The Grumman F4F Wildcat is an American carrier-based fighter aircraft in service with the United States Navy, United States Marine Corps and British Royal Navy in World War II. It was the only fighter available in the USN and USMC in the Pacific Theater during the early part of the war. It was outperformed in most categories by the A6M Zero but due to its ruggedness and newly developed tactics, it would claim an air combat kill-to-loss ratio of 6.9:1 for the entire war. 7,885 Wildcats would be built throughout the war even after newer and better fighters were introduced.
The F4F-4 variant of the Wildcat entered service in 1941 armed with 6 machine guns and a folding wing system. The F4F-4 is the definitive version of the Wildcat and saw the most combat service in the early war years.
Marian Eugene Carl was the USMC’s first ace in WWII. He began his career with VMF-211 and was re-assigned to VMF-223. In August 1942, VMF-223 was deployed to Guadalcanal, the first fighter unit ashore with the so-called Cactus Air Force. Over the next 2 months, Carl became the Marines’ first ace, running his tally to 16.5 victories. It is believed that 1 of his victories was against the Imperial Japanese Navy 27-victory ace Junichi Sasai. In 1943, VMF-223 returned to the Pacific. Carl would end his WWII service with 18.5 victories. He is the 7th highest ranking ace in the USMC.
My build depicts (eventual) Major General Carl’s F4F-4 Wildcat ‘White 2′ as she appeared in September 1942.
By and large, there’s no better kit out there than a Tamiya one. This one is no different. Made out of about 50 parts, this kit is unfussy, with very nice molding and sharp details. Options are simple: the canopy can be posed open and 2 external fuel tanks. The landing gear however, cannot be modeled raised. There are decal options for 4 aircraft (VF-41, VMF-223, VGF-29 and VF-22) and the instruction sheet is an 8 page foldout assembly diagram. As usual with Tamiya, color callouts are only for Tamiya paints.
I’ve actually started on this kit a few years ago so all the major parts have already been cut from the sprues. Before putting everything together though I decided to add details to the cockpit.
The cockpit was already sprayed in Interior Green previously but since I decided to add some scratchbuilt shoulder and lap belts, this was repainted. The pilot was supposed to be able to look down and out the belly ports for better visibility so I cut open the cockpit’s floor plate. The result wasn’t really visible after assembly but hey, ‘I know it’s there’. Everything else was built out of the box.
The 6 wing machine guns came modeled solid. I tried to drill out the barrels but I messed it up quite badly so I ended up cutting them all off, drilled through into the wings, and made my own machine gun barrels with 0.5mm brass pipe. I think 5 of the barrels stick out slightly too much but I’ll live with it.
After sanding off the sprue marks, the kit came together quickly without much fit problems and a minimal of seamline fixing. I read somewhere that the external tanks were only introduced in 1943. Since I’m modeling a Wildcat in 1942, I left these off.
Colors & Markings
With my WWII kits, I try my best to model an ace’s aircraft or one with some sort of historical significance. This kit will receive the markings of Marian Eugene Carl’s F4F-4 Wildcat. The decals come from Techmod, a Polish decal company. The decals are very well done and reacted well to Mark Softer. They aren’t as thin as something from Cartograph though. The instruction from the Techmod sheet also comes with color call outs. I followed this instead of the kit’s.
Wildcats during this period flew with a simple 2 tone camouflage of a bluish gray over light gray. To break up the monotony, I added a marble coat in between the primer and main colors to add some variation to the finish. Usually I’m quite haphazard with the marble coat but I was more deliberate and careful this time. The result looks good. The demarcation line was done with blutack but I sprayed quite close so the line itself was quite solid.
As usual, I did a panel line wash with thinned raw umber oil paint. Once that has dried I went easy with the weathering.
After unmasking the canopy I realized I made some mistakes:
Still, not a bad build at all. The Wildcat definitely has a presence: it’s not pretty nor graceful as a Spitfire but it definitely looks tough and can take a ton of punishment.
