Hasegawa 1/32 BF2C-1 Hawk
KIT #: 51814
PRICE: $Currently out of production
DECALS: Several options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver
NOTES: Yellow Wings 32-008 “Curtiss BF2C-1 Hawk” used.


             Along with Boeing, the Curtiss‑Wright Corporation was the most prolific designer and manufacturer of single‑seat fighter aircraft for both the U.S. Army Air Corps and U.S. Navy between 1925 and 1935.

             Curtiss, however, differed fundamentally from both its then‑competitor, Boeing, and its later competitor, Grumman, in its policy of creating a basic design and improving that incrementally, stretching this over as long a time period as possible to maximize profit with the least investment in development. Admittedly, this was a period in which the technology was such that the same basic design could fulfill the very‑different requirements of both services, while the rate of change and innovation was relatively slow, thus allowing such a philosophy to find success.  Sadly, Curtiss-Wright would maintain this policy even as revolutionary changes in aviation technology would begin to appear in the mid-1930s.  The result was that after 1945, Curtiss-Wright left the airplane business, while its competitors went on to greater success.  Both Boeing and Grumman were interested in advancing the state of the art, and neither had any difficulty abandoning a proven design if some new development held the promise of superior performance.

            The Curtiss "Hawk" first appeared in 1925 as the P‑1 for the Army Air Corps, and shortly thereafter as the F6C‑1 for the Navy. While the Army used the in‑line liquid‑cooled engine, the Navy opted for the new radial air‑cooled engine, which was both lighter and more reliable than the current liquid‑cooled powerplants, an important consideration for an aircraft with wheels flying over large bodies of water. Curtiss was able to turn the radial‑engined naval fighters that came after this decision into a successful line of export fighters under the "Hawk" designation, selling the aircraft in South America and China.

            By 1935, Grumman had replaced Boeing as Curtiss' chief competitor for Navy contracts, with its FF‑1 and F2F‑1, and the coming F3F‑1 ‑ all of which were biplanes with retractable landing gear. In an attempt to compete with these more modern designs, Curtiss modified its F11C‑2 as the XF11C‑3, with a deepened forward fuselage that allowed for retractable landing gear of the kind used by Grumman; the open cockpit was soon replaced by a heightened turtledeck on the rear fuselage and a half‑canopy, which was almost always left slid back in the open position. While Curtiss found foreign orders for the design as the Hawk III, the Navy ordered the aircraft into limited production as the BF2C‑1, a new designation that meant the airplane was seen primarily as a dive bomber, with the role of fighter as a secondary requirement.

             The BF2C-1s with VF‑5B aboard the USS "Ranger" from October 1936 to November 1937, the shortest operational lifespan of any Naval aircraft of the period. This was due to the fact that in an attempt to modernize a ten year old design Curtiss had exchanged the traditional wooden wing structure for metal wings. Unfortunately the vibration frequency of this was in harmony with the engine at cruising speed. In flight, the airplane seemed to be shaking itself to pieces, no matter the fixes tried by Curtiss and the Navy. Curtiss' final solution was an offer to re‑equip the airplanes with the wooden wing of the successful export variant, the Hawk III, but the Navy considered the airplane passé in light of coming designs.  The BF2C‑1 unceremoniously left service, replaced by the earlier F4B‑4 pending re‑equipment with more modern monoplanes. Thus the last Curtiss naval fighter was cast aside, the victim of a failure to keep up with contemporary developments in aircraft design and construction.


             Hasegawa’s Curtiss Hawk first showed up on hobby shop shelves more than 30 years ago, and has seen several releases after its initial appearance, though I have found nothing more recent than the late 1980s.  As with the Boeing P-12/F4B-4 and P-26A kits, this Hawk set a new standard at the time, and is still acceptable as a kit, other than the problem of the very poor decals.

             Fortunately, the decal problem has now been solved by Yellow Wings Decals, which has released sheet 32-008, “Curtiss BF2C-1 Hawk,” which provides markings for the second wingman of the first section of VF-5B, and the fourth section leader’s airplane.  These decals are head and shoulders above what is in any of the kits, though there is a problem in the fact that the “U.S. NAVY” marking for the rear fuselage is a bit bigger than it should be.  I found this noticeable enough that I used another decal from a different Yellow Wings sheet; it too is not exactly right, but to my eye it looks closer.  These decals are printed by Micro-Scale, and are excellent, though they are thin enough that care must be taken when applying them to avoid any folds or twists.


            Back when this kit was first released, plastic mold technology was such that it was not possible to make upper and lower wing parts with a sufficiently-thin trailing edge to look really right.  Hasegawa solved this by keeping the entire trailing edge as part of the upper wing half, with the lower wing part ending about 3/16 inch from the trailing edge.  If you are not careful in assembling the wings, this will leave a noticeable gap that will be hard to fill without losing a lot of detail, particularly in the ailerons.  I solved the problem by applying a lot of Tenax to the upper wing rear joint, then attaching the lower wing at the rear first, squeezing the parts together to get some of the melted plastic to ooze up.  I then finished assembling the wing and sliced off this excess with an X-acto blade.  This filled the gap without losing detail.

            Turning to the fuselage, there is little detail in the cockpit.  While the cockpit of the real thing didn’t have a lot of detail, there was more than was found here, but I didn’t have photos to guide a detailed scratchbuild.  I solved the problem by installing a pilot figure, using one from a Hasegawa P-47 kit.  I am informed that Mike West at Lone Star Models may do a resin cockpit for this kit, as he has recently done for the P-12/F4B kits.  Using something like that would definitely be the way to go if one is not interested in scratchbuilding the cockpit.

            The engine went together without problem after I pre-painted all the parts before assembly.

           Given the way the model would be painted, I left it in sub-assemblies of fuselage, upper wing, lower wings, and kept the fin and stabilizers off.


            The upper wing was painted with Gunze-Sangyo “Orange-Yellow.”  The rest of the model was then painted with Tamiya “Flat Aluminum.”  I masked that off and painted the metal areas of the fuselage with Talon “Aluminum.”  Doing this gave the look of aluminum dope on the fabric surfaces and aluminum lacquer on the metal areas.  I mixed “Willow Green” to match a color profile of the airplane, and painted the tail feathers.  I mixed Tamiya “Blue” with “White” to match the shade of blue of the markings on the decal sheet, and painted the cowling halves.  Once all this was complete, I applied the decals, which went on without problem using Micro-Sol.  The model was then given a coat of Xtracrylix Satin varnish overall.


             The landing gear was attached first, then the tail feathers, then the lower wings.  I attached the upper wing to the cabane struts, then attached the interplane struts. Rigging was done with .010 wire.  The model was left unweathered since Navy aircraft of this period were very well maintained and very clean.


            The BF2C-1 might not have been the most successful naval fighter of the period, but it is one of the most interesting-looking airplanes with its mix of old and new details.  The Hasegawa kit makes up into an excellent model, and the Yellow Wings decals insure a great final look.  If you have one of these in your stash, getting these decals and proceeding to build it will provide a very nice addition to your collection.

 Review kit courtesy of my wallet.  Decals courtesy of Yellow Wings Decals.  Order yours at:  www.yellow‑wingsdecals.com

 Tom Cleaver

June 2011

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