Hobby Boss 1/32 F-84E Thunderjet

KIT #: 3207
PRICE: 7,840 yen (approx $99) at www.hlj.com
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver
NOTES: Zotz decals

HISTORY

            The Republic F‑84 Thunderjet was the second US jet to achieve production status.  Even the initial aircraft proved superior in performance in all categories other than maneuverability compared with the Lockheed F‑80 Shooting Star.

            The F‑84E was the first of the Thunderjet series to achieve the performance expected in the design, and the first sub‑type to achieve large‑scale production.  This airplane was longer than the F‑84D and earlier versions, which provided a fineness ratio to the fuselage that resulted in a top speed just over 600mph.  The aircraft was also capable of carrying a substantial ordnance load in the fighter‑bomber role, and had the range to be an effective bomber escort.  The F‑84E originally went into production in 1949 to be used by Strategic Air Command in the fighter‑escort role, and equipped the 27th Fighter Escort Wing, led by the legendary Colonel Don Blakeslee, and the 31st Fighter Escort Wing, led by the less well‑known but equally effective Colonel "Mac" McColpin, the only American to have commanded all three Eagle Squadrons in the RAF.

            The Air Force was reluctant to send the "first string" to the Korean War, since most of the top command saw Korea as a sideshow that might turn out to be Act One of World War III, in which case they would need to retain the F‑86A Sabre in the continental U.S. to intercept Soviet bombers attacking with the new Soviet A‑bomb, and use the F‑84E Thunderjet to escort the B‑50s that would retaliate.

            This attitude was slightly modified when the Soviet MiG‑15 showed up over the Yalu in early November.  While the F‑80s of the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing seemed able to hold off the new fighter, it was obvious that this was only due to superior pilot training, since the first‑generation F‑80 was obviously completely outclassed by the second‑generation MiG.  The Sabres of the 4th Fighter Interception wing and the Thunderjets of the 27th Fighter Escort Wing were alerted to move to Korea in late November and arrived in the theater in early December 1950, as UN forces reeled down the Korean Peninsula following the intervention of the Red Chinese army in the conflict.

            Don Blakeslee led the first F‑84E mission over Korea in mid‑December.  The New Year saw the F‑84E enter combat against the MiGs, and while some victories were eked out ‑ again due to superior tactics and pilot training ‑ it was obvious the F‑84E did not have the ability to go toe‑to‑toe with the MiG‑15 in the air superiority role, or even in the fighter escort role defending the B‑29s.  However, the F‑84E had range, speed and load‑carrying capability that far exceeded that of the F‑80C in the fighter‑bomber role.  The F‑84E and later F‑84G would take on the chore of ground attack in the Korean War in the same way its predecessor the P‑47 Thunderbolt had done in Europe during the Second World War.

      The 49th Fighter‑Bomber Group ‑ which had operated the F‑80C since Day One of the Korean War, was re‑equipped with F‑84Es in the late Spring of 1951, just before the 27th FEW was to return to the U.S.  The 49th's Thunderjets were among the most colorful of the period, with the red‑and‑white, black‑and‑white and black‑and‑yellow rudder stripes that differentiated the 7th, 8th and 9th Fighter‑Bomber Squadrons that made up the group.

     The F‑84E would also set a standard for future Air Force fighters by becoming the first capable of air‑to‑air refueling when probes for the British "probe‑and‑drogue" system were fitted to the airplane's tip tanks; two different long‑range missions to the Yalu were flown out of Japan to prove the system after the F‑84Es had been flown across the Pacific non‑stop from Hawaii to Japan. 

Robert L. Scott Jr. Tours Africa:

            In the fall of 1951, Colonel Robert L. Scott, Jr., had commanded the 36th Fighter-Bomber Wing at Furstenfeldbruck AFB in the American occupation zone of West Germany for a year, following his creation of the Jet Fighter School at Williams AFB in Arizona.  The wing, based furthest east in West Germany of any USAF unit, liked to boast that they were “8 minutes from the Reds.”  The winter of 1951 was particularly harsh, with little flying going on.  Scott was bored.  Being the very creative guy he was, he latched onto a way to go where the flying weather was good, with Air Force approval, and get some publicity into the bargain. 

            Scott sold USAFE on the fact that no Air Force aircraft had operated in Africa south of Wheelus AFB in Libya since the Second World War, and that a survey of the flight facilities available in the “dark continent” would provide information of use to Air Force planning. 

            The mission took place in November 1951, and involved Scott and a wingman flying down to Wheelus AFB outside Tripoli.  From there, they flew to Khartoum, in the Sudan, then on to Nairobi, Kenya.  In both cases, the two F-84Es were the first jets to ever operate in those countries.  They departed Nairobi for Johannesburg, where their arrival created a sensation.  The return flight over western Africa with stops at Lagos, Nigeria and Accra, Ghana, finishing off at Casablanca before returning to Germany, allowed Scott to claim the first circumnavigation of Africa by jet, and was indeed a major flight accomplishment for the Air Force.

            Yours truly had the great privilege of meeting General Scott - one of my heroes as both a pilot and a writer - at the 1984 American Fighter Aces Association convention, where he gave me the best compliment I've ever received as a writer, telling me that an article I had written about Chuck Yeager that had been published earlier that year in “Retired Officer” magazine was “the best, most knowledgeable article about a fighter pilot I've ever read.”  I truly treasure those words.

THE KIT

            I'll refer you to Scott Van Aken's preview  I will say that the surface detail on this kit is some of the most petite detail I have ever seen on any kit, and the result is very realistic, comparing it with the two F-84 fuselages that are out at Planes of Fame. 

CONSTRUCTION

             I refer you to Scott Van Aken's review.  Overall, my experience was basically similar to his, and you can follow that review with the modifications I explain here, to a good result.

             Overall, the fit of this kit is superb, if you remember to test fit three times before gluing once.  I found that the intake interior was a big too long on the front tip, which kept the intake cap from fitting easily.  I cut this back 1/16 inch on the upper and lower lips, and the cap fitted perfectly.  If you are very careful in assembling the fuselage halves once you have the interior in place, you will have virtually no centerline seam to worry about; I was able to get rid of that seam on this model by scraping it and applying a bit of Tamiya surfacer to hide it completely.

            The color call-outs in the kit instructions are wrong.  The wheel wells and gear door interiors should be Yellow Zinc Chromate.  I added some Tamiya Flat Yellow to the Tamiya Zinc Chromate bottle and got what I was looking for.  After it dried, I applied a thin coat of Tamiya “Smoke” to pop out detail and give the impression of oil and grease smears one would find on the operational airplane.  Additionally, the cockpit should be Interior Green for the floor control stick, rudder pedals, ejection seat and fore and aft bulkheads, with the side consoles, the cockpit wall above the consoles, the instrument panel, the gunsight, and the rear area under the canopy all Flat Black.

             The “early” seat is right for the F-84E, but it does not have the back pad that the original was equipped with.  I used the seat pad from the “late” seat, sanded thinner, and that filled the bill perfectly.  I used Eduard photoetch late WW2 seatbelts to add additional detail.

             I did not like the way the canopy came with the reinforcements molded proud on the exterior, which is completely wrong.  I made the radical decision to sand them off, then polish out the canopy using my Micro-Mesh kit, planning to then either have an early F-84E canopy without frames, or to apply them internally with decal stripes.  This good idea turned out not to be so good, when I managed to apply enough pressure while polishing out the canopy to put a pressure crack right down the middle!  Aaaack!!!  Not good!  I was able to save it by the fact it was a fully-internal crack that did not break the surface of the canopy.  I was thus able to fake it with decal applied down the interior centerline, which hides it almost completely unless the light hits it from a particular angle.  This centerline brace is not standard for most F-84 canopies, but I did find a photo of one that appears to have an additional strengthening  tape down the length of the canopy.  Fortunately, the ultimate destination of this model is the Planes of Fame Museum, where I am sure that 99.9999999% of the visitors who look at it will not notice this “inaccuracy.”  It would be nice if someone like Falcon would do a vacuform; it would have been nicer for Hobby Boss to include both canopies, as it appeared they would from looking at the first in-box photos of the parts.

            My big squawk about the kit as it arrives in the box is the decals.  The “USAF” and the “buzz number” are wrong; both should be insignia blue rather than black. Not only that, but the national insignia are oversize.  The good news is that Zotz Decals has two F-84 sheets available.  Unfortunately, only one aircraft of all is an F-84E, with the rest being F-84G variants, but the F-84E choice is the famous F-84E flown by Col. Robert L. Scott Jr.  Zotz also provides complete stencil markings, which are far superior to those on the kit decal sheet.

COLORS & MARKINGS

             I painted the tail surfaces with Tamiya Flat White, which I then Futured when it was dry.  I applied the anti-glare markings on the fuselage with Gunze-Sangyo “Olive Drab 1.”  The tip tanks were painted with a blue I mixed to match the shade of the tail stripes on the decal sheet.  I also Futured the tip tanks when dry. When all that was done and had set up for a day, I masked off these areas, and then applied a coat of Tamiya “Flat Aluminum” overall.  When that was dry, I applied a thin coat of Talon acrylic “Aluminum” overall. I then masked certain areas on the fuselage and pained those with Talon “Pewter,” to give a different shade. 

            The Zotz decals went on without problem, though I did find I needed a final application of Solvaset after Micro-Sol had been applied and dried off, in order to get the decals to fully settle into the very petite surface detail.

FINAL CONSTRUCTION

             As Scott mentioned, the canopy is not designed to be posed open, but it's not hard to solve that problem.  However, if you trim the interior plate for the canopy so it is curved on the front edge, and then cut down the after 1/4 inch of the guide rails, you will have no trouble posing the canopy in the open position.

            I didn't like the look of the metal landing gear, so I used the injection plastic parts.  The model is not so heavy that these will ever give way.  I attached the landing gear and then the drop tanks.  Given this was a Wing Commander's airplane, I kept it as clean as photos show it was in real life.

CONCLUSIONS

             Definitely the best kit yet from Hobby Boss, and an excellent representation of the “plank wing” F-84.  The surface detail is superb and gives a very realistic result.  Col. Scott's F-84E Thunderjet is going to look very good sitting in Planes of Fame's Korean War exhibit case next to Captain Joe McConnell's F-86F Sabre, Col. Levi Chase's F-80C Shooting Star, LCDR William Amen's F9F-2 Panther, Lt. Peter Carmichael's Sea Fury, and Col. Yevgeni Pepelyaev's MiG-15bis.

An excellent model of a great airplane, and definitely recommended.

 Review kit courtesy of HobbyLink Japan.  Order yours at: http://www.hlj.com/product/HOB23207  

Decals courtesy of Zotz Decals: order yours at www.zotzdecals.com

Tom Cleaver

July 2011

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