|KIT #:||51378 (AP118)|
|PRICE:||$5.00 from a vendor|
|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
|NOTES:||1995 Limited Edition|
The stubby little Grumman Wildcat is the epitome of the US Navy's fighter force in the first year of the Pacific War. An aircraft that was built to withstand the rigors of carrier operations, yet have enough firepower to handle enemy aircraft, the Wildcat was the initial loser in a competition to build the Navy's first monoplane, retractable landing gear fighter aircraft. The winner was the less than sterling Brewster F2A Buffalo. Despite not being capable an aircraft as was the Buffalo, it did provide the needed operational experience with the type. Though it was a disaster against the Japanese with both US and Commonwealth forces, the Finns used the type with much success against the Soviets in 1940 and later.
The initial production F4F-3 Wildcat had fixed wings and four machine guns. This was later replaced by the folding wing F4F-4 with six machine guns. The folding wings allowed more aircraft to be carried on ships, but added weight that affected the performance. Most pilots did not like the additional two guns as it not only meant more weight, but fewer rounds per gun and so a shorter firing time.
Regardless, the Wildcat was built in considerable numbers, a lot of them by General Motors who took over production once Grumman got well underway with the Hellcat. The Wildcat was a perfect aircraft for the smaller carriers as it was rugged and able to provide the needed convoy protection against German long range bombers in the Atlantic. The Fleet Air Arm was an early user of the Wildcat as they really did not have a purposely designed single seat carrier-borne fighters and used US fighters throughout the war. The Wildcat V was basically the same as the FM-1 and like that aircraft, the number of wing guns was reduced to four. The type rapidly disappeared once the war was concluded.
The kit provides a nice, if rather basic cockpit that includes a seat, stick and an instrument panel on which one puts a decal. This is probably the weakest area of the kit. The floor is solid, which is non-prototypical as the Wildcat had windows in the lower belly through which the pilot could look.
The wheel well is also somewhat devoid of detail. On a real Wildcat, one could see the engine accessory compartment and the chain drive for the landing gear operating system. None of that is present in the kit, though aftermarket will take care of this and the cockpit situation. The canopy is a single piece so must be cut to display any cockpit detailing you do.
The rest of the kit is well done and despite the number of kits produced from these molds, this kit is still crisply done without a lot of problems with ejector pin marks or sink areas.Hasegawa's instructions are pretty standard for their smaller kits. A fold out sheet has the six construction steps and a parts layout as well as the Gunze paint chart on one side while the other has a history, various warnings, and the painting and markings guide on the other. The first of two options is the box art plane with 846 NAS and Hasegawa provides the stripes as decals. The other is a more mundane scheme with 861 NAS. Both planes are in the British Dark Sea Grey/Dark Slate Grey over Sky. Decals are nicely printed, but typical of what was offered over 20 years ago. The decals are thick with whites that are decidedly off white. I'd recommend painting on the invasion stripes and replacing the insignia with aftermarket.
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