Sunday, April 14, 2013

Thoughts on That New Hog, Echo Fruitflies, Everything Old is New Again, A Book You Might Want, And a Pretty P-51

The Ever-Inscrutable Tamiya

It's official. Tamiya just released a 1/32nd scale kit of the Chance Vought F4U-1 Corsair. As usual, they (Tamiya, that is) snuck up on everybody, although there are those saying they knew it all along and, as usual, the internet modeling crowd are already crying for replacement parts and detail sets for a kit that hasn't shipped to anybody yet. Better yet, it's only a matter of time before a group of folks we'll call The Usual Suspects begin criticizing certain parts of said "U-Bird" based on screen shots of parts and the rumor mill, complaining about things they couldn't possibly have any knowledge of since nobody actually has a kit in their hands. To paraphrase that great American philosopher Yogi Berra; Let merriment reign unconfirmed!

Anyway, it seems as though 1/32nd has become the new gold standard for plastic modelers, with unexpected releases showing up every week, or so it seems. They're neat releases too; not just another of Herr Willy's creations, but some of the big stuff as well---B-17s, B-25s, He-219s, and it goes on and on. Mostly we need those kits; in the case of the Corsair, for example, the Trumpeter F4U is, unfortunately, none too accurate, and the old Revell kit, well; it's the old (early 1970s vintage) Revell kit, isn't it? We need a state-of-the-art "Hog" pretty badly in this scale, and there's little doubt Tamiya will release a modest-sized family of Corsairs before it's all said and done. Life is good.

Then again, let's play a little Devil's Advocate here. That F4U would appear to be a Thing of Beauty, and there's no doubt we'll have to get one for our personal collection sooner or later. Then again, we already had at least two 32nd scale kits of the airplane, didn't we? Let's think about all of the important aircraft that are poorly represented in any scale that would lend themselves beautifully to 1/32nd in place of that "U-Bird". Like what, you may ask?

OK, we'll bite! How about a PT-13/-17, or a T-6? Both types are iconic, and we need contemporary kits of both, and not just in 1/32nd scale but in any scale. Maybe you don't like trainers---some folks don't. How about a Hawker Tempest then, or an FJ-Anything, or a P-6E? Or maybe a Ki-10, or a Yak or Lavochkin of virtually any flavor? Or a decent C-45? And the beat goes on...

The point is, that new Tamiya F4U-1 is a pretty big deal, and it'll sell like hotcakes. Since making money is the name of the game if you're a manufacturer, all is well. The planets are in alignment and The Big T will make a whole lot of money on this one. We needed that big "Hog" and we got it. Kitting it is a no-brainer---the only surprising thing about it is that it didn't happen before now. Then again, all those guys that flew the thing in combat learned how to fly in a series of trainers, one of which could have been a PT-Something-Or-Other, and one of which most assuredly was an SNJ (a T-6 variant). Our logic is somewhat perverse, but it seems to hold water.

That's what we think. What about you? That address is . We're waiting...

A well-known shot of a pair of F4U-1s from VMF-215 shortly after their arrival at Munda in 1943. The mud was pervasive, and traces of it even appear on the underwing national insignia of "Spirit of 76". Some of our airmen in the Pacific actually did operate from halfway decent airfields, but very rarely did those folks have a globe and anchor on their utility caps. When you folks get your very own Tamiya "Hog" all built and weathered, give a thought to the guys who actually flew the airplane in combat. There were no easy days in the SWPAC.  Rocker Collection

A Few More A-7s.

We began one of our ongoing and admittedly rambling photo essays on the LTV A-7 Corsair II family a while back and today's the day for another installment of it, with the variant at hand being the penultimate Navy variant of same; the A-7E.

The "Echo" was a logical development of the basic airframe, getting a performance boost from the installation of a TF-41 powerplant as well as improved avionics and an M-61 rotary cannon. The end result of those improvements was a much improved attack aircraft that soldiered on to fly combat until the early 1990s. Time, technology, and budget overtook it, though, and it was among the first Navy types to be replaced by the now-ubiquitous F/A-18. It was a highly capable attack aircraft right up until the end, and it wore some extremely colorful markings during the course of its service life. Let's take a look.

