Tailhook Topics

by Tommy H. Thomason

Friday, December 8, 2023

Sword 1/72 F8U-1P/RF-8 Photo Crusader

 This is a work in progress. Corrections welcome to tommythomason@sbcglobal.net

Finally, a 1/72 kit of the photo-reconnaissance F8U/F-8 Crusader! And the first impression before building it is excellent (Sword was also provided with pretty good Vought drawings of it). This is Sword's test assembly as an RF-8G"+":


To answer the two most frequently asked questions: there is no option to raise the wing and while some of the detail parts like the nose landing gear resemble that of the Academy F-8E/F-8E(FN), F-8J kit (Tom Weinel's preference: see https://superheatmemorial.blogspot.com/2018/12/172nd-f-8-kit-review.html), it is also clearly different in most particulars. One small flaw that Tom noted in all? F8U kits that Sword also included: there is no fairing or bulge on the upper wing surface at the wing fold joint on any Crusader.

Pictures of the sprues and decals are here: https://aeroscale.net/news/crusader-box-contents. Note that there is no difference in the kits with respect to the plastic, resin, or even instructions. The only difference is the decal sheet. Additional markings will be forthcoming from Caracal Models. Also, don't loose track of the small rectangular tan piece of paper. Barely perceptible on it are the masks for the canopy, wind screen, camera ports, and the view-finder window.

The F8U-1P prototype (a conversion of F8U-1 BuNo 141363) first flew on 15 December 1955. The last flight of one, an RF-8G"+", was to the National Air and Space Museum on 29 March 1987, over 30 years later. There were numerous detail changes to the configuration over that time. Sword made a valiant attempt to provide the most obvious ones in this kit.

There were three basic versions, not counting details like DECM antenna fairings and camera ports:

F8U-1P/RF-8A: The most notable omissions from the kit are that the first F8U-1Ps were delivered with a Vought ejection seat and a nose-wheel hub with spokes. For those, see https://tailspintopics.blogspot.com/2009/10/f8u-crusader-variations.html. For more on the landing gear changes, see https://superheatmemorial.blogspot.com/2018/12/f-8-landing-gear.html. The kit only provides a Martin Baker seat that might be either a Mk 5 or a Mk 7. However, in 1/72 scale, these can be distinguished by painting the parachute housing accordingly (see http://thanlont.blogspot.com/2011/02/transition-to-martin-baker-ejection.html).

RF-8G: 73 RF-8As of the original 144 were remanufactured to be RF-8Gs. These were delivered between 1965 and 1970. The most obvious external change was the addition of the ventral fins under the aft fuselage to increase supersonic directional stability. For some reason, five USMC RF-8As got the ventral fins with no designation change. The G changes included a beef up the landing gear; the differences might not be readily apparent in 1/72 scale (see the landing gear link above). The tail hook shank went from squarish to round (the kit's looks squarish, i.e. RF-8A).

RF-8G"+": The + is a notation that Tom Weinel added to differentiate it from the G's that were modified to this configuration beginning in 1978. The major external difference was the addition of the cooling scoops on the top of the tail pipe and blocking off one of the small vents on the right side of the fuselage just ahead of the wing. For more on the afterburner differences, see https://superheatmemorial.blogspot.com/2018/12/f8u-engines.html

For more general background, see: https://tailspintopics.blogspot.com/2013/12/photo-gator.html

Which DECM antenna configuration you use can only be established by reference to the RF-8 that you are representing.

 The first one on at least a few RF-8A/Gs as early as 1966 is the same as on the Crusader fighter:

It uses part 30. The small circle is a tail light.

The second one looks like this:

It uses parts 27, 28, and 30. It appears on Gs in pictures dated 1967 through 1972.

The next one deleted the antenna on the leading edge beginning in 1969. The trailing edge fairing extended farther forward on the fin (the tail light was embedded in the fairing) and there appears to have been two different fairing and antenna configurations. One had multifaceted lumps and appears to have been retained for the remainder of the RF-8's service life:

It resembles kit parts 57/58. Note that it was accompanied by two antennas between the main landing gear doors and flare/chaff dispensers, neither of which are in the kit:

The other was shaped like a bullet and the fairing extended the farthest forward.

This would be kit parts 65/66.

Finally, an antenna was eventually scabbed onto the right hand underside of the G+ inlet.

This is kit part 70.

The F8Us did not originally have anti-collision lights on the top and bottom of the fuselage.

The photoflash cartridge dispensers, one on each side of the upper fuselage aft of the cockpit, are usually covered by a panel that was removed when required for night missions (for illustrations of previous Navy photo flare dispensers, click HERE).

