Hasegawa 1/72 E-1A Tracer (conversion)

KIT #: ?
PRICE: $
DECALS: ?
REVIEWER: Carmel J. Attard
NOTES: Considreable scratchbuilding required.

HISTORY

In the first case, Grumman developed the TF-1 Trader from the S-2 Tracker as a small transport for Carrier On-board Delivery of personnel and supplies. This differed basically in having a new fuselage to accommodate up to nine passengers or 3,500 lbs of freight. The designation was changed to C-1A. A further variant of the same basic airframe is the E-1B (Originally WF-2) Tracer, an airborne early warning station.  This is basically a C-1A with APS-82 surveillance radar in a tortoise shell shaped radome above the fuselage, necessitating a three-fin tail unit.

The Tracer differed from the S-2A design in having the twin fin and rudder arrangement to counterbalance the large radome, and a deepened fuselage just like the Trader with the same 18 inch extension of the forward fuselage as featured on the later models of the Trackers. The Tracer pioneered the ‘Airborne Command Post’ technique which it finally relinquished some 15 years later to its successor, the purpose-designed E-2 Hawkeye.  An aerodynamic test version of the Tracer flew for the first time on December 17th, 1956, followed by a true prototype on March 3rd 1958.  Production of the E-1B totalled 88, and some remained in service with the US Navy in 1970. The E-1 was eventually succeeded by the E-2 Hawkeye having a saucer shaped radome above the fuselage and is more familiar of the early warning type these days. While the S2F was nicknamed Stoof, the Tracer became the ‘Stoof with a roof ’ and in its original WF designation the Tracer was nicknamed Willy Fud.

THE KIT

 No information supplied. Please visit the preview for a look at what comes in the box. Ed

CONSTRUCTION

It is interesting how the Grumman Tracker design has led its way to the evolvement of the C-1A which had a deepened fuselage of a COD cargo plane and the E-1B Tracer, the Early Warning aircraft. The Tracer carried an enormous radome in shape of a carapace permanently stuck to the upper fuselage making it look a totally different design to the Tracker. The Tracer also differed from the Tracker design in having a twin fin and rudder, arrangement suited for the large radome. Apart from the Trader style deeper fuselage there is a 1’6” extension to the forward fuselage.

This somewhat challenging conversion involved use of the Hasegawa/ Revell Tracker kit. In doing so it would involve replacing the sonobuoy bays, located at the rear of the engine nacelles with shaped fairings made of pine. This also involves cutting the fuselage in half forward of the wing and inserting a spacer exactly ¼” wide and deepening the bottom of the fuselage from a pine insert and fair it to conform to rest of the lower fuselage with filler. The radome itself is fashioned out of pine. In a nutshell this was a conversion involving several stages and should be an interesting task for experienced modellers using the most basic techniques. In the end this would turn into a satisfactory model suited for those keen on  Navy 6th and 7th Fleet aircraft aircraft.

Fuselage and cockpit area are assembled as per instructions and allowed to dry thoroughly, the fuselage was cut across at a point at the front of wing rear location and a spacer inserted so that the fuselage is increased by ¼”. The insert could equally be balsa or pine but as I had a spare Tracker fuselage since I built the Trader, (Falcon kit conversion), I cut the spacer from the spare redundant  fuselage.

The next step was to modify the weapons bay area of the fuselage by building it up to a more rounded and fatter shape of the Tracer. This was achieved by fitting a piece of shaped pine underneath as mentioned earlier. The aft section of the fuselage was also different shape from the Tracker. This was made using a shaped piece of pine, joined to the rest of fuselage and the assembly was set aside to allow to dry well.

The next step was modifying the engine nacelles, where the rear section behind the wheel well was removed. This was first marked with a narrow strip of tape across and cut with an X-acto saw blade. A block of pine was glued to each nacelle to form the new shape of rear nacelle extension. Again these were allowed to set and dry and given the final shape with the aid of files and sanding. The next step was to carve the radome out of pine. Incidentally yellow pine is ideal for this purpose as it is soft and easy to work with, free from knots and does not distort. I made cardboard templates to check the cross sections of the radome while it was being shaped. Reference was made to scale plans in Aviation News Vol.1. No 16. When the final shape was achieved I applied coats of sanding sealer to bring radome into a smooth sheen finish. Any imperfections were attended to using a mix of talc powder and dope to the right consistency. Smooth sanding brought the final shape and finish. It was the turn of the Tracer shallow central rear fin which was also shaped out of pine and glued in place utilising a spigot that was formed to slot in. The area around the wooden tail was faired with more filler.

The cabin windows were drilled and filed to shape with needle file. The engine and wings were assembled as per kit instructions and gaps above and at rear of engine nacelle to wing joints were filled and sanded smooth as more sanding sealer was added to rear pine section. The fins were cut and shaped from thick plastic card reclaimed from surplus back plastic of vac form kits I made. Two twin fins were made and sanded to the correct taper. The tail planes were also made out of plastic card and panel lines were carefully scraped with a blunt blade. Tail planes and fins were put together to take correct dihedral and slid into the central fin from the rear of a cut slot. The open rear of the slot was then filled up with correct amount of filer. The detail structure under the Radome was also made out of pine, shaped sprue, and a plastic shaped web. Metal pins inserted to strengthen the assembly when put together and fixed firmly to the radome and upper fuselage. The radome should have sufficient play in it to be able to adjust it slightly if need be to ensure that it is in the correct position and exact angle when viewed from the side.

COLORS & MARKINGS

The complete assembly had the cockpit area masked and was given an overall coat of matt white as a base colour. This was then followed by the standard US Navy colour scheme of semi matt insignia white and gull grey FS 36440. The leading edge de icing boots and nose anti glare panel painted in Humbrol matt black. Yellow masking tape strips were used to obtain perfectly straight line edges. All lettering and US insignia came from different sheets of Micro Scale brand. In the end the completed model was given a coat of micro flat and micro gloss varnish mixed 50:50.

CONCLUSIONS

 

In a way this was an ambitious project that I built some time before I got hold of the Falcon conversion kit of the Tracer which appears to involve less work for sure. And there was so much fun going step by step. Out of two Tracker kits I was able to build a Tracer and later a Trader using the ‘Falcon’ Trader fuselage conversion.

Carmel J. Attard

January 2009

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and quickly, please contact me or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

Back to the Main Page

Back to the Review Index Page