CAM Decals PD32-025/026: Thunderbirds F-100D 1965 and 1967 Seasons

Unit(s): USAF Thunderbirds
PRICE: $45.00 per set
REVIEWER: Ben Brown

Even though it played a major role in the early days of the air war in Vietnam, the F-100 is probably best-remembered by the general public as the mount of the USAFís Thunderbirds and Skyblazers.  The F-100 was the first supersonic aircraft the teams flew.  The Thunderbirds received six F-100Cs straight off the production line in 1956 and except for borrowing some F-100Ds for the 1959 Far East Tour, continued to fly the C until the end of the 1963 season.  In 1964, they switched to the F-105B, but an accident and then delays getting the Thunderchiefs further modified led to a return to the Super Sabre for the remainder of the season.  The team flew the F-100D from this time until they gave them up for the F-4E for the 1969 season. 

When Trumpeter released their 1/32 F-100D, it was only a matter of time before somebody released some Thunderbirds decals to go with it.  The F-100D is not one of Trumpeterís better kits, and the list of its accuracy issues is quite long (the same applies to their 1/48 and 1/72 F-100 series), but that is beyond the scope of this review.  Letís just say that the most accurate F-100 kit available in any scale is still the good old 1980s-vintage 1/48 Monogram F-100D.

CAM has released two separate versions of their Thunderbirds decals, each reflecting the differences between the markings for the 1965 and 1967 seasons.  The most obvious was the change from the last five digits of the serial number on the aft fuselage to the jetís position number (ONE for Lead, TWO for Right Wing, etc.).  This occurred sometime between mid-September and October 1965.  Another minor change was the style of the crew name blocks on the canopy rails. 

Hereís what you get:

        Complete markings to build any of the F-100Ds the team flew during the 1965 or 1967 season (depending on which decal set you buy).  All the modeler has to do is paint the natural metal areas and the decals will take care of almost all of the color. There are blocks of red, blue, and white provided for touch-ups.

        Pilot and crew chief name blocks for each jet.

        CAM is the first decal company Iíve seen that got the blue nose scallops right, where the two points in front of the windscreen aim at the panel lines below the windscreen, instead of at the windscreen frames themselves, like on the Monogram kitís decals.  

        Stripes for the inflight refueling probe.

        A small separate sheet containing a finely-printed flag panel and Thunderbirds badge was printed by Draw Decals using their ďDigital SilkĒ process.  This is supposed to give a much higher level of detail than screen-printed decals can achieve.  The downside to this type of decal is the ink tends to be very stiff, so they will not respond to setting solutions, and do not conform well to compound curves.  Iíve had all kinds of trouble trying to apply this type of decal in the past, even when following the manufacturerís instructions.  Digital Silk decals do work well for relatively flat surfaces, and since they will be applied to the F-100ís nose, where there isnít much curvature, they should be just fine.  Just dip them in very hot water before you apply them.  Based on my past experiences, I wouldnít expect them to settle down into the underlying rivets or panel lines, though. 

        The colors seem spot-on.  One reference has stated that the Thunderbirds red was assigned its own FS number, but Iíve never been able to find anything but Insignia Red for the F-100. 

 There are just a few minor issues that probably wonít bother most modelers:

        The national insignia and USAF for the wings are undersized by about 2mm.  The national insignia was 35Ē and the USAF was 30Ē, according to T.O. 1-1-4. 

        According to T.O. 1-1-4, the USAF and U.S. AIR FORCE should be Insignia Blue, instead of black.

        The letters for the U.S. AIR FORCE decals are a little too thin. 

        The outline for the single point fuel system access panel under the trailing edge of the left wing has a FIRE ACCESS stencil in it.  Just cut the stencil out of the center of the decal and donít put one on the right side of the model.

        The little red circle (Decal 17) doesnít appear in any F-100 photos I have.

        The serial numbers and position numbers (i.e., ONE, TWO) are too large by a couple of mm.  They were 12Ē.

 If the national insignia and Air Force lettering bothers the modeler, they can be easily replaced with the appropriate decals for a silver Hun from Eagle Strike.  The serial numbers were black, and can be whipped up in a few minutes on a home printer with a USAF font freely available online.  To be honest, I wouldnít have noticed the size differences if I hadnít broken out the ruler.  Think I need to lighten up a bit?  Donít answer that!

 Finally, some builderís notes that modelers might find helpful:

        If Trumpeter ever gets around to releasing the much-promised F-100F, the nose scallops for the D won't fit, due to the F's longer nose.  

        The red tail scallops for the F-100D wonít work for the F-100C. The F-100Cís tail was smaller and the style of the scallops was different.  The F-100C also had three different star sizes on the tail and stabilators.

        The tail of the #4 jet was never painted black, and the blackened tail was considered a badge of honor. In some photos, you can see the stars peeking out from under the soot, especially down close to the fuselage.

        The F-100Dís smoke probe piping exited the fuselage below the spine, just aft of the point where the removable section of the aft fuselage breaks from the forward section.  It ran down the base of the fin, with a little kink to allow the drag chute door on the base of the fin to open, then continued aft to the afterburner nozzle.

        On the F-100D, the guns and gun sight was removed, but the holes for the gun muzzles were not covered, so just omit the guns and donít plug the holes.  On the F-100Cs, these were faired over.

        Every other petal on the afterburner nozzle was polished, not painted, which gave it the striped appearance.

        There is a tendency for F-100D and F modelers to put the USAF and national insignia too far outboard on the wings, so the wing fences cut across them.  They were actually placed so everything was inboard of the wing fences.

 Itís a shame Trumpeter made such a mess of their F-100 kits, since a large, shiny Thunderbirds F-100 model would look great on the shelf.  In spite of the minor, easily-fixed sizing errors of some of the markings, CAM has still given us two well-researched sets of decals that are much better than the kit theyíre intended for.  Recommended!

 As this review was being written, Trumpeter released photos of the decals for their upcoming Thunderbirds version of the kit.  Theyíre even worse than the decals included in the original release of the kit, if thatís possible.  Just order one of CAMís decal sets:

Ben Brown

October 2011

Disclaimer:  Review decals were kindly loaned to me by Ray Byers, of CAM Decals http://www.camdecals.com/.  I have no financial connection with CAM Decals.

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