An F8U-1P with the small diameter flare dispenser:

An RF-8G with the large diameter flare dispenser:

The F8U-1P Camera System:

Still to come: RF-8G camera port configurations...

Monday, September 25, 2023

Relying on Museum Examples for Detail Accuracy Part 4

 Actually, I have written about this more than three times. Some unnumbered ones were:

Mk 4 Atomic Bomb: https://tailspintopics.blogspot.com/2011/07/getting-it-right.html

F11F Tiger: https://tailspintopics.blogspot.com/2014/10/f11f-tiger.html

P/F-80 Canopy: https://tailspintopics.blogspot.com/2013/10/lockheed-pf-80.html

A4D-2 Skyhawk: https://tailspintopics.blogspot.com/2012/07/new-airfix-172-4b4p-modeling-notes.html

F4D Skyray Wheels: https://tailspintopics.blogspot.com/2015/07/its-not-that-easy-to-avoid-error.html

J79 Exhaust Nozzles: https://tailspintopics.blogspot.com/2012/12/j79-exhaust-nozzles.html

Grumman F9F-8T Nose Strut Extension: https://tailspintopics.blogspot.com/2014/06/grumman-f9f-8ttf-9j.html

Numbered ones:

Part One (F6U): https://tailspintopics.blogspot.com/2017/06/relying-on-museum-examples-for-detail.html

Part Two (F7U-3M): https://tailspintopics.blogspot.com/2017/08/relying-on-museum-examples-for-detail.html

Part Three (AD Skyraider Vertical Fin: note that in this case, the fin shape of readily available examples has almost always been ignored): https://tailspintopics.blogspot.com/2017/08/relying-on-museum-pieces-for-accuracy.html

This post was inspired by the F11F kit project at DBMK (https://dbmk.co.uk/); also see their Facebook page. Note that their research includes LIDAR scans of an F11F.

Based on their requests and questions, I can vouch for their desire for accuracy, at least in this instance. The latest one was about this feature under the forward fuselage between the forward speed brake and the NACA air inlets.

I'd never noticed it before but quickly tracked this example down to BuNo 141735, now at the Yanks Air Museum at Chino, California. At first, I assumed it was for the attachment of an antenna that wasn't present, probably specific to this particular Tiger since it wasn't evident in pictures of any operational or Blue Angels F11Fs. I finally found one that wasn't BuNo 141735 with a shape there that seemed familiar:


More searching and I found a few more examples of Navy Training Command F-11s with the shape, in particular this one:

That's when the light dawned (no pun intended). At some point after the collision between two airliners over the Grand Canyon in June 1956, the CAA/FAA decreed a requirement for anti-collision lights on U.S. civil aircraft. The military was not required to comply but did so voluntarily. As a result, anti-collision lights were eventually added to the Navy Training Command's surviving F11Fs, including the early ones.

Saturday, June 3, 2023

Early McDonnell F-4B Phantom Configuration

The external appearance of the McDonnell F-4B changed in detail during its time in service. This is not a comprehensive list of the changes to a kit required to reverse it to the configuration when it was first deployed on Enterprise in 1962.

1. Early Bs did not have the slotted stabilizer: http://tailspintopics.blogspot.com/2011/09/f-4-flapstabilizer-change.html

2. Early Bs did not have the bump on the upper surface of the wing over the main landing gear strut or the doubler reinforcement plates on the lower surface of the wing.

3. Early Bs had the Mk 5 ejection seat; the difference in the top of the seat is apparent in any scale: http://thanlont.blogspot.com/2011/02/transition-to-martin-baker-ejection.html

4. The initial external drop tanks on the wing were a McDonnell design; the Navy subsequently procured the cheaper Sergeant Fletcher tanks with a constant-diameter mid section (statements reversing the identification of the source of the tanks are wrong): https://tailspintopics.blogspot.com/2014/02/f4hf-4-370-gallon-external-tank-redux.html

5. The total air sensor wandered around from the nose to the vertical fin and back: https://tailhooktopics.blogspot.com/2022/07/mcdonnell-f4h-total-air-temperature.html 

6. Initially the only external antenna was on the nose landing gear door:

All the other bumps were added later.

7. Deliveries of the IR sensor under the radome were behind schedule and the performance of the system when it was available, a disappointment, so it was usually not present, replaced by a cap. 


When present, the portion immediately behind the dome was probably cylindrical rather than tapered as in the picture above.

 The dome of the AN/AAA-4 sensor is reflective, essentially a mirror.

