|KIT:||Monogram 1/48 F9F-5P Panther|
The Navy began a program of creating fleet photo-reconnaissance aircraft through the modification of contemporary fleet fighters, beginning with the F4F Wildcat. The idea was that an unarmed aircraft with the performance of the leading fleet fighter would have maximum survivability on operations.
The F9F Panther series saw this policy continue, with the creation of the F9F-2P Panther, which had an extended nose with two side-looking cameras and three photo-mapping vertical cameras replacing the four 20mm cannon. The uprated F9F-5 also saw 34 aircraft modified to F9F-5P standard. These were distributed to various fleet fighter squadrons, and also equipped Marine Photo-Recon squadron VMJ-3, which was operating in Korea. These photo-recon Panthers were used by the Marines up until 1957, when they were replaced by F9F-8P Cougars. One of these aircraft, which was operated by VMCJ-3 at El Toro MCAS in the years following the Korean War, is on display in non-flyable condition at The Air Museum, Planes of Fame, in Chino, California.
Modelers expected Monogram to release the photo-recon F9F-5P shortly after the original release of the F9F-5 in 1990. Given that the modification was minimal, involving only the two fuselage parts and some extra clear parts, it seemed like a no-brainer. But then, managing to miss the no-brainers during the late 1980s and 1990s is why Monogram is in the condition it is nowadays. I remember seeing the sprues for this kit on the Revell-Monogram/Pro-Modeler display table at the 2001 IPMS-USA Nationals in Chicago, where the representative assured me the kit would be released before the end of the year.
Better late than never!
As anyone would have guessed, there are five new pieces in the F9F-5 kit: two fuselage halves with the extended nose, suitably modified for the camera windows, and three pieces of clear plastic for said camera windows. Past that, it is the old reliable F9F-5 kit, right down to the inclusion of the underwing ordnance - which would be completely inappropriate for this version. The kit still has raised panel lines, but I have to say - having just taken a look at the surviving F9F-5P out at Chino this past weekend a few hours after obtaining the kit - that these raised panel lines do not detract from a realistic recreation of the original. Personally, my opinion is that any modeler who thinks a model is “unacceptable” for not having recessed panel lines is a modeler who has likely never been within spitting distance of a real airplane, many of which have lapped panels that look far more like raised lines than they do recessed lines; petite raised lines, like these, are entirely acceptable.
The kit decals provide markings for two Marine Panthers - one from VMJ-3 based at MCAS Miami in 1954, and one from VMCJ-3 at MCAS El Toro in 1956. I will likely do the latter, since it is the survivor now on display at Chino.
The original kit makes up into an excellent model and I see no reason why this one won’t also. It’s nice to see a box with the old Monogram (only) logo on it.
Review kit courtesy of my wallet.
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