenty of them showed up for the Open House days. Keeping track of the USAFE units in the 50s is a full time job in itself. OTW, another great issue. And I completely agree with your opener on extra parts for various versions in the kit world.


Thanks, Doug, and a reminder to all our readers: We're just as likely to make a mistake as anybody else is and very much appreciate your corrections and comments. If you see something you'd like to comment on, or something that needs fixing, please drop us a line at replicainscaleatyahoodotcom. This project is very much a joint effort and we couldn't do what we do without you!

That's it for this time around, ya'll, but we've got some interesting things in store for you next time so stick around! In the meanwhile, be good to your neighbor. We'll meet again soon!