HobbyBoss 1/48 F6F-3 Hellcat
|PRICE:||2400 yen at www.hlj.com|
|NOTES:||Kitbash with Eduard Hellcat to correct fatal mistakes of the Hobby Boss kit; Eduard decals used|
From their first introduction into combat in the summer of 1943 through August 15, 1945, U.S. Navy Hellcats shot down over 5,000 enemy aircraft, and over 300 Hellcat pilots achieved ace status while flying the airplane. Truly, it was an "ace maker".
VF-15 - “Satan's Playmates”:
Fighting Fifteen “stood up” for commissioning at NAS
None of the 45 pilots assigned to VF-15 had air combat
McCampbell had returned from the South Pacific to head up the
Navy's Landing Signal Officer school at NAS
Jacksonville, from which he extricated himself after a six month campaign to
return to a flying assignment.
The XO was LCDR Charles W. Brewer, who had been a
fighter pilot since graduating from
Strane, whose background included 100 hours in the F4F-4 Wildcat as an advanced fighter tactics instructor, echoed many squadron mates in his assessment of their new mount, the Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat: "My initial impression of the Hellcat was that I was in a completely different ballpark than that of the SNJ or the Wildcat. The tremendous power, the comfort of the cockpit, the ease of handling the plane throughout its entire flight envelope was unbelievable."
While the Navy gave far more importance to aerial
gunnery than did the Army Air Forces, it was not a service-wide policy but
rather the decision of individual unit commanding officers as to how much
emphasis would be placed on gunnery.
VF-15 was lucky that the former gunnery champion who
commanded them considered skill with the fighter's primary weapon to be of
ENS Clarence “Spike” Borley, who joined the squadron
just before their tour in the Western Pacific, recalled that McCampbell placed
gunnery above everything else, with the pilots doing an hour of aerial gunnery
every day in
Air Group 15, of which VF-15 was a part, was originally
destined for service aboard the new USS Hornet
Hornet at the time was under the command of CAPT
Miles Browning, a Naval Aviator whose experience went back to the original USS
Langley 20 years previously and who was
one of those naval aviators responsible for the development of the policies and
strategies in the 1920s and 1930s that were used by Naval Aviation during the
He had recently served as Chief of Staff to Admiral William “Bull”
Halsey during the first six months of the war and had performed the same role
for Spruance at Midway.
Browning was perhaps the most irascible officer in the
Commander William Dew, the Commander of Air Group 15,
was to suffer the personal and professional mortification of having Browning
tell Admiral Nimitz that Air Group 15 was not ready for combat upon their
arrival at Pearl Harbor in February 1944.
Air Group 15 was removed from Hornet
and replaced by Air Group 2, while Dew was relieved of command and
replaced by Dave McCampbell
with XO Brewer taking command of Fighting 15.
While all senior officers in the group were mortified by
this turn of events, it turned out to be the best possible thing that could
happen to them.
Without Miles Browning throwing them into the briar patch, Air
Group 15 would likely never have had the career it did.
Under McCampbell, the group trained hard in
On May 19-20, the task group hit
The war became real for “Fabled Fifteen” on June 11, 1944, when the task group struck Iwo Jima for a day before turning south to participate in Operation Forager, the invasion of the Marianas Islands; the task group was enlarged by the addition of a third carrier, USS Cowpens (CVL-25).
McCampbell gave a pre-mission briefing at 0230 June 12,
1944, for the pilots who would fly the dawn fighter sweep over
McCampbell led 16 Hellcats on the dawn strike, eight of which carried a 250-lb bomb each; Brewer led the second section of 16. After diving on the designated airfield and bombing the AA positions, the fighters swept back over the field strafing everything in sight. Borley recalled that he felt like he was flying at 100 miles an hour and had to look at his air speed indicator to know they were doing 350 mph. “That flak was really heavy, even with the bombing.”
Over Marpi Point, squadron CO Brewer and his wingman ENS R.E. Fowler, Jr., spotted a Kawanishi “Emily” flying boat and attacked it. Brewer hit the two starboard engines while Fowler's bullets shattered the cockpit canopy. Twenty seconds later, the big flying boat rolled over and dove straight into the water below, for Fighting-15's first aerial victory.
While Brewer's division was killing the Emily,
McCampbell and the rest of the squadron ran into a flight of Zeros.
