Monogram 1/48 RF-8G (conversion)

KIT #:
PRICE: $
DECALS: Two Options
REVIEWER: Carmel J. Attard
NOTES: Conversion

HISTORY

On the 30th September 1984, Commander Gary W. Riese who was the last of VFP-306 seven commanding officers, ordered the squadron colours struck as hundreds of observers, officials and squadron alumni watched. The Hawkeye’s of VFP-206 were now the sole remaining USN Crusader squadron. For the subsequent two and a half years squadron VFP-206 were now flying the RF-8G all over the US and conducted CQ (carrier qualification periods), all business as usual. In October 1986 the squadron VFP-206 joined other fleet and reserve Squadrons for a CQ on USS America. As it happened this was also the last CQ for the F-4 with VF-201 and VF-202 making this final traps before transforming to the F-14 Tomcat. Commander David Strong the last VFP-206’s 10 commanding officers and the last Crusader CO, held the honour of making the final ejection from a US Crusader, in 1985, for which he received a rare peacetime DFC from the Secretary of the Navy.

Commander D.Strong was No2 in a two aircraft flight from NAS Miramar on the 11th of March 1985. After a pre-flighting his RF8G, Bu No 146855, AF606, Strong climbed in and he and his lead taxied to runway 24-left. Immediately after take off both pilots came out of afterburners, but Strong felt and heard an explosion and his power began a quickly decay. Failing to relight the engine he steered his aircraft towards the ocean to avoid populated areas. He could not make it and ejected at 170 Knots and 250 feet above the ground, with his aircraft in a right roll. Ejection went well and he safely landed in a street 200 feet from his crash site. Divesting himself of his parachute and flight gear Commander Strong took on helping the fire-crew to fight the fire ignited by the crash. This was the event when Secretary of the Navy John Lehman awarded a rare peacetime DFC for his courage in staying with his aircraft beyond the limits required in order to keep away from populated area. On Monday 30th March Strong made the last take-off in the last Crusader where he made three low, fast passes over the Naval air facilities in a cloudy weather and stood the aircraft on its tail and rocketed up into the clouds. It was the fitting end to the Commander’s career after so many years. As many as 71 Navy and Marine corps squadron flew the Crusader, considered an incredible number when only 1,261 Crusaders were built. The last Crusader flight lasted only 20 minutes as Commander Strong brought it to the Smithsonian’s storage park at Dallas International Airport in Virginia to await restoration and display at a future date. Those who flew the Crusader loved it. Those who didn’t respected it.

THE KIT

 In order to produce the RF-8G version of the Crusader to scale of 1/48 the following kit and accessories were required:

 1)                 The Monogram kit of the F8 Crusader Kit number 5826. This is an injection moulded F8E fighter version with markings of VMF (AW) 235 and VF-11.

2)                 Resin conversion set issued by C & H Miniatures. This consisted of two fuselage halves, main wing centre section and all the items necessary to build most of RF-8 versions.

3)                 F-8 metal landing gear (RM) No 48158 by Scale Aircraft Conversions of Texas.

 4)                 FLIGHTLINE decals for the RF-8, which has markings for two aircraft. One is a low visibility RF-8G camouflaged USN VFP-206 Bu No 146860. The other is an RF-8A in early grey/white scheme USMC VMCJ-2 Bu No 144613. This sheet comes complete with two styles of star and bars including tone down lettering etc.

CONSTRUCTION

Basically the conversion consisted literally of substituting the kit parts for the resin parts and very little modification of the Monogram kit parts was necessary. The RF-8G just like any aircraft as it aged it gained weight and lots of lumps and bumps were added. Reference drawings issued with the resin kit contains a lot of detail to indicate the various possibilities of configurations that exist and it is essential to research the subject well and locate clear photos of the particular aircraft being built in view of the changes carried out and that came to be visible on the aircraft over the years in service.

Conversion starts with cutting the front part of the F8 fuselage, part 1 & 2 along a line 1/16” in front of main landing gear. Wing parts 5 & 6 were discarded and replaced with a new one-pieces cast resin casting. This had a few panel lines engraved with an Olpa P-cutter tool. If one select to make the RF-8A then the ventral fins at rear are omitted and also a fuel dump vent on port fuselage side where the fin would be needs to be added.

