Arma Hobby 1/72 FM-2 Wilcat
KIT #: 70033
PRICE: around $25.00 delivered
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken


General Motors / Eastern Aircraft produced 5,280 FM variants of the Wildcat. Grumman's Wildcat production ceased in early 1943 to make way for the newer F6F Hellcat, but General Motors continued producing Wildcats for both U.S. Navy and Fleet Air Arm use. Late in the war, the Wildcat was obsolescent as a front line fighter compared to the faster (380 mph/610 km/h) F6F Hellcat or much faster (446 mph/718 km/h) F4U Corsair. However, they were adequate for small escort carriers against submarine and shore threats. These relatively modest ships only carried two types of aircraft, the Wildcats and GM-built TBM Avengers. The Wildcat's lower landing speed and ability to take off without a catapult made it more suitable for shorter flight decks. At first, GM produced the FM-1, identical to the F4F-4, but reduced the number of guns to four, and added wing racks for two 250 lb (110 kg) bombs or six rockets. Production later switched to the improved FM-2 (based on Grumman's XF4F-8 prototype) optimized for small-carrier operations, with a more powerful engine (the 1,350 hp (1,010 kW) Wright R-1820-56), and a taller tail to cope with the torque.


The hobby has not been lacking in 1/72 Wildcats, with both Airfix and Revell producing the type in the 1960s. The Airfix version was sort of an FM-2, but with a fin that was too short. Since then, Wildcats have been released by several kit companies with probably the best of the batch being by Hasegawa in the 1990s. Move forward 30 years and we now have Wildcats from Arma Hobby. This is their FM-2 kit which shares some commonality with their F4F kit.

Molding is what you'd expect from a modern kit with no flash nor sink areas or ejector pin marks. The larger of two grey sprues is dedicated to the FM-2 as it has the two gun wings, taller fin, and different engine/cowling of this variant. It also carries rockets, which was part of the GM production.

The cockpit is very nicely done with decals for the main instrument panel and for the seat harness. An 'expert' boxing is available that includes photo etch, but really, it isn't needed to do a nice model. When the cockpit is built up, it and the aft gear well are glued in place. This is followed by the upper portion of the rather complex landing gear. Then the halves are joined.

Next the engine face and pushrod assembly are attached to the firewall. There is no detail on the back of the firewall as there would be on the real deal. The three piece cowling is then assembled and attached.

Moving to the back, the horizontal stab is slotted in place followed by the elevator piece and the rudder. Upper and lower wing pieces are then glued together and attached. Note that one markings option has rockets so holes will need to be opened to accomodate them. This is followed by building up the lower part of the landing gear and installing it. Both covered and spoked main wheels are provided.

The final bitss are the drop tanks and mounts along with the rockets, which have separate fin assemblies. The prop has a separate hub and is simply glued on the prop shaft. Finallly the separate windscreen and canopy are attached. You can pose the canopy open if you wish.

Instructions are well drawn with detail drawings where needed. A set of paper mask templates are provided if you wish to use them for that. I'll wait for a proper set to be produced. Multiple paint references are provided that include Tamiya, Humbrol and Hataka. The decal sheet is nicely printed and provides two options, both in overall gloss sea blue. One is the box art plane with the rockets from VC-93 aboard the USS Petrof Bay at Okinawa in April of 1945. The other is with VC-27 aboard the USS Savo in late 1944. While I've not yet seen aftermarket decals for this, I'd be surprised if none are forthcoming.


So there you have it. If you want an accurate FM-2, then this is really the only game in town. Looks to be a fairly straight-forward build so well worth seeking out.


May 2023

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