Monogram Curtiss F11C-2 Goshawk Build in 1/72 Scale

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The Monogram Curtiss F11C-2 Goshawk is certainly one of those kits which has earned the description of “classic”.  It was first released in 1968 and is still a good kit even by the standards of today.  I built one of these in my misspent youth and even have a few surviving parts in my spares bin to prove it, so for me this has the double benefit of being a nostalgia build and a good tool.
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The kit features a low parts count but some really clever engineering.  The center struts and the landing gear legs are molded as part of the fuselage which ensures both strength and proper alignment.  Sadly this innovation was not widely copied in the decades which followed, an opportunity missed by multiple manufacturers to produce biplane kits which were easier and less frustrating to build.
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The underside of the top wing reveals a problem which must be addressed – there are a dozen ejector pin marks which require filling on this piece alone.  This is not a deal-breaker but it does result in the loss of some of the fine surface texture which represents the fabric covering.  Here I have filled the offending depressions with Mr. Surfacer 500.
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Starfighter has giving these old kits some welcome aftermarket support in the form of resin accessories and decals.  Here is the Starfighter cockpit set installed in the fuselage.  The kit is from the era when a pilot figure was all the interior you were expected to need so this set is most welcome.
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A shot of paint and the interior is ready to go.  The missing cockpit interior is really the only thing which the kit lacks compared to a more recent tooling.
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The lower wing is a single piece which incorporates the center section of the lower fuselage.  This results in a strong foundation and eliminates another potential alignment problem.  I sanded off the molded-in braces for the drop tank on the belly.  The seam at the lower wing was filled with Perfect Plastic Putty.
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Here is a view in the middle of the masking marathon.  Often even the simplest schemes require several colors.
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These are the decals I’ll be using, Starfighter sheet 72-107.  This set contains markings for two F11C-2 and four BFC-2.  The main difference between the two is the shape of the upper fuselage behind the cockpit.  Starfighter makes the resin conversion piece required to make the BFC-2, but for this build I stuck with the fighter version.  Starfighter Decals here:  https://www.starfighter-decals.com/
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Here are the markings on the model.  The decals went on without any drama and are a nice improvement over the kit decals.
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The kit wheels feature a nice distinct groove which separates the wheel from the tire.  This is a prefect piece to demonstrate the benefits of using capillary action to paint wheels.  Just thin the tire color and let the thinner draw the paint around the groove.  Once the color separation has been established, fill in the tire with a thicker mix of paint and even out the appearance.  The paint will flow where you need it.
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Rigging was done with 0.004” Nitenol wire glued in place with Micro Liquitape.  This view shows off the detail on the kit engine which is a fine piece, I washed it with Tamiya Panel Line Wash to bring out the detail.
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Even though this kit is over fifty years old it goes together well and is an easy build by biplane standards.

Fine Molds Messerschmitt Bf 109 F-2 of Werner Mölders in 1/72 Scale

Werner “Vati” Mölders fought in the Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War and was the leading German ace there with 14 victories.  He flew with JG 53 during the French Campaign, where he was shot down and captured, later to be released after France surrendered.  He was credited with 25 victories during the Battle of France and another 30 during the Battle of Britain.  Mölders was the first pilot to be credited with passing the 100 victory mark, which he did on 15JUL41.  This resulted in a promotion to Oberst (Colonel) at 28 and a ban from further combat flying.  Mölders effectively ignored the ban, leading his squadron on “instructional flights” against Soviet aircraft.  Mölders was killed while flying back to Germany aboard a transport for the funeral of Ernst Udet, the aircraft crashing during a thunderstorm.  He was credited with 115 official victories, and as many as 30 more were unofficially scored after his ban on combat flying.

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Colorful Curtiss P-40 Warhawk Markings Part 2

