Sword 1/72 Lockheed T-33A

KIT #: SW 72028
PRICE: $26.96 SRP
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Derek Olson
NOTES: Includes resin detail parts


The Lockheed T-33 trainer was derived from the single seat P-80 series fighter.  This 1940s design was so successful that more than 7,000 were eventually built and trained pilots in just about every western nation for over 30 years.  The last Air National Guard T-Birds were withdrawn from service and sent to storage at Davis-Monthan AFB in 1988.  Many were rearmed and sent “south of the border” to soldier on in Central America air forces.  The T-Bird seems to a popular choice for memorials and gate guards.  Many examples can be found on display all across the US.  Several still fly on in private hands.  Hopefully this attractive aircraft will still be around for many years to come. 


  The kit consists of 51 injection molded parts with finely engraved panel lines that are very well done.  The clear parts are thin and clear.  A dip in Future makes them crystal clear.  A small selection of resin items is included.  The resin parts consist of: the ejection seats, main and nose landing gear wells, nose gear lights, front instrument panel dash, and the main canopy rails.  Another resin piece is included that looks like a gun sight but no mention is made of it in the kit instructions.  I didn’t use it and added it to the spares box.  The plastic parts look very nice and crisp except for the wheels.  The spokes in the wheel hubs aren’t very sharply molded and the wheels themselves look a little lop-sided.  A set of True Details resin wheels might be a good investment if you build this kit.  I went with the kit wheels but would buy the True Details wheels if I were to do another one.


 This kit started like almost every other aircraft model with the cockpit.  The instrument panels and tub are nicely molded with tiny details.  I sprayed the cockpit Testors Model Master Neutral Gray.  Careful application of black paint detailed the instruments and pit and I added some black, red, and yellow decal bits to finish things off.  The seats and sticks were painted at this time but I didn’t install them until the very end.  The wheel wells were sprayed with Testors Model Master Dark Green and set aside.  I added a black water color wash to give these parts some depth once the paint was dry.

The intake plates and tail pipe were painted and glued in place at this time.  Care must be taken installing the intake plates into each fuselage half as there aren’t any locators to make sure they are properly installed.  The instructions aren’t much help either.   I hope this didn’t contribute to the fuselage / wing fit problems encountered during construction (more on that later).  The resin dash in front of the front instrument panel was tricky to fit in place as well since once again, there isn’t really anything to go by in terms of a positive locator.  Dry fitting is necessary to obtain a good, proper fit.  I super glued it in place and reinforced it underneath with some scrap sheet styrene bits.  Some lead fishing weight was super glued in the nose and the resin nose gear well was also super glued in place at the same time.  A little Play Doh was stuck over the lead to keep from ever moving.  The tub and tail pipe were glued into the left fuselage half and then both fuselage halves were glued together.  There aren’t any locating pins so be sure to take your time and line everything up properly to save yourself extra sanding work later.  Once I was satisfied with the alignment, it was clamped and set aside to dry.

Worked started on the wings next.  There were many tall ejector pins on the plastic that have to be removed here. A few passes with my trusty Dremel tool and they were gone.  I first super glued the resin main wheel / air brake well into the bottom wing. Then the top halves of the wings were glued on.  I clamped the wing assembly and set it aside to dry.  The trailing edges are thin and look good right out of the box.

Once the glue had dried on the fuselage and wings it was time to join them together.  This is where I ran into the only real headache of the build.  Dry fitting revealed a poor fit with large gaps around the air intakes and wing roots.  I used my Dremel tool to remove some of the resin from the top of the main wheel well piece.  I thought it might be hitting the bottom of the cockpit tube.  I went ahead and thinned the bottom of the cockpit tub too.  I trimmed and thinned the intake plates also in an attempt to close the gaps as much as possible.  Try as I might, the big gaps remained.  I gritted my teeth and glued everything together with liquid cement – I even stuck some pieces of stretched sprue into the wing root gaps while the glue was still wet.  Once dry, the filling-sanding-repeat started along the joints with 3M auto body putty filler and super glue.  This went on for some time before I was satisfied with the results.  I even set the model aside for a time as I was tired of fighting with the seams.  After a little break and some more sanding (plus inspiration in the form of the new Xtradecal sheet), a final application of super glue and sandpaper cleaned up the joint and I could finally move on.

The horizontal stabs were last.  No tabs or other locators here.  These attach to the tail with a simple butt-joint.  Care must be exercised here to make sure the stabs are lined up properly.

Once the glue was dry I dressed up the remaining seams.  All lost panel lines were re-scribed with a needle chucked in a pin vise.  The model was primed with an application of Krylon Brilliant Silver from a rattle can.  Any seams that needed it were repaired.  Once I was satisfied all the seams were smooth, my T-bird was ready for paint.


I painted the T-bird with Model Master enamels.  I used Aircraft Gray (aka “ADC Gray” FS16473 - stock #TS1731) overall sprayed with my Paasche H single-action airbrush.  When dry, I masked off the anti-glare panels and nose dielectric panels and sprayed them flat black from one of the little square Testors bottles.

Once the paint was dry I sprayed the model with Future in preparation for my favorite part, the decals.

Most of the decals came from the new Xtradecal T-33/F-80 sheet number X72-120 with a few exceptions. The large “USAF” lettering on the wings are much too narrow and tall as printed on the Xtradecal sheet (I think they are okay for the F-80s on the sheet?) so I robbed better ones from the Mark I T-33 Colors and Markings book/decal sheet. I used the same sheet for the various ejection warnings since they more closely resembled the ones seen on the Montana ANG bird in my reference photos.  The U.S. insignias (stars and bars) are too light blue on the Xtradecal sheet so I used the insignias from the Mark I sheet also.

Xtradecal missed the Distinguished Unit Award ribbon on the tip of the vertical fin. This was very visible in the photos I had of this bird.  I didn’t like the color of the ANG shield as provided in the Xtradecal sheet as it was too dark and too small. Luckily, an Air DOC A-7D ANG sheet (#ADM 7016) provided me with a suitable ribbon and ANG shield to use.  I had to cut the ribbon down a little bit so it was the correct size for the tiny T-33 fin tip. I used the kit supplied wing walks and a few other bits (the kit’s sheet was printed by Techmod by the way). The 80+ stencils are all from the Xtradecal sheet.  My hat is off to them for providing all the stencils with excellent placement instructions.  I think they add a lot of realism to the finished model.  Adding all of them wasn’t too bad as I only did a few at a time with many breaks in between over a period of about a week.  All decals used responded well to the Micro Sol.


Once the decals were done and sealed with a coat of Future, I added a few final bits to the model.   The undercarriage was painted and installed along with the gear doors.  Watch out - the instructions would have you add the long narrow gear doors first (part #37 & 41) but this is wrong.  The gear door over the wheels (part #39 & 40) must be glued on first.  Then the long narrow gear doors can be glued on.  I had to remove about 1/8” or so from the tops of them since they were too long.

The tires don’t have a hole for the landing gear axles to fit in so I had to drill holes into the hubs with a pine vise.  The actuating rods for the air brakes are very delicate.  I broke one of mine and ended up replacing all of them with pieces made from stretched sprue.  The tip tanks were glued on next and both fit very well onto the wing tips.

All the little formation/anti-collision lights on the spine, underside, and above the tailpipe were added from stretched spruce. They were painted and then coated with Future. I added a cover to the rear seat instrument panel from foil painted dark gray. I added the fuel dump vain from a small piece of scrap plastic painted red. The plastic canopy open/close arm was replaced with a straight pin.  A light misting of Tester Dullcote sealed everything and my little T-Bird was finished.


 This is a wonderful kit despite the fit problems I had and looks really good on the shelf.  It’s much better detailed than the ancient Hasegawa and Heller offerings in 1/72 and I’m glad Sword put this one out.  I can whole heartily recommend this kit to anyone with a little modeling experience and who want a nice looking T-bird in 1/72.   


1.) “Shooting Stars : Lockheed’s Legendary T-Bird” by Michael O’Leary

2.) “Lockheed T-33 : A Photo Chronicle” by David R. McLaren

3.) “Lockheed T-33 Thunderbird Colours & Markings” (Mark I Ltd Guide with decal sheet) by Michael Ovcacik & Karel Susa

4.) My own personal photographs of the real thing taken in Tyler & Sweetwater, Texas

Derek Olson

February 2011

Note: 186 FIS T-33A photo taken in October 1976 at Tyndall AFB, Fla. According to this photo and other 186 FIS planes I've seen, Xtradecal missed the blue color. Ed

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