Kitty Hawk 1/48 F9F-8/8P Cougar
KIT #: KH 80127
DECALS: Five options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken


The Grumman F9F/F-9 Cougar was an aircraft carrier-based fighter aircraft for the United States Navy. Based on Grumman's earlier F9F Panther, the Cougar replaced the Panther's straight wing with a more modern swept wing. The Navy considered the Cougar an updated version of the Panther, despite having a different official name, and thus Cougars started off from F9F-6 upward.

F9F-8s were withdrawn from front-line service in 1958-59, replaced by F11F Tigers and F8U Crusaders. The Naval Reserves used them until the mid-1960s, but none of the single-seat versions were used in the Vietnam War.

The only version of the Cougar to see combat was the two seat TF-9J trainer (until 1962, F9F-8T). Detachments of four Cougars served with US Marines Headquarters and Maintenance Squadrons H&MS-11 at Da Nang and H&MS-13 at Chu Lai, where they were used for fast-Forward Air Control and the airborne command role, directing airstrikes against enemy positions in South Vietnam during 1966 and 1968. The TF-9J had a long service with the U.S. Navy, but the proposed Cougar modification (reengined with a J52 engine) was rejected, and the Navy selected the TA-4F Skyhawk. The last Cougar was phased out when VT-4 re-equipped on February 1974. A F9F-8T, BuNo 147276, is displayed at the National Museum of Naval Aviation, Pensacola. There are several others extant in museums as well including the one at Pima, Arizona.

The only foreign air arm to use the F9F Cougar was the Argentine Naval Aviation, who used the F9F Panther as well. Two F9F-8T trainers were acquired in 1962, and served until 1971. The Cougar was the first jet to break the sound barrier in Argentina. Serial 3-A-151 is on display at the Naval Aviation Museum (MUAN) at Bahía Blanca.


Kitty Hawk started out with the two seat version and it met with a lot of flak from folks who found it difficult to build. Truth is that it did take a bit of thought when it came to construction, but when I built the two seat version, I did not have the issues that others found when building theirs. Now the single seat variant has been released with a very nice selection of markings and the ability to build the photo recon version as well.

The kit is quite typical of Kitty Hawk moldings, which is to say that the detail is excellent. A photo etch fret is included as per usual and is basically interior bits like seat harnesses, as well as the wing fences and the upper wing speed brakes. Personally I could do without the wing brakes as I always seem to bend those during installation!

The kit has a very nicely done cockpit with two different seats provided. No information is given on which markings option gets which seat, but I'll bet that a 'net search will be helpful. Control sticks and rudder pedals are separate and you have photo etch for the instrument panels and consoles. In addition, you are provided with decals to go over these. I approve. Sidewalls are also part of the package. Two instrument panels are provided, but no indication as to which is for the standard fighter and which for the recon variant.

One has to build up the nose gear well and the main gear well out of separate flat pieces, but they interlock well. The nose well assembly also includes the lower fuselage speedbrake well. It is quite normal to see these items bled down when the plane is on the ground. The nose well assembly fits under the cockpit assembly when the forward fuselage halves are glued together. Note that the nose gear will be a little short and so will need to be lengthened.

Pretty much all the new sprues are for the respective noses. It appears that at one time, Kitty Hawk planned on releasing the fighter and photo recon versions separately as there are two clear sprues, both with windscreens, canopies and lights so you will have spares. The photo recon sprue includes a full suite of cameras plus their large control units. The fighter nose includes all four guns. Apparently the nose sections on these planes slid forward when one wanted to do maintenance or retrieve the cameras. The kit has you build these with the nose closed. On the bottom of the fighter nose is a bulge for the ARA-25 automatic direction finder antenna. Kitty Hawk supplies a clear insert for the antenna dielectric. I worked on this equipment and never saw one with a clear dielectric window so I'd paint it a dark buff.

The rest of the fuselage is split horizontally and provides the opportunity to display the wings folded if one so chooses. There are nicely done spar sections to fit into the ends of both the main fuselage assembly and the outer wings. There are separate flaps for the wings and though not shown deployed, they were frequently seen that way when the plane was on the ground and the wings not folded. The kit is designed to be built with the wings folded and to do otherwise will require a bit of cutting. Something I wish KH wouldn't do is to already have the lower wing holes for the pylons opened. I'd much rather make that choice myself and not have to fill in holes that I won't be using.

In order to make most of the pieces usable for both two and single seat planes, the assembly of the rear fuselage requires the use of a lot of inserts. This will make things rather fiddly for some so care will need to be followed during the building of this section. The instructions show a fully built forward fuselage section and a fully built aft fuselage section (landing gear and doors and all) being assembled near the end of the build. Most of us will undoubtedly deviate from this interesting practice to protect parts from being broken during handling for painting. The canopy and windscreen are separate and the instructions only show the canopy closed.

For things under wings we have two fuel tanks, and then either Sidewinders or a variety of rocket pods. The recon version will not need wing pylons aside from those for the fuel tanks as they were not weapons capable. Fill those pylon holes for this one.

Instructions are nicely done and provide Gunze and FS 595 paint references. Markings and painting options are full color. Markings are provided for five different aircraft with a variety of markings schemes. The box art plane is in light gull grey and white and with VF-61, who carried the Jolly Rogers banner at that time. Another fighter version is an overall sea blue plane from VF-121. Both fighter options are very colorful. Then there is a Blue Angel plane. This one will also not need any pylons aside from the fuel tanks.

Then there are the two recce birds. One is from VFP-61 and in in light gull grey over white. This one has very nice markings on it which includes a red refueling probe. The other is in white and International Orange as befits a training aircraft. No unit information is given, but the 4P tail code is for NAS Pensacola so would probably be a station hack for all those desk flying pilots to get their flight pay. The decal sheet is huge and needed an addendum sheet to cover all the markings. 


After what seems to be decades, Cougar fans will finally be getting a full run of their favorite plane in 1/48 scale. This version will make a lot of people quite happy. It is not a kit for the beginner as one needs to build it like a short run kit, testing and fitting each part prior to gluing. However, the builder will be rewarded for his patience with a really fine looking model.


January 2015

Thanks to Glen Coleman and Kitty Hawk for the preview kit. You can find this one at your favorite hobby shop or on-line retailer soon.

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