Number 3 of 2018
I decided to model an ace’s Wildcat. In this case, it will be Marian Eugene Carl’s F4F-4 from September 1942 while stationed in Guadacanal. The decals some from Techmod, a Polish decal maker. The decals went on very easily and reacted well to Mark Softer. Markings are sparse and I was done quite quickly. After curing, I wiped it down with a damp cloth and re-glossed the kit to prepare for weathering.
The first step was to do a panel wash with raw umber oil paint.
I then did some filtering on random panels with the same color. You can see here that some of the decals did not comform 100% over the raised rivets on the fuselage. It’s something to look out for in future builds.
Gun port soot stains was done with Tamiya Weathering Master. Streaking was done with the same raw umber oil paint. I basically hit all the actuators.
Nothing too fancy.
After sealing the oil washes and streaks with a flat coat, I added the engine exhaust stains by freehanding black gray acrylic paint. Not sure if I overdid the opacity though.
I then added silver chippings with a sponge on the leading edges of the wings and the fuselage. I did a heavier chipping on the walkways.
Last on was the aerial. This is the first time I was doing it and I used a strand of my daughter’s hair for it. Lucky she has long hair eh? Anyway, I had to mess with it for close to an hour before it stuck in place. There’s actually a shorter aerial going from the antenna to the left fuselage. I decided to preserve my sanity and move on.
And I’m done!
Tamiya lives up to its reputation of having kits that require minimal seamline fixing and I’m onto the painting stage quicker than usual.
First up, I did a base coat of Tamiya XF-1 Black thinned with lacquer thinner. This is now I preferred primer since I haven’t been able to figure out acrylic-based primers yet. I find them too finicky and scratch off too easily.
Then I did the marble coat with Model Air Light Grey. I decided to do this more carefully this time by thinning the paint and adding Airbrush Flow Improver. The end result is less splotchy but you can still see areas where the acrylic paint acted up and spattered all over the surface. These were buffed with a 3M sponge to even out the surface.
I begin with painting the bottom with Vallejo Model Air Light Gull Grey.
I made sure to thin the paint a fair bit and sprayed in thin coats so the marbling still shows through.
After a day of curing, I started masking off the demarcation lines.
The top color is Lifecolor Non Specular Blue Gray. This was also thinned quite a bit and sprayed in thin coats so the marble coat shows through.
I’ve forgotten how easy it is to use Lifecolor, which mixes very quickly, thins very easily and spatters were minimized. I’ll buff these spatters out after the paint has cured.
Ancillary parts are minimal and while the main body is curing, I went ahead and finished them using botht eh airbrush and handpainting. I decided not to add the external tanks. I read somewhere that the Wildcat only started carrying external tanks in 1943. My Wildcat will be modeled as it appeared in 1942.
Glossing is next and then it’s time for decals and weathering.
My next kit is hopefully a straightforward build of the Tamiya 1/48 F4F-4 Wildcat. This was the workhorse of the USN and USMC during the first half of the Pacific campaign.
When I opened the box, I realized that I had already assembled most of the parts into subassemblies previously. This includes having already painted most of the interior with Interior Green and Futured the canopy. I began this build with masking the canopy. As usual it’s on the tedious side but I was done after an evening of faffing with 1mm masking tape and masking liquid.
The ejection seat is bare and Tamiya doesn’t include the seat belts in the form of a decal. While I don’t think they will be very visible, I decided to scratchbuild some shoulder harnesses and lap belts from 1mm and 0.4mm masking tape. I got this idea from my friend Soon Tuck of Spruecutters. After a re-basing of black and Interior Green over this, I handpainted the belts. They actually don’t look half bad. There is evidence that the Wildcat interior was a deeper green in color than the usual green but I’m going ahead with the usual hue.
While reading other people’s builds I found out that Tamiya molded the floor plate without any cutouts which allowed the pilots to look through for better visibility below the Wildcat. So I quickly marked out the areas and cut accordingly. Again these are probably not visible in the final build but at least they are (not) there.
Like most aircraft kits, the Wildcat requires some pre-painting before assembly but due to the way the aircraft is designed, there are more spots that need to be taken care of than usual.
These subassemblies were given a basecoat of black gray and painted separately.
The interior of the cowl and landing gear were sprayed with Light Gull Gray (instead of the instruction’s calling for white). These were also given a wash of black.