VA-25 was called "The Fist of the Fleet" and it became famous when one of its A-1s downed a MiG-17 back in the Southeast Asia War Games. Their markings were fairly tame by Navy standards, but there was no mistaking who they were---that green fist holding the lightning bolt saw to that. BuNo 157441 was photographed on the ramp at NAS Chase by David Balcer back in 1979, and she survived in the Fleet until the late 1980s before finally heading for the desert. When this shot was taken most A-7Es still carried six underwing pylons; the outboard pair were later removed to enhance performance since the laser-guided munitions of the 80s and 90s made it possible to literally get more bang for the buck using fewer air-launched weapons. Progress, as it were...  David Balcer

VA-22 has always been one of our favorite A-7 units, simply because the squadron markings were so well done. 157445 is shown here wearing their colors, parked on the transient ramp in 1980 but still carrying full Easter Egg paint work. She ended up in the desert in the late 80s and was beginning to show her age when this photo was taken. There's nothing so wrong with her that it couldn't be fixed by a visit to the NARF, but her paint and markings have definitely seen better days.  Bob Mignard

157510 was on the Nimitz in August of 1980 when she was photographed by Rick Morgan. Much like 157445 she's fairly beat up, but appearances can be deceiving. Life on the boat is hard on airplanes, but the NAV knows how to take care of them in that environment. Still, 510 didn't manage to survive to a ripe old age, but crashed to destruction Ocala National Forest in Florida in 1985. We've said it before but it's worth repeating: There's nothing easy about military aviation.  Rick Morgan

VA-37's "Fruitflies" carried one of the more famous squadron emblems during the 1980s, as illustrated here by 158820. She was written off for unknown reasons (to us, anyway) in March of 1983, but was looking good when this photo was taken in May of 1979.  John Dienst

In contrast to the photo of 157445, 159273, also from VA-22, looked shiny as a new penny when we photographed her on the transient ramp at Randolph in 1980. She came to a sad end in 1983, dumped over the side (and also for reasons unknown) as a write-off. The modelers among our readership might want to take a close look at the shape of that air intake---it's been the Waterloo of more than one plastic model company trying to kit the A-7!  Phillip Friddell

159285 was assigned to VA-66 and was transient at Myrtle Beach when Norm Taylor caught her there in June of 1978. She ultimately ended up with the Greek Air Force but was in her glory here. Her outboard pylons have been removed but she looks brand new (and, truth be known, she wasn't far from it when this photo was taken). A lot of people think very highly of Norm Taylor's abilities with a camera---this photo shows why!  Norm Taylor

Some of the photographers we know shoot only what they're interested in, which makes this VA-22 CAG bird unique---she was photographed by Marty Isham, known to his friends as "Mr. ADC". Ask Marty about it and he'll tell you flat out that he doesn't shoot Navy airplanes. Here's proof positive that he does, at least every once in a while. 159980 was another A-7E that ended up with the Greek AF, but she was still flying with the NAV when Marty took this shot of her back in the 80s. Like the rest of the "Fighting Redcocks" markings her CAG paintwork is subdued but pretty. We like it, anyway...   Marty Isham

We should probably all keep in mind that the adjective "dirty" is a relative thing. VA-46's 160567 wasn't dirty when Ted Paskowski photographed her at Grissom AFB in 1981; she was filthy, but beauty's only skin deep. She survived her stint with the NAV and ended up with the Thai Navy where, we presume, her paintwork was somewhat better maintained than it was when Ted snapped this photo!  Ted Paskowski

In stark contrast to that VA-46 bird we just looked at, there's nothing dirty or out of place on this NTPS aircraft photographed at PAX River in 1988. 160565 was what you would have to call a Clean Machine, but then most Test Pilot School aircraft are extremely well-maintained. 565 went into storage at AMARC in 1992 and was, in all likelihood, spotless when she made that last trip.  Bob Burns

160715 illustrates the paint scheme that bridged the gap between the "Easter Eggs" of the 50s, 60s, and most of the 70s, and the TPS greys of the 1980s. She's still in Light Gull Grey over Insignia White, but now her control surfaces have been over-painted in grey and most of her lettering has changed from black to white, although she still carries full-sized national insignia. She was assigned to VA-81 when photographed in 1981. A survivor, she ended up on a pole in Jacksonville.  Tom Ring

VA-15 carried some of the A-7's more colorful markings while operating the type, but we're running this shot to show you that opened equipment bay. The "Fruitfly" was easy to maintain, with a great many essential components within easy reach without having to resort to maintenance stands or an undue amount of specialized equipment. 160736 was another bird that ended up in Greece once her career with the American Navy was finished.  David Balcer

Today's final A-7 shot was taken at Andrews in September of 1981 and shows VA-15's 160869 being readied for flight, offering us a look at the port-side equipment panels in an opened-up condition. 869 is also carrying TERs on her outboard stations, and is looking every inch a warplane in this photo.  Ted Paskowski

We aren't done with the A-7E yet, even though we are finished for now. Stay tuned for more!