As McCampbell recalled later, “This was our first
encounter as an air group with enemy aircraft. We had heard a great deal about
the Zero fighter. I was pleased to note that the F6F could stay with the Zero in
turns, climbs and dives, particularly at altitudes
feet, where most of the air action took place. I noted two deficiencies of the
Zero: its lack of armor and its unprotected gas tanks. All but one of the Zeros
I saw shot down that day went down in flames.”
McCampbell returned to
Over the next week, Air Group 15 provided support for
the invasion of
Spike Borley remembered
Ralph Foltz was another of that sextet. As McCampbell dove through the escorting Zeros on his way to hit the formation of D4Y “Judy” dive bombers, Foltz hit and flamed a Zero. McCampbell latched onto the trailing Judy and worked his way up the line, shooting down three in succession. In a second mission that day, he scored two more Judys for a total of five in the day, while Foltz also scored a Judy and McCampbell's wingman Roy Rushing scored a Zero and a Judy.
“Satan's Playmates” set their reputation in this day's
fighting, which would become known as “The
Among their losses was the squadron commander, Charles
Brewer, who disappeared in air combat on
During one interception west of
Following his return to the
Following their support of the invasions of Tinian and Guam in July and early August, “Satan's Playmates” went on to participate Halsey's rampage across the Pacific under the task group command of Admiral Forrest Sherman, McCampbell's old CO in the first Wasp. The air strikes against Okinawa and Formosa in August and September broke the back of Japanese land-based aviation in the region. Attention then turned to the Philippines in October, 1944, where Air Group 15 solidified their reputation in the Battles of Leyte Gulf October 24-25, 1944, known as the Second Battle of the Philippine Sea, the largest naval battle in history. The Avengers of Torpedo 15 were credited with the fatal hits that sank the super-battleship Musashi in the Sibuyan Sea on October 24, while the Helldivers of Bombing 15 were credited with the hits that sank the carrier Zuikaku, last survivor of the Pearl Harbor attack, in the Battle off Cape Engano on October 25. The tour ended on November 7, 1944, following strikes on Manila Bay.
Between June 11 and November 7, 1944, “Satan's Playmates” shot down 313 enemy planes in the air and destroyed another 313 on the ground, a score unmatched by any other American fighter unit - Navy, Marine or Air Force - for number destroyed in a similar time period. Dave McCampbell himself became the Navy's Ace of Aces with 34 victories, while his wingman Roy Rushing scored 13 to become the high-scoring “wingman ace” of the war. Spike Borley's score of five before his 20th birthday made him the youngest ace in the Navy and one of a total of 24 VF-15 pilots who became aces during the unit's tour, the second-highest total after VF-2 during their tour on Hornet, where 26 became aces.
Ever since Hobby Boss appeared on the scene, there has been a question of what the relationship is between Hobby Boss and Trumpeter, given that many of the kits released by Hobby Boss are of subjects previously released by Trumpeter in another, usually larger, scale. What I have noticed is there is a close correlation between the earlier Trumpeter kit and the later Hobby Boss kit. Where the Trumpeter kit “got it right,” the Hobby Boss kit is also “right”, and with kits where Trumpeter “got it wrong” Hobby Boss also gets it wrong and in exactly the same way. A good example is the botched Spitfire V. Trumpeter had so many outline inaccuracies in their 1/24 Spitfire V that I considered it possibly the worst Spitfire kit ever released. Not only was the profile wrong, but they botched the fuselage cross section, making it too round and too fat throughout. The godawful Hobby Boss 1/32 Spitfire V kit makes all of the same unfixably-wrong mistakes. Basically, the relationship of Trumpeter and Hobby Boss is when Trumpeter sneezes, Hobby Boss comes down with a cold.
This is not the case for everything Hobby Boss does. Almost all of the releases that are “original” with Hobby Boss are generally acceptable. Some purists cannot stand the way the radiator is on the Ta-152C kit, but for the overwhelming majority of those who buy and build the kit, it is just fine as an example of an airplane of which only four were ever made. The F3H-2 Demon kit is superior to the release from Grand Phoenix. There's a whole list of other original kits that are just fine.