The instrument panel and consoles were all handpainted based on the instructions although the dials were painted Gunship Gray to ‘pop’ them out.
I put the cockpit together after giving it a black wash and edge highlighted with a silver color pencil.
I decided not to modify the engine since it can’t be seen so I painted as per instructions. This was painted in Vallejo Air Metallic Gun Grey and then a drybrush of Vallejo Air Metallic Steel.
Once I have painted these, I quickly put the rest of the kit together. Sure looks like a Wildcat to me!
Being too smart for my own good, I decided to drill out the gun barrels on the wings. Of course I messed it up so I ended up cutting all 6 off and replacing with 0.5mm brass tube.
The fit has been excellent so far but we’ll see after I give this a shot of primer to check for seamlines. Hopefully I won’t have to spend much time on this.
Media: Injection Plastic
The introduction of the UH-1 Iroquois during the Vietnam War also brought the concept of air cavalry into reality: troops being carried by fleets of UH-1s to fight the enemy at time and places of their own choosing. However, the UH-1s would prove to be vulnerable to ground fire as they drop and pick-up their troops. The decision was made to develop an attack helicopter to provide escort and fire support. This would become the AH-1G Cobra.
The AH-1J SeaCobra was the twin-engine version of the original AH-1, with the AH-1W SuperCobra the further improvement of the AH-1J by adding day/night capability, more powerful engines and advanced weapon capabilities.
A total of 222 AH-1Ws were delivered to the USMC and they have served as the backbone of its attack helicopter fleet until replaced by the AH-1Z Viper variant in recent years. The AH-1W is scheduled to be totally phased out by 2020.
Info adapted from Wikipedia
This is a Tamiya rebox of the Italeri kit that was first issued in 1987. As it is meant for the local Japanese market, it has Japanese only instructions and Tamiya color call outs.
The kit has raised panel lines, pretty OK details but typical of Italeri, the plastic is on the soft side and doesn’t have the finesse of Tamigawa. The canopy is one-piece and thick. Clarity is OK. As per reports on the Internet, there are 2 major mistakes: the engines were only found on the prototype SuperCobra and the main prop blade is molded in the wrong direction. I’m also not too sure about the shape of the AGM-116 Hellfires. Only 1 generic line bird marking is included.
If you’re looking for an AH-1W variant in 1/72, this is the only game in town as this mold has also appeared under Revell’s banner.
Much like aircraft kits, I started with the cockpit. The seats didn’t have any details on them and due to the large canopy, I decided to add some seatbelts using 1mm masking tape. I draped them as randomly as I could so they look different. I then sprayed Black Grey for the whole canopy with the seat cushions Green Brown and the belts US Grey. The dials and monitor screens on the instruments were randomly brushed with Transparent Green over Dead White. I then drybrushed US Grey to bring out details. The inside of the cockpit was also sprayed Black Grey. The canopy was brushed with Future, masked and put away. I diverted from the instructions for the fuselage by assembling each side first. To help with alignment I added plastic cards to act as guides. However, there was still a noticeable seamline running across the fuselage that needs fixing. There are also noticeable steps between the upper fuselage and where the tail starts. I decided to fix the nose sensor and gun in place to make my life easier. The gun housing needed some trimming inside and finesse to get into the proper position.
The AH-1W has a thicker nose compared to other variants and the kit replicates this by having additional ‘cheeks’ that wrap around the nose. Before closing both halves, I also added 2 fishing weights in the nose. The fit is OK on top but it was seamlines and gaps galore on the bottom. The intakes were then installed and these also have pretty obvious gaps, made especially more obvious because the rest of the panel lines are raised. I then attached the wing stubs which made my work more difficult down the line: the stubs cut through the big seamline running across the fuselage. There’s also a noticeable gap on the back of the tail which will need fixing. Engine exhausts were kept separate.
To ease construction and painting, I left part A18 off the main rotor assembly so I can deal with it separately from the fuselage. It will still fit without this small part and stays in place even without cement. The main rotor blade is apparently molded in the wrong direction so I decided to fix this. I cut off the blades, drilled a hole in each of them and added a 0.5mm brass rod as pins. I also added some sag to the blades by running each blade between the edge of the table and my thumb.
