Slipping the Bonds
by George Paterson

F9F-8-VF61-141092

Introduction

After my last article on the F9F, I got a mail from Tom Cleaver advising me that the movie “The Bridges At Toko-Ri” is available on U-Tube. So far I've only found clips from the movie on that site, but they are spectacular enough. The footage of take-offs and landings is stunning, and apparently largely shot on the carrier during an active tour of duty off the Korean coast. The only unrealistic sequence that I spotted was the ditching of a Panther in the sea, where they cut from a shot of a Panther flying very low to one of a model actually hitting the sea; the scale discrepancy was obvious, in that the aircraft seemed to have very little mass as it ploughed into the waves. I think an object weighing several tons and hitting water at 100mph would have looked more spectacular!

Some poetic license was often used in the designation of swept-wing versions of originally straight-winged US fighter aircraft, mostly for budgetary reasons I think. For example, the F-84F was virtually a completely new design, with only a superficial resemblance to the earlier F-84's. When the Panther was adapted to use swept flying surfaces, however, the new airframe was obviously an adaptation of the original. Tommy Thomason has an interesting treatise on-line that shows the evolution of the design from the unswept F-5, to the swept F-6 and F-8, its main focus being on the considerable changes between the two swept-wing variants.

As a result, once you are familiar with the details of the Panther, the detailing of a Cougar is not difficult.

The Initial Image

The photo that first drew me to make a Cougar image was of a model by Andreas Schweitzer, built from the 1:72 Hasegawa kit, and finished as an aircraft of VF13. It was the light blue décor against the dark blue camo finish that attracted me. The photos in his review were of modest size, and the depth of field was limited. The one I chose to work on yielded, after a lot of work, the final image that I'm using here as my secondary airframe. Of course, I have other images that use Andreas' model as a primary.

The primary aircraft here is from the Fisher Models resin kit. The review I found didn't state the scale or the builder's name – it's a site where everybody uses noms de plume. The images are generally about 800x600 pix or more, and are reasonably sharp. All plain sailing for me, then, except that the décor is for VF61, so I need to re-do it completely for use as a VF13 machine.

My choice of this one as the primary hinged on the fact that the perspective on the Fisher model is sharper than on the Hasegawa model.

Treatment of the Image

The selection process for my images normally has two phases; the first is the selections that define the main structural components, such as wings, tailplanes cockpits, fins etc; the second defines the internal details, like flaps, intakes, canopy glazing and framing, all the desired panel lines, and all the décor items.

In this case, that last item had to be done as usual, but only to treat the selections later with brushed-in dark blue; then a new set had to be constructed with a degree of trial-and-error, to give the décor pattern for VF13.

I forgot to mention that the image had to be laterally reversed to get my VF13 image. I left that step as late as possible, as in due course I'll do a version in the original VF61 livery.

I read somewhere that VF13 was deployed to the Western Pacific shortly after it acquired its F9F-8's, and that gave me an idea for the backing which shows Fuji in an early evening light. I pasted both airframes onto this backing, after colour-shifting the glazing on them heavily towards pink/red.

Conclusions

The Cougar was in essence a stopgap before the Navy moved on to truly supersonic aircraft such as the F11 Tiger and the Crusader; during its relatively brief period in service, however, it equipped a large number of units, so we have a big choice of squadron finishes, both in dark blue and gull grey camos.

There was a PR version with a peculiar extended and slightly drooping nose, and it seems to have become rather a favourite with modellers recently; Jerry Boucher has made some beautiful images of F9F-8P's which are bound to have stimulated modellers to have a go at the type. Also rather attractive was the trainer version, and I'll certainly do one or two of that variant soon.