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One of the larger and more flamboyant squadron nose art designs was carried by the “Parrot Hawks” of the 502nd Fighter Squadron / 337th Fighter Group.  This was a training squadron which was equipped with P-40N’s.  This aircraft appears to be missing some paint due to an over-zealous effort to remove exhaust stains from the fuselage.
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The Parrot Hawks were based at Napier Field, Alabama in late 1943.  This flight line shows the markings in all their glory, although the fifth aircraft has not had the artwork applied yet.
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The “Bushmasters” of the 78th Fighter Squadron / 15th Fighter Group operated their P-40K’s from the Hawaiian Islands and Midway in 1943.  They carried a large snake head on the noses of their aircraft.  An interesting if somewhat obscure marking.
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The “Burma Banshees” of the 89th Fighter Squadron / 80th Fighter Group featured large skulls on their P-40N’s.  Here Lt Philip Adair poses in front of his aircraft, named “Lulu Belle”.
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A line up of Banshee aircraft at Assam, India in 1944.  Each skull was unique, many featured fangs or dripping blood.  Note the variations in the application of the tail numbers.
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With the help of a small monkey, the first two victory flags are applied to the fuselage of the P-40K of Major “Big Ed” Nollmeyer.  Nollmeyer was the Commanding Officer of the 26th Fighter Squadron, part of the 51st Fighter Group.  Note the modified paint on the rudder.
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Another view of the same scene showing details of the fuselage side.  This is P-40K serial number 42-9766.  It has proved confusing to some profile artists as the markings evolved over time.  These pictures show the aircraft before many of the ultimate markings were added.
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At this point the aircraft carries two yellow fuselage bands with a third at the nose and red outlined national insignia, which were only officially authorized for a few months in the summer of 1943.
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A good profile view showing that several additional markings have been added to Major Nollmeyer’s aircraft.  The aircraft displays five victory markings, numbers four and five being claimed on 22 December 43.  The nose now displays a shark’s mouth with the squadron insignia inside and Big Ed’s personal Bugs Bunny emblem aft of the cockpit.  The vertical tail and carburetor air scoop have received fresh paint (likely Olive Drab) and the national insignia are now outlined in a blue border.
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The P-40K of Lt Robert “Jay” Overcash displays an interesting collection of markings.  Under the engine exhausts are the dot-dot-dot-dash representing the Morse letter V for Victory, below that is the Black Scorpion marking of the 64th Fighter Squadron / 57th Fighter Group.  Under the cockpit are Overcash’s five victory markings, other personal markings include the skull and the “Savoy” fez on the tail.  The red spinner and RAF fin flash were introduced by the RAF and adopted by the Americans as Desert Air Force theater markings.  Note that the aircraft’s original Olive Drab color has been painted over with a more appropriate Sand as evidenced by the background to the serial number on the tail and stenciling visible under the cockpit.  (LIFE Magazine photograph)

One Hundred Days Book Review

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One Hundred Days: The Memoirs of the Falklands Battle Group Commander

By Admiral Sandy Woodward with Patrick Robinson

Hardcover in dustjacket, 360 pages, photographs

Published by Naval Institute Press April 1992

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1557506515

ISBN-13: 978-1557506511

Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.8 x 9.5 inches

Admiral Sir John “Sandy” Woodward was the Royal Navy’s Battle Group Commander during the Falklands war, this is his autobiographical account of the Navy’s preparation and conduct of that war.  The first chapter is a detailed account of the loss of HMS Sheffield, ironically a ship which Woodward had commanded earlier in his carrier.  Even though I was familiar with the circumstances of the Sheffield’s sinking there are many details and nuances in this account which were new to me.  With the hooks firmly set, the authors then describe Woodward’s earlier career (mainly as a submariner) leading up to his being on exercise in the Mediterranean at the time of the Argentinian’s seizure of the Falklands.

Woodward’s account describes the various options and difficulties inherent in every decision an Admiral and his staff are required to make.  There are advantages and liabilities in each option, and matters are often decided with incomplete information while under a strict timetable.  These are all well laid out for the reader which gives ample insight into just how hard a job it is, a cautionary exercise for the armchair Admiral who might be inclined to second guess history with the benefit of hindsight.

While the Royal Navy’s Officers and men are superbly trained and did an outstanding job, I was surprised at the number and frequency of technical and mechanical issues suffered by their ships.  Much of the later half of the campaign was fought with ships which were only partially operational due to mechanical failures or battle damage.  I was also quite shocked to see how much valuable strategic and tactical information was supplied to the Argentinians by the BBC.  This included the arrival in theater of the Amphibious Task Group, the timing of the Paratroop Regiment’s assault, and the fact that many of the bombs dropped by Argentinian aircraft were failing to explode after hitting  British ships due to improper fusing.

I found this book hard to put down.  It offers a unique insight into the mind of a battle group commander conducting a sustained campaign at sea.  There are useful lessons for leaders both inside the military and in civilian life for planning and setting objectives.  This is also one of the best historical accounts of the air and naval portions of the War in Falklands, as you would expect from the Admiral in overall command of the effort.  Highly recommended.

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Matchbox Boeing P-12E Build in 1/72 Scale

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This is the classic Matchbox P-12 kit, first issued way back in 1972.  I’m certain most visitors here can remember building this one (or one of the excellent Monogram biplane kits) as a kid if not more recently.  This one has been around for a long time but still holds up well, they are still commonly seen at modeling shows.

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The Matchbox innovation was to mold the sprues in the finished color so kids who didn’t want to paint their models could have something a little closer to the colors on the finished product.  This didn’t always work out perfectly for obvious reasons but it was pretty close in the case of the P-12.  Interestingly some modern manufacturers have resurrected this technique.

