by Tommy H. Thomason

Friday, February 11, 2011

Super Fox

The A-4F was originally powered by the Pratt&Whitney J52-P-8B engine rated at 9,300-lbs thrust. Many, reportedly 100 of the 147 built, were modified for the P-408 engine, with 11,200 lbs of thrust. For some reason the Navy didn't bother redesignating them as they usually did for a change of this type and magnitude. Informally, they were known as Super Foxes. The only external indication of the more powerful engine is the bigger inlet required for maximum low-speed thrust. When stripped of unnecessary weight and drag for use as a MiG surrogate in dissimilar air-to-air combat training, it was a formidable foe with its relatively high thrust-to-weight ratio, very high roll rate, and a small visual signature.

I had heard about the increase in the inlet size on the Super Fox, but for a long time assumed that it was an interior change because it is so subtle. From the side, it is very difficult to discern the exterior bulge because the depth of the inlet did not change, at least not on the outside. The Blue Angels' A-4s were Super Foxes, but I defy you to see the bigger inlet in this picture of No. 5 beginning the dirty roll to the left on takeoff:

The A-4Ms were also powered by the P-408 engine and had the bigger inlets but again, from the side, it's almost impossible to tell. (If you read on and then come back to this picture, you may be able to see a hint of it.)

However, when viewed from below or directly above, the outward bulge in the first three feet or so of the exterior is very apparent.

Compare the exterior of the inlet in the picture above to this top view drawing of the stock A-4F:

From the side, the bulge can also be seen in certain lighting.
In this case, you can see the crease of the start of the bulge. Its begins at the panel line that cuts through the aft end of the inlet warning triangle. The change in contour, which is normally very hard to discern, then angles up and forward on the inlet so that there is no bulge at the top. A similar crease is probably present on the lower half of exterior of the inlet but isn't evident here.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The F8F-8T Cougar

I've noted a couple of inqueries on modeling websites about the alternatives for creating an F9F-8T (TF-9J) from a single-seat F9F-8. This isn't as easy as it looks at first glance. The two-seat Cougar trainer had a new forward fuselage beginning at fuselage station 172 (pretty close to the aft end of the speed brake well) as well as a new canopy and a fairing aft of the canopy. However, neither the speed brakes nor the nose gear well was moved forward relative to the mid-fuselage so the wheel base remained the same. The trainer retained two of the four cannons. (For more see

The overall length increase (not counting the barrier deflector on the F9F-8 or the refueling probe on either the -8 or the -8T) was about 34 inches.

This provides a rough idea of the changes and what would be required if a conversion was attempted using a single F9F-8 fuselage:

Fortunately, there are alternatives in each of the major scales:

The Miniwing kit is 1/144th scale. It is reviewed Here

Until early 2016, there was no 1/72nd scale F9F-8T kit per se. There were at least four different conversions that been issued that can could be used with the Hasegawa Cougar: Airmodel AM-049 (vacuform fuselage and canopy), Esoteric/Body Job BJ-4 (resin fuselage, vacuform canopy, and decals), RVHP 7239 (resin and ?), and Falcon Triple Conversion III (vacuform fuselage and canopy) that also provides conversions for the F-106B and the Mirage IIID. The Airmodel conversion is pretty crude and probably a last resort. The Esoteric one is long out of production. The RVHP conversion is still available but might be hard to find. The Falcon conversion is still available from their retailer in New Zealand and from Hannants.

Paul Boyer converted a Hasegawa F9F-8 with the forward two thirds of the Esoteric fuselage. The Hasegawa parts are white and the Esoteric fuselage, resin colored.
Paul:  "(Esoteric) clearly used the Hase kit as the basis, but the tailpipe and hook area was solid and the bottom had a lot of bumps and bubbles. I chose to pitch it and cut it away and use the Hasegawa tail. Other problems encountered: The cockpit has vertical sidewalls that are even with the canopy opening, so there are no consoles. The white-metal seats sit too low, and the canopy is too bulbous in retrospect. Since the framing was indistinct, I may not have carved enough off the bottom. The nose-gear well is awful -- don't look in there."

"The conversion kit decals were nearly worthless -- no stenciling and only basic markings for a trainer and a Blue Angel bird. I found this one in the Ginter book on the F9F-8T/TF-9J. The blue sash on the nose is paint and it matches the blue stripe decals cut from solid color sheet for the tail. Note the blue stripes leave a white outline on the "NAVY" on the rear fuselage. No way I was going to cut that pattern into the decal stripes, so I applied each letter of "NAVY" onto white solid-color decal, let them dry, then carefully carved the letters out of the white sheet with white outlines. The rest of the letters and numbers came from various lettering sheets by Microscale and Scale-Master. The intake warning chevrons came from a Microscale Panther sheet provided by member John Huggins. Thanks, John!"

Will Alcott used the Falcon conversion to create a USMC Fast FAC. In this case, the Hasegawa kit is blue plastic, the Falcon vacuform is white, and the primer is gray:
The result is quite striking; yours may vary, particularly since the Falcon conversion doesn't come with decals: for example, the shark mouth is Will's combination of masked off black paint and red permanent marker:

Fortunately, Sword has now issued a 1/72 scale injection molded kit, SW 72093.
 It is based on the Hasegawa F9F-8 but was completely retooled and therefore different in detail, sprue configuration, etc. Only Martin Baker seats are provided but that is acceptable because the Grumman seats were soon replaced. This particular kit only provides decals for three different trainers:
However, it seems likely based on past experience that Sword will reissue the kit with USMC Fast Fac markings from the Vietnam War and also Blue Angels markings.

Collect Aire produced a 1/48th kit in resin which is reviewed Here
(It is out of production but might be found on eBay from time to time)

In mid 2014, Kitty Hawk released a 1/48th injection molded kit of the F9F-8T/TF-9J. See here for more details:

Fisher Models sells a 1/32 F9F-8T kit: See it Here on page 2.

The F9F-8T was originally delivered with Grumman-furnished ejection seats. However, in 1956 BuAer contracted with Grumman to install the new Mk 4 M-B seat in an F9F-8T for a demonstration. Flying Officer Sidney Hughes, RAF, successfully ejected from it at Patuxent River in August 1957 while on the runway at 120 kts.
The demonstration resulted in an order for Mk 5 ejection seats (the major difference was higher crashworthiness) for all the Navy fighters and the F9F-8T to replace the existing contractor-furnished seats.

The original Grumman seat is on the right and the Martin Baker seat used for the test is on the left (some of the details changed over time like the harness; the original RAF harness is shown).

Grumman seat installed
Martin Baker seat installed