Airfix 1/72 F2A-1 Buffalo
Old kit, but can be
built into several variants.
The Brewster Buffalo has
been badmouthed for years, so Iím not going to continue the process.
In fact, it is one of my favorite airplanes, and I actually knew a Marine
Corps pilot who trained in them in
during World War II, and his comments were positive.
Of course, by that time, the airplane was no longer in frontline service,
and he wasnít in combat with the type, but for its time, it did the job.
A lot has been written about the planeís
inadequacies, but it was usually committed to combat using freshly trained,
inexperienced pilots flying against enemy pilots with much more combat
In reality, pilot
training and experience seem to be as important as the marginal performance
features of a particular aircraft.
Brewster was a
company that had only built aircraft components up until the late thirties, when
they designed the SBA-1 dive bomber prototype for the Navy.
Although the companyís production facility was located in a downtown
factory, they built airframes that were trucked to
for assembly and flight testing.
When the Navy wanted a fighter to replace the
Grumman F3F biplane series,
Brewsterís XF2A-1 seemed just the thing, and the Navy ordered it into
Only 11 were
accepted by the Navy; the remainder were sold to
although they were too late to participate in the ďWinter WarĒ when the Russians
invaded in 1940.
VF-3 was the only
unit to operate the F2A-1, flying off USS
Some were rebuilt to F2A-2 standard, and these were used for training.
The Finnish Model 239 was essentially an F2A-1 with naval equipment
removed. The Finns made some local modifications to the type during 1940 and
1941, and assigned the aircraft to several experienced fighter squadrons.
The type was very successful in Finnish service against the Russians, and
many pilots became aces on the type, besting such Russian operated fighters as
Spitfires, Hurricanes, Yakís, and even the LA-5.
featured a 1,200 hp. Wright
R-1820 replacing the 950 hp. Engine of the F2A-1.
It was slightly longer, and although several squadrons were equipped with
the type, the model was approved for
export, and many were sold to
The main problems seem to have been in the landing gear, which sometimes
collapsed, and the engines, some of which were recently overhauled engines from
DC-3 airliners, and these were sometimes unreliable in service.
In addition, the Brewster
firm was a lot better at selling airplanes than building them, and the Navy
became disillusioned with the company, eventually taking it over during World
War II due to poor management. Most export models
that didnít go to
were similar to the F2A-2, but lacking naval equipment.
The F2A-3 was
the last production model, and had more up-to-date equipment, but no more power
than the F2A-2.
A total of 108 was
Although using the same
engine as the F2A-2,
the F2A-3 was
considerably heavier, and performance suffered.
By that time,
preferred the F4F-3 Wildcat, which was also in production, and development of
the F2A ended.
The type was shunted
off to the Marines and training units, and the first
combat use involved VMF-221ís successful interception of a Japanese
ďEmilyĒ flying boat near
Later, VMF-211 was used in the defense of
battle, and many were lost.
Although the airplane was blamed for this defeat, the lack of experience
of many of the Marine pilots was also a contributing factor. Later,
the F2A-3ís were all sent back to the States, where they were used for
The Airfix Brewster F2A-1
kit has been around for many years, and although it has some serious issued,
they are easily corrected by any serious modeler.
To begin with, although the kit is supposed to represent the F2A-1,
the cowling is too short for this version.
There is not much cockpit detail except for the seat, and the wheel well
lacks any kind of detail.
the nose up to the firewall, forward of the wing leading edges,
is approximately the correct length
(perhaps a few inches too short), and by replacing the cowling, a reasonably
accurate F2A-1 and F2A-2 can be made.
Otherwise, the outline is very close for a kit of this vintage, and if
the boiler plate rivets are removed, a degree of realism can be achieved. The
engine is very good, although the prop is useless.
Decals are provided for two
Brewster 339E, TD-V, AN185, RAAF, at
Brewster F2A-2, BuNo. 1412,
2-F-7 of VF-2, USS Lexington, Pacific Fleet, 1941.
The decals are very thin and
in good register.
The colors are
right on, and these decals go on without the need for trimming.
I used the kit decals for my model, and was very satisfied with them.
Dutch Decal has produced
some decals for some of the Dutch, Australian, and
Buffalos operated in the
during the war.
These are in 1/72
and 1/48 scale. I have these, and they look very good, although I havenít had
the opportunity to use them yet. (Check the decal previews page for these).
I began by sanding off the
rivets, but first I masked off the control surfaces, as I wanted to save the
I then detailed the
cockpit by adding
plastic strips to
simulate the fuselage side structure and three instrument panels and the side
detail equipment. I mounted the seat on the base provided for it, drilling a
hole under the seat for the control stick, which I build from plastic rod.
The small set of windows in the belly need to be inserted into their
position from the inside before the cockpit floor, such as it is, in glued to
the lower wing assembly.
Be sure to
in the cockpit
with interior green, as you can see everything from the outside.
I added rudder pedals and referred to some interior photos for instrument
four ribs in the gear strut wells, I assembled the wings, adding some filler in
After the fuselage halves
were joined, I attached the wing unit, gluing the front and back attachment
parts but leaving the wing root assemblies unglued. When dry, I used a rubber
band to get the proper dihedral angle, and then glued the wing roots to the
The tailplanes fit
right into place, but they do have tops and bottoms, so make sure they are
installed right side up.
point, I added the tail cone and filled in the tail hook hole.
I then built up the roll bar assembly aft of the pilotís seat and added
an RAF style reflector gunsight. The Navy versions had a telescopic sight, and
this is included in the kit, along with a different windshield. After attaching
the canopy sections, which fit perfectly, I masked them off and did the basic
painting. The masking was tedious, but not as difficult as I had anticipated.
The only serious
problem I had was with the landing gear.
If you insert it inside of the wheel wells, the airplane appears to sit
I attached the gear leg
bases to the point just outboard of the gear strut wells, and the inside strut
was just long enough to allow the assembly to sit at the right angle.
The kit tail wheel is way too small, so I replaced it with one from the
The cowling is
the basic problem with this kit.
is too short, even for the F2A-1 version.
Outside of using half a tube of putty, the only solution is to replace
The good news is that the
Revell Buffalo kitís cowling
perfect, and can just be attached to the firewall and it looks just great.
The Airfix kitís engine is very good, and can be used with some trimming,
but it needs to be mounted on a short piece of plastic tubing, as otherwise, it
will sit too far back in the new cowling.
Airfix prop, however, needs to be
replaced by that from the Revell kit.
The prop cuffs are very subdued on this unit, and they can be sanded off
very easily. The spinner is just the right shape.
The Airfix kit prop is useless for any
kit, even the ones that didnít use a spinner.
I used the Airfix kit decals
for the RAAF version, which was ďsand and spinachĒ on top and ďsky and blackí
The decals were a snap,
and didnít require any solutions.
did add some black wingwalks, as some photos of RAF Buffalos show them, and some
These planes would have been
heavily weathered and worn, so mine is pretty grungy looking, but then, it
certainly hadnít been in the factory or overhaul depot for a long time at that
stage of the game.
With the Revell cowling and
prop, any of the British, Belgian, and Dutch aircraft (339B, C, D, & E) can be
modeled, as well as the F2A-2.
Major differences involve the
and tailcone. I have done an F2A-3 from this kit, and intend to do
On this conversion,
you need to add some length to the firewall before mounting a Revell
I suppose that the cowling from a Matchbox kit would also work, but it is
slightly shorter, and I think the Revell
unit is best.
The F2A-3 didnít use a spinner in most cases, and since it had a cuffed
prop, finding a good prop might be a problem.
However, I recently built a Hobby Boss FM-2, which provides just such a
prop, and which is wrong for the FM-2.
saving that prop for my next F2A-3 or 339-23. The prop from an Airfix Grumman
FM-2 will also work for the
uncuffed props used on the export models.
break down as follows.
references for exact details.
Radio mast on left side. Detail differences.
First Navy version with short cowling.
Export model for
As F2A-1 with
tailwheel, reflector gunsight.
Second Navy version.
larger tailwheel. Otherwise similar to F2A-2.
Longer fuselage, short tailcone.
Small Navy-type tailwheel. Revised canopy. No spinner.
As F2A-3 except for long tailcone, large tailwheel, and earlier canopy.
out with a series of
kits in 1996 and 1997, and these kits are easily superior to the Airfix kits,
although they are much more expensive.
The problem is that they only produced the F2A-1, F2A-2, and Finnish
They could have easily
added parts to make the longer nosed F2A-3/339-23, but for some reason didnít.
I have built these kits and they are great, and the F2A-2 kit would work
for any of the British, Dutch, and Belgian versions.
But the Airfix kits still have some value if you donít mind doing some
extra work and have the spare parts to do the modifications.
Highly recommended for
experienced modelers with a hefty spares box.
This kit is a challenge, but it was a lot of fun for me.
will probably only
run about 10
cents an hour, if that much.
In Action, No. 81
William Green & Gordon
WW2 Aircraft Fact
Navy and Marine Corps Fighters
Profile Publications No. 217
The Brewster Buffalo
Kari Stenman and Andrew
Osprey Aces Series No. 91.
Aces of World War II.
Gerard Casius & Luuk Boerman.
History: Camouflage and Markings.
The Luckless defender of
AAHS Journal, Summer, 1998
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