8. There were detail changes to the cockpit over time but with the exception of the top of the Mk 5 vs. Mk 7 ejection seat in any scale and the instrument panel/radar control in aft cockpit in 1/32, I doubt that they would be discernible by the casual observer. Bill Spidle provided the following illustrations for the Block 22 configuration (circa 1966), BuNo 152244 and subsequent, at least for a while:

Note that the radar scope in the rear cockpit retracted under the instrument panel and the black on either side of the upper part of the instrument panel were curtains (there was also one that blocked out light overhead).

9. One detail missed by most kit designers is that the aft bulkhead of the rear cockpit was never slanted. It was vertical (the compartment was not originally intended to be occupied) and the ejection seat rails were attached to the floor and the top of the aft bulkhead so as to be at the correct angle.

10, The wingtip lights:

For a more complete wingtip discussion, click HERE.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Douglas A3D Skywarrior Entry/Exit Doors

 The Skywarrior bombers had a self-boarding arrangement* that also did double duty as a bailout slide:

It consisted of an inner (upper) and outer (lower) door. When closed, the inner door formed the bottom of the cockpit floor and sealed the crew compartment for pressurization; the outer door closed off the opening in the bottom of the fuselage. Large indentations, two in the inner door and three in the outer door, served as steps and hand grips and still allowed the doors to have a smooth surface to function as a slide for bailout.

However, the following picture of a crewman ascending into the cockpit included a feature not included in the illustration above, a rectangular transverse ledge (highlighted by question marks) with a raised non-skid pattern.

On close examination (you can see successive ledges below the top one), I finally realized that in this instance, climbing into the airplane had been made easier—particularly if you had something in your hands—by leaning a folding ladder up against the outer door.

* Skywarrior versions had similar arrangement that was different in detail, including the arrangement of steps:

Also see http://tailspintopics.blogspot.com/2013/05/trumpeter-148-a3d-forward-fuselage.html).

Saturday, February 4, 2023

McDonnell F2H-2B Banshee

2 September 2023: Added an illustration of how the nose gear shock strut functioned.

This post incorporates material provided from the Greater St. Louis Air and Space Museum by Mark Nankivil.

Click HERE for my previous post on the "Nuclear Banshees". When I get a chance, I'll correct some of the discrepancies in it. Click HERE for my F2H Banshee Modeler's Notes: it includes links to several of my other posts on the Banshee.

By the early 1950s, the Mk 7 and Mk 8, tactical nuclear weapons small enough to be carried by single-seat fighters and bombers, had been developed. The U.S. Navy quickly modified two carrier-based airplanes to accommodate them, the Douglas AD Skyraider (see http://tailspintopics.blogspot.com/2022/04/ad-4-skyraider-variant-ad-4b.html) and the McDonnell F2H Banshee. The suffix B was added to the designation of these airplanes to identify them as having non-standard armament.

The Mk 7 was lighter (about 1,680 lbs) than the Mk 8 (about 3,250 lbs) but much larger (30.5 inches in diameter and 182 inches long). To fit it under the inboard wing of the F2H-2 required that the landing gear shock struts be pressurized to extend them to their full travel.

The nose landing gear extension;

With the help of Jerry Wells, I was finally able to establish how the nose landing gear shock strut extended:

The extension required the addition of small hydraulic reservoirs to add fluid to and remove fluid from the shock struts as required:

The result increased the height of the requisite pylon above the ground by 10 inches, providing just enough clearance for a carrier launch with a Mk 7:

Note that the tail cone had to be installed "upside down" to provide clearance from the underside of the wing. This also meant that the retracted tail fin could not be extended before the bomb was dropped, so the electric motor that did that was replaced by first one and then two springs; the fin was held in the retracted position by a locking device until the bomb was dropped and a lanyard attached to the pylon opened it.
An elaborate arrangement of sway braces and a spring-activated separation device on the inboard aft end of the bomb was required to carry and safely separate the bomb from the Banshee when it was dropped.
Loading the Mk 8 did not require extending the shock structs but did require that the left inboard flap extension be disabled.

(For a dimensioned drawing of the Mk 8, see the AD-4 link above.)

It necessitated a different pylon/shackle (30-inch distance between lugs for one thing), arrangement of sway braces, and a simpler separation feature.
 The left inboard flap had to be locked up for clearance with the Mk 8 tail fin:

The pylon location, on the same wing station as the original inboard stores pylon, was the same for both bombs; a notch in the center section flaps was provided for Mk 7 clearance (not shown is the recess on the outboard center section flap for the Mk 8 fin clearance noted above).

 It was essentially coincident with the outboard edge of the engine intake opening:

Note that this initial capability predated the development of the Low Altitude Bomb System (LABS) delivery (click HERE). Instead, the bomb was to be dropped from altitude, in this example in a dive utilizing a "loft" bomb deliver capability, not to be confused with the loft options provided by LABS,

The flight manual advised caution not to exceed G limits when the Mk 7 was released in the loft maneuver; use of loft delivery for the much heavier Mk 8 was prohibited.