Sadly, the F6F Hellcat series is not one of those. It is as badly botched as the original 1/32 release by Trumpeter, and just as really unfixably wrong. When I did the two 1/32 kits, I managed to make the fuselage sort of look like what it should, but no matter what I did, in the end it was wrong, and it was obviously so. The fuselage was too wide and was completely wrong in cross section at all stations from firewall aft to the vertical fin leading edge. The same is true here. And in this scale you can't do the industrial-strength pushing and shoving and bending I did in the Trumpeter projects. The fuselage is just bad and there isn't a damn thing that can be done about it.
However, not all of the kit is awful. The wings are quite good. There is a very nice wing-folded option for those who might like to pose their model in that particular configuration. Comparing that wing to the Eduard kit, the fabric detail of the flaps and ailerons is far better, as is the fit of those items to the wing. The same is true of the horizontal stabilizer and elevators. If you cut the rudder parts off the fuselage halves, you can make a better rudder. The landing gear is more detailed and the wheel well is far more accurate. The cowling is fine if you only want the late-production version, and it has open cowl flaps, something you can only get otherwise with the long out of production Cutting Edge resin cowling to correct the Hasegawa Hellcat. The wheels are right as to overall size and also their cross-section as regards their thickness.
So what do you do if you already have it and you just read what I wrote above?
I started by cutting the Eduard fuselage parts so that the one-piece Hobby Boss lower wing section can be attached. This mostly involved eye-balling things and then cutting straight with a razor saw. I taped the Eduard fuselage halves together, then taped the upper inner wings to the lower wing of the Hobby Boss kit, and then test fitted. There is a gap on top, and it is enough that the easy thing to do is use some Evergreen strip attached to the wing and then shaped to fit the Eduard fuselage. Once I saw that, it was easy to see that all that would be needed was some cyanoacrylate glue to fill in the gap, followed by some putty and finished with some Tamiya surfacer. I also needed to fill in the rear area of the Eduard fuselage where their wing fit since the Hobby Boss flaps couldn't fill that area. I did that with Squadron Green Stuff. So far, nothing that “some modeling skill required” couldn't deal with.
I painted and assembled the cockpit and put it in the fuselage. While all that was setting up, I assembled the Hobby Boss wing with the wing-fold option, following instructions. I attached the Evergreen strip to the inner wing joint and sanded it to fit the Eduard fuselage. I then glued the wing and fuselage sub-assemblies together, following that with applications of putty, more sanding, and Tamiya surfacer, and more sanding.
The Hobby Boss horizontal stabilizer was easy to attach to the Eduard kit after I cut off the tabs of the Hobby Boss parts and butt-fitted them to the Eduard fuselage. I then realized I had gotten rid of the Hobby Boss fuselage without realizing I would want the rudder, so I used the Eduard rudder.
I had to cut down the engine mount on the Eduard fuselage so I could use the better-looking Hobby Boss engine, which I assembled and painted and then attached. I finished that off by attaching the cowling, which fit perfectly. The end of initial assembly was to assemble and attach the very nice Hobby Boss landing gear.
I also used the Eduard drop tank since it is better shaped. I used Evergreen strip for the bracing straps.
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
I used the Eduard decals to do an otherwise-anonymous F6F-3 of VF-15 as it would have appeared shortly after the Marianas Turkey Shoot. As my good friend Spike Borley - one of two VF-15 pilots who is still with us - told me, the only people in the air group who had their own airplanes with individual markings were McCampbell and the three squadron commanders. Everyone else flew what was ready to go on deck, which varied from mission to mission, with airplanes carrying Japanese flag stickers to signify victories won in the airplane, though often by different pilots.
I unmasked the canopy and windshield and attached the canopy in the open position. I then attached the main wheels and prop, and finished off by attaching the outer wings in the folded position.
You could probably do this conversion using a Hasegawa
Hellcat kit more easily, since you would not have to cut up the fuselage so the
wing could fit.
Since Hobby Boss makes an F6F-5 kit, you could use that as well.
As I said, the price of the Hobby Boss kit is less than
the Dangerboy wing-folded conversion, assuming you can find it in stock at Lone
The end result looks good and is not difficult to accomplish.
I mostly did this because I wanted to do an Air Group 15
Hellcat since I am in the middle of writing “Fabled Fifteen: Air Group 15 in the
Pacific War” which will be published later this spring as an e-book.
(Your editor notes the blatant plug! ;) )
(Your editor notes the blatant plug! ;) )
Review kit courtesy HobbyLink Japan. Get yours here.
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