Slipping the Bonds
by George Paterson




In early December I presented an image of an F-86H in Mass. ANG colours, and I became keen to try and get some pictures of US Navy versions of the Sabre design.

Naval Sabres were called Furys, and designated as FJ-1 to FJ-4, the “J” being a historic reference to the manufacturers – NAA in this case, of course.

The FJ-1 looked like a tubby new fuselage with Mustang wings, tailplane and fin attached, and it was useful for letting the matelots gain familiarity with jets before the more advanced airframes and engines came along. Apparently, it performed better than it looked.

The FJ-2 was basically an F-86E with minimal adaptation to the naval role; it was not suited to carrier launching, and was largely assigned to shore-based Marine units.

The FJ-3 was the first proper sea-going version. It was similar to the F-86H, but is not the same shape – you can't get an FJ-3 model from an 86H kit just by painting it dark blue and putting on Navy decals. Anyone who has worked on the F-86H will however find many points of resemblance in detail.

The final version was the FJ-4, which was so thoroughly re-designed that it bears only superficial resemblance to the Sabre. The wing has such a broad chord at the root that the wingplan is half-way towards being a delta. Yet it still has many details that recall the FJ-3.

In all, about 1,000 Furys were built, mostly of the last two versions.

The Initial Image

This model by Joe Caputo derives from a 48-scale kit by ESCI. The builder laments the poor choice of kit options (late 2013), and I found only a poor selection of models of the two most important versions, the FJ-3 and FJ-4. Given the importance of the type, I was surprised how little attention it gets from both the kit industry and from modellers.

The photographs that accompany Joe's review are all of the fish-eye type, which makes it difficult to make plausible in-flight images, but I can get reasonable results if I choose my backgrounds carefully. The image is of generous size at about 1,020x760 pixels, and the airframe is sharp apart from some softness around the tailplane and fin, and the small visible piece of the port wing. The background imparts a slight brown cast to some parts of the airframe. I may choose to leave some of this caste in place.

Treatment of the Image

Technically, the selection process wasn't difficult, but I met problems that were not really related to the starting image itself, but rather to the inadequate archive material I was able to collect.

Although this aircraft is popular with modellers, I didn't find any photos of the real thing, or any information as to why it is a popular subject. Of the three or four models I found, along with several profiles, there was no consensus about the size and location of the numerous markings, so without photos of the prototype, I had to guess how the markings might have looked. I was in the absurd situation of knowing more about the appearance of some WW II aircraft that survived in service for days, while having no clue about the appearance of one that probably survived for years!

Anyway, I did my best, and pasted the result to a few different backgrounds that I thought might be complementary. My final image is the most satisfactory of these.


It does seem a pity that you can find hundreds of model pictures of planes like “The Huff”, but so very few of important types like the FJ-3. Someone whose comments I read, it may well have been Joe himself, noted how many model kits of one-off prototypes are on the market, while the FJ-3, which served for some years in front-line roles, and of which nearly 600 were built, scarcely gets any attention.