Airfix 1/72 F4F-4 Wildcat
|Scott Van Aken
|New tool kit
WWhen the US Navy went to war, the most modern aircraft it had was the F4F-3 Wildcat. This aircraft was initially the loser to the Brewster F2A, which was the US Navy's first all metal, retractable landing gear fighter. This plane was in service for several years prior to the introduction of the improved F4F and gave its pilots experience on that type of aircraft.
It was the Wildcat that was the main fighter type on board US carriers during the first year or so of the war and even when replaced by the Hellcat and later Corsair, continued to provide quality service on smaller deck carriers in the anti-submarine, convoy protection, and ground support roles. Eventually Wildcat production was turned over to General Motors which continued to improve the type. It was also used quite effectively by the Royal Navy, who never really did have a proper 'made for sea' fighter so relied on US designs to give single seat fighter protection.
Airfix continues the 'replacement' policy of Hornby, though in this case it replaces an 'FM-2' with an earlier Wildcat version. The kit is of the -4 variant which entered Navy service in early 1942, along side and eventually supplanting the earlier, fixed wing -3. The benefits of the F4F-4 were a folding wing and increased armament to six guns. This is amply represented by Airfix in that you are provided with two sets of wings. One for folded wings and one for straight wings. This undoubtedly accounts for the higher price of what is a Series 2 kit.
So let's take a look at what we get. There is a solid cockpit floor that has a rear bulkhead on which a seat is attached. A control stick fits in front of it. There are decals for the side consoles and the instrument panel. This latter item has rudder pedals molded onto it and this whole assembly fits into a rear wheel well bulkhead.
This bulkhead has the chain mechanism for retracting the landing gear molded in place. It also contains a pair of wing spar stubs that thread through the fuselage halves. Despite having a solid floor, the two lower fuselage windows are included. If one wishes to purchase a stand, one opens holes in the lower fuselage halves.
The landing gear on a Wildcat is more complex than what you'll find on later planes. Airfix had done a nice job of reproducing this complexity and more than a full page is devoted to this assembly. There is a nicely done engine with a half row in the back that doubles as the forward wheel well bulkhead and a full row in the front. There is a one-piece engine cowling with the small intake scoops already molded on the inside. One would have hoped for the engine accessory section to be molded onto the forward well bulkhead piece, but this will have to be handled by aftermarket.
A one-piece horizontal stabilizer slots into the fin and then one glues the rudder over it to hold it in place. As mentioned, there are two different wing options. One is extended and the other folded. There are separate ailerons for these as on the folded option, the aileron control rods are disconnected and so the ailerons are spring loaded outboard. I'm not sure just how sturdy the wing attachment point is for the folded option. The instructions show the wing attached at a hinge in the inner stub section and on a cover, the latter of which did not occur on the real plane. There are a pair of jury struts to attach from the wing tip to a mounting on the forward edge of the tailplane. I do not recall ever seeing these items on the plane before so did a google and sure enough, they are there, though not as large as those on the kit. This may well be the first time this feature has been depicted on the kit. I'm sure I'll hear if it is not.
The kit includes two canopy options; one open and a single piece closed version. There is a pilot figure so there is no belt detail on the seat itself. You can also have the tail hook extended or retracted. Unless landing, it will be retracted. The prop looks a bit odd, but nothing I can really put my finger on so it may well be just fine.
Instructions are well drawn and, other than the color and markings diagram, offer only Humbrol paint numbers. Fortunately, we all have a large wall chart that will cross reference these for us. The two markings options are in the early war 'Matt US Dark Grey' over 'Matt US Gull Grey'. There are other paints that have the proper USN blue-grey and USN light grey should this be your wish. The box art option is for Marion Carl's plane with VMF-223 on Guadalcanal in 1942. The second is the pre-June 1942 scheme with the red dots to the insignia and the red and white rudder stripes. This plane is only listed as being with VF-6 on the USS Enterprise.
Copyright ModelingMadness.com October 2015
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