Scary Stuff on the Peninsula

The Korean Peninsula, that is. It seems as though that nasty little war that never really ended is on everybody's minds these days as things in The Land of the Morning Calm deteriorate daily. This site doesn't have anything to do with contemporary goings-on, of course, but the current round of Korean unpleasantness provides us with a lead-in to a time some 60 or so years ago when the United States was hip-deep in conflict there. Jonathan Watson has provided us with some remarkable images from his collection which we'd like to share with you today.

The Korean War began on 25 June, 1950, with North Korea's invasion of the South. The 8th FBW was stationed at Itazuke AB in Japan at the time, and its 36th FBS was among the first United States aircraft to respond to the crisis. Our first shot in this series depicts part of the squadron sitting on the ramp---note the unfortunately illegible name on the fuselage of FT-700. That position on the fuselage was a common location for artwork and names with the 36th throughout this early period of the war.  Johnathan Watson Collection
FT-603 is in the chocks armed up in this view. The positioning of the boarding ladder on the starboard side of the aircraft (rather than the port) is noteworthy, as are the practice rockets attached below the wings. We would guess this shot to have been taken immediately pre-War, but there's no way to know for sure.  Johnathan Watson Collection

This shot provides an excellent view of the nose of the F-80C as operated by the 36th during the early stages of the war. The .50 caliber nose gun ports are all capped except for one, and that gun bay appears to be empty. The "tab" visible inside the starboard intake is the mount for the gun camera. Check out the rank insignia on the master sergeant in the foreground---it took a while for all the Army insignia and uniform items to disappear from the Air Force, and a mixture of same could still be found throughout the Korean War.  Johnathan Watson Collection

This port-side view of a pre-War 8th FBW F-80C illustrates the clean lines of the aircraft and provides us with an excellent view of the structural detail to be found on the interior of the intake splitter plate. The F-80 was an extremely simple airplane and was easy to fly. It was also, as events were to prove, totally unable to fight on equal terms (or even close to them) with its primary adversary in the conflict, the MiG-15, even though several air-to-air victories were scored with the type. It's real forte was air-to-ground work, but that was yet to be determined in those Bad Old Days of June, 1950.  Johnathan Watson Collection

We're including this view for a couple of reasons, even though it's not from the 36th (it does, however, belong to the 8th FBW), and are encouraging reader comments regarding a couple of things that are visible in the photo. Let's start with that object sitting on the wing---is it a piece of test equipment or a 1950s version of the Boom Box? We're not certain, although it seems to have way too many buttons and knobs to be a commercial radio. Anybody out there have any insight on this one? Also, note the "BAFFLING INSTALLED" stenciling beneath the horizontal stab, and both the attire and the cigarette of the ground crewman. "Out of uniform" is a phrase that comes to mind, and smoking around an airplane was considered A Very Bad Thing even in 1950. It was a simpler time.  Johnathan Watson Collection

"Spam Can II" provides us with an excellent view of the way the 36th presented their aircraft art. The lettering of the name is in the same red color the squadron used for their painted trim, and the art itself is a pretty fair representation of a period can of Spam. We'd love to have these markings for an F-80 model (and, for that matter, would love to have a new kit of the Shooting Star to put them on!) but we doubt that'll happen any time soon.  Johnathan Watson Collection

Here's another example of fuselage art on a 36th FBS aircraft. "Mr Completely" provides us with a classic USAF play on words and really sets off the aircraft. The command stripes on the nose are also of interest, as are the "rails" for the practice rockets that we can see beneath the wings. The boarding ladder is on the starboard side of this aircraft too, which makes us wonder if it wasn't a fairly standard practice within the unit.  Johnathan Watson Collection

Gearing up before a mission. This photo provides us with a classic view of the mixture of uniforms and flight gear to be found within the 5th AF during the Korean conflict. Note the gas bags lying on the ground behind the ground echelon---that particular method of storage, plus the ubiquitous (for the time) cigarette in the mouth of one of the mechs, would put a contemporary USAF safety officer into convulsions, but it was the norm for the time and the place illustrated by this shot.  Johnathan Watson Collection

Taxiing out. This photo of "Mr Completely" was apparently taken at a slightly later date than that first shot of her and shows artwork of some sort sitting just above the "y" in the name. It's interesting to note that this sort of thing has caused countless arguments among amateur historians and scale modelers, who can become extremely pedantic regarding markings and paintwork applied to military aircraft. This photo provides us with a classic example of why it's good to be somewhat open-minded about such things. Johnathan Watson Collection