 The conversion itself is not complicated and incorporated the following steps : Engine exhaust items part 37 and 38 in stage 9 need to be fitted before the fuselage is closed; at the arrestor hook area a blank piece of thin plastic card is fixed on the inside in order to prevent the arrestor hook the possibility of accidentally pushing inside. This is also added when fuselage is still in halves; the tail fin of my model had a permanent set leaning to port. This was gently straightened to appear vertical to fuselage and no warming was needed; the kit nose cone was replaced with the resin one, which was less rounded. The pitot tube on top of cone tip I have accidentally broken right away and this was replaced with one made from a short piece of metal wire of same thickness which was correctly inserted in a shallow hole drilled to receive it. For the particular Rf-8G the tail sensor supplied in resin was reduced by 3/16 inches in length. Some pinhole porosity was spotted at a delicate spot of the engine intake front. I found this not easy to fill and put right, so I have replaced this with the kit air intake which was parted with a razor saw and fitted as a replacement of same part in resin as can be seen in progressive build picture. The Crusader used three ejection seats in its lifetime. The Martin Baker Mk7 used on later versions was slightly different and I did minor alterations to the kit F-8 seat but this was of little value as the cockpit canopy was to be closed hiding much of the changes completely. Nose wheel well also required some little change and cutting in order to fit in the resin nose blank area. This meant that 5mm was removed from front to allow the well box to fit in the resin fuselage aperture at the bottom. The nose wheel door also had additional fairings that conform with the nose camera fairing. The cockpit carried a viewfinder, which is among the resin items. This was hollowed and fixed at centre of cockpit coaming. Different cameras arrangements are suggested in the instructions as these varied considerably with different RF-8s. I picked the one layout fitting to my type. I did not bother to drill open the camera ports and I applied the decal squares at a stage after paintwork is completed. An offset strobe light and long pod in resin were both fitted under the fuselage mid front as per instructions.

 As one can imagine the kit is subjected to some rough handling during follow-up sealing at joints with filler and sanding smooth. A metal undercarriage set by Scale Aircraft Conversions set 48158 appeared very suiting and also sturdy to take the handling. It also gave the correct sit (angle of attack) when the Crusader is on its gear.

COLORS & MARKINGS

 

The completed conversion was washed and dried ready to receive the paintwork. All interior of wells painted semi matt white with wheel door edges painted red. Undercarriage legs also white with sliding parts being silver. These areas were carefully masked with tape and all lower surfaces airbrushed in light Ghost Grey, Model Master 1728E FS36375. Upper surfaces airbrushed in Dark Ghost Grey, Model Master 1741E FS36320. This resulted in the ideal realistic contrast between the two different shades. Careful study of panel lines indicated where the weathering was most prominent and carefully added. Decals were of top quality and only the black and white arrestor hook decal came from the original Monogram decal sheet. Kit was given a coat of Klear before and after decal application. Finally an overall coat of Model Master semi gloss lacquer was applied giving a uniform surface sheen while the cockpit canopy was still masked. With the thing painted and all decals in place I had to drill out the main gear wheels so that they fit the metal legs. These were glued to the metal legs with a tiny amount of super glue. Masking was removed from the canopy, which was then given another coat of Klear, to the expressive face of the RF-8 pilot figure that appeared now in a happier mood.

CONCLUSIONS

It seems that C & H miniatures has provided us with a good resin kit conversion with ample of excellent detail, spot on to produce a much pleasing model. Also I really like the metal landing gear, the second occasion that I have used the type provided by Scale Aircraft Conversions which I found so sturdy and a vital set to apply on cumbersome models, just like I used on the C-124 Globemaster. Although this type of conversion is intended for the experienced modeller (so says the instructions) however there is nothing that cannot be overcome if one goes a step at a time. So it is recommended to just about all-building levels.


REFERENCES

 

REF: Wings of Fame Vol.5 feature on Crusader

Carmel J. Attard

September 2012

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