A couple of details on the Mk 7 development: 

Problems with its stability and trajectory were discovered during initial test drops. This was solved in part by adding wedges one one side of the tips of the tail fins that resulted in the bomb spiraling like a football.

Another was the initial use of barometric pressure to provide an air-burst capability for more wide-spread devastation. However, as the Mk 7 neared the ground, it was going faster than the measurement of the air pressure could keep up with from a detonation accuracy standpoint. As a result, speed brakes were initially provided between the tail fins that opened up when the bomb was dropped (it probably also provide a few vital seconds for the pilot to get far enough away to avoid getting "hoist by his own petard").

The addition of radar sensing of the height above ground resulted in them being deleted from the Mk 7.

Note that the Mk 8 did not have speed brakes because its raison d'etre was destruction of well-protected submarine shelters, accomplished by not detonating until as far below ground as possible, which meant that the faster it was going when it hit the ground, the better.

 The development of bespoke pylons (to be described in a subsequent post covering the F2H-3/4 nuclear-strike configuration) and more options for changing the angle of the tail cone allowed the Mk 7 to be loaded with the fins pointed upwards and eliminated the separate sway braces required for the Mks 7 and 8.

An important feature of the F2H-2B was the addition of the newly developed inflight refueling capability. This was accomplished by adding a fuel probe replacing one of the 20mm cannons on the right side of the fuselage.

Only the fuselage fuel tanks could be refilled in flight, probably because these early jets did not have single-point refueling capability. Also filling the tip tanks would have required the addition of additional fuel lines and flow management valves and controls. That was a tradeoff against the extra range that would be achieved, particularly since even though the store was mounted fairly close to the center line, the tip tank on that side could only be partially filled before takeoff since only so much lateral imbalance could be offset by the roll-control power (i.e. aileron effectiveness) available at low speeds. At cruise speeds, however, the imbalance could probably be accommodated, albeit at some increase in drag due to the control-surface deflection.

The early refueling probe had a tip that resembled a baby bottle nipple. It was subsequently replaced by the one that's now standard across U.S. and NATO probes.

There is currently a discrepancy in the number of F2H-2Bs. In my earlier post on Nuclear Banshees (see link above including comments) there were 25 to as many as 31, depending on the source. The effectivity given in the 15 January 1954 document provided by Mark Nankivil lists 60!:

In any event, the F2H-2Bs were deployed in both "composite" squadron detachments and fighter squadrons:

This squadron's markings in color and regrettably, a bit out of focus:

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Roden 1/72 AJ-1 Savage Review


Model and Photo by Paul Boyer

Paul Boyer's review of the excellent Roden 1/72 scale AJ-1 kit here: Fine Scale Modeler

He mentions the windshield wiper location (note that this AJ-1 canopy has been modified with the larger escape hatch);


A couple of other easily fixable nits:

1. The AJ-1 had a single, rectangular (except for forward lower/right corner) nose landing gear door; the kit provides the AJ-2's two-piece door. An easy change:

2. The kit canopy represents the fix to the original sliding canopy with white fiberglass straps glued on it to strengthen it; only a few early production AJs were delivered with the version (I've not seen a picture of a Savage on a carrier with this canopy):

This was quickly replaced by a non-sliding, framed canopy:

In building the kit for review, Paul chose to simply paint the existing frames blue. However, a close approximation of the early AJ-1 canopy (note that it has a small sliding window beside both the pilot and bombardier) can be easily created by 1) sanding off the last transverse frame and the longitudinal frames fore and aft of it and 2) representing the structure on the back of the canopy with a thin layer of filler.

For more on the AJ Savage canopy variations, click HERE.

I was particularly impressed by the detail and accuracy of cockpit detail. Whoever did the research should be commended. The only minor exceptions, like some of the detail provided, will not be visible when the kit is assembled.

Kit parts 2K and 37K should provide for an opening under the flight deck to the left of the nose wheel well for access to the electronics forward (this is a photo of the AJ-2 at the National Museum of Naval Aviation):

The area aft of kit part 17E, which is the forward end of the fuselage fuel tank, should therefore be filled in to represent it accurately.

Note that there is a door/hatch in kit part 23K that was required when the nuke in the bomb bay had to be armed after takeoff. It may not be as tall as it should be since this installation shows it extending up to what is the bottom of the fuselage fuel tank...

I'm not sure that there should be an opening in kit part 15K but it's possible because 1) the jet engine firewall is aft of that and 2) the tanker installation requires a "fuel splash door" to be fitted here.

For other posts for reference for added detail, click HERE.