This FM-2 Wildcat from Composite Squadron 96 (VC-96) was finished in the late-war overall Gloss Sea Blue scheme. It flew from the Casablanca-class escort carrier USS Rudyerd Bay (CVE-81) during the Okinawa campaign in April, 1945. Other than correcting the curve of the wingtips this was built out of the box.
BuNo 16130 carried the North Atlantic gray scheme and was assigned to Composite Squadron 8 (VC-10) embarked on the escort carrier USS Guadalcanal (CVE-60). Pilot was LTJG F. H. Behlen III.
This FM-2 Wildcat (BuNo 16262) was assigned to Composite Squadron 10 (VC-10) embarked on the escort carrier USS Gambier Bay (CVE-73). On 15JUN44 pilot LT Herman J. Hardess belly-landed this aircraft aboard the Gambier Bay, it was later jettisoned over the side.
The landing gear on all Wildcats is complicated and there is really not a painless way to represent the intricate strut arrangement. I followed Arma’s instructions and had no major issues, but you do have to proceed carefully. Here is the first step with the firewall and internal bracing mounted.
Here it is with the fuselage closed up. Technically there should be engine accessories protruding into the gear bay, but the view is obscured by the strut assembly so it would be very difficult to notice.
This is the stage in the construction which is causing some confusion amongst modelers, I would advise studying the instructions carefully and making sure the arrangement of these parts is clear before proceeding. Part A18 is molded flat and has to be bent down to the proper angle, as can be seen by comparing the upper left and upper center assemblies here. Parts A11 and A12 are molded with a connecting bar which must be removed before the ends can be joined, seen in the lower left and lower center of this picture. In the end you want everything to look like the assembly on the right.
The gear struts snap into place from below, the fit at the rear of the well was tight on mine but I was able to press it in (firmly) with a little MEK. The main gear legs (parts A28 and A29) mount to the firewall and then there are three attachment points to each leg for the struts. Just follow the instructions and let the glue set up firmly and you’ll have good alignment and a surprisingly strong assembly when you’re done.
A valid criticism of this kit is the shape of the wingtips, they should be more rounded than they are molded. I was hoping for an out of the box build but felt obliged to fix this with some plastic stock. If you don’t want to go that route you could get an improved profile by rounding off the front and back edges of the wingtip.
The engine from the front. The cowling will sit about a millimeter too far forward if you don’t do something, and this will be apparent as the exhaust stubs will protrude too far past the cowling when viewed from the side. I shaved off the mounting ridges inside the cowling and thinned the trailing edge which allowed the cowling to be pressed back enough. An easy fix but a trap for the unwary.
Fit of the parts is excellent. I used a little Mr. Surfacer 500 along the fuselage seam lines to counter the tendency of the seams to draw in when using thin glues.
Photographs taken at the Air Zoo, Kalamazoo Michigan.