|KIT:||Fisher Models 1/32 F9F-8T Cougar|
|NOTES:||Resin kit with photo etch parts|
Grumman began development of a two-seat trainer version of the F9F-8 Cougar in November 1953 under the designation Design 105, shortly after the single-seater went into production. The company-funded project was intended to meet future Navy needs for a combat-capable two-seat trainer to serve alongside single-seat Cougars in fleet squadrons. Grumman believed the two-seat Cougar could also serve as a carrier-landing trainer and as a trainer to familiarize pilots with the then-new process of in-flight refueling. Originally, the 105 was to carry the same 4-cannon armament as the single-seater.
The Navy’s initial response was that there was no need for the airplane, since the Lockheed T2V-1 Sea Star would fulfill all requirements for a carrier-capable trainer. However, Grumman was authorized to complete one F9F-8 airframe - BuNo 141667 - as a two seater under the designation YF9F-8T.
The forward fuselage of the F9F-8 was extended 34 inches to make room for the second cockpit. The student was seated in front with the instructor in the rear under a large rearward-sliding canopy, with an auxiliary windshield provided internally ahead of the instructor's seat, thus enabling the aircraft to be flown with a partially-open canopy during a carrier landing. As the Cougar was never over-powered, two of the four cannon were removed to save weight and the ammunition supply for the two remaining was cut in half.
The YF9F-8T first flew April 4, 1956. As it turned out it was good the Navy had allowed Grumman to proceed, since the T2V-1 Sea Star had many problems with its then-revolutionary boundary-layer control system. The lack of armament in the T2V-1 meant it could not be used as a weapons delivery trainer. All this led the Navy to acquire 399 production F9F-8Ts between July 1956 and February 1960. Most were fitted with a in-flight refueling probe in the nose, and late-production F9F-8Ts were equipped at the factory to carry two Sidewinder missiles under each wing, but this capability was seldom retained in service.
The F9F-8T - known as the “Two-gar” - entered service with Naval Air Training Command in 1957 and eventually equipped five squadrons. Shortly after entering service, the Blue Angels adopted the F9F-8T for use as their “public relations” airplane to take reporters and local dignitaries aloft during team visits. “Navy-7" remained with the team after they transitioned to the F-11F-1 Tiger in 1961, and was used by the team until 1967. This airplane is now on display aboard the USS “Lexington” floating museum at Corpus Christi.
The F9F-8T participated in the first demonstration of the Martin-Baker zero-zero ejection seat when RAF Flight Lt Sydney Hughes ejected from the aft cockpit of an F9F-8T on August 28, 1957, flying at ground level and 120 mph. F9F-8Ts were later flown by the Naval Parachute Facility at NAS El Centro for ejection seat tests, during which they flew with the rear section of the canopy removed.
Grumman proposed a radar-equipped night fighter version of the F9F-8T in 1955, using an AN/APQ-50 radar with an all-missile armament. With the additional weight, performance was considered insufficient. This led Grumman in 1961to propose modernizing the F9F-8T with updated systems and a Pratt & Whitney J52 turbojet replacing the J48. The Navy chose the Douglas TA-4F instead, which closed the book on further development of the two-seat Cougar.
The new Defense Department Tri-Service designation scheme led to the F9F-8T being redesignated TF-9J in 1962.
The Cougar finally saw combat in 1966-67, when four TF-9Js of H&MS-13 were flown in the Forward Air Control role, directing air strikes against enemy positions in South Vietnam in support of the Third Marine Division in I Corps.
The TF-9J continued in service long after the single-seaters had been sent to the boneyards. VT-4, The last squadron to use the TF-9J, finally retired its last TF-9J in February 1974. That airplane - F9F-8T BuNo 147276 - is now on display at the National Museum of USN Naval Aviation at Pensacola.
This F9F-8T by Paul Fisher is the first “Two-gar” in 1/32. Previously, a 1/48 resin F9F-8T was released by Collectaire, while Falcon did a 1/72 vacuform conversion for use with the Hasegawa F9F-8. In terms of overall quality, this kit is the best of the three. Modelers who are familiar with the previously-released F9F-5 Panther and F9F-8 Cougar by Fisher Models know the level of quality to expect. As with those two kits, the quality of the cast resin is the best in the industry.
The kit provides both the original Grumman ejection seats used before 1961, and the later Martin-Baker Mk.5 seats used through most of the 1960s. The seats a beautifully cast and include photo-etch seatbelts fully able to depict the complicated belts used on the Martin-Baker seats. The cockpit is fully detailed with a one piece floor/console thin side walls, and the rest of the various bits and pieces, with instrument panels done with film and photo-etch. The canopy, which can be posed open or closed, is clear resin, already dipped in Future to obtain exceptional clarity. Posing this with the canopy closed will present no problem for seeing the detail in the cockpit.