Fixing seamlines was next with Vallejo Plastic Putty. It’s easily cleaned with water/Windex but shrinks after it cures. I also tried Future + talcum powder which sands very easily but again it shrinks after curing. I went through multiple sessions of fixing the seamlines and along the way the wire cutter looking blade behind the canopy broke off. I decided to move on before being bogged down for too long and breaking more stuff.
The other smaller seamlines were scraped off and I very carefully sanded around the raised panel lines. The results aren’t perfect but it’s more obvious at the bottom. Since they are at the bottom though, I can live with it. The final step was to attach the canopy with Gator Glue while the skids were inserted without glue to ease painting. I had to thin the front section of the canopy to make it fit properly.
The rocket pods are each made of 4 parts and assembly is straightforward. To detail the Hellfires I decided to drill out the exhausts with a drill and router. I managed to ruin 2 of them so my AH-1W will be armed with only 6 Hellfires. These were set aside to be painted separately.
Painting and Markings
I first base coated with AK Black Primer. This kit will be painted in the 3 tone camouflage of the 1980s. I like this scheme a lot. Colors I used for this after checking the internet are US Grey, Black Grey and US Dark Green. I prefer Black Grey over straight black paint when painting black. I first sprayed the gray, then masked with blutack for the green and then more masking for the black. This was done in stages and multiple sessions to tweak the camouflage and fix the overspray. I also did my best to get the demarcation lines as tight as possible without being solid. Unfortunately though, there were some parts that I resorted to handpainting so the demarcation is solid. I’ll chalk it up to on the field touch-ups by the ground crew. 😀
For this build I tried 3M Microfine Sanding Sponges to buff the paint before the first gloss coat. It might have been too fine to see any effect but it did work to buff off overspray.
Major colors used for this build were:
The props and skids were then all given a quick spray of Black Grey while the exhausts and actuators on the props were handpainted Gun Grey. The rocket tubes were sprayed Dark Green with the ends Gun Grey and the mount in gray. The nose gun was also handpainted at this point in Gun Grey. I then proceeded to drop the kit nose first on my thigh. 2 of the gun barrels broke on one end and got bent. So I had to slowly and carefully bend the 3 barrels back in place and run some thin cement on the breakage points.
I’ve always assumed that Hellfires were olive drab in color. Turns out, they are actually always black. In the 1980s, a live Hellfire had 2 yellow bands, so I went ahead and painted Dead White as a base and layered with Sun Blast Yellow. After this has dried I carefully masked the yellow off and sprayed Black Grey over all the missiles. It took a while but it’s a lot neater than my previous attempt. These were then mounted onto the missile racks (which were also painted in Black Grey) with Gator Glue. On each winglet there is a box that I assume to be chaff dispensors, these were also handpainted and attached.
After a night of drying and curing, all the parts were then given a gloss coat of Vallejo Gloss Varnish. After another day of drying, I added the decals which were easy to use and reacted well to Mark Softer. The next day I airbrushed more Vallejo Gloss on the decals after a quick wipe down with a wet cloth. At this point I then added all the small antennas around the kit. These were either attached with Gator Glue or superglue and then brushpainted. Last on were the Hellfires with superglue.
Then it was time for the oil wash. I went easy this time as I didn’t want to end up darkening the paint work even more. Then the whole kit was given a flat coat of Vallejo Matt Varnish after another day of drying. After that it was adding the small details like painting the lights by layering with white before putting on transparent red and green. These along with the sensor window on the nose and the tips of the Hellfires were then glossed up with Future.
The last step is to remove the masking tape and trim and clean up any errant paint on the canopy with a toothpick. (Add: After the photos were taken I noticed the very obvious white/grayish lines around the canopy sills. I’m guessing this is dried Tamiya Polishing Compound. Chalk it up to not enough careful cleaning on my part.)
This is my first helicopter and raised panel line kit. The raised panel lines and fit issues caused some problems but at the end of the day, they were OK. Being the only game in town and a massive fan of the Cobra, I think this build turned out quite well. Just don’t look too closely. 😉
Number 7 of 2016