Heller/Fujimi 1/72 E-2C Hawkeye

KIT #: 80349
PRICE: around Ä12.00
DECALS: One Option
REVIEWER: Gordon Zammitt
NOTES: Reboxed Fujimi kit with a small extra sprue for some French specific antennae.

HISTORY

The E-2 started its development in the mid 1950ís as a replacement to the E-1 Tracer (which was adapted from the S2F Tracker airframe). It has been under continuous development ever since, and is still the only AEW aircraft in operation with the US Navy and seems to be continuing to keep its place for decades to come with the recent upgrades to most airframes. It has the largest wingspan of any operational naval aircraft and is called the ďHummerĒ due to its twin turboprop engines' sound. This is another well documented and photographed aircraft and references are readily available.

THE KIT

This is a reboxed Fujimi kit and is not one of their best! Detail is a mixture of raised detail (especially rivets) and recessed lines. The panel lines are a mixture of both, and both types are a little overdone. The overall shape seems quite good though, and since it was the only 1/72 E-2 for a long time until the issue of the recent Hasegawa offerings, most of us had at least one in their stash. This issue from Heller has only French Navy decals and finding a decal sheet which contained a US Navy bird wasnít easy. The only option available for me at the time was the Carpena sheet which contained an E-2C of VAW-122 from USS Forrestal.

CONSTRUCTION

Construction starts at the cockpit. The instrument panels are provided by Heller as decals and are adequate for the scale, since the airliner style cockpit of the E-2C doesnít reveal much of whatís inside. Moreover, the transparencies area little thick and distort quite a lot, and replacing them would require you to make your own which I was not prepared to do. So, with the cockpit painted and assembled, the two fuselage halves were closed. Heller suggests placing 20g of weight in order to have your E-2C standing on its undercarriage and I did so although I did not measure the exact weight. I omitted the small windows on the starboard side which I would later do with Krystal Klear. Somewhat strange is that Heller suggest to paint the parts and apply decals to the fuselage at this and every stage which I am sure will not provide a good end result!

Next up are the engine nacelles and main undercarriage. These are complete void of any detail, and not even boxed. I decided to at least provide the top with plastic card and make an enclosure for the bays. These also serve to keep from see through the intakes and exhaust of the engines as they are not blanked. The undercarriage traps in between the nacelle halves and is very sturdy just as in the real aircraft. I did not follow the instructions and left the props off at this point as I suppose every grown up modeler will do at this stage for obvious reasons. When these dried, I sanded down the engine intakes which are very rough and not even round. I made two intake rings from left over parts of a Heller CL-415, which I sprayed with polished aluminum and left off until the final construction.

The wing is a full span upper and lower parts and these were glued together and later to the fuselage. The tail plane was also glued to the fuselage and fit of the parts was not bad here, and only a slight amount of filler was required on the main wings. The same cannot be said on the front part of the aircraft though, and fit here is very bad. The canopy is split into left and right halves, and the nose is a separate part as Fujimi also makes an E-2A version of the Hawkeye. The canopy was glued together with clear type adhesive (if I recall correctly from Humbrol) but since itís an end to end affair, it is not very strong. I later decided to reinforce it by gluing two pieces of decal backing film on the concealed part of the canopy (as can be seen in the photo). The nose cone was next glued and some plastic card pieces glued on to fill the step. After several sessions of sanding and filling, I was satisfied (or even bored!).

 Construction then went to the other end by gluing the vertical stabilizers, of which the Hawkeye has four: a design must as it has to be kept low to go into the carrier hanger, and still retain good directional stability with the 24-foot (7.3m) rotodome on its back (This also lowers for storage and the kit represent it in the extended position). The fins fit without any major problem. The engine nacelles were installed next, and these again were without any real problems. Next came the coolers and intakes. I discarded the antennae masts as they seem different to the real ones, and made replacements from sheet styrene. I also added some antennae on the lower fuselage according to photos of real E-2Cís, however I may be wrong with the actual configuration on this particular airframe as there seem to be a lot of variations even within the same squadron and the same time period, and I did not manage to find a photo of the actual one covered in this decal sheet in that color scheme. The rotodome was glued together, and its mounting structure was glued to the aircraft. The shaft that drives it was replaced with a piece of evergreen rod as the one provided with the kit is very crude and not round at all. The tail hook is meant to be left movable but I left it off to paint separately, and fixed the part that holds it in place to the lower fuselage end. Since the lower side of the aircraft was to be finished in white, I attached all the undercarriage doors in place, and also glued the front strut. I then cleaned the windscreens and masked them off with Tamiya masking tape, and it was ready for the paint shop.

