Matchbox 1/72 F3D-2 Skyknight
KIT #: PK-134
PRICE: $Currently out of production.
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: Only injected 1/72 Skyknight around


Late in 1945, BuAer began discussing with Curtiss, Douglas, Fleetwings, and Grumman the requirement for a jet powered two seat carrier borne night fighter. It was expected that it be able to detect aircraft flying at 500mph and 40,000 feet from a distance of 125 miles (no mean feat in those days). Both Douglas and Grumman were awarded contracts. Douglas for the XF3D and Grumman for the XF9F (which evolved into a single seat day fighter). This left Douglas to develop the world's first carrier borne jet night fighter.

Douglas' Ed Heinemann decided to produce a conservative design with two Westinghouse J-34 turbojets placed against the large fuselage (large for all the needed fuel). The crew were placed side by side in fixed seats. A crew escape tunnel that led down between the engine nacelles was developed and later used on the large A3D Skywarrior. The Skyknight was a large and very heavy aircraft for the time. It had an armament of four nose mounted 20mm cannon and used an APQ-35 search and targeting radar.

First flight was in March 1948 and the three prototypes proved to be rather vice-free. A Navy production order for 28 F3D-1 had been placed in June of 1948 and though the Air Force was interested, it wasn't interested enough. There then began a sequence of different F3D airframes with changes in them for various missions, such as a Sparrow missile aircraft, or an electronics warfare platform, or trainers.

The greatest use of the F3D were the F3D-2 variants. These were put to use by the USMC in the second half of the Korean War as night fighters. Here, their overall gloss sea blue was painted over with a matte black that was thought to be a better color for night fighting. The Navy operated the Skyknight in several squadrons, though with the speed of aircraft development, their active carrier borne life was rather short. The longest use of the F3D was as a crew trainer, test platform, and as an electronic warfare platform, the latter being basically a USMC operation. In 1962, all F3Ds were redesignated F-10s and it was with this designation that the aircraft served with the Corps until 1970 when the last EF-10B was retired. Several continued on in various test programs until the 1980s when it was obvious that the planes were uneconomical to keep flying. Several are located in various museums around the US.


Many of us love Matchbox kits. While most of them are quite basic and lacking the sort of detail many of us have come to expect in our kits, when developed, they were targeted to help separate kids from their pocket money. If adults bought them, so much the better. This explains the multiple colors that these kits were molded in.

What really endears many of us to Matchbox is the subject. They produced kits of aircraft in 1/72 that in many cases have still not been duplicated. One of these is the F3D Skyknight. This particular kit was one from a collection that the LHS bought and was rather beat up. However, since I stopped collecting kits many years ago, that was not an issue. The decals are also trashed. However, despite their ratty appearance, I have found that unless water damaged, Matchbox decals can be used. To get through the markings section early, there are markings for the box art plane from VF-121 as well as an all black VMF(N)-513 plane as used in Korea. They are thick, but easy to use. Some aftermarket sheets were done by Microscale back in the dim past and I have one of those that I will use on this one. There are also etched sets from Reheat that were done to add detail to the cockpit.

Like most Matchbox kits, this one is in multiple colors; this time a rather sedate white and two greys.  There is a cockpit with a pair of seats and an instrument panel. No control sticks, no panel details, no decal, but since the clear bits are a bit thick and cockpits of the time were black, this is not an issue. The F3D did not have ejection seats. The kit has fairly well done gear legs and unboxed in gear wells with no detail. There are a pair of drop tanks included, which I think are a bit too pointy. The kit can be built with the wings folded if you wish, but there is no wing root detail. You will need nose weight. The instructions hint at a stand, but none is included.


Another much under appreciated effort by Matchbox. Back in 1985 I built one of these and it is still a favorite. Here is a link to the build review. If you are into 1/72 scale, take the time to hunt this one down.

Scott Van Aken

May 2012

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