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After almost 50 years in the box the kit decals were a non-starter.  Fortunately Starfighter Decals caters to these old kits with some resin enhancements and several sets of decals.  This sheet has markings for four different aircraft and enough common markings to make any two.  Yes, please!

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The cockpit detail consists of a pilot and a seat with some mounting tabs to put them in place.  The tabs had caused some sink marks on visible on the fuselage sides so those were filled first.  The raised rivet detail is going to be sanded off anyway so no loss there.

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I scratched up some cockpit detail using strips of Evergreen and a seat from the spares box.  The instrument panel and gun breaches are from a Starfighter resin interior set meant for the F4B.

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Here is the interior painted up.  The seatbelts are printed on photo paper.  Even though the cockpits are open the most visible component is the seat, little else is very easy to see.

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The kit instructions are basic but so is the kit.  In step 3 you can see a clever method for mounting the fuselage struts.  The engineering allows little margin for error and results in a strong assembly which is fixed at the proper angle.  Unfortunately this little trick has not been copied by many companies producing biplane kits today.

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The basic assembly is complete and sanding has begun.  I have used Mr. Surfacer 500 and Perfect Plastic Putty for the filling duties where appropriate.  Either can be “chemically sanded” with a wet cotton swab to preserve surface detail, the PPP thinned with water and Mr. Surfacer with lacquer thinner.

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Seamwork is checked with a coat of primer and any problem areas are filled and sanded until they are no longer visible.  I’m always surprised how many flaws are revealed by the primer so I never skip this step.

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An hour of masking per five minutes of painting, repeat for each color required then set aside to dry.  This is one reason I usually build multiple kits at once.

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After a gloss coat of Future (Klear) the decals are in place and the major components are ready to assemble.

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I rigged the kits with 0.004” Nitenol wire.  I find the rigging stage a bit tedious but necessary.  I replaced the thick kit canopies with clear plastic stock cut to shape, you can get away with that for the simple windscreens on aircraft like these.

Colorful Curtiss P-40 Warhawk Markings Part 1

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The P-40 Warhawk is probably best known as the plane with the shark’s teeth, and the unit which started it all was the RAF’s 112 Squadron which first painted the famous marking on their Kittyhawk I’s in North Africa.  Here Lt A. R. Costello strikes a pose next to his aircraft at Sidi Heneish, Egypt.

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The sharkmouth fit the contours of the P-40 particularly well.  112 Squadron aircraft soon became favorites of photographers, and pictures were picked up by several magazines eager to provide coverage of the war.

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The magazine coverage made it all the way to China, where pilots of the American Volunteer Group “Flying Tigers” decided shark’s teeth would look nice on their aircraft as well.  Their aircraft and exploits soon became legend and are still one of the most recognizable schemes to this day.  Each set of shark’s teeth was painted by hand and differed in details.  (Robert Smith photograph)

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The 343rd Fighter Group was activated on 03SEP42 at Elmendorf Field, Alaska.  It consisted of the 11th and 18th Fighter Squadrons on Curtiss P-40Es and the 54th Fighter Squadron on Lockheed P-38s.  A fourth squadron with P-40Es, the 344th, was added in October.  In command was Lt Col John Chennault, whose father of Flying Tigers fame inspired the Tiger nose art applied to the Group’s P-40s.  (LIFE Magazine photograph)

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A lesser known application is this yellow nosed P-40E.  Supposedly there were two aircraft painted in these nose markings at Malaybalay, Mindanao while flying in defense of the Philippines, but documentation is lacking.

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At least one of these aircraft was captured by the Japanese in airworthy condition.  It was given Japanese Hinomaru over the U.S. insignia, although the “U.S. ARMY” lettering is still just visible under the wings in this photograph.

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Another view as the Japanese examine their prize.  Several U.S. types were captured and restored to airworthy condition on Java and the Philippines, including many P-40s and three B-17s.

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A view of the starboard side of the nose from a Japanese magazine.  Most artist’s renderings depict the head as either being yellow, or yellow with red mottling.  The “bullet-riddled” description in the English caption is wishful thinking, there were several P-40s captured intact by the Japanese that were quite flyable.

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The shark’s mouth marking remained popular with P-40 units, particularly those flying in the Chinese Theater.  Here is a P-40N of the 74th Fighter Squadron being fitted with rocket tubes at Kweilen, China in 1943-44.

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Yet another variation seen in India, this P-40K of the 25th Fighter Squadron 51st Fighter Group is pictured at Assam Valley India in 1944.  A smaller mouth but larger fangs.