Gettin' ready for the Boogie. This shot may be pre-War, or it may have been taken prior to a straight-up fighter sweep. Whatever the circumstances, the photographer had an eye for composition and has provided us with a gorgeous image of flight line operations at Itazuke during 1950. And No, Virginia; those guys aren't wearing ear protection. Did we mention that it was a simpler time?  Johnathan Watson Collection

And another taxi shot. In 1950 you could still pretty much do a simple pre-flight, strap in, light the fire, and go. Unfortunately, the accident rate of the day reflected the approach to flight safety and a great many aircraft were lost to operational accidents. The ensuing years would see a dramatic change in operational procedures for all of the world's air forces, but things were still pretty simple during the Korean War, as this photo (showing a cover on the head of the ground director, just waiting to be sucked up an intake) attests. Simpler isn't always better...  Johnathan Watson Collection

Heading out. This photo provides us with a fine perspective of the F-80's diminutive size. You don't realize just how tiny some of those early jets were until you stand beside one, and the  Shooting Star definitely reflects its 1944 design. Have we mentioned that we'd really like to have a state-of-the-art F-80 kit?  Johnathan Watson Collection

Off we go! These birds appear to be launching on an air superiority sweep. The Air Force wasn't encountering MiG-15s in June of 1950, and the F-80 was entirely capable of winning a knife fight against a piston-engine Yak or Lavochkin. The MiG would prove to be another story entirely.  Johnathan Watson Collection

Thanks to Johnathan Watson for sharing these images with us. This is as good a time as any to note that we receive most of our photography from our readership, and we actively encourage contributions. If you have anything you'd like to share from your own personal collection we strongly encourage you to do it. The address is .

It's About Time!

If we had to guess, we'd guess that almost every one of you has read Samurai at one time or another. It's a seminal work on the air war in the Pacific and it's been mandatory reading for students of that portion of the Second World War since its first publication back in the mid-1950s. As a history it's somewhat flawed, and it raises more questions than it answers, but for a great many years it's been one of the two or three things available to us in English regarding the Tainan Kokutai, which was one of Japan's most elite and successful fighter units during the first 18 months or so of the Pacific War. We've been sadly lacking in any sort of definitive history of the unit, at least until now.

Eagles of the Southern Sky; the Tainan Air Group in WWII Volume I: New Guinea, Luca Ruffato and Michael J. Claringbould, Tainan Research and Publishing, 2012, 352 pp, Illustrated, is the history we've all been waiting for regarding the Tainan Ku, lengthy title notwithstanding. It covers the "classic" period of the Tainan's pre-Guadalcanal days at length, and details the unit from its inception until the beginning of the end for the group over the Solomon Islands.

Taken as a reference the book is somewhat amazing; it covers not only Japanese operations but, to a great extent, those of the various Allied units opposing the Tainan Ku as well and, for perhaps the first time in the United States, discusses the significant contributions of the RAAF's 75 and 76 squadrons in their hand-me-down P-40Es. The book is well illustrated with period photography and includes a great many images not previously seen in the West. It also includes a large number of full-color profiles as well as several indices. It's well-researched and will probably be the definitive resource on this unit for a number of years to come.

We did find one somewhat irritating issue with the book, although we honestly put it in the realm of nitpicking. The basic presentation of the publication is softcover and printed on a fairly poor grade of paper, which allows print and images from the opposite side of the pages to occasionally bleed through to the side the reader is looking at. We suspect this is the unfortunate result of economics and, quite frankly, are delight to have the resource available to us in any format. Our personal preference would have been for hard covers and heavier, coated stock, simply because we suspect the book will be heavily used by most of the people who purchase it. That said, we hope the book receives the success it so soundly deserves and that the publishers will someday do a 2nd edition in a more permanent presentation.

Still, few people will purchase this book to criticize its current presentation, and the documentation that has gone into its creation is very nearly beyond reproach. The simple fact that the authors were able to obtain the services of Steve Birdsall, Lawrence Hickey, Ed Dekiep, and Gordon Birkett, speaks volumes for the credibility of Ruffato and Claringbould, who are to be commended for creating what is obviously a labor of love for them. This book is an absolute must-have if your interests run towards the war in the Pacific, and we anxiously await the publication of the second volume of the set.

Just a Pretty Airplane; That's All

An issue of Replica isn't complete without at least one example of photography from the amazing collection of Bobby Rocker, and today's shot is a pip!

Most of us are familiar with the 348th fighter group's use of the P-47D Thunderbolt, and the type is the one that is most indisputably linked to the unit's history. That said, the classic early "Jug" variant (the D-model) operated by the 348th was short-legged and not particularly well-suited to combat in the SWPAC; the first Thunderbolt suitable to the theater would be the last one; P-47N late that appeared in the conflict (but not with the 348th). The 348th was almost unique within the 5th AF, who's primary aircraft were the P-39, P-40, and P-38, in that they not only flew combat successfully with the P-47 but also transitioned to the North American P-51D Mustang and flew combat in it prior to the cessation of hostilities. This photo provides us with an excellent view of one of their command ships. Beauty!   Bobby Rocker Collection

The Relief Tube

An issue or two ago we ran a couple of A4D photos from the collection of Frank Garcia, and commented that we weren't entirely certain of the unit identification for one of them. We asked our resident experts of Things Navy, Tommy Thomason and Rick Morgan, for clarification and possible correction and received these responses. First, we'll hear from Tommy:

Phil, according to, FDR had two squadrons of A4D-2s, not A4D-2Ns, on board in 1960. 303AB is for sure an A4D-2 from VA-172, the Blue Bolts, as you thought. 505AK is an A4D-2N. However, strictly speaking, there is no difference between radome paint because the A4D-2 didn't have a radome. With respect to the radome, you may be thinking of the difference between the early and late A4D-2N/A-4C noses that were different in appearance. See

More trivia: the original gray/white scheme had gray rudders. Subsequent evaluation of the thermal effect on the aircraft of a nuclear explosion resulted in the rudders being white along with the upward facing elevators/stabilators and ailerons/spoilers. This change was not official until 27 December 1961, well after this cruise, although my understanding is that some rudders were already white by that time.
Best regards, T

Then from Rick:

Phil: I'm in Canberra for one more night, return home Tues/Weds. Love the JG5 BF109- one of my favorite Luftwaffe units and you even got Carganico's Mickey Mouse on there. I concur with Jan's assessment on last issue's A-4E;  it's probably VF-45 out of Key West; VF-43 had most (if not all) of their Scoots in a standardized gray camo late in their day and typically put the squadron logo on the tail and not a red star.
As for Frank's shots, the CVG-1 bird is an A4D-2 from VA-172 Blue Bolts. The other guys are VA-46 (A4D-2), VA-15 (AD-6), VF-14 (F3H), VAH-11 (A3D-2) and VF-11 (F8U-1).
The one marked AK505 is indeed a Clansman from VA-46; the tail markings and sash are a reproduction of the Clan McDougal tartan, that being the unit's first CO.  Other squadrons in CVG-10 at that point were VF-13 (F4D-1), VF-62 (F8U-1), VA-106 (A4D-2), VA-176 (AD-6).

Every once in a while we publish a photo that just won't lie down, to use a Southernism. A while back we ran a photo of an F-86L, then ran a couple of corrections regarding the shot. Today we've received another comment regarding that photo, and it raises an interesting question:

Mr. Friddell,
It's interesting to note that the NH ANG F-86L ("3593")you posted on 3/21/11 appears to have green trim on the tanks and tail. The NH ANG F-86L (0150)in this post appears to have medium blue trim. Any thoughts on whether they're really different or is it a color repro issue. BTW, the drawings of 0150 on p. 112 of Replica in Scale Vol 2, #'s 3 & 4 (I was a subscriber!) says it's trimmed in green. or, to summarize, blue or green for 0150?? What do you think?
Jim Q.

PS I really like this blog

Thanks, Jim. We've gone back and re-examined the photos in question and can honestly say that they do indeed appear to show green trim but also seems to show a blue-ish tint, depending on the slide you're looking at, which wouldn't be out of place in a group or wing setting but is somewhat unusual when we're discussing an individual squadron. Anybody out there have any ideas on this one?

Finally, here's a comment from reader Peter Schupp regarding one of the 43rd BG B-17s we ran a while back:

You've got a great site. I particularly like you comments about preserving the history. I know accuracy is important to you.
On Tuesday, 8 Nov 2011, you posted a picture from the Rocker Collection of B-17F 41-24457. In your post you identify the aircraft as 'Aztec's Chief' and the filename of the image is   'Aztecs Chief buzzing Gizo Island Solomons.jpg' .
This aircraft was named 'The AZTEC'S CURSE', most likely a reference to the less than comfortable conditions endured by the men who fought in the Solomon Islands campaign. I didn't see any other comments on your site, so thought you'd like to know.
This the largest and nicest copy of this image I've ever found, and I'm very happy to add it to my collection. 

Peter Schupp
Junior Woodchuck Historian

And that's it for today's thrilling installment of our blog. Thanks for looking in, and stay tuned: We've got some really neat stuff in store for you! Until then, be good to your neighbor, and we'll meet again soon.