COLORS & MARKINGS

It has always been a problem for me to find a nice white paint that remains white with time. Yellowing was always a problem and I decided to try use thinner based automotive paint for this one, and also for a Fujimi A-4E which I was building in parallel with the Hawkeye. I thought that spraying this paint with an airbrush would be easy as it is to spray it with a spray gun. But I soon found out that I was wrong, very wrong. I first tried to use it with the no. 1 (fine) nozzle on my Paasche VSR-90, but even thinning would not convince the paint to go through the nozzle. So, I went to the no. 2 nozzle, and with a lot of thinner I started to spray in very thin coats. After testing on some scrap plastic, and it seemed to work, I tried to coat the undersides of the A-4 first. After an hour or so I had the A-4 coated in a very nice white, but there was no way of spraying the E-2 that way, so I called it a day, and stopped there. The day after, I found that the paint was flaking away from the A-4, so I had to find another solution. I ended up purchasing a Paasche EZ airbrush from a local arts shop, and through this it was much better and a little gloss, although it should have been a true gloss finish. On the A-4 it was totally matt. I also realized that the paint was not adhering well to the plastic, as I will later find out when removing the masking! These problems with the painting resulted in these two models taking more than 3 years from start to finish, and in the meantime starting and finishing several others. Finally I tried to make an effort and finish them both, even though I knew that I wasnít going to be entirely satisfied with the end result. Temptation to discard this Hawkeye and go for the new Hasegawa came around more than once, but I decided to try to get out what I could possibly do. I masked the wing roots and sprayed the gloss Gull Grey from Model Master freehand. After several days drying, I masked off the de-icing boots on the leading edges, and the edge of the rotodome (masked with sections of tape cut around a saucer of the right diameter) and sprayed these with Humbrol satin black. On removing the masking, several area of white paint came off again with the tape, and I had to sand the area and touch it up. I masked the fin upper and lower tips and sprayed them with MM semi-gloss blue as I could not find the correct FS25102 blue locally and I did not want to order from abroad and wait. I can still paint the correct FS color in the future as there are no decals over the areas, although it is unlikely to happen.

The Carpena Decal sheet contains only the basic markings and you have to source the insignias and stenciling yourself. There is (was?) a mistake on the sheet instructions as it tells you to use the Hasegawa decals, and this sheet is several years old, much older than the Hasegawa kit of this year (2009), when the Fujimi was the only 1/72 E-2 available. So stencils and other walkways and warning came from the Heller sheet, which fortunately enough has these in English and not in French as we would have believed. The Heller decals performed flawlessly and adhered very well without any signs of silvering (as they usually do). The US insignias came from a Microscale sheet and the others squadron specific came from the Carpena sheet. All performed well but I had trouble with one of the USS Forrestal/US Navy/VAW-122 on the right fuselage which rolled onto itself and I managed to destroy the VAW-122 part which ended up in tiny fragments. Fortunately a fellow modeler had the same sheet and scanned this part for me which I printed on transparent inkjet printable decals and used the missing part from it. Heller also provides the white-red-white stripes for the propeller tips as decals, but I chose to use the red strip only, and sprayed the rest of the propeller.

After the decal was placed and dried, I masked the leading edges of the propellers and sprayed these with aluminum. I was checking reference photos to see what should be used and what not on this particular plane when I noticed that I had wrongly followed the Heller instructions on placing the walkways on the wings as there is a mistake. The walkways should be placed further aft of the masts on the wings, and the Heller ones are printed and meant to be placed right where the engine nacelles are faired into the wings. It was too late now and itís a lesson that I seam to never learn: check references as often as you can as instructions tend to be mistaken! As I said their dimensions and angles agree with the view of the instructions which does not lead you to think that youíre messing things up. The number 3 on the front undercarriage door is not provided by Carpena but seems to be present on every aircraft so I found one from a Fujimi  F7U Cutlass and used it. Missing also from the Heller sheet are the warning signs on the inside of the main undercarriage doors, but I left these without them: at least they are not that obvious there. The white cross on the nose cone black doesn't seem to be present on these squadron aircraft of the era so I left it off.

After finishing off the decals, I applied some weathering. Pastels were used and applied by a dry cotton bud (I think Q-tip in the US), and using the same technique as dry brushing to darken the detail on the rotodome. I also used this on the main airframe, but then I turned to the airbrush to add some heavier weathering. Checking online photos,  I found that nearly all E-2C have a very dark soot stain from the starting of the engines with the wings in the closed position. I tried to replicate this and the soot stains on the underside of the tailplanes. After weathering, a coat of Humbrol Satin varnish was applied.

FINAL BITS

Heller suggests to paint the navigation lights covers, provide as transparencies, with green and red transparent paint. In reality only the inner cover of the lamps are coloured and the other cover forming the tip on the wing is transparent. I drilled a small hole from the inside about 2 mm deep and painted this with transparent paint the result is quite convincing. I blanked the inside of the spot lights position below the nose cone, and cut 2 small round pieces from evergreen rods to simulate the spot lights. I painted the inside dark gull grey and the lights with chrome silver. I made some rigging from 0.14mm (3lb) fishing line fixed with CA glue. When I tried to tighten these I broke the front mast and fixing it back was not easy at all. In fact it is not perfectly straight now as it was before. I then painted the fishing line with MM metalizer paint which I find best as it is extremely thin and that not form blobs as normal paint usually does. What is missing:  the stencils on the props but I can't find from where to source them yet; there is also a small antenna just above the tail hook on the port side which has a red tip which I haven't put on. It could also do with a pair of windscreen wipers!

CONCLUSIONS

After 3 years it is finished! I cannot say that I am really pleased with the result, but that falls mostly upon my mistakes and experimenting. When I started this kit it was the only E-2C available, and it is not a bad replica either, but today I would suggest to skip this one and go for the Hasegawa example which I am sure is much better as other modelers have already experienced. Still, if youíre on a tight budget (Hasegawa costs at least 4 times as much), this can provide you with a satisfactory end result. The problem is that if you buy the Heller version and not the Fujimi (which is readily available) you will have to buy a decal sheet as well to get a US Navy example.

REFERENCES

Squadron/Signal 5553 E-2 Hawkeye - Walk Around.

Check list No. 3 Grumman E-2 Hawkeye (French/English Publication).

The Complete Encyclopedia of Aircraft

Photos on www.airliners.net.

Gordon Zammit

September 2009

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