Six aircraft are on the huge decal sheet, including the Blue Angels “Navy-7,” one of the four TF-9Js flown by H&MS-13 as Fast FACs in Vietnam, two Navy and one Marine trainers in International Orange and Gloss White, and a station hack at NAS Atsugi in Gloss White and Flourescent Red-Orange that I think I saw in person once back in my Navy days. The decal sheet also includes all stencils. Designed by Jennings Heilig and printed by Eli Raphael’s Zotz Decals, it looks to be of excellent quality.
As I said in my review of the single-seat Fisher Models Cougar, these kits are so well-designed, making assembly so simple, that a modeler would have to actively plan how to screw things up in the assembly.
Unlike the single-seater, the extra cockpit and lengthened nose makes the model a natural nose-sitter, so that it does not need the 11 pennies for weight of the other kits.
I began with the cockpit, and started with the two ejection seats. The kit supplies both the original Grumman ejection seat and the later Martin-Baker Mk. 5 seat used by the F9f-8T after 1961. Since I had chosen to do the Atsugi station hack, I went with the Martin-Baker seats. The kit instructions provide the color call-out for the seats, and a very detailed photo instruction on how to properly apply the maze of seatbelts this seat uses. Following the instructions, everything comes together without a problem.
Setting aside the seats, I proceeded to paint the cockpit parts Dark Gull Grey. When that was dry, I painted the consoles and the photo etch instrument panels black with Tamiya Semi-Gloss Black. I drybrushed these areas with Testor’s Model Master Aluminum to “pop out” detail, then painted some of the buttons and switches various colors using the color photos of Cougar cockpits in the Detail & Scale book on the Cougar as a guide. When this was all dry I assembled the cockpit, which went together easily except for the side walls above the consoles, which required me to glue them a bit at a time, tacking them down with cyanoacrylate accelerator, to get a good fit. The cockpit then slid into position inside the hollow-cast fuselage as advertised and was glued into position.
I then attached the wing. When I built the single-seater, I glued the flaps in the up position, filling in the gaps and sanding them smooth. For this model, I decided to go with the option of attaching the flaps in a slightly-drooped “down” position. This meant I didn’t attach them until after I had painted the model. In retrospect, I would not do this, because the attachment is not strong, and any time you grab the model by leading and trailing edge of the wing (something I do frequently when working on a model), the flap will break off. By the time I realized that gluing it in was the preferred option, it was too late since I wasn’t interested in repainting that area. Not only is it a weak joint, but comparing this model to the single-seater, I think the model looks better with the flaps up and the wing smooth.
With the fuselage-wing joint sealed with cyanoacrylate glue, I then attached the horizontal stabilizers, leaving off the elevators for later attachment after painting.
The canopy is beautifully clear, so I decided to attach it in the closed position, since it would be easy to see the cockpit detail, and - to my mind at least - the Two-Gar looks better with the canopy closed than with it slid open all the way.
There is one note of caution for you to bear in mind in building this model: the wing fences, which are molded onto the wing, are very thin, and if you are silly enough to grab the wing in such a way as put pressure on the fences, they will crack along the wing joint, and once broken they are the very devil to really repair. Keep your hands at least an inch away from these fences! (I speak from hard-earned experience.) Additionally, be very careful with the intake boundary layer splitter plates, since they are also very thin - if you grab the model by the nose, be sure you don’t grab it on these, or it is very easy to knock off the tip, which is again the very devil to get back in position accurately and smoothly. (Again, this lesson comes from experience.)
Once the model was together and the canopy glass had been masked off with Tamiya masking tape, it was time to go to the paint shop.
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
Warning: the orange-white trainer scheme on this model is one of the most difficult paint jobs I ever did. The model is large and you are dealing with two colors that really don’t like each other at all.
First, I painted the leading edges of the wings and tail with SNJ Aluminum, and masked it off with Tamiya tape before proceeding further.
I made the mistake of then deciding to paint the model overall with Gunze-Sangyo US Navy Gloss White. From my experience, I would strongly suggest you start instead with a good hard white paint from a spray can. In talking about this with Paul Fisher, he told me he used Krylon, and I would advise you to do the same. The reason for this is that you have to handle the model, and you are going to chip paint from masking or handling if you aren’t both lucky and careful, which will require you to go back over those areas - not an easy thing to do once you have the second color on. Krylon makes a good base coat. After you have that on, you can use something like the Gunze-Sangyo color I used to give a multi-hue white finish - on a model this big, leaving the white areas a dead white will really detract from the final result.
Since you are painting on resin, be sure to leave the model sit for a few days once you have done all the white painting, to be sure the paint cures completely before proceeding - this is true even with acrylics. You are going to have to mask over all the white area when you go to do the orange color, and if it isn’t fully cured you will pull paint up when you unmask.
And now on to the @#$%$#@! @#@!! day-glo orange.
Having learned my lesson many years ago, there was no way I was going to use that absolutely awful Testor’s Model Master Day-Glo. I also learned my lesson this past year on the Meteor trainer not to go with Gunze-Sangyo Day-Glo alone. What I did was go for a “brand new paint job” look, which happens to be right for the subject I was doing though I would have done so anyway. I mixed some Gunze-Sangyo “Orange-Yellow” and “Red Madder” in with the Day-Glo, to get an orange color with day-glo overtones. After I applied it, I went back over it, adding in some additional Day-Glo on one pass, and some white on the next, to get a “multi-hue” faded look to the areas. Day-Glo starts to fade and peel within about 30 seconds of original application on the real thing - when I was in the Navy, I never ever saw a real airplane in this color where the paint didn’t look weathered to some degree, usually quite a bit, even right out of the paint shop - the color was impossible to apply smoothly, so it always looked a bit “ragged” in person.
Given you have to mask the entire white area of the airframe before applying this color, the process of unmasking is where the want of a good hard white basecoat will become obvious. I proceeded to spend the next several painting sessions airbrushing a white “ding,” then airbrushing an orange ”ding” created while trying to fix the previous one, leaving the model alone to allow the paint to completely cure between fixes, before I finally felt safe in applying a thick coat of Future over the model. I let that cure for two days, and then masked the nose anti-glare area and the wing-walks, and painted them black.
In retrospect, I would have masked-off the areas where the number on the nose, the serial on the tail, the station name on the fin, and the “NAVY” on the lower wing are positioned, because it turned out I couldn’t find an all-white decal sheet that was opaque enough to not let at least the hint of the fact it was applied over that orange paint show through. From a distance, with the black numbers and letters on top, this isn’t so apparent, but from closer than 12 inches in good light the problem is glaringly obvious even to my bifocaled eyes.
To reiterate, the secret to avoid turning the atmosphere in your work space as purple as mine got during this project is a good solid white base coat to begin with.
While the white backing decals didn’t really work, the white backing printed on the national insignia with the kit sheet is very opaque and presents no problem of any orange hue coming through. Past that, the decals - printed by Eli Raphael’s Zotz Decals - went down without problem under a light brushing of Micro-Sol. The main thing here is that the decals are large, so use lots of water while getting them into position, which you can then blot up with Kleenex before applying any setting solution.
I gave the model a good coat of Xtracrylix Satin Varnish and set it aside to dry for 24 hours. I then applied thin coats of airbrushed Dullcote to the orange areas, which finally had them looking like they were painted Day-Glo. (If you do one of the other trainers that are in International Orange, this won’t be an issue, since the overall airframe will be gloss). I then unmasked the canopy and applied the frame seal decals, which went on without problems.
I then attached the landing gear, exhaust cone, tail hook and nose probe. The last items were the clear resin wingtip lights, landing light and beacon housing. At that point I heaved a huge sigh of relief and gratefully carried the model over to sit next to its single-seat relative.
I remember first seeing an F9F-8T on the cover of Air Classics when it first entered service, and thought it looked totally cool in its orange-white scheme. When I ran across F9F-8Ts in the Navy, they looked even better in person. Thus, I am really glad that Paul Fisher has brought us this very high-quality kit of one of my favorite jets in my new favorite scale of 1/32.
This kit provides sufficient detail out of the box to create a great model, while also providing those who want to add extra detail the scope to do so.
Some people will have sticker-shock at a price of $195, which is an increase from the $175 charged for the previous kits. This increase is due entirely to the increased price in resin - which is a petroleum-based product (and we all know where oil prices are going). That said, it is not over-expensive for what you get in terms of quality, unlike some other limited-run kits out there. Consider that you’re going to get very close to this if you buy a Trumpeter kit, or other high-end 1/32 kit, with a few aftermarket sets and decals, and you’ll see that this price really isn’t that far out of line.
If you like U.S. Naval Aviation as a modeling subject, you will not be disappointed by what you get here - this is the kind of kit that can make an average modeler look really good with the completed model. If you do one of the orange and white trainer schemes, the dramatic look of the finished model more than makes up for the several gallons of sweat you’ll pump out getting that done.
Thanks to Paul Fisher for the review copy. Get yours at www